Wed, Feb. 19

Writer Gladys Higgins

Imagine being born seven weeks early, three and-a-half pounds, with a gift that scares you and makes you feel "different" from all the other kids. Imagine being born on Halloween in 1927 in Queens, N.Y., after your mother is frightened by a thunderbolt that strikes a shop close to where she is window-shopping, causing the shop to burst into flames and your mother to fall down in the street, unconscious and hemorrhaging.

Gladys Higgins made her entrance into the world in just this way ­ premature, tiny, and on Halloween, with a gift she had neither asked for, nor wanted. Shortly after Gladys was born, her mother Rose took baby Gladys back to London, where her family lived. Bill, her father, would follow within a year, when he could scrape up the funds to get there.

"I think when we come into this life, we are each given some gift and we can decide whether we want to develop it or not. For some it's music, or drawing. For me, it was the gift of psychic sensitivity. While I was growing up, I didn't know what it was and I'm not really sure I do even now. But even as a youngster, things were happening that I seemed to just know about. People would look at each other in amazement. Back in the 1930s in London, people with psychic abilities were thought to be witches. Wicked. In my family, there were several of us that had the gift ­ but no one talked about it, really. We hid it, as if there was something shameful about it," says Gladys.

Gladys today is a slender, abundantly energetic woman with a story to tell ­ and what a story it is! In her book, "Goodnight, Charlie" (she tells the tale behind the title in the book) she tells a lot. I will say that Higgins chose to self-publish the book without, apparently, benefit of an editor ­ but even she will admit that it's a "rough copy." People self-publish for all kinds of reasons, and it's a viable manner in which to get work into print. "I wrote my story because people have been telling me for years that I should," she says in her strong London accent.

In spite of its "rough" edges, Higgins, who resides in Cornville with her daughter Michelle, tells a wonderful tale of a young woman who frightened by her psychic abilities as a child ("sometimes still," she says) and is confused by them as she grows from youngster to adolescent. "I was always the outsider, the 'weird' one," she says. "I thought it was a curse. But when something good comes of it, I'm glad it's there. There was a time when I realized that I could turn this toward evil, that it really was a choice I had. I chose to use it for good. I've never regretted that decision."

Higgins tells of the Great Depression and how it affected the lives of the already poor. She talks about her life in London during the Blitz in World War II, an especially gripping section of her story that made it impossible for me to put the book down from that point on.

Having been born in Queens, Higgins was a U.S. citizen. Returning to America in the early 1950s with her first husband, she eventually wound up in California. "Things were starting to get a little looser around then. Maybe it was just California. People didn't run away or laugh their heads off if you said you were psychic," she says. "But psychic ability wasn't easily accepted until the '70s ­ now it's not laughed at or frowned upon at all." Maybe that accounts for the timing of Higgins' book.

"It was while I was living in California that I began working with the police. I would have dreams in which I'd 'float out' and go inside a victim, and see the crime from his or her standpoint. I could usually give descriptions that no one else could ­ things that hadn't been released to the public." ("Floating out" is Higgins' way of describing Astral Travel.) "I could describe locations or name street names." One example she cites is the Sharon Tate murder by Charles Manson and his cult. "I had been to the cinema to see 'Valley of the Dolls' with Sharon Tate," says Higgins. "The moment she came onto the screen, I knew she would die a terrible, violent death. I started to shake; I was getting a migraine headache. It got so bad I had to leave the theater.

"When the murders were committed, I 'saw' them as they happened. I called the San Diego police. They listened." Most of the time, her visions come to her in dreams. "I know I'm in my own bed and asleep," she says, "but I'm also at the scene, somehow inside the victim." One dream showed her where Jimmy Hoffa is. Another identified the infamous "Hillside Stranglers." In the 9/11 situation, she saw that the first firemen who went into the building would never come out alive.

"Things got somewhat more stressful in my life around then. It seems that the more stressful things in my personal life became, the more the dreams would come to me. It was as if all these dead people were pulling at me, all wanted me to help, to pass on a message or find a murderer. I found I was taking care of everyone but me. I've had to put much of that aside recently. All those grasping hands, all those poor, poor people," she shakes her head sadly. "I wish I had the strength to help them all. But it got so bad that I couldn't sleep. My own health was suffering."

One of Higgins' major reasons for writing her story is abundantly clear, especially in these times, when more and more children are coming into this world with abilities and talents that go far beyond our comprehension. "I'd like parents, especially, to know that their children should be allowed to look into the paranormal as much as they need or want to, to get as much information as they can, about what it is they have. As long as it's not being used for evil, so there has to be a lot of monitoring, of course. And a lot of open, honest communication and conversation. Other people just can't understand what a youngster goes through. I wish someone had had the courage to sit me down for a good talk-to."

Despite the rough edges, Gladys Higgins' story is well worth the time it takes to read it. Imagine yourself talking to someone from London; imagine the accent, and the cadence of the speech. Doing that makes it easier to overlook the mechanical errors and misprints. Look beyond the surface; you'll find the story of an amazing human being, an affirmation that no matter what else happens, life does go on.

"Goodnight, Charlie" is available at Golden Word Bookstore, 3150 W. Arizona 89A, in West Sedona (282-2688), The Well Red Coyote, 3190 W. 89A, in West Sedona (282-2284), and at Adventures Unlimited Books, 1020 N. Main St., in Old Town Cottonwood (639-1664).

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