Like the man himself, it’s hard not to like Ross Gigliotti’s house. It’s a cozy home, glowing with warmth and personality. Rustic paintings absorb the gaze. The rooms smell lightly of old books and fresh incense, and from the kitchen the squawks of an exotic bird ring out into the hallway. Leading me on a little tour through the memorabilia of his life, Ross lingers in different places, giving concise back-stories on this piece of pottery, or that old photograph. There is nothing without meaning or wonder.
The ride through Salt Lake over to his house had been much the same. In fact, I never learned so much about the city in such a short time. Ross is an encyclopedia of local lore. Every restaurant, gas station or apartment complex we passed by was stripped down to its true origins, the current facades revealed as an elaborate ruse of time. No change escapes Ross’s eye. If he wasn’t a tarot-deck wizard of such immense local stature himself, he’d be a damn good tour-guide. But Ross would probably tell you that reading people isn’t all that different from reading a city. It just takes love, practice and a touch of practicality.
You see, the 72-year old Helper native is something all his own. In a culture suspicious of parlor tricks and Barnum & Bailey quackery, stereotypes of psychics run wild. Ross Gigliotti, however, diffuses just about all of them within the first minute of meeting him. He carries a twinkle in his eye and flashes an irresistible smile, the kind of down-to-earth charm that makes people feel secure in what might otherwise be a bizarre encounter. Before anything else, Ross is a genuine people-person. “I never approached this kind of work with the idea of getting famous,” he says. “I’m just concerned with helping people on their journey in life.” A natural-born teacher with streetwise sensibilities, a soul-mechanic for the laymen.
The only son of two Italian immigrants who arrived in America during World War 1, Ross learned early on to value hard work and perseverance. “Find a way or make it,” is what his mother would always tell him. His father set a legendary example. He had lost an arm at the age of 25 in a grisly accident while shooting a silent film in California. Undeterred, he and his wife opened a gas station grocery in Helper (Carbon County, Utah) and enjoyed great success, quickly becoming pillars of the immigrant and coal-mining community there. Father Gigliotti, amazingly, never collected money for being handicapped. “Nothing slowed him down. Social Security came to check up on him one time, saying ‘We just wanted to make sure you’re real.’ When they turned to go, my father smiled and said ‘You guys owe me!’ ”
From an early age, Ross’s parents recognized that their child had special abilities, and did everything to encourage him. They figured he’d inherited the talent from his two grandmas, who were both suspected of being practically omniscient on occasion. Ross still remembers some of the exotic obsessions of his childhood. “I always wanted to read minds and be a bodybuilder…I wanted to float on a magic carpet, too. I would sit there, wrap a towel around my head and try to float. I would sit there trying to focus for hours. My grandma would tell people, ‘he needs a bigger carpet!’” Genies and magic carpets aside, it was clear the young man was rich with potential.
The first real inkling of his psychic abilities came while Ross was attending the University of Utah as a microbiology student. He took part in a campus study for the psychology department that offered free room and board for a time. Ross found himself in a small room with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and microphone, answering different kinds of questions that at times repeated themselves. Other times he’d be asked to visualize something. He started seeing strange things, like a man obstructing a dirt road with an ox-cart next to him. It was one of Ross’s first encounters with what’s come to be known as remote viewing, and to this day he firmly believes that the study had something to do with gathering intelligence for the Vietnam War.
Another time, Ross’s physics professor started the semester by challenging the class to an impossible problem, which he wrote in chalk on the board. “It was just like that movie Good Will Hunting,” Ross laughs. The problem was constructed in such a way that only a mathematical maestro could ever hope to solve it. That night, Ross had a dream that he was solving that same problem on the chalkboard in front of the entire class. “I woke up and I thought, ‘what the hell?’ So I tried to remember as much of the dream as possible and wrote it all out.” The next day, his physics professor gave it a look, nodded curtly at the young student and quietly erased the problem off the board. “See ya,” was all he said. In that moment, there wasn’t much the guy could say. “But I still had to struggle through physics just to get an A,” Ross adds with a chuckle.
The pop culture surrounding clairvoyants doesn’t prepare us for someone like Ross. Logic and intuition, we’re taught, are mutually exclusive orientations without so much as a thread of overlap. Helper’s Finest, however, dances between both hemispheres. According to Ross, his background in microbiology gives him a framework of rationality that still informs his practice to this day. “A lot of times when I’m reading for people I tell them I’m more of a strategist psychic, I look for answers. When something shows up in my mind or in the cards, they say ‘Is that what’s going to happen?’ And instead of saying everything is going to hell I say, let’s look for solutions.” Having practiced at the Golden Braid for 12 years and running, Ross has a dedicated client-base that loves him for this very reason. He’s accurate, sure, but his real passion is hands-on life-coaching. You could say he has it down to a science.
“I believe in magic, prayer and logic equally,” Ross continues. “I’m not out there talking about floating into the 7th heaven and all that stuff. People have to go into the real-world and make decisions. Let’s chop wood and fetch water. And sure, I venture into the ethereal. But people don’t need to get drifted off into an area that’s numbing them like a drug. You have to make decisions, and sometimes they’re life and death.” No, a sit-down with Ross won’t resemble the sham-n-glam of those old Ms. Cleo spots, nor will it offer up generic fortune-cookie advice. In a field that at times can be saturated with flummery and mirage, our intuitive reader’s brand of clairsentient utilitarianism appeals to many.
And as Ross would tell you himself, he’s had a lot of interesting people come to him over the years. While science might not lend much credence to the world of psychics and tarot cards, law enforcement agencies certainly do—at least enough to consult reputable psychics like Ross for a little extra information on certain cases. Typically, a detective will approach a psychic highly skilled in remote viewing for the purposes of shedding light on a “Search & Find”, usually a case that involves a missing person. Remote viewing, which has been practiced covertly both in the U.S. and Soviet militaries dating back to the Cold War, is the practice of using extrasensory perception to get information about something at a distance. Ross characterizes these interactions with law enforcement as “delicate” but, according to him, this kind of ad-hoc alliance isn’t an uncommon one.
“I know a few people who do work with agencies indirectly; they’re very careful because they have to prepare a case and make sense. If they say a psychic came up with this information, apparently it won’t stand up as well. So a lot of times if you hear about an anonymous tip, that may be from one of us. If I’m contacted by someone I know is in an agency, I’m careful about how I provide information so it doesn’t screw up a case. I don’t want them spending a lot of time chasing the wind.” This intersection between parapsychology and criminal science is a remarkable one, if for nothing else but the simple fact that both fields have classically seemed to represent opposing dialectics. What Ross indicates, in a very matter-of-fact manner, is that a kind of underworld exists in which no-nonsense cops mingle with modern-day oracles in order to solve crimes. The implications reverberate to the very roots of Western thought…or they would, anyway. But since it’s all undisclosed, none of it technically ‘exists’.
Ross Gigliotti, however, is not looking for validation. In fact, he could really care less. His main concern is helping people find their right path in life, whatever that may be. Even when Ross first visited owner Joel LaSalle at the Golden Braid, it was to inquire into whether or not the store would be interested in taking on one of his friends as a psychic. In his typically selfless manner, he hadn’t even given his own candidacy a moment’s thought. Fortunately, Mr. LaSalle saw things a bit differently. And though Ross will still tell you with a grin that he doesn’t think he’s psychic, he’d have a very difficult time convincing the greater Utah community. Through the collective power of so many people’s stories, Ross is as profound a local presence as any of the state’s geological attractions, glaring monuments of red-rock included. You wouldn’t know it when you talk with him in person, though. Even with 30 years of psychic work behind him, that’s just the kind of guy Ross is.
Before we sat down for our interview inside, the Helper native showed me around his property. I marveled at all the greenery his house was ensconced in, which stands in sharp contrast to the open, dusty scenery that dominates that part of town. He named the different types of trees and flowers with ease, giving me quick facts about their characteristics as we strolled through the shade. Sometimes he would make an affectionate remark to one of them in passing, as if he could sense they were listening to his voice. It struck me as the kind of easy familiarity that Ross has with all of his clients, always in need of his guidance and insight. The only son of two Italian immigrants who wove their legacy from hard work and determination, it’s easy to see their pride in Ross’s glowing presence. A lifetime of helping plants and people grow to their fullest potential might happen quietly, but it still deserves commendation. Unlike all those mercurial businesses in the city, Ross has always been exactly who he is, and nothing else. It only seems logical to conclude that the entire valley is better off for it.
Follow Ross on Instagram: @rossdgigliotti
To book a reading with Ross, you can call Golden Braid Books in downtown Salt Lake City at 801-322-1162.