By Adam Manno
At the end of a long table, past the Coke carafes and sweetener packets, Arnie Layton sits with his hands clasped in front of him.
The retired IT worker isn’t new to the Psychic Night Dinners at Connolly’s Corner, a red-upholstered-booth eatery in Maspeth. But on Thursday night, he was on a mission.
“Pretty much, I wanna know when my psychic abilities will totally come out,” he said. The monthly outing is just about the only place he feels comfortable exploring his budding talent. “You talk to the average person about some of this stuff, being empathic, they think you’re crazy,” he said.
Few people at Connolly’s that Thursday, save for maybe the regulars at the bar, would agree.
“It was absolutely phenomenal,” Mary Ann Gasparro said of her 15-minute turn at the psychic’s booth. “I had an absolutely dead-on accurate reading tonight.”
She’s skeptical about any claims of supernatural abilities. But if Thursday’s reading was any indication, she’s turning into a true believer. Her friends, sat around her and rapt by the re-telling of her reading, already are.
“I grew up in a very abusive childhood. And tonight the psychic was saying, ‘I don’t understand why there’s apologies all around. There’s a male figure, has your father passed?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She goes, ‘He wants to apologize to you for the way he treated you in this life.’ No one says that! They all say, ‘Your father’s very proud of you, your fathers love you,’” Gasparro said.
Like Layton and Gasparro, many of the night’s guests are regulars at the event, which is run by ESPconnection. For $85 a person (not including tax or tip), diners are guaranteed a three-course meal, non-alcoholic beverages, and a private, one-on-one session with one of the five psychics on deck that night.
Re Jean, the group’s founder, spent the night walking between a side room—where the psychics sit at booths with their tarot cards strewn about—and the private hall behind the main dining area, where the guests sit at tables covered in white tablecloths, anxiously waiting their turn or dishing about their sessions.
Most are looking to hear from someone who’s passed on, Jean said, or if they’re younger, they’re curious about their love lives, careers, families and health. “I think it kind of covers all the big questions,” she added. “The readers try to focus on the big questions.”
And what makes a good reader? For this particular affair, speed.
“These are very short readings. It’s like 12 to 15 minutes, so if you can read quickly and accurately,” she said. “Some readers, they need 45 minutes to cover all they wanna get to. People that do well at events like this are people that can get a good chunk of—I don’t wanna say material—a good chunk of what’s going on with them in a short period of time.”
Jean is a former music teacher and occasional composer whose songs have appeared in shows like Law & Order, Will & Grace, and ER under her real name, Rae Jean Ferreri. These days, she’s busier handling her growing stable of psychics. Asked about the gentleman in the other room wondering when his own powers will blossom, she said, “We get a lot of people that are also very intuitive themselves. We get a lot of psychologists and therapists, we get doctors, you name it. They wanna know! They believe in it!”