Book: Susy Smith’s Supernatural World
Author: Susy Smith
Type of Book: Non-fiction, paranormal, supernatural, metaphysics
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Most supernatural topics verge into the odd for me, but the real reason I am discussing this book is because of a talking cat.
Availability: This is an old little pocket paperback. Published in 1971 by McFadden-Bartell Corporation, you will likely find it difficult to find a copy but sometimes Amazon comes through. Be aware that often times you will find her first name misspelled as “Suzy.”
Comments: When Mr OTC and I moved to Austin back in 1996, the old Half Price Books on Guadalupe had a quarter sale on old paperbacks and I scored this ridiculous gem. And it is ridiculous. Susy Smith, should she still be alive, which I cannot imagine she is – she was in her late fifties when this book was published – was not herself ridiculous. She was indeed deeply interested in the paranormal, as were many in the 1960s and 1970s, and wrote compelling books, some of which are so nakedly and earnestly open about herself and her life that they almost break my heart. You can more or less psychoanalyze her through the stories she tells about her own psychic and paranormal experiences, and I don’t want to go into it in depth here because I don’t want the pathos of Smith’s often sad life to steal the focus from the story I am about to discuss, but I think I wanted to show that Smith is (or maybe was, I should really look it up and see if she is still alive) a good writer with more gravitas than the story I plan to discuss would suggest.
There are over a dozen stories of interesting and unlikely paranormal experiences and events in this book. Ghosts who tell the living who killed them. Precognitive dreams about decapitations that later happen. Psychics who find the body in the woods when all those careful police and search parties fail. Nothing you’ve not heard before if you’ve spent more than ten minutes in the metaphysical section at a used book store. The reason to seek out this book and own it is because it has one of the sweetest paranormal stories ever told, the story of Whitey the Cat.
Once upon a time, there was a magazine called FATE that covered stories about reincarnation and poltergeists and weird things that fell from the sky and Susy Smith wrote articles for them. One of those articles was about her search in 1965 for a talking cat. Smith, an honest writer, says that she cannot really say if she has laid the matter to rest as to whether or not a talking cat lived and spoke in Lake Hamilton, Florida. However she did say:
…I interviewed several persons who attest that they have indeed heard a soft voice issue from a tomcat named Whitey, and that this voice spoke clear and sensible English.
Mr OTC and I speak to each other using voices we’ve assigned to the cats. The best voice belonged to the late Cicero Cat. He sounded a lot like Bill Clinton. The voice we use for our elderly cat Gertie sounds a lot like my late mother. So it would seem like we would be the sorts of people who would delight in the idea of talking cats, but really since we basically use the cat voices to annoy each other, we decide what the cats say and realize that a genuine talking cat would be a complete nightmare. I don’t even want to know what they would talk about if they could talk. I suspect that when they weren’t talking about the state of the boxes they crap in and complaining about Grendel eating their food, it would be hours and hours of them shouting, “HEY, HEY, HEY!” at each other and at us. Because they’re cats. It’s all poop and food and attention for them. We would not be discussing literature, or even talking cats. I reckon having a talking cat would suck.
But let’s see what Susy has to say about it.
Before we begin in earnest, it needs to be said that the Whitey tale was verified by a certain Bennett William Palmer, a retired minister, and therefore more trustworthy than the average Floridian who hears cats talking to them. He vouched for Mr and Mrs James Deem (seriously, those were their names) so Susy flew to Florida, picked up the Good Reverend and drove on over to the Deem house. Sadly, Whitey did not speak while Susy was in his house, and his owners seemed skittish as well, but after the humans in the house realized that Susy Smith was not going to mock them for claiming their enormous white cat could talk, they began to open up to her.
Mr Deem found Whitey when he was a tiny kitten. Mrs Deem heard a pitiful meowing coming from near the house, and sent Mr Deem out into the rain to find Whitey, miserable and sick. Mr and Mrs Deem spent 48 hours nursing the wee kitten until they restored him to health. Whitey found his niche in the Deem household, a nice counter-balance to the Deems’ other cat, aptly named Blackie. Then, when Whitey was six months old, he began to talk.
…he jumped on the bed one morning and said, “I’m hungry.” Mrs. Deem was not asleep, but she knew she must have been dreaming. “I thought I was hearing things,” she told me. “A cat can’t talk.” She turned over and looked at her pet. Whitey spoke again. “Mama, I’m hungry,” he said.
After verifying that Whitey had indeed said he was hungry, she did what any sane person would do. She got up and fed the cat.
Whitey also showed his skills to Mr Deem.
Two or three days later James Deem was lying down when Whitey jumped up beside him. Stroking the animal, Mr. Deem said, “Whitey, you’re a bad cat.”
“I am not a bad cat,” replied Whitey, then added, “I want to go out.”
After consulting his wife and determining that the cat was indeed talking, one presumes that Mr Deem let Whitey out. Luckily, Whitey was not a loquacious cat.
Once he started speaking he was rather fluent for over a year, I was told. While the more striking incidents occurred very infrequently, over a period of many months he is reported to have said some human word or sentence every day.
As irritating as having a talking cat must be in reality, Whitey’s story sounds rather charming. He liked grocery shopping day.
When Mrs. Deem went to the grocery, she told me, she often returned with some chocolate. Whitey is particularly fond of chocolate and he would say, “What did you bring me?” She would counter with, “Do you love me, Whitey?” And he’d reply, “I love you, Mama, what did you bring me?”
Cute and obsessed with food, tinged with complete self-absorption. And don’t feed your cats chocolate. The vets say it’s poisonous but I’m beginning to think that perhaps chocolate triggers the capacity for cats to speak. But still, don’t let them eat it.
Whitey’s speech at times involved topics other than food.
Once Ruth says she heard the cat say, “Come! Come!” She went out and saw him sitting, looking steadily at something under the house. He said, “He’s a big one!” She stooped to see what he was looking at, and a big black snake crawled out. Mrs. Deem screamed, and then, she swears, the cat said, “Mama’s a coward.”
Television seemed to be an upsetting and baffling experience for Whitey.
Whitey likes to watch television and the set often is left on just for his benefit. Once he saw a man shot on TV and asked, “Is he hurt?” Mrs. Deem said, “No, he isn’t hurt.” Whitey then said, “Mama, don’t tell a lie.” He also is reported to have said of a dog he saw on television, “He’s not real.” Ruth says she thinks she once heard him say, “Thanks,” but she is not positive of this.
Our late cat Adolph used to watch Spanish language television all the time. I swear he knew how to operate the old television and remote system and would watch telenovellas at night when we were asleep.
Whitey also was a little tattletale. Once the Deems left their house and cats in the care of a neighbor, taking a week’s vacation. When they came back home, the house sitter came over for a visit and Whitey followed Mrs Deem into the bedroom and informed her that her guest, sipping coffee in the kitchen, had hit him. She asked him what he hit him with and Whitey said he had smacked him with a newspaper. Mrs Deem ferreted information out of her visitor. Evidently Blackie and Whitey had gotten into a fight and the house sitter rolled up a newspaper and swatted wildly to get them to stop.
…he did a double take, wondering how she knew about it. Then he remarked to me, “There is only one way she could have known. That darn cat told her.”
Can you imagine what your cats could tell people about you? “He farted twice during dinner.” “She ate a pint of ice cream in the bathtub.” “My mama said your pants make your butt look big.”
He may have been a little snitch but I tend to think Whitey was a good judge of character. A traveling preacher heard about Whitey and showed up to see the cat. Mrs Deem, far nicer than I am, let the preacher inside.
After some conversation, they were startled to hear Whitey say to the preacher, “Why don’t you go home?” And then they were horrified when he added, “He’s a stinker.” Mrs. Deem quickly said, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” But Whitey stoutly denied it. “I am not.”
Whitey had a very melodramatic flair, remembering back to his sorry beginnings as a lost kitten in the rain. He frequently lamented about being hungry and feeling unloved.
If one subjects Whitey’s supposed conversation to psychological scrutiny it seems at times almost embarrassingly human – and Freudian. Here is a cat that apparently was abandoned to die when it was a kitten. Today, even though rescued and loved by the Deems, it still is reported to complain that “No one loves me.” It most frequently uses human words of love and rejection: “Hungry,” “Mad,” “I want to go home,” “He’s bad” (often said about Blackie), “Love,” “I love Mama, ” and “Why no one love me?”
I don’t even want to tell you how sad it makes me to realize that perhaps these animals we love so much remember too clearly their hard times before they were rescued. I guess people who buy cossetted expensive cats from reputable breeders never have to wonder about the bad times their animals faced but those of us who find abandoned and injured cats, hungry and miserable, would be so stricken to know that our cats remember starkly and sadly all the times they felt forsaken. Poor Whitey.
Susy verified with neighbors that the cat had been heard speaking, and she respected how reluctant the Deems were initially to talk about it, since publicity-seeking can point to a certain lack of veracity. The neighbors seemed sane and the sorts of people unlikely to perpetrate a hoax. Plus there was the minister verifying their story. The Deems seemed like stand-up folks. They mostly just wanted to be left alone with their black cat and their white cat. They even moved when a story in the local news caused people to come and literally stalk their cats. It was 1965. Exploiting pets for base humor and fleeting fame had not yet become common and democratized.
Susy explores the potential reasons behind a talking cat – hoax, delusion, reincarnation, poltergeist, ventriloquist. She also brings up another excellent story of a talking animal: Gef, the talking mongoose on the Isle of Man. Gef was investigated far more than the story of Whitey and of course it was a fraud. It also had more sinister overtones than Whitey’s tale, but there’s still something very endearing about a weird bushy rat thing that talked.
Yeah, I know. None of this is scary. But Halloween doesn’t always have to be creepy or horrible – sometimes it’s just inexplicable. For every gory murder or horrible monster there’s an emo talking cat who wants a treat on grocery day. Whitey is the cutely paranormal and while I’m glad my cats cannot speak English I also like the idea of Whitey so much that I held onto this brittle, worn-out paperback I bought for a quarter over two decades ago. And yes, I call Mr OTC “a stinker” using my dead mother’s voice channeled through an elderly cat. You may find this unseemly but if anyone understood using pets to irritate people, it was my mom.
I hope that Whitey’s afterlife is free of newspapers, black snakes, and creepy traveling carny preachers, and that he gets all the chocolate he wants.
One thought on “Halloween 2017: Susy Smith’s Supernatural World”
Well, I’m glad the husband and I are not the only ones who use distinct voices for our cats. (Were you wondering… Binky sounds like an old Russian man, Obi is a breathless little boy and Faxy’s use of vulgarities is legend.)
I’m glad you mentioned Gef as that was also my thought while reading your review. And it might be worth mentioning that I’ve always found Gef more than a little creepy.
I don’t think I could deal with talking cats. It’s bad enough that Obi sometimes makes a sound that is like a small child’s evil giggle and that is enough to give me serious frissons for ages.