“International psychic Bernice Golden dies,” reported radio station WKBW of Buffalo on the date of her death, October 8, 2018 (Mason 2018). Although she did promote herself as an “International Psychic,” the label is overblown. Nevertheless, she certainly became, in her day, “Buffalo’s best known psychic” (Evans 2016).
On a few occasions, she did get widespread attention. She employed the old psychics’ trick of saying shocking things to attract attention, knowing shrewdly that time was in her favor: apparent hits would be remembered and exaggerated, while clear misses would either be retrofitted (interpreted positively once the facts were known) or forgotten. For example, her prominence increased after forecasting on December 28, 1981, that “major difficulties may arise concerning an important nuclear power plant that could cause more static than ever before.” Note the vague “difficulties” and “static” and the equivocal “may.”
I’ll wager Bernice was as shocked as anyone when a steam tube ruptured (which she did not foresee) at the Ginna nuclear power plant east of Rochester (that went unnamed), “sending a plume of radioactive steam into the atmosphere and forcing declaration of a site emergency” (none of which she specified). (The Three Mile Island accident had occurred in 1979, stoking public fears, and there had already been another accident before Bernice’s prediction [see “Nuclear” 2018].)
At the beginning of 1987 she gave what would prove a notoriously erroneous prediction regarding President Reagan. Having previously failed to foresee his attempted assassination, Bernice predicted to The Buffalo News on January 1, 1987, that Reagan would resign due to deteriorating health, and that was picked up by papers as far away as the Sacramento Bee. In fact, Reagan continued his presidency to its end on January 20, 1989. The press again played Bernice’s game of “Heads I win, tails you lose,” and largely ignored or forgot the failure. Failures concerning herself were legion: she was divorced five times, once after being married just five months and suffering “a complete loss financially” (Kwiatkowski 1989). She never saw it coming. Not surprisingly, she eventually saw more clearly, and her final marriage lasted thirty years, until her death.
Bernice often appeared on radio talk shows as a guest, giving brief readings for call-ins. A local attorney sometimes used her alleged psychic insights for jury selection (Mason 2018). Revealingly she once told me over lunch that police had occasionally used her to make a criminal suspect think she had incriminating psychic knowledge about him, to see how he would react. What irony! For a time she operated The Golden Holistic Center in East Amherst, NY, where I occasionally dropped in. I was amused by a legalistic sign there, noting that all psychic offerings were “for entertainment only.”
I wanted to assess her purported psychic abilities, but she was dodgy. She offered to do a reading for me, but I reminded her of her earlier announcement that (in so many words) she had checked me out thoroughly. She apparently contacted some of her acquaintances at Lily Dale (an area Spiritualist village) where she was told I was notorious for “attacking” psychics. Ever the shrewd charmer trying to ingratiate herself, she did add that she had good feelings about me. She even invited me to appear on her radio show, trying to turn the tables.
I first contacted Bernice by letters, then by phone, regarding her WBEN radio show and website where she claimed to have assisted “in searches for missing people as well as assisting with investigations of difficult-to-solve crimes.” Eventually we spoke on the phone, in person at her center, over lunch, and at other encounters, but I never received from her a specific best case of her police sleuthing that was investigatible. She stalled and evaded, offered to provide several cases from which I could pick one, suggested I accompany her on a case, and so forth. When she finally did vaguely describe a certain case, she said she would have to seek permission from the police to discuss it, and I never heard further about the matter. I continued to check in on her at the center occasionally, but it was clear she never intended to offer examinable proof of her claims (Nickell 2004).
People like Bernice Golden typically have many of the traits associated with a fantasy-prone personality. Such persons are sane and normal and represent perhaps 4 percent of the public. They have an exceptional ability to fantasize and may be easily hypnotizable. Often they believe they receive messages from higher beings, have special powers, and so on (Wilson 2007, 251–258).
Indeed, Bernice gave seminars on developing one’s own psychic abilities—that included seeing auras, practicing psychometry (or object reading), learning to visit higher planes, encountering spirit entities, remembering past lives, and so on and on, as advertised in her newsletter (Golden 1987).
Bernice practiced what she preached—and what she lived or fantasized. Over a half century of investigation I have encountered many psychics like her, as well as spirit mediums, alien abductees and contactees, Marian visionaries, and many others who live rich fantasy lives. Some learn to be self-protectively charming—like Bernice Golden.
Evans, Stanley. 2006. Off Main Street. The Buffalo News, Dec. 31.
Golden, Bernice. 1987. Newsletter, Some Golden Notes. Angelica, NY: Golden Awareness.
Kwiatkowski, Jane. 1989. She can see clearly now. Buffalo Magazine, January 1.
Mason, Aaron. 2018. International Psychic Bernice Golden dies. Online at WKBW.com; accessed Oct. 10, 2018.
Neville, Anne. 2018. Bernice Golden, 73, did 20,000 psychic readings, appeared on TV, radio. Buffalo News, October 8.
Nickell, Joe. 2004. Letters of July and August 19, in Bernice Golden case file.
———. 2007. Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
Nuclear reactor accidents in the United States. 2018. Online at en.wikipedia.org; accessed October 11, 2018.
Psychic Sees Reagan Out, Cuomo Running. 1987. UPI in Buffalo News, January 1.
Wilson, Sheryl C., and Theodore X. Barber. 1983. The fantasy-prone personality. In Imagery, Current Theory, Research and Application, ed. Anees A. Sheikh, 340–390. New York: Wiley.