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Seattle Gay history: Rhinehart, Seattle's psychic wonder
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Seattle Gay history: Rhinehart, Seattle's psychic wonder

by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

The most controversial and discriminated-against Gay man in Washington state history was Keith Milton Rhinehart (born April 1, 1936, died April 30, 1999), founder of the largest psychic and occult center in the USA, the Aquarian Foundation, Church of the New Age. When Keith was 10 years old, a psychic predicted he would be a renowned medium someday. He was the only medium in the world to have passed the scientific test conditions imposed by the fraud-proof infrared equipment of the Japanese Scientific Psychic Research Society. Keith was a spiritualist, medium, and political activist who performed séances and apports.

An apport is an object that appears after having ostensibly been de-materialized from somewhere else and then materialized in the séance room. Such items as semi-precious stones appear to come out of Keith's eyes, mouth, and skin.

Such occult events fueled a long-standing police issue. Lois, Keith's secretary, said: "Some of the controversy and hearsay about Keith was that he took money from older people, but they did this on their own. They couldn't even decide on the color of their toilet paper without going to séances every week. He would try to discourage these people, 'Make up your own mind, and don't let others make your decisions. You have to grow on your own, don't be lazy.'"

The vice squad was looking for a reason to bust him for fraud but was unable to, so they zeroed in on his homosexuality. At this time he had a short-lived television program where Keith championed the Gay cause and publically called for tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality.

Bill Plant said, "It was rumored that Keith had the goods on civil employees, the chief of police, and the mayor. These came through his psychic channels. The police couldn't kill him so they found a way through a 17-year-old hustler and booked Keith on bogus sodomy charges."

Keith once said, "Big Brother is smart. He doesn't pick us all off at once, only one at a time and on different matters. He will eventually find his way into your deepest soul.'

Keith spent three years in Walla Walla prison, spending the first 37 days in solitary confinement.

Prison took a heavy toll on Keith, but that didn't stop him from championing prisoners' rights and the abolishment of the sodomy law.

Dee Dorneck remembered, "Keith and I got busted in Denver. We did a séance for a woman who wanted to talk to her deceased grandmother. I was in drag and Keith brought back her grandmother through me the spirit guide. This woman turned out to be an undercover cop. Her grandmother was sitting in the car, so she busted us. I ran upstairs and jumped out the window, right in the arms of a detective. In the newspaper they described my attempt to escape: 'He was perfumed and powdered, and flew from the window with white robes flying in his wake.'"

Bill Plant said, "Keith would go into a trance & and his voice would change into the people speaking through him - male, female and child. It was true because you can't change your voice that much. I don't believe Dee's story about their Denver bust."

Dee Dornick said, "Keith was not all legit, but he spread his money around to a lot of different charities. He was a hell of a showman. Seventy-five percent of it was phony, but some of it was good. He never justified any of it unless he had to. Some people are convinced he apported semi-precious gems, but I don't believe it."

Ben Shepherd said, "His apports were really good. They would come in through a trumpet, orchids with dew on them, a vase, a spear, and one lady got a diamond. I don't know if Keith fabricated, what I saw could not have been. There was no way that a trumpet could fly around the room. There were no wires. How could it go from wall to wall, row to row, all the way to the back over people's heads?"

Bill Plant said, "His disposition at times was very undesirable; he could step on people's feet. & We all spoiled him rotten. He lived two lives, Gay and straight. He kept his Gay life low-key, though most great mediums are Gay because they are both feminine and masculine. He accepted being Gay. He said in his last incarnation he was a woman and came back too soon & and that's the reason he's Gay."

Keith loved his two pug dogs and Tammy, a female lion he had raised from a kitten. Tammy was not dangerous and would sit on the podium during a service at the Aquarian Foundation, but the neighbors near Keith's large home were extremely against exotic pets and the wild parties of Keith's. They were not amused to see Keith in his rhinestone jacket and Tammy in the back seat of Keith's Cadillac convertible parading around the city, causing great excitement. The police stopped it.

At a party, Keith brought Tammy up from the basement to show his shocked guests. The Gay boys fled, but the butch Lesbians rushed in to wrestle the beast. My last image as I left was Tammy with her paws resting on a butch's shoulders. The neighbors finally had their way and Tammy found a nice country home, but she and another female lion got loose during a storm and were shot and killed.

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