May 08, 1978 12:00 PM

Sexton is proud of being ‘the only psychic who did not predict Kennedy’s assassination’

No, Astral Necrophilia is not the title of the next Pink Floyd album. It is a séance with sex. For $1,000 there are spirit mediums who offer customers a chance to make love to partners long since departed. The person possibly most inflamed by the project is Thomas Sexton, a professional magician since he was 9, who now conducts a course entitled “Miracle Workers Unmasked” at Indianapolis’ Free University.

“There’s such a vast willingness to believe today,” claims Sexton. “It’s worse than it’s ever been.” As if to prove his point, the 35-year-old psychic and magician recently strolled into the Indianapolis Holiday Inn and asked to be blindfolded. Gauze was wrapped tightly around his eyes and a black hood was placed over his head. After coyly bumping into the revolving door, he headed out to his car and drove calmly away. That night Sexton told his class the first rule for debunking such a stunt: “Never trust a blindfold.” (In this case, he slipped the bandage off his eyes so he could see through the transparent part of a two-layer hood.)

Among the Free University’s 3,000 students, Sexton’s course is second in popularity only to “Disco Dance.” No wonder. For $20, students learn how to breathe fire, bend keys, levitate tables and walk on hot coals. Of course, says Sexton slyly, “There are a few tricks I’ll take to my grave.”

Breathing fire is a class favorite. “You have to be careful,” he cautions, “not to hiccup or gasp or your lungs may combust.” Fans or air conditioners can cause dangerous drafts. “Once,” Sexton recalls, “my mustache went up in flames and everybody remarked later how much they enjoyed that little twist.”

He treats his class to diatribes against those he considers phonies. Two favorite targets are psychics Jeane Dixon and Uri Geller. Sexton says Dixon is largely a practitioner of double-talk. But Geller really riles him. “Uri Geller,” he seethes, “has done more to set back genuine ESP research than 500 critical research papers.”

Sexton was raised outside Los Angeles in a family he describes as “uncommonly brilliant.” As a boy, he built backyard rockets and once haunted a house so convincingly that researchers from the parapsychology press were called in for documentation. He met his future wife, Janet, at college and tested her IQ at 185 before he would marry her. (Sexton puts his own IQ at 190.)

After studying psychology at the University of Alaska, Sexton briefly operated a school in Anchorage for 12-year-olds and up, which pushed his theory that “intelligence can be taught.” Moving to Indiana to attend graduate school, he landed at the Free University in 1975. The institution is supported by a small federal grant and (despite its title) tuition fees, and Sexton figures he will make $15,000 this year, “if I’m lucky.” He and Janet, 32, live in a small duplex home in Indianapolis with their three daughters. A victim of narcolepsy, he seldom rises before noon.

Sexton estimates that there are more than 10,000 professional magicians in the U.S. and an even greater number of bogus mediums. “I believe that genuine psychic phenomena exist,” says Sexton, though he fears that fraud and faulty research are driving away serious investigators. “We need,” he exhorts, “to let a little magic back into our lives.”

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