Every life has a story. In this column we pay tribute to people who have died recently.
David Pitkin was not afraid of death and never dreaded the day he would cross to the other side.
The Chestertown man, a former teacher and author of several books on supernatural phenomena, died Feb. 13 of cancer. He was 73.
Pitkin took both a spiritual and historical approach to ghosts, believing that an apparition is just a human being who died leaving unfinished business. Part of the dying process requires us go through an “exit interview,” much like leaving a job, he said.
“I think ... you have to come to terms with what you did. Some people get hung up, and if we’re fortunate, we can figure out what they’re trying to communicate,” the author told The Post-Star in October while discussing the release of “Haunted Warren County.”
In several interviews Pitkin dismissed Hollywood’s scary portrayal of ghosts, believing death is just a transition to another state.
“He wasn’t afraid of dying at all. I think he was actually left in a state of excitement about his next phase of consciousness,” said Anna Busser Erik of Chestertown, who credited Pitkin with helping her with research for a real-life mystery she is writing. “He strengthened my own personal attitude about dying. I get feelings about people who are about to die. I don’t freak out.”
Sally Feihel of Thurman first met Pitkin at a reading in Warrensburg and has been a fan of his books for many years. The founder of Adirondack Spectral Investigations and a paranormal investigator, Feihel said Pitkin told her to learn to open herself up to connect with spirits and not rely solely on her equipment.
“He always stressed to have faith in myself and my abilities: use equipment for documentation, but to learn to listen to the spirit world and trust in what I saw, heard and smelled,” Thurman said. “I am so much more in tune with my surroundings now.”
According to an interview in Yankee magazine in the fall, Pitkin’s first encounter with ghosts was 45 years ago when he heard footsteps in a barn in Oneida County. Since then, he had accumulated more than 800 eerie stories that were included in his books.
He believed everyone has some psychic ability but that it manifests itself in different ways. For Pitkin, he would meditate and communicate telepathically.
“I sit, quietly, with my eyes closed. I say, ‘Is anyone here? Does anyone want to talk?’ And sometimes there’s a response,” he said in the Yankee article. “How you see and hear telepathically, I don’t know how to describe. But I get impressions, as if they’re playing on a screen.”
Busser Erik believes Pitkin may have been trying to communicate with her telepathically on the morning of his death. She said she awoke suddenly at 3 a.m. Feb. 13 thinking about him and had this feeling that she should get out of bed, light a lantern and drive to his house a few miles away.
Busser Erik said she questioned herself about doing it but got into her car anyway. She arrived to find the house fully lit and two cars out front. Pitkin’s son was coming out of the house as his father’s body was being taken away. She felt she was given time to personally say good-bye and sang an old Celtic farewell song.
She said she experienced “incredible joy.”
“I could feel his presence; it was like an excitement. It was as if he were saying, ‘I’m alive and well. Don’t be sad. I’m finally getting to get to that place I’ve been writing about and talking about,” Busser Erik recalled. “Death doesn’t have to be a terrible thing.”
Features writer Meg Hagerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 742-3208.