Magnetic stripe technology, usually called mag-stripe, is so named because of the stripe of magnetic oxide tape that is laminated on a card. There are three tracks of data on the magnetic stripe. Typically the data on each of the tracks follows a specific encoding standard, but it is possible to encode any format on any track. A mag-stripe card is cheap compared to other card technologies and is easy to program. The magnetic stripe holds more data than a barcode can in the same space. While a mag-stripe is more difficult to generate than a bar code, the technology for reading and encoding data on a mag-stripe is widespread and easy to acquire. Magnetic stripe technology is also susceptible to misreads, card wear, and data corruption. These cards are also susceptible to some forms of skimming where external devices are placed over the reader to intercept the data read.
“Hi, this is Natalie. How can I help you?” I asked, unable to give the recommended opening for fear it would be held against me in my next life. “Hi Natalie,” the caller said. “I want to see what’s going on in my relationship in general.” I asked “Cindy” to think about her boyfriend while I shuffled the cards and did the spread. Things looked bleak—among her cards were the devil and death, and the final outcome card was the 10 of swords, described in my deck as the card of “ruin.” I wondered how to break this to Cindy, particularly since I hadn’t a clue as to what was really going on in her relationship. I blithered for a few minutes about her concerns that she was investing a lot in a relationship she was worried was going to eventually hurt her. Then Cindy started talking. She said her relationship was very good, and they’ve been talking about marriage for two years, but according to her boyfriend, the time was never right. It soon became clear that she didn’t care what the cards said; she just wanted someone to talk to.
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The Austrian medium Rudi Schneider was investigated in 1924 by the physicists Stefan Meyer and Karl Przibram. They caught Rudi freeing his arm in a series of séances. Rudi claimed he could levitate objects but according to Harry Price a photograph taken on April 28, 1932 showed that Rudi had managed to free his arm to move a handkerchief from the table. According to Warren Jay Vinton, Schneider was an expert at freeing himself from control in the séance room. Oliver Gatty and Theodore Besterman who tested Schneider concluded that in their tests there was "no good evidence that Rudi Schneider possesses supernormal powers."
Mediumship became quite popular in the 19th-century United States and the United Kingdom after the rise of Spiritualism as a religious movement. Modern Spiritualism is said to date from practices and lectures of the Fox sisters in New York State in 1848. The trance mediums Paschal Beverly Randolph and Emma Hardinge Britten were among the most celebrated lecturers and authors on the subject in the mid-19th century. Allan Kardec coined the term Spiritism around 1860. Kardec claimed that conversations with spirits by selected mediums were the basis of his The Spirits' Book and later, his five-book collection, Spiritist Codification.
The short version predictions are as follows: I have two men competing for me, I will pick one, be engaged by 2016, married by 2017, and have two children (a boy and then a girl) immediately after. My mother, struck hard by Emily's death, will forget the pain once I give her grandchildren. Emily is my guardian angel who will deflect bad things from coming my way. She died young because God loves her so much and wanted her with him, and she's wearing all white and dancing with her boyfriend in heaven. I, on the other hand, have a long life ahead of me. I can afford to take this summer easy because I'll be hired into a full-time job come September (I currently work full-time), and not only that, but the job will be well-paid and I won't be some pleb—I'll start pretty high up the ladder, thank you very much. She also sensed I studied something like social work and the coffee dregs told her I went to the University of Toronto (I majored in journalism at Ryerson).
The company that hired me boasted they only hire two out of 100 potential psychics. I felt excited, nervous, and mostly terrified I'd be exposed as a fraud. I was confident enough dealing with strangers at parties whom I'd probably never see again, but now I had an entire corporation to report to. They let me pick my psychic name and I did my best to choose something less stripper, more gypsy (which I'd love to reveal but cannot due to an ironclad NDA).
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.
If you’re reading this because you’re thinking of having a psychic reading and you aren’t sure which way to go, it can seem strange that someone giving a psychic reading over the phone can be as accurate as someone sitting right in front of you. Especially if you’re a fan of Tarot and thinking, well, hang on. Don’t I need to shuffle the cards as it’s my reading?
The medium Henry Slade was caught in fraud many times throughout his career. In a séance in 1876 in London Ray Lankester and Bryan Donkin snatched his slate before the "spirit" message was supposed to be written, and found the writing already there. Slade also played an accordion with one hand under the table and claimed spirits would play it. The magician Chung Ling Soo revealed how Slade had performed the trick.
In September 1878 the British medium Charles Williams and his fellow-medium at the time, A. Rita, were detected in trickery at Amsterdam. During the séance a materialized spirit was seized and found to be Rita and a bottle of phosphorus oil, muslin and a false beard were found amongst the two mediums. In 1882 C. E. Wood was exposed in a séance in Peterborough. Her Indian spirit control "Pocka" was found to be the medium on her knees, covered in muslin.
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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.
^ Joseph Jastrow. (1935). Patience Worth: An Alter Ego in Wish and Wisdom: Episodes in the Vagaries of Belief. D. Appleton-Century Company. pp. 78–92. Lyon Sprague de Camp. (1966). Spirits, Stars, and Spells. New York: Canaveral. p. 247. Robert Goldenson. (1973). Mysteries of the Mind: The Drama of Human Behavior. Doubleday. pp. 44–53. Milbourne Christopher. (1970). ESP, Seers and Psychics. New York: Crowell. pp. 128–29
After Valentine's Day, it only got stranger. Callers asked about lost jewelry and I'd instead tell them about their children or partners, which only pissed them off. HR called and told me to stop doing that—if someone wanted "remote viewing," I was to tell him or her to call a psychic who had that skill listed on their profile. I was, and still am, impressed by how seriously my employer treated "real psychic powers" instead of just racking up minutes. But I also noticed that bad reviews never made it to my profile or anyone else's, which sickened me.
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.