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
Sally Baldwin and her recently deceased sister, Annie Luther, have a message for humanity, and you might want to sit down for this one. They're pleased to announce that Anne Frank has forgiven Adolf Hitler.
Apparently, Anne Frank is just that understanding.
Baldwin claims to communicate with the souls of the dead, including such luminaries as the Führer, Elvis Presley, Cleopatra, and Abraham Lincoln. Until just a few weeks ago, her sister was also part of the act, until she joined her interview subjects in the Great Beyond.
The sisters and Baldwin's husband, Steve, all of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, founded the nonprofit Dying to Live Again Foundation in 1999 while training themselves to interpret messages from what they call "the Otherside." They've worked together on self-published books, and one of those, Dying to Live Again, includes Anne Frank's unlikely pardon.
"I feel no regret to have lived and died as I did," Frank supposedly told Baldwin. "I do not condemn Adolf Hitler for his actions. I forgive him."
Baldwin holds channeling sessions twice a month at the Pompano Beach Civic Center and Hollywood's Center for Human Development, in addition to private sessions she conducts across the county and on the telephone, speaking with dead relatives and even pets. New Times, after noticing the remarkable Hitler passages in her book, attended the most recent public meeting hoping to hear more about how the former leader of the Third Reich was doing these days.
On a recent Wednesday night, Baldwin swished into the Pompano Civic Center in a long skirt, a velvet purple shawl, and dangly earrings. She hugged and greeted a crowd of about 70 that had passed up a night viewing Dancing With the Stars for this month's "Otherside Chat." Baldwin took her place at the front, lit a single green candle, and traced a crystal bowl with a wand, producing a high-pitched whir meant to harness energy.
"This first part, we open to the great ones," she announced. "They don't just come willy-nilly." Rose Hunt, an animal channel who recently helped Hulk Hogan understand what his dogs and cats were thinking, nodded knowingly. Hunt, a short, plump woman with a bowl cut, is also part of Dying to Live Again, and tonight she helped collect the $10 entrance fee and distribute pamphlets and books.
Baldwin plopped into a chair, then picked up a silver chain with a crystal pendulum and began to trace small circles in the air with it. She looked down, and the words of the spirits began to spill from her mouth.
"There are most astute friends gathered here tonight," she said, sounding as though she were reading from a book. "You are more than you add up to be... The cacophony of voices from the Earth's plane is loud and voluminous." She talked nonstop for about five minutes, swirling her quartz and purportedly interpreting what the spirits in the room wished to share.
Baldwin then gave an introduction to her techniques for newcomers, some of whom had seen a recent Sun-Sentinel article that depicted Baldwin as a quirky local version of figures like Allison Dubois and John Edward who claim to speak with the dead.
The audience listened to Baldwin explain that she is a spiritual medium who communicates with souls on a spiritual level. "The more specific you get, the more specific they will respond to what you are asking for," she said.
A hand shot up, and a woman named Eleanor asked to speak with her husband, Michael, who many years ago died in his sleep.
"Michael for Eleanor," Baldwin said, then cleared her throat and began to swing the pendulum.
"I am Michael, and yes, my dear, I can honestly say to you that the moment of truth came for me when I fell asleep in that moment because I knew, I recognized, I could feel as I was drifting off to sleep that that was it," Baldwin said. "I just want you to hear that so you don't think it was a startling surprise to me as if it was something I had to get over and I was like, 'Oh, no, I didn't get to say goodbye. '"
Eleanor also wondered if Michael approved of what she was doing with her life right now. He definitely did, Baldwin reassured her.
After a few more visitations from the dead, a reporter asked how Adolf Hitler was doing and what we on Earth should think about his soul.
Baldwin spun her pendulum. "You cannot look on another as tromping on your life and bringing about things that you did not ask for, that you did not want," Baldwin relayed. "Somewhere in your experience, there was an allowance and an ability for this to happen."
It was a vague and desultory answer, but it was all we got. New Times also attempted to interview Annie Luther, but she was gravely ill and passed away on December 13. At least through conventional means, we would have no chance to ask her about complaints that she had channeled spirits while working for the Children's Home Society of Florida, a private nonprofit that provides social services including child abuse prevention, group homes, foster care, adoption, and treatment for developmentally disabled children.
For more than three years beginning in 2001, Luther served as executive director of CHS' Intercoastal Division in Broward County. She supervised about 100 employees and 200 volunteers and worked with an operating budget of nearly $5 million.
Employees who worked for Luther insist that she channeled in the office and that it offended some. But not many were apparently aware that the women believed Anne Frank had embraced her Holocaust experience. One who knew was Bruce Rosenberg, a caseworker, and it bothered him. "Here's a woman who said she can talk to dead people and thinks Hitler can somehow make amends, and oh, by the way, she's also dealing with parents who are abusing their children," he says. "Why would you hire someone that openly advertises this?"
Luther also hired her sister, Baldwin, as an independently contracted therapist, and Rosenberg says he wrote numerous complaints about Luther to the society's CEO, David Bundy, but got no response. CHS spokeswoman Liz Bruner says the organization's management became aware of Luther's channeling, the hiring of her sister, and the publication of Dying to Live Again. But she says she could not comment on whether complaints against Luther were received or acted on.
Baldwin claims to have discovered her psychic abilities in the late 1980s, when a Roman soldier appeared briefly in her living room. Two of six children in a Catholic family from the Boston area, she and her sister both completed master's degrees in social work. But shortly after the centurion showed up in her house, Baldwin lost a job and her first marriage ended.
But the voices didn't, and soon she was sharing her experiences with Steve Baldwin, who eventually became her second husband.
Particularly disturbing to her former co-worker, Rosenberg, however, is the alleged interview with the soul of Anne Frank.
According to Frank as quoted by Baldwin, the famous Jewish girl from Amsterdam and Hitler have had many soul-to-soul contacts in the afterlife. The interview also disclosed that Frank does not really consider herself Jewish but kept quiet about it to avoid being rejected by her family. She also supposedly recognizes that Hitler's deeds were part of his mind, body, and ego but not his soul.
"I want to make it clear again that I feel no regret to have lived and died as I did," Frank supposedly said, via Baldwin. "My soul was directing my life, and it wanted those experiences. I do not lay blame on the people who imprisoned me and contributed to my dying."