They say grief is the price we pay for love, and while grief does indeed lurk on a hidden pendant that awaits us all, what many don’t realize is that it has its own quantifiable price. “€50 for the first reading, and charges for services required thereafter vary,” I was told.
After my mother died earlier this year, a lot of psychics (what’s your collective term? A cesspool? A swamp?) got into my DMs constantly. After a certain age, this is the digital equivalent of cold calling. Late at night. On a Sunday.
I didn’t pay much attention to the first one. I thought fleetingly it was from a place of kindness, a well-meaning person trying to offer spiritual support, but then they just kept coming. “I would like to offer you the opportunity to speak to your mother”; “Perhaps you would like to be able to communicate with Helen?”; “Maybe meeting with your mother’s ghost would comfort you.”
And then I got mad at her. They really should have seen this coming.
My first encounter with a medium (psychic? psychic? I’m not sure what the difference is, or if these are all just euphemisms for hustlers) was in the mid-noughties.
A colleague from work had invited me to a fortune-telling, which she organized. She needed 10 people for the medium to be ready to participate and it cost €25 per head. I suppose as with all wholesale deals there is inevitably a minimum order requirement.
It sounded like harmless fun, and my colleague was so desperate to seek the advice of this acclaimed, gifted fortune teller that it seemed the least we could all do for her. And therein lies the crux of this insidious business: no one seeks out a psychic when their life is running like clockwork.
Psychics can seduce the bereaved, the lost, the lonely, the sad and the bereaved, those who want to know that things are getting better, or at least not getting worse.
That Mr/Ms Right might be waiting behind a virtual corner, a long-awaited baby might be in their future, they will soon find a job, or that the person they lost so suddenly is at peace and happy with the color that they have painted bathroom.
This colleague had been left by her fiancé at the time, was not getting on well, had to leave her apartment and wanted to know if everything was okay.
So we all scraped together €25 to help her rebuild her future, and at 6:30 p.m. on a sunny spring evening, circa 2007, we gathered at the parents’ house to which she had to move back and drank cheap wine, while we waited for Mystic Mary (name changed but honestly, does it matter?).
The first thing that happened was that Mystic Mary couldn’t find the house. “Doesn’t bode well for a psychic,” I offered, but was met with nine petrified faces telling me my cynicism wasn’t welcome here.
Two more phone calls later and the lady who could read minds but apparently no cards finally arrived. She was theatrically badly dressed like a belly dancer on a budget cruise ship from the waist up, but a prisoner on release day from the waist down (I assumed she was used to being on site behind a table before her clients arrived ).
With the smell of a garage tuna sandwich and recently snuffed out Marlboro Red on her breath, she berated our host for her poor directions.
She said she was short on time and one by one we went into a bedroom to sit across from her in a chair while she clutched at straws and threw highly probable guesses at each of us – looked at our clothes, our ring fingers, making painfully obvious assumptions about our sexual orientation, reading facial expressions and body language.
She had no time for my poker face at all, and after reeling off half a dozen names and hitting nothing, like she was throwing darts at a concrete wall, she told me she saw journeys in my future and that my time was up.
I later learned that this is known as cold reading. It’s a device I later saw in all its gruesome glory at a live psychic event, when the overly tanned charlatan onstage dispersed vulnerable audiences by spitting out random letters, names, situations, and illnesses like a broken vending machine .
There were statements bordering on the phatic – “I see an elderly man with chest pains” – as he scanned the crowd for a sharp inhale or the almost involuntary lift of a hand. Hoping to hit an emotional artery.
I would imagine it would be difficult to fill an auditorium with people and not find at least a handful who have lost an elderly male family member or friend to heart disease, but for those in pain, the logic goes out of the window.
A friend recently asked me what harm it does when someone who is in despair and grief finds some comfort in hearing that their loved one – worst of all, a child – is happy and at peace? What damage?
But if the bereaved believe that a line of communication is available to them, they will return to learn more, this will hinder acceptance, and the medium, like a hope-pusher, will keep the lines open.
It would be better to spend the money on grief counseling or a holiday.
I would like to know if even some of these people believe what they say. Do you hear voices or is it a feeling? Have they persuaded themselves that they are telling the truth, or do they know it’s all just hypocrisy and do it anyway?
I haven’t found anyone to tell me. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m sure of it, if there was a way for my mother to contact me after death, it wouldn’t be over a $50-an-hour quack.
You won’t hear “P stands for psychic” in the phonetic alphabet, but let’s not forget that P also stands for predator, corruption, and parasite. Hopefully now they can sense that I’m not a fan.
https://www.independent.ie/life/maia-dunphy-psychics-prey-on-the-lonely-sad-and-bereft-for-profit-42051347.html Maia Dunphy: Psychics prey on the lonely, sad and deprived for profit