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Bewitched, bothered and Republican

Saturday, September 18, 1999

By Dennis Roddy

In a difficult year for state legislators, with several under investigation for bribery and theft, it has remained for the Honorable Tracy Seyfert, R-Erie, to face accusations of witchcraft.

Hours after federal agents swarmed over Seyfert's residential compound in Erie and seized a surplus government electrical generator that had somehow come to inhabit her yard, a staff member in her district office submitted a letter of resignation that, among those by the 18 others who have abruptly left Seyfert's employ since 1997, boldly stands out.

"The representative has been exhibiting more and more bizarre behavior involving psychics and witchcraft and giving me tapes and books and directing me to listen to them," wrote Marilyn Soltis. She listed a catalog of other, less exotic Seyfert faults, and ended thus: "I can no longer take this."

The precise nature of Seyfert's occult practices has been hard to establish. Her lawyer, Tim Lucas, acknowledges that the representative, a licensed psychologist, was a habitual player of Deepak Chopra tapes and is possessed of certain beliefs in mind-over-matter that inspired an exploratory trip this year to the Lily Dale Assembly in upstate New York.

The century-old assembly holds regular programs to link visitors with such powers and principalities as inhabit the clouds. Past guests have included Mahatma Gandhi, Mae West and Eleanor Roosevelt, the latter, perhaps, attempting to contact Hillary Clinton.

Here is a sample from this year's schedule of daily events:

8:30 a.m. Meditation service in the Healing Temple.

1 p.m. Message service at Inspiration Stump.

2:30 p.m. Guest Speaker and Clairvoyant in the Auditorium.

7 p.m. Thought exchange in the Mediums Building.

"Her position is that 90 percent of that stuff is bunk, but 10 percent is of interest to her," Lucas said.

Investigators believe Seyfert obtained the surplus generator with an eye toward Y2K, when many of an apocalyptic bent believe the power grid will shut down. This would pose a heating problem for the several thousand pheasants and peacocks authorities say her brother, Joe, has inexplicably tucked away on the Seyfert property.

Witchcraft is entirely legal. Private possession of government surplus property is not. The great irony here is that, in the rarefied confines of Seyfert's district, voters would probably agree with her theory that the world ends promptly at midnight, Dec. 31. A state representative in trouble with the federal government for trying to stave off Armageddon would be just their cup of tea leaves.

But a legislator accused of spiritual self-improvement by use of medium guides, Wiccan ritual or psychic aerobics can expect the rustic constituents of Erie and Crawford counties to throw her off the train at the next bridge.

It is important to keep a few things in perspective about the odd dilemma that will shortly confront Rep. Seyfert. First and foremost, Lily Dale is affiliated with the National Spiritualist Churches. "Witchcraft" is part of the Wiccan religion. Neither is a practitioner of the other's arts.

That such a statement is necessary to clarify political matters for a Republican member of the General Assembly explains much about why, this time next year, I might be writing about a new GOP candidate in the 5th Legislative District.

This will free Rep. Seyfert to explore such confines of the other world as she deems appropriate, assuming she and her birds survive the coming rollover on the millennial odometer. She might seek answers at Inspiration Stump.



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