In the 1920s the British medium Charles Albert Beare duped the Spiritualist organization the Temple of Light into believing he had genuine mediumship powers. In 1931 Beare published a confession in the newspaper Daily Express. In the confession he stated "I have deceived hundreds of people…. I have been guilty of fraud and deception in spiritualistic practices by pretending that I was controlled by a spirit guide…. I am frankly and whole-heartedly sorry that I have allowed myself to deceive people." Due to the exposure of William Hope and other fraudulent spiritualists, Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1920s led a mass resignation of eighty-four members of the Society for Psychical Research, as they believed the Society was opposed to spiritualism.
Sandy gave me the main number to call and the four-digit extension I needed in order to get callers routed my way. I followed the prompts and found I’d already been entered into the system as an expert on “love”—they were psychic! I recorded a message for callers in which I explained I was “Natalie” and that I would use tarot to answer all their relationship questions. ESP Net’s online guidance site had a page-and-a-half-long, exceptionally sincere opening we could use on our callers: ” … as soon as I heard your voice I saw the most beautiful aura around you … I felt immediately that you are one of the world’s very special people … This is one of the most exciting readings I’ve done in a long time … I am the one person you needed to talk to, to receive the answers and the help you need in your life at this critical time. …” The true beauty of the introduction was that it would eat up the caller’s three free minutes and get us on our way to meeting the company’s 15-minute-per-call minimum.
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.