Hell hath no fury like a New Age physician scorned.
That's what Sedona healer Reinalda de Souza wants the world to glean from the untimely demise of Michael Jackson. She especially wants the famous and wealthy individuals who beat a path to her door seeking a cure for their mental, spiritual, and physical ailments to get the message.
"I am not a woman to be trifled with," says the short, charismatic woman, slapping the wooden table in the kitchen of her rambling, cliff-side dwelling for emphasis. "I haven't traveled thousands of miles and studied on four continents just give my expertise away for free."
She stops for a moment, her long hair thrown back, her face ablaze in the evening sunlight that's bouncing off the famous red rocks nearby, filling the room with a Martian glow.
"The rich in America," she scoffs in an odd, foreign accent difficult to place until you know more about her. "They want everything for free. They'd better learn. The arts I employ to heal them can be used as readily to destroy."
Suddenly, her face softens and she studies her visitor intently.
"Would you care for some hot tea, dear?" asks De Souza. Without waiting for an answer, she begins to fuss with a teapot, talking to herself under her breath. A golden-brown Abyssinian feline hops up on the tabletop, parades around the rough-hewn edge and meows curiously.
"Be polite to our guest, Sofia. He's going to write about us," De Souza informs the cat, who is licking her fur, cocking her head up occasionally, as if she's heard a sparrow or mouse she needs to investigate.
"Sofia's a great scorpion-killer. I don't know what I'd do without her up here," De Souza chirps in that accent, which she later reveals is Brazilian Portuguese. She then asks, "Would you like to drink out of the cup Jacko used? He preferred St. John's wort for his depression. I could have cured him of that, too, if he would've let me."
She brings forth a set of bone china with a pattern of gold leaf and sets down a cup and saucer. On the rim of the cup, the faded red imprint of someone's lipstick can clearly be seen. Her visitor looks up.
"Yes, the lipstick," she sighs. "It belonged to that horrible creature. He wore lipstick all the time. And face powder. Like a male prostitute. I haven't washed it, for obvious reasons."
As if she had only been kidding about allowing Jackson's cup to be used again, she gets up and goes back to her cupboard to fetch a clean cup for her visitor. She fills it with her own "special blend" of green tea.
The "obvious reasons," De Souza explains later, are that she plans to cash in and recoup some of her losses in dealing with Jackson by selling artifacts from their encounters — things he touched or was touched by, physically.
De Souza is an expert in all sorts of alternative medicine; diplomas from far-flung centers of learning in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai paper her hallways. Among her degrees is a doctorate in traditional Chinese medicine.
She first encountered Jackson in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He had fled the United States to live at the home of his friend Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Prince of Bahrain, after he was acquitted of child molestation in a 2005 trial in Santa Maria, California.
In Bahrain to attend an international seminar on the benefits of reiki healing — the Japanese science of "laying on of hands," which helps direct a person's "life force energy" — De Souza and Jackson met at a gathering of Bahranian royalty on the island nation. Sensing Jackson was in great pain, she gave him her card with her secluded Sedona address, suggesting that she could be of help to him if he were ever in Arizona. Months later, Jackson appeared at her doorway, asking if she could heal a heart malady, a result of his ongoing battle with lupus. Later, he confessed that he also wanted her to cure him of his obsession with prepubescent boys.
Jackson was a frequent guest at Dr. De Souza's home, which doubles as her clinic. She made him her primary patient, using her expertise in lithotherapy, the use of stones, crystals, and minerals for their healing properties. Jackson bathed in tubs filled with agate, garnet, and aventurine. He drank potent mixtures of distilled water mixed with emerald dust, and pasteurized goat milk chilled with round stones of lapis lazuli. He grew stronger under De Souza's care, until the doctor asked for the unusual payment Jackson had promised her — the skeleton of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, which Jackson reportedly owned.
"If he'd kept his word to me, he would be alive today," snorted De Souza, sipping her tea. "The cretin thought he could backstab me after I'd devoted so much energy to curing him.
"They think someone pumped him full of Demerol," she spat, her rage building. "It was a curse I learned long ago in São Paulo [Brazil] that stopped his heart. As soon as your story hits the street, the whole world will know that I — Dr. Reinalda de Souza — killed Jacko!"
The contents of De Souza's home are like a three-dimensional résumé, of sorts, filled with the tools of her trade, mementos garnered from a lifetime of travel, and gifts from esteemed clients. Part shrine, part clinic, it seems she means to impress upon her visitors and potential patients her powers as a learned healer and sorceress.
"I grew up in São Paulo and Rio," she explains, "very much in the voodoo tradition. There we call it Candomblé or macumba and we have our own gods we call Orishas. I was raised from an early age to be an ialorixá, what you might think of as a priestess, for lack of a better term. Americans always think of Haiti when you say the word voodoo. It's not the same, but similar. In both cases, it came from the slaves imported to those countries from Africa."
One room of De Souza's house is filled with images of Candomblé gods, among whom Obaluaiye is dominant. He carries some sort of weird baton and is covered in strands made from raffia palm leaves, which hide his face. He is the god of disease and sickness, but he also has the power to cure illness.
"When I was 18, I fell in love with a man from France who had lived in China," explained De Souza, as she gives a tour of her home. "He told me about how le Chinois cure with needles better than any in Western medicine. I apprenticed myself to a Chinese herbalist in Rio de Janeiro who also had an acupuncture clinic. By the end of a year, I had my own clients, and a year after that, I had saved enough money to study in Shanghai."
De Souza obtained her doctorate in TCM, or traditional Chinese medicine, at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was the first of many diplomas she would acquire. In Tokyo, she earned a degree in Japanese therapeutic massage at the world-renowned Japan Shiatsu College in Tokyo. From there, she relocated to Berlin, where she practiced reflexology out of a small storefront clinic near the Alexanderplatz. A year later, during a stint lecturing at a conference in Vienna of the Austrian Association of Homeopathic Doctors (Die Österreichische Gesellschaft für Homöopathische Medizin), she first picked up the study of lithotherapy from an adherent of Rosicrucianism who claimed to be related to the acclaimed philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Afterward, she traveled to India to learn Aryuvedic medicine, yoga, and aromatherapy at R.A. Podar Ayurved Medical College in Mumbai. There she was granted the title vaidya, the traditional term for an Aryuvedic doctor. Over her hearth is a golden Hindu swastika, the arms of which end in serpents' heads decorated over with turquoise. It was gift, she says, from one of her professors in Mumbai.
"You'll notice that the swastika is opposite from the Nazi version. Flipped, if you will," says De Souza. "The swastika is an ancient symbol of well-being, often associated with the Hindu god of wisdom, Ganesha. Alas, the Nazis were playing with concepts and symbols far beyond their spiritual knowledge. I think if I was able to go back in time and treat Adolf Hitler's various psychopathic disorders, using lithotherapy, magnet healing, and shiatsu, the world would be a far different place."
Following her studies in India, De Souza traveled through Egypt, where she read the Egyptian Book of the Dead, first in English, then translating the hieroglyphs into Portuguese for a version still studied at colleges and universities in her native country. De Souza mastered divination in back alleys of Cairo, learning from practitioners of heka, one of the oldest forms of magic known to mankind. In Cairo, she also became enamored of the works of occultist Aleister Crowley, renting a flat that was said to have been occupied by Crowley at one time. Using a pendulum — one of Crowley's favorite tools — and a flat map of the world, she swung the small, pointed weight, looking for a new home. The pendulum alighted on Sedona.
"I could tell you absolutely nothing about Sedona when I moved here," she said. "But I knew once I was here, this was where I was meant to be."
She arrived in the late '80s, shortly after excitement was generated in the red-rock town by celebrations of the Harmonic Convergence, a unique planetary alignment welcomed by adherents of New Age beliefs worldwide. Sedona was already a holy city, of sorts, for New Agers and for celebrities. But De Souza felt she was already far ahead of the local "healers," who were just picking up on many of the practices she had already mastered, such as channeling, interpreting auras, and the one she was most drawn to, the use of crystals and other stones to heal. She perceived the New Age practitioners of Sedona as hippie versions of country bumpkins.
"Let me give you an example," she confides. "I bought this place for a fraction of what it was worth. On my first tour of the property, I sensed a vortex behind the house next to a cement bird pond. The sellers, who claimed to be devotees of harmonic convergence, knew nothing of it. It just shows you how naive people are here. If they'd had any inkling of it, I'd never have been able to afford it. Stupid hippies!"
Through an extensive network of contacts she had developed in her travels, ailing, well-to-do individuals sought out her services. To this day, her clients come to her via word of mouth. De Souza doesn't advertise. She has no Web page. Indeed, she doesn't even own a computer or a television set. Her only concession to the global village is a cell-phone number. And even that is difficult to obtain, unless you've met De Souza face-to-face. Or have had her card passed on to you by one of her patients.
Her mantelpiece, her desk, and various bookshelves are arrayed with the autographed photos of celebrities and politicos, but she has asked New Times not to reveal most of them, as many are clients in good standing. Among those De Souza doesn't mind mentioning (likely because they are no longer alive) are songstress Eartha Kitt, photographer Helmut Newton, and President Ronald Reagan.
"I did my best for his Alzheimer's," she says of the Gipper, shaking her head. "But he was too far gone. By the time they got him to me, his aura was the color of cow dung."
(De Souza declined to reveal the fees she charges such high-end clients, but sources contacted in Sedona informed New Times that she has been known to charge more than $10,000 per client per session. It was also suggested that De Souza would up her fee depending on how much she thought a celebrity or mogul might pay.)
But what of The Gloved One? Did he leave behind any tokens for De Souza before their falling out? She nods and walks toward a small room the size of a closet, painted over in a sickly hue of brownish yellow.
Three black candles are set on a high, rickety table next to the far wall. On the table is a photo of Jackson onstage during a concert that seems, judging by his clothing, from the time of the HIStory album, in the late 1990s. Though the photo has been turned upside down, the inscription is legible, "Thank you for everything, Dr. De Souza. Michael."
In front of the photo in a tin ashtray are a lock of jet-black hair, a small mound of nail clippings, and what look like skin shavings, all purportedly from Jackson. On the floor are three wooden bowls from which blood has spilled over. The rotting carcass of a baby Rottweiler lies before the bowls, its throat slit, a bloody knife next to it. In the corner of the room is a plain, white, voodoo-type doll with pins in its chest. Scrawled over the walls in the dog's dried blood is the phrase "JACKO DIES."
Framed still, with its glass casing smashed to bits and diagonal rips torn through it is a movie poster for David Lynch's 1980 film version of the Tony award-winning play The Elephant Man. It rests on its side against one wall, thrown there in a fit of rage.
De Souza's nostrils flare in anger, as if in memory of the deed.
"God, I loved that movie!" she gasps, before turning away from the room and walking back into the house's main corridor.
Were it not for Jackson's own history of bizarro-world behavior and his past use of voodoo to curse his enemies, it would be difficult to believe everything De Souza had said at this point — and everything she was about to claim.
But this was the same entertainer who used to sleep in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process; the singer who shared his bed with little boys and, at one point, a chimp named Bubbles; the "moonwalker" who underwent a series of plastic surgeries and, possibly, skin-bleaching in order to make himself look more like Elizabeth Taylor; the Citizen Kane-like eccentric whose 2,600-acre Neverland Ranch featured its own Ferris wheel, miniature train, and private zoo worthy of a pasha.
With no irony intended, the Reverend Al Sharpton asserted at the recent BET awards show in Los Angeles, "Michael Jackson was a genius. He wasn't a freak."
Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't exactly stack up on the reverend's side of that argument.
Part of the reason Jackson was long derided as the "Wizard of Odd" were his ties to voodoo.
Everyone remembers the stink that conservative Jehovah's Witness elders kicked up in 1983 over the John Landis-directed music video for the single "Thriller," with its army of the undead, a voiceover from horror icon Vincent Price, and Jackson himself, dancing in zombie mode and scaring the bejesus out of Playboy model Ola Ray. Though Jackson added a disclaimer, stating that the video "in no way endorses a belief in the occult," it was widely believed to be the main reason that he ultimately parted ways with the faith he had been raised in as a child.
Throughout Jackson's life, he maintained an interest in magic, paranormal phenomena, and alternative healing. One of his best friends was illusionist David Copperfield, whom Jackson was planning to use on his abortive world tour, until Copperfield asked for too much money. Jackson was also a fan of Las Vegas magician Criss Angel, and he was known to employ illusions in his stage performances as well.
Spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller was another pal of Jackson's, and he's been on TV a lot since Jackson's demise, discussing his late friend's interest in telekinesis. Geller claimed he once hypnotized Jackson and asked him under hypnosis whether he'd ever molested children. According to Geller, Jackson replied that he had not.
Deepak Chopra, a specialist in mind-body medicine and a licensed Western physician, knew and advised Jackson for 20 years. Following Jackson's death, Chopra's gone public with his belief that Jackson "was surrounded by enablers, including a shameful plethora of M.D.'s in Los Angeles and elsewhere who supplied him with prescription drugs." The quote is from a tribute Chopra wrote for the Huffington Post blog. (A toxicology report on Jackson from the L.A. coroner is highly anticipated but will probably take several more weeks.) Chopra's also mentioned Jackson's interest in Sufi poetry and the works of Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore.
But Jackson's friendships with illusionists, psychics, and healers such as Chopra were tame by comparison to the revelations in a 2003 Vanity Fair exposé by journalist Maureen Orth. Here, the subject of voodoo once again reared its head, like one of the undead in Jackson's "Thriller" video. In the piece, Orth detailed how Jackson once paid $150,000 for a Malian witch doctor named Baba to have 42 cows ritually sacrificed as part of a ceremony enacted to kill off "25 people on Jackson's enemies list," including media mogul David Geffen and film director Steven Spielberg.
Orth also wrote of Jackson's taking a bath in sheep's blood for a "ritual cleansing" that cost him six figures. The person pouring the blood was a "voodoo doctor and mysterious Egyptian woman named Samia, who came to him with a letter of greeting from a high-ranking Saudi prince."
There was never as much money involved with De Souza's treatment of Jackson, according to the doctor. She claims she required money of Jackson only when it came to purchasing some of the expensive gems she was to rub all over his naked body.
"The more severe the illness, the higher the quality of gems involved," explains De Souza. "It's the difference between using aspirin or an opiate for pain. Both will alleviate pain, but the opiate will do so more immediately, with much more power."
At first, Jackson complained of a heart condition that he feared would be fatal, one he was already receiving treatment for in Los Angeles, where he was then living. So De Souza bathed him in non-mineral water, in tubs filled with bits of agate and aventurine. On top of him, and especially around his chest, she sprinkled semi-precious garnets. She would leave egg-shaped stones of lapis lazuli in quarts of goat milk overnight and make him drink the milk the next morning. The most expensive treatment, however, was a concoction of distilled water mixed with emerald dust.
"You don't need a lot of it; still, emerald is a very expensive precious stone," says De Souza. "But he never blanched — though it would be hard to tell if he did — when I told him how much these materials would cost on their own."
As for De Souza's fee, initially she did not ask for one.
"I don't know why," says De Souza. "At first, I simply wanted to apply the healing arts to him. A bill could come later. But as he seemed to improve, I asked him if he really had the bones of the Elephant Man. He told me it was true. I told him how much Merrick's life story had touched me, how much I adored the film.
"That's when he said to me in his soft, childish voice, 'If you cure me, you can have them. They're in a box at Neverland. They're doing me no good.'"
De Souza was ecstatic, and she redoubled her efforts to heal Jackson of his heart condition.
Over a period of several months, Jackson returned to Sedona every other week for De Souza's therapy. His visits were shrouded in secrecy, with Jackson sometimes donning a fat suit, a wig, and beard to elude newshounds in L.A., who dogged his every move. He had disguised himself (or at least said he did) as a youth when he went door to door as a Jehovah's Witness, distributing copies of The Watchtower. Jackson described doing this on more than one occasion, the most famous probably being a March 2001 speech at the Oxford Union in England.
Jackson eventually told De Souza that there were other, darker problems he needed her to heal.
"He was not doing drugs like OxyContin while he was visiting me," De Souza insists. "But he did confess to liking little boys. I don't care what Uri Geller said. He never liked the little girls."
Disgusted, De Souza set about curing Jackson of what she called his "unnatural desire" through the use of black onyx and acupuncture applied directly to Jackson's genitals. Often she would leave Jackson on a massage table, completely nude, with long needles protruding from his privates, while De Souza went grocery shopping. She has photos of Jackson in this unusual state, which she shared for this report. But she refuses to allow them to be reproduced for publication.
"What would my other clients think of me if I gave you these images?" she wondered, paying no heed to how her claims of killing a patient might seem to others.
After Jackson would leave, she would wrap his genitals with a necklace of black onyx. Its negative energy, she insists, sapped him of what desire he had left after the acupuncture treatments.
"I will say this, his genitals looked exactly like the description that came out of that first child-molestation case, the one where he paid off the boy's family for more than $20 mil," confides De Souza. "You can barely make it out in the photos, but his genitals were mottled, with brown lesions. I've never seen anything like it."
De Souza is referring to the description given in 1993 by then-13-year-old Jordan "Jordie" Chandler, whose family was famously paid off by Jackson. But before the case was settled for more than $20 million, Jackson had to submit to an intimate inspection by police detectives, which he later told the world he found humiliating. What the world didn't know, De Souza says, is that the King of Pop enjoyed humiliation.
"He would shiver with delight whenever he remembered it," says De Souza. "Then he would laugh that high-pitched laugh of his. More like the giggle of an impetuous child. I think he liked being stuck up like a pin cushion and left laying there like that. He would have loved it if someone else could have walked in on him."
At one point during treatment, De Souza wanted to see if her therapy was working. She says she showed Michael Jackson photos of a semi-nude Macaulay Culkin, posed on a bearskin rug. He demonstrated little interest; his heart rate didn't even increase, according to De Souza. Jackson was beginning to believe that the New Age doctor's unusual therapy had achieved its desired results, but De Souza warned the singer that he was not out of the woods yet.
Plus, there was one other problem. Jackson had never made good on his promise to give her the Elephant Man's skeleton.
Initially, Jackson claimed he couldn't find it, telling De Souza he had aides at his Neverland Ranch turning over the entire estate hunting for it. She suspected him of lying, but then, having Michael Jackson as a private patient had an unintended upside. Jackson sang the praises of De Souza to his wealthy, famous friends. He called her "the Sedona miracle worker," and handed out her card to everyone from Lou Ferrigno and Farrah Fawcett to the Dalai Lama and Dom DeLuise.
"DeLuise, he never made it out here in time," remembers De Souza. "Lou Ferrigno couldn't afford me, but I advised him to steer clear of the color green. Farrah Fawcett? Yes, poor dear, she came to Sedona. I placed warm jasper on her buttocks and ordered her to follow a daily regimen at home. She called me later and told me she had lost the stones. She could have bought them anywhere in Los Angeles, but she kept forgetting."
Jackson even told her that he tried to get his good friend Ed McMahon to undergo care at De Souza's residence. But McMahon, who had met Jackson during Tonight Show appearances during the Johnny Carson era, balked. He supposedly told Jacko, "I'm old school, Michael. I can't go in for this New Age crap" He then, in a voice weakened by decades of smoking unfiltered Pall Malls, gasped, "Hi-yo . . . oo . . . oo . . . oo!"
De Souza asserts that McMahon would still be barely clinging to life, as he has been for many years, if he'd only headed to De Souza's Sedona location for a treatment.
David Carradine? He wouldn't come to Sedona, but she did fly to Thailand to administer blazing hot quartz crystals to his body.
"When he kept wanting to be tied up, I knew he wasn't looking to be cured of anything," De Souza complains. "The man was just plain, how do you say, sick in the head. I left after just one treatment after he tried to put his hand up my skirt and begged to be trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What did he think I was, a whore?"
Nevertheless, De Souza appreciated the paying clients, even if Jackson wasn't one of them. Her investment portfolio took a major hit in the 2008 stock crash, and she needed liquidity. Still, it irked her that Jackson wouldn't turn over the Elephant Man's bones. She began to suspect that Michael had never had them to begin with, that he had been putting her on ever since she had inquired about the famous skeleton. De Souza planned to confront Jackson on his next visit. But that visit never came.
"He just stopped coming altogether," gripes De Souza. "He changed his cell phone number constantly, and the last one I had was soon outdated. I called Lou [Ferrigno], who was training Jackson for his upcoming tour [which was supposed to begin this month in London], pleading with him to give me Jackson's new number, but he told me he couldn't in that freaky lisp of his."
Furious, De Souza turned back to her voodoo roots, praying morning, noon, and night to the fearsome Candomblé god of disease, Obaluaiye. One night, she says, he appeared to her in a dream and urged her in a voice like thunder to seek revenge. The rest apparently was stunningly easy for a woman who grew up practicing a form of witchcraft.
"It's called sympathetic magic, the oldest known to man," she relates. "An initiate in Candomblé, macumba, or just plain ol' Haitian voodoo need only believe that a doll or object is the person in question. Photographs from the victim, as well as nail and hair clippings, focus one's energies. I had collected these from Jacko as mementos. There was no intent to harm him until he crossed me."
As for the dead puppy, De Souza explained that real evil must accompany desired evil, and that she had to sacrifice a life dear to her in order to rob Jacko of his. The dog was hers, a 4½-month-old pup she'd brought home from the pound and dubbed Cerberus, for the canine that guards the gates of Hades in Greek mythology. She sliced his neck and held him as he jerked, allowing his warm blood to spill into the bowls beneath her feet. She drank from one to set the ritual in motion, turning with blood-stained hands to the voodoo doll.
The same day that De Souza plunged several pins into that doll's chest, Jackson, it's reported, died of cardiac failure at the age of 50. Speculation has since centered on a private physician and rumors that Jackson had been injected with a drug such as Demerol.
"So what if he had?" laughs the Sedona sorceress. "If you believe in cause and effect, and if such an injection did occur, what caused that unknown hand to overdose the, quote unquote, King of Pop, and weaken his heart to the point he was kaput at the age of 50? Ha! Do you think this is a joke?
"I sent Michael Jackson to the underworld as surely as God made green apples. And if any of my other patients get the brilliant idea to skip out on their payments, they too will learn the pain of my wrath."
She goes on, cackling, "Even though I'm a murderess, this is a crime they will never be able to charge me with. Imagine [the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office] trying to make a jury believe a sorceress killed Jacko. The DA would be laughed out of office."
Then, turning as serious as the proverbial heart attack, she states, "But I killed him as sure as you're sitting here."
Local clients, such as Suns forward Amar'e Stoudemire, whose detached retina's being treated by De Souza with a poultice made of beryl water, should take heed, she says. Recently traded basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal came to her for help with his free throws. She promises that fans will see a marked improvement when Shaq hits the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season. Shaq, it seems, pays his bills on time.
Regarding Stoudemire, she notes that he missed his last session, which he apparently called off to attend a ceremony at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office making the laid-up power forward a "special deputy."
Arpaio, too, has sought out De Souza's help. He'd heard about her from singer Glen Campbell, who'd asked her to help him stop drinking after he had to spend a day or two in one of Arpaio's jails. (Arpaio had allowed Campbell to stay in a jail facility known as the "Mesa Hilton," rather than forcing the singer of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" to suffer the indignities of Tent City.)
De Souza was asked what Arpaio was seeing her for, and she replied: "His fading mental facilities. You know, he's a babbling 77!" But, as with the late President Reagan, she believes there's no hope for "America's toughest sheriff." Referring to the numbers puzzle that seniors use to improve their memories, De Souza says, "I told him to start playing sudoku. And to take as much ginkgo biloba as he can handle. He's so far gone that I wouldn't waste an ounce of cubic zirconium on him."
To recoup her losses in treating Jackson, De Souza says, she'll be selling the very crystals and stones she used to massage Jackson's nether regions. Problem is, she's not sure how she should go about it.
"I've heard of eBay, but then I'll have to buy a computer and learn how to use it," she frets. "There isn't any way you could help me with it, dearie, could you?"