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“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.
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 was 13 when my mom dragged my brother and me to a "psychic." We were visiting family in Malaysia and somewhere amongst a few palm oil plantations was the house of an old woman who claimed to be able to channel Buddha. My mother was enthralled during the hour-long ordeal, during which the woman basically rolled her eyes often so the whites were showing, dropped her voice a few octaves, and made astonishingly mundane statements that could've applied to anyone (examples: our house had ants out front; my grandma was old and having some health problems). Combined with my love of Harry Houdini (who spent the last few years of his life debunking psychics and mediums) and teen angst that made me hate everything my parents liked, the experience left me convinced that psychics were con artists who separated vulnerable and desperate people from their cash in exchange for poor acting.


Ray Hyman discovered many methodological errors with Schwartz's research including; "Inappropriate control comparisons", "Failure to use double-blind procedures", "Creating non-falsifiable outcomes by reinterpreting failures as successes" and "Failure to independently check on facts the sitters endorsed as true". Hyman wrote "Even if the research program were not compromised by these defects, the claims being made would require replication by independent investigators." Hyman criticizes Schwartz's decision to publish his results without gathering "evidence for their hypothesis that would meet generally accepted scientific criteria... they have lost credibility."[191]
According to the magician John Booth the stage mentalist David Devant managed to fool a number of people into believing he had genuine psychic ability who did not realize that his feats were magic tricks. At St. George's Hall, London he performed a fake "clairvoyant" act where he would read a message sealed inside an envelope. The spiritualist Oliver Lodge who was present in the audience was duped by the trick and claimed that Devant had used psychic powers. In 1936 Devant in his book Secrets of My Magic revealed the trick method he had used.[159]
In 1880 the American stage mentalist Washington Irving Bishop published a book revealing how mediums would use secret codes as the trick for their clairvoyant readings.[84] The Seybert Commission was a group of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania who in 1884–1887 exposed fraudulent mediums such as Pierre L. O. A. Keeler and Henry Slade.[85] The Fox sisters confessed to fraud in 1888. Margaret Fox revealed that she and her sister had produced the "spirit" rappings by cracking their toe joints.[86]
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