Search Box

Monday, December 6, 2010


An article in this morning's NY Post featured Penelope Zannikos, above, who evidently visits dying patients at various hospitals:

Penelope Zannikos, 44, charges $125 for hospital "transition sessions" with seriously ill people who want to know who's behind the white light.

"Sometimes the information surprises people -- it's not always who you think will be waiting for you," said Zannikos, who believes she inherited her gift from her Puerto Rican mother -- although it could also be from her dad, who was born in Romania to Greek parents.

Her father probably named Penelope after Odysseus's steadfast wife, who stayed true to him throughout his many travels. Judging from his daughter's occupation (and her exquisite looks), however, he might more appropriately have named her Cassandra, or Circe.

Zannikos does look the part she is playing. She's perhaps a bit too beautiful, a touch too light-skinned, and looks a few years too young. But with her straightened hair and generally exotic, Creole look, she is what a voodoo queen should look like. Actually, she looks a touch too healthy, especially at 44: someone with her claimed powers really ought to have a little more of a haunted, queen-of-the-undead look. ("An ordinary mortal like you has no idea what hell these demonic possession hangovers are.")

If they ever make a movie about Marie Laveau, the famous voodoo queen of New Orleans, they ought to cast Zannikos in the title role, even though there's no actual resemblance. This oil painting shows what Laveau actually looked like: 

As you can see, Laveau herself was a bit more matronly-looking, as befits someone who evidently had fifteen children. (No wonder so many claim to be a descendant.) Laveau lived to be 79, and it is unclear how old she was when this picture was painted.

What Laveau and Zannikos have in common is that both practice occupations that bespeak a certain charlatanism.

Personally, I've always believed in voodoo -- at least as far as its powers of suggestion go. For a true believer, voodoo, and that voodoo-ized form of Catholicism known as Santeria, can be very heady stuff. We've all heard stories about the supposed effects that hexes and curses can have. Call it the placebo effect if you wish, but they can work.

There are certainly times I wish I could believe that cutting the head off a chicken would solve my problems. If only it were that simple. For some people, it is.

When you think about it, Santeria is really not all that dissimilar from other religions. The people who believe in them are simpletons, and their leaders (priests, shamans and the like) are charlatans. I don't know enough to judge whether Zannikos is a sociopath; but what she is doing, which is essentially fortune-telling, is generally the province of con artists. And con artists are usually sociopaths.

Give Zannikos a little more time and her character should eventually emerge on her face.

It seems a pity, though, as she is still good-looking enough to cast a different kind of spell, albeit a more normal one.


Anonymous said...

You have no idea what you're talking about, with all due respect. First of all, the New York Post completely distorted what it is that Penelope does. They made it seem as if she purposely seeks out hospital patients, which is not true. She does not frequent hospitals, but she will go if a family member requests it and there is no other way to go about the reading.

Penelope does not have a scintilla of charlatanism in her body. A session with her would make your skeptical head spin, but one wonders whether you'd go put your theory to the test or whether you simply prefer to cast aspersions from a distance without the benefit of true knowledge.

The only thing you're right about is that she is good looking, better looking in person than in the NYP photo, in fact.

John Craig said...

I guess you know her. And if she's better-looking than that picture, then she is beautiful indeed.

But whether I met her or not, there's no way I can -- or would -- believe she knows who is waiting for people after they die.

The Skeptical Head