By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Coming to sessions at the Haven for the past 17 years, Linda says she's experienced great healing at Duke's hands, especially the time when just a look from him knocked her across the room.
"I adore him. I think of him as my father," she says, eyes twinkling, huge eyelashes fluttering. "He is my spiritual father."
Duke makes light of her devotion. "Linda's been hanging out since '88, so that shows you she can't be very smart!" he jokes.
She giggles. Duke informs the crowd, "If we channel tonight, you'll know it. And if we don't, you'll know that also," he says, slowly easing his tall, bony frame atop a stool like a country singer about to lay down a love ballad.
Is any of this real? If proof is in the eye of the beholder, Duke can walk on water for this crowd.
Duke's done his share of healing but says it taxes him physically -- he points to widely fluctuating readings on a blood pressure gauge as proof -- and the stories are plentiful.
"I can tell you some things that have happened that you would not believe," he says sternly. "No use in going into that. Either I'm a liar or the truth is stranger than fiction."
"I have a sinus infection," announces Therese.
"So?" says Duke, teasing.
"Can you work on that for me?" she laughs. "Thank you."
Duke stands over her and stares, boring his gray-blue eyes into her like he's trying to burn through her. Therese seems unimpressed.
Jay has driven from South Miami after finding the reverend's web page several months ago while searching for his lost Native American spirit guide.
"For me, it's worth it," he says. "There's a lot of truth; there's nothing hidden."
After ringing a cowbell, Duke starts reading the billets -- envelopes with a cash donation inside and a question written on the front. Jay's is among the first he picks.
Duke reads it over, closes his eyes, scowls for a minute. Then he looks right at Jay and asks him, "May I read this? Because it's really beautiful."
Jay nods, and Duke begins.
"Am I avoiding facing something about myself, and is there someone I must forgive including myself?"
Duke thinks for a second and says, "Your spirit will be forgiven automatically. You don't have to get on your knees; just accept who you are. You've got it made in the shade and you don't know it. How's that feel to you?"
Jay smiles. "It feels great."
Next up is Margaret.
"There's someone who cares deeply for you," Duke tells her, "and you might not even be aware of it."
"I'm not aware of it," confirms Margaret.
"Well, someone's being sneaky then," Duke jokes. His smile fades, and a quick, localized storm of emotions plays out on his face. "We'll go to your question now," he announces, pressing the envelope to his head and closing his eyes. Suddenly, he opens them.
"Have you been to Disney World or the Orlando area?" he asks Margaret. "Ever ridden on the steamboat in the Magic Kingdom?"
She shakes her head.
"Well, it's a lot of fun!"
He changes course.
"Do you know someone called Louise?"
"I used to know someone called Louise," Margaret says.
"Well, she's here," Duke claims. "Do you know someone, last name... Hubbard?" he asks. "Or Howard?"
Margaret does, in fact. "I know a Howard."
At last, pay dirt.
Triumphant, Duke goes for broke. "Do you know a Julia?"
"No," Margaret answers.
"Well, guess what?" Duke smiles. "You sure will."