You can’t find her in the phonebook. Not on Facebook or any other social network. You can try Google, but you won’t get much. Just an old classified ad she ran in the Williamson Daily News with one god-awful misspelling.
MOUNTAIN MEDIUM SPITURAL READINGS! RESULTS GUARANTEED!
My guess is that the error was the paper’s fault. Not hers. She’s sharp. Sharper than newspaper people at least, but that’s not saying much. She’s read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. She consumed the dictionary for fun. She’s et her fair share of coons (“The brain is the best part”) and she blowed up two fucking EKG machines in the last month alone. She’ll walk by the microwave and it’ll sizzle like a bug zapper on account of her otherworldly energy.
She goes by Sabrina. That’s it. And if you ask around Blackberry, Kentucky, that’s all you’ll get. That and one of two other things: an eye roll and a condemnation or a tear drop and a tale of a loved one who transcended the grave, however briefly, with the aid of this mystical mountain woman.
I’m a born eye roller myself. I won’t damn anyone to Hell, but I always require proof. So I got after it. I wanted to see if this woman could really pull back the veil and commune with the departed.
It’s a Pike County adventure for sure. First to Belfry and then on to Pond Creek, riding that through weird little Hardy where the houses look like they’re from a model train set and they’re crammed so close to the road you could reach a hand out your car window and feel their peeling paint. Down to roundabouts Ransom and the tail end of Kentucky pretty much as far east as you can go without oozing into West Virginia. Down to the likes of Mudlick, Turkeytoe, Picklebean Hollow and Dinky Road, all the way to Rockhouse Branch of Blackberry to a doublewide on a block foundation and a gang of sagging-tit holler dogs growling at my feet.
Inside, Sabrina is already at work, well into a pint of Beam and absorbing the invisible forces surrounding my accomplices Candice and Everette, two servers at the restaurant where I cook. There’s a big bowl in the middle of the kitchen table surrounded by candles and salt, feathers and other strange talismans. The smell of burnt sage and cigarettes is strong. Alice Cooper’s “No More Mister Nice Guy” just barely eeks out of a stereo on the counter.
Sabrina’s husband, Mickey, is in a trance of his own. He’s got one of those monster Miller High Life cans, the 32-ouncer that looks less like a beverage and more like the brass shell of some high-caliber antiaircraft ammunition. He seems to be asleep as Sabrina, 47, in silken tunic and turquoise jewelry of every sort, hair dripping around her belabored face in glossy tendrils, lays out the peculiarities of her sensitive being for us, her guests.
“Every test I’ve had shows that I have the insides and eyes of an 80-year-old,” she says, lifting up the lid on one of her peepers. “They said the backs of my eyeballs look like rotted grapes. But I really think it’s my own fault for holding this energy in for so long. I burnt myself up.”
“See, I grew up in a time and place where this kind of thing was taboo. If you did it you were a witch. But I come from a family that’s done it for generations, so they had enough wisdom to tell me, ‘Yes, this is real. We just don’t talk about it.’ So I internalized a lot and would always have anxiety attacks that didn’t stop until I came out of the closet, so to speak.”
And Mickey perks up enough to agree.
“It’s true, man. She’s friiiiiiiiiiied.”
Then, like he inspired himself, he sets about rolling a fat joint of outdoor weed so sticky it gobs up his grinder.
Mickey and Sabrina have known each other much of this lifetime, and possibly before that.
Listen to this:
“I went to a really fucked up house of horrors when I was young,” Sabrina, remembers. “Sure, the first part was fine. You went through this little hallway and as you would step in front of a glass door a light would come on. There was a werewolf. That was cool. That was fine. There was a vampire. That was cool. That was fine. Then, the last one I stepped on was Sharon Tate with a fork in her pregnant belly.”
She was only eight so naturally it scared the hell out of her and she shut her eyes and started running. She just wanted out. She found her way to the exit, jumped off the steps, and when she hit the ground she opened her eyes and saw a little boy. Immediately, she says, the lights on the ferris wheel froze. Sound froze. She felt drawn to the boy and frightened by her feelings at the same time. So they ran in opposite directions. But then, as if by instinct, they started searching for each other. They didn’t find each other until 20 years later at the Magnolia Fair in Matewan. The little boy she’d seen had been Mickey. And they both remembered that day at the carnival in front of the house of horrors.
From Mickey’s perspective it goes like this:
“I recognized her, but I didn’t know from where. I looked in her eyes and I saw her soul and I knew her. As soon as I separated from her I missed her. I didn’t know the feeling then but I loved her and I needed her and I ran around looking for this eight-year-old girl. Because when our eyes met it was like totally fucked up, man. I couldn’t hear nothin’. I couldn’t smell nothin’. It was like lightning struck. When we separated I could smell the popcorn and shit again. Totally fucked up. The weirdest sensation of my whole entire life. She put a spell on me. It makes me believe that we knowed each other in another life. That we have different bodies but the same soul. Like, whoa, where the fuck you been? Fuckin’ weird, man. Freak you out.”
They’ve been a magnet for the supernatural ever since.
There was the time, for example, when Sabrina saw the legendary ghost of Mamie Thurman, the young woman who had her throat slashed on Mine 22 Road in Logan, West Virginia during The Depression.
There was the time, too, when she dreamt of a wet girl wrapped in plastic and three days later a missing girl’s body turns up in Huntington, waterlogged and wrapped in cellophane.
One time she saw a missing man’s flyer on a pop machine and told Mickey that his body would be found by the river in nine days. It was.
Still, Mickey remained skeptical.
“I’d been with her ten years and didn’t believe her bullshit,” he says. “Even though she would say things that would always come to pass. Gradually I knew something was weird about her.”
Here’s how Sabrina finally settled it. She looked at Mickey and said, “You grew up in Cleveland, right? And I know nothing about your childhood, right? Well, I’m going to walk you through your childhood best friend’s house.”
“And she took me on a tour of it,” says Mickey. “She knowed you had to go up seven steps and that over here was the living room and over there was the kitchen just like she was walkin’ through the motherfucker. She told me the colors and everything. I said GODDAMN! How’d she know that? She even knew how the light and shadows fell.”
Now, after almost 22 years of marriage, Mickey swears she can read his mind. He’ll be in the bedroom thinking to himself, “Where’d that bitch put my sweatpants?” and Sabrina will holler from the living room, “Bottom drawer on the left!”
Sometimes he’ll jokingly threaten to kick her out of the car because her own innate frequencies allegedly screw with the radio.
Then there are the less jovial encounters with the dark side, with the negative energy that flows just as swiftly as the positive. According to Mickey and Sabrina, the previous property they lived on just a mile up the road was and is inhabited by a vicious demon that reveals itself in the form of a shadowy black mass. It makes you do bad things. It makes you want to kill and steal and pump your body full of life-sucking drugs. When it came after their four-year-old daughter that was the last straw. They picked up and moved.
The guy that moved in after them swore that the demon was still there, that it talked to him through his unplugged computer speakers. It told him to buy a new GMC truck.
Even their current home comes with an unwanted guest. They call him Paul, figuring he’s what’s left of a notorious pedophile farmer that lived on the land a while back. He’s faceless but he wears a farmer’s getup. He peeks in their windows or stares from the mailbox across the road.
Despite all this, Sabrina never really let anyone in on her secret ability. She’s only been doing readings professionally since 2012.
“I’ve done almost 600 readings now. Over half of those are free ones I’ve done in public. Those free ones make me feel just as amazing as the ones who sit at this table and give me a dollar. If not more. To me, the day that the dollar means more is the day I need to quit.”
As she’s developed her skills, however, it’s unlikely that she could stop even if she wanted to. It’s like the spirits know they can get to us through her. They seek her out in mundane places like the potato chip aisle at Walmart and pester her for assistance.
“The best I can describe it is like when people say they see ghosts. There’s a thin veil that separates us. We see them as ghosts but, to them, we’re the ghosts. And sometimes we get these rare glimpses of each other. Then there’s people like me who, for some fucked up reason, can see and hear things others don’t.”
Once there was a spirit named Eddie that followed her for weeks. Finally a woman came in for a reading and she got a familiar gut feeling.
She said, “Who’s Eddie?”
It was the woman’s husband who’d died in her arms.
She said, “What’s up with Asheville?”
The woman was thinking about moving there.
Sabrina said don’t do it. It’s a bad idea. She said, “It’s making me feel like my head is going to explode. Like somebody is punching me in the skull. Don’t go.”
The woman went anyway and three months later she was dead. Her new boyfriend had shot her in the head.
And that’s what it is. It’s not levitating tables and crystal balls. It’s ENERGY. It’s gut feelings and inexplicable sensations. The local Bible beaters say she’s into witchcraft, devil worshipping, black magic, voodoo, you name it. Mickey catches a lot of heat at the strip job where he works.
“I gotta work with these Christians that think I’m the Devil. They say we’re gonna burn in Hell. Fuck them. They’re annoying.”
Sabrina is more zen about it. She pays her detractors no mind. She just goes on doing what she does the way she’s always done it. She teaches her children about the greens that grow around them, which ones are edible and which ones are poison. They could cure your bronchitis with snakeweed, for example, and your nausea with a swig of blackberry juice. They could cook in the fireplace if they had to.
“I’m like Levon Helm,” she says. “I was born on this mountain, on this mountain I will die.”
She’s not a pagan, a Wiccan or anything really. The closest she comes to praying is right before every reading. She burns her sage and implores the forces that bind the universe to help her to be humble. She says, “Help me to help those who come here seeking help.” She says this because, she feels, the things that are brought to her attention are the things that are meant to be changed. Otherwise it’s fate.
By the time Sabrina gets around to reading Everette and Candice “No More Mister Nice Guy” has turned into “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” and Mickey has a blissful two-joint grin on his face at the head of the table. A pot roast and an apple pie are on the stove for anybody who wants some.
It’s dark outside now, and in the candlelight Sabrina makes odd markings on a steno book while her rotted-grape eyes kind of roll back in her head. She feels drawn to Everette.
“Did you lose somebody recently?”
“Was it a female?”
“I feel like this was sudden. Very sudden. Was it sudden?”
“You’ve had a visitation haven’t you? Vivid dreams where you woke up and the air seemed so thick you could cut it with a knife?”
Sabrina circles the table to take Everette’s hand between her own. She tells him not to feel like he didn’t get to say goodbye because he did. She tells him to be happy, that he did all he could do. She tells him that this woman was ready to go. She welcomed death.
Sabrina instructs her son to turn off the air conditioning so she can better sense any movements that might occur. She tells me to point my recorder in his direction and to take pictures around his head. She senses a strong presence that I might be able to capture on camera in the form of a floating orb. She asks the presence to reveal itself in some way.
Everette starts to cry.
Back home, I checked my photos the next morning, hoping for some irrefutable proof. No orbs. Nothing really. Just the same two people I see at work everyday, albeit a calmed and clarified version of them, their eyes wide open like they’d been baptized in an icy river. Nor did I hear any strange voices on my recordings. Only Janis Joplin, who happens to explain the intangible realities of this world about as well as one can hope.
Honey, you know you got it if it makes you feel good.
If you’d like to schedule a reading with Sabrina, call or text (606) 603-0364.
Group rates are available.