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Arthur Wrecks

March 07, 1993

Regarding "The Once and Future Queen," Mary Williams Walsh's story on Laurel Phelan, who believes she was Queen Guinevere in a past life (Feb. 21):

What any healthily skeptical mind can discern is that we have here another case of someone laying claim to paranormal insight at the expense of those more creative individuals who take the risk of making or breaking it on their own abilities as storytellers.

Being active in the motion picture industry, I know there are quite a few King Arthur projects around these days, and what better way to be heard above the din than to lay biographical claim to one of the more lasting legends of the ages? The frightening thought is that individuals in positions of power and responsibility in the movie industry could actually buy this reincarny bunk.

Possibly even more frightening is the thought that they probably don't, but see the monetary advantage of furthering paranormal absurdities at the expense of a credulous, ill-informed public. To resolve themselves of this National Enquirer approach to movie-making they'll undoubtedly say they don't buy Phelan's past-life claim, but she tells a damn good story. Well, I would wager there are quite a few damn good stories making the rounds that can't even get a reading because they were inspired by nothing more than the writers' imaginations.

As one who has studied past-life regressions, I'm only too aware of the pattern repeated here: An ordinary and often unfulfilled person claims disturbing dreams, somehow hooks up with a "psychologist" already sympathetic to past-life phenomena and regresses further under hypnosis (actually a very suggestive state and hardly a doorway to the unconscious, as is often claimed) and finally gets in touch with a soul mate willing to listen and further the claim--in Phelan's case, a onetime singer who had gone into television, all the while protesting any previous interest in or knowledge of the incidents claimed as one's past.

Tabloids and talk shows and book offers follow. And of course it never matters if it's all exposed as a contemptuous hoax, as in the case of the Amityville series.

I wish Phelan well as a writer, but I also wish she'd trusted her own abilities, and respected as well those of her hoped-for colleagues--those writers who lay claim to nothing more than imagination and talent.


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