Besides reaffirming my belief that I'm a great liar and should do it more, my test also gave me some insight on how psychics work. They're talented when it comes to finding ways squeeze emotions out of you and make general statements that allow you to fill in the blanks yourself—you're contributing to your own deception (example: They say they sense a female presence watching over you, at which point you say, "Oh shit, my aunt/grandma/mom/friend/cousin/sister/teacher died a little while ago—it MUST be her!"). I think so many people turn to psychics because they help ease the fear of the great unknown that is death and give meaning and purpose to seemingly unfair and random events in our chaotic universe. To me, that's a form of preying on the weak and exploiting people at their most emotionally vulnerable, but if you believe in the afterlife and psychic powers, I can understand how the experience would be comforting - after all, who doesn't want to know that a loved family member, living or dead, is doing okay?
The British medium Francis Ward Monck was investigated by psychical researchers and discovered to be a fraud. On November 3, 1876 during the séance a sitter demanded that Monck be searched. Monck ran from the room, locked himself in another room and escaped out of a window. A pair of stuffed gloves was found in his room, as well as cheesecloth, reaching rods and other fraudulent devices in his luggage. After a trial Monck was convicted for his fraudulent mediumship and was sentenced to three months in prison.
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.