In 1918, Joseph Jastrow wrote about the tricks of Eusapia Palladino who was an expert at freeing her hands and feet from the control in the séance room. In the séance room Palladino would move curtains from a distance by releasing a jet of air from a rubber bulb that she had in her hand. According to the psychical researcher Harry Price "Her tricks were usually childish: long hairs attached to small objects in order to produce 'telekinetic movements'; the gradual substitution of one hand for two when being controlled by sitters; the production of 'phenomena' with a foot which had been surreptitiously removed from its shoe and so on."
Psychic Four was very motherly, constantly calling me "darling" and telling me how sorry she was for my loss. Her method of Emily-contact was a mix of prayer and coffee-dregs reading. She made me a small cup of Turkish coffee and when I finished the liquid, she placed the saucer on top of the cup, had me hold it with both hands while moving my arms in a circle three times and then flip the cup and saucer over and put it on the table. She put a blue glass cube with white circles on all six sides on top of the overturned cup and had me to put my finger on the cube and make a wish. I did, and she asked me for the photo. I handed her my phone. She put a small statue of a Turkish philosopher and an angel snow globe in front of me and told me to hold on to both and praying while she turned on her laptop and started playing weird reverb-heavy New Age music featuring a man and woman speaking about being intoxicated on love (not Beyonce style, unfortunately). She was going to ask Emily to make herself known to me.
Not long afterward, I got a call from “Claudia.” She wanted to know if things were really over with “Tom.” She explained that she and Tom had been together on and off; he had been abusive in the past, but he came back this time promising that she was the one. They were supposed to go out that night, but when they were talking about their plans, Claudia asked Tom if he was really committing to the relationship. He responded by saying he didn’t want to see her anymore. From the way she recounted the story, I could tell that as soon as she hung up with Tom, she had called me. Claudia wanted to know if she and Tom were really kaput.
I dug them out again this spring for a foray into a career as a phone psychic—the latest installment of “Human Guinea Pig,” a column in which I am supposed to explore intriguing corners of life, but in which, so far, I mostly humiliate myself. (Like here, for example.) Locating openings for my extrasensory services was easy. I went to an online job site and typed “psychic” into the search engine. I sent e-mails to the three companies listed, and two—I’ll call them ESP Net and Chakra Con—sent me back contracts to fill out.