Fortune telling: Prophets or for profits ?

"I see no luck around you. I see no love, no friends, no money. I see no hope for you ...."

The fortune teller, a slim, exotic woman in her early 30s, leaned toward me, her amber eyes fixed intently on mine. Gesturing dramatically, she continued, speaking in a strongly accented, conspiratorial tone.

"At times, you have felt hopeless, even like ending it all! But you will not do this thing. I can help you. I can pray for you, even light candles for you. You understand? Then your luck will change."

Fortune teller thinking

This gloomy message was the spiritual reading solemnly given to me by a professed psychic as I sat transfixed in her tiny but ornate chapel. The table we shared was dominated by a huge plaster figurine of Jesus, while numerous saints stared balefully down from the pictures on the wall. During the reading, I had held my hand, at her request, on three $5 bills covering the biggest Bible I had ever seen. A baby gurgled lustily and cheerily from his high chair in the adjoining reception room while outside trucks rumbled along the major road in south Chula Vista where the psychic’s shabby dwelling was located; a locale of gas stations and massage parlors.

My assignment, as a reporter for The Star-News, was to visit several fortune tellers in the South Bay and, posing as a typical client, find out what it was really like. I also was looking for the one common denominator, the clue which could indicate that these people were either gifted psychics or merely common frauds.

The first fortune teller had promised me a partial reading for $lO or a complete reading for $l5. When I inquired about the $5 difference, she assured me that although the $lO reading would be a spiritual reading, the $l5 reading would reveal to me all of the psychic influences surrounding me and affecting my life. That morning I had drawn three $5 bills from the office petty cash box.

"You must be a little psychic," I replied, smiling.

"I think I have only $l5 with me."

A few days later, another professed psychic, a palm reader in National City, whose garish painted sign proclaimed that she, too, knew the past, present and future, had this more optimistic message for me.

"I see hundreds of people. maybe millions, calling your ... in a good way! It may be in business. I don’t know but you have much fame coming your way in April or May."

On this cheery note, I was tempted to close my investigation.

But for the sake of reportorial objectivity and scientific inquiry, I planned to call on another psychic and thus have three readings from which to draw my conclusions.

A giant out stretched palm beckons from a flamboyant neon sign to motorists on Interstate 5 in National City, and beneath it another sign proclaims that palms can be read nearby. The sign, worthy of a major retail store, is impressive and seems to denote a flourishing practice. I chose to make this my third and final call. As I drove to my destination, on a cold and rainy January afternoon, I racked my mind for that one good question not necessarily, a trick question but one that would not contain the seed of the answer within it.

For example, if one asks, "Do you see a divorce in my future," it logically fallows that the person is married and contemplating such an action. But remembering that I was playing it straight I decided to let the psychic control the situation completely, as, most likely, everyone did. That was no problem. Again I was greeted by an exotic, attractive, slim, dark woman. She asked if I had come to have my fortune told, and modestly informed me of her qualifications. Her charisma enchanted me, and I readily agreed that I would like to know my past, present and future.

Like the others, she had two readings, an introductory offer and a large, economy size. For $lO, she would read my palm only, but for $25 she would read my palms and a crystal ball. I was intrigued and readily assented to the $25.

Pulling a beaded drape aside, she ushered me into a tiny room and I momentarily experienced a déja vu emotion. For this room, too, was presided over by a huge statue of a very oriental appearing Jesus, and other various religious objects were apparent everywhere. A crystal ball, a round glass object about six inches in diameter partially swathed in a black cloth, was the centerpiece of the small table. Drawing two folding chairs toward the table, we were seated and she instructed me to rub the crystal ball with my hands "so that my vibrations would enter it." I held the ball at its base all during the lengthy reading. An awkward and uncomfortable position so that she could gaze at the crystal and read my palms simultaneously.

The reading lasted almost an hour, a tremendous bargain in comparison to the others as I calculated afterward that the others charged about $1 per minute and that’s $6O per hour!

I found it difficult to maintain my objectivity when, after the preliminaries, she reverently told me of long-suffering, my generosity, tender heart, disappointments in love, my unrewarded labor all the noble characteristics which, although I modestly and reluctantly decried, accepted. For who would presume to deny the recitations of three flattering fortune tellers in complete agreement ?

But it wasn't all roses!

"I see that you have escaped death twice." Peering intently into the crystal ball she saw that once as a child in sickness and, again, as an adult in an accident, I had nearly died.

It was true. But I wasn’t prepared for this statement.

"Your accident was not caused by God," she claimed, sadly, "but by a person who was attempting to take your life."

"You mean kill me?"

"That's what I see in the crystal ball," she replied confidently.

"But by whom and why?" I demanded incredulously. For there was a mystery surrounding the accident which had indirectly claimed my companion's life and nearly my own. But that our vehicle, a motor boat which had sunk in the icy waters of Lake Shasta during a storm, had been sabotaged was unthinkable!

"It was done by someone very jealous of you," she said, "and he has suffered much guilt since."

Puzzling over this unexpected, and frankly frightening information, I did recall later some strange, almost forgotten facts. After the accident, the sheriff’s department had interrogated the dockmaster at the ramp where we had launched our boat and, when asked why he failed to report that we had not returned, he claimed he had never seen us. But we had bought gas and spark plugs from him and paid a launching fee. We had even borrowed some tools from him, to his annoyance. And my car was parked next to his store for three days and nights. If he had told the authorities of our failure to return, perhaps a searching party could have reached us before my friend succumbed to his injuries and died in the storm-racked forests near Lake Shasta.

If one’s destiny, the plan of one’s life, is imprinted by nature on the palm of his hand, or in an aura of vibrations about him; and if there are gifted people who can genuinely interpret these signs, would not all psychics see the same things? I would think so. But here are some actual comparisons.


Psychic One: She claimed that at times I felt like taking my life, but would not.

Psychic Two: She saw that my health was good as long as I had a good doctor and would live to be 88,89, or 90.

Psychic Three: "You will live to be 91 years old. I see no sickness or accidents in the crystal ball."

I am delighted with the prediction of Psychics Two and Three. But I shall continue to observe traffic signals as I cautiously cross streets.


Psychic One: She inquired if I worked every day.

Psychic Two: You always make good money but cannot save it. You will never be a millionaire.

Psychic Three: You will never be a millionaire, but will always have more than enough money; God will see to it. You have been successful, but can’t save. You will have much prosperity this year.

So much for my being a millionaire. And alas! A saver I am not. But my creditors and I are content with the prognostications of Psychics Two and Three.


Psychic One: No mention of children.

Psychic Two: She saw three children in my past.

Psychic Three: She saw two children, a boy and a girl, in my future.

In reality, I have five children and no more are planned.


Psychic One: She felt my present surroundings were not good and that I should move away. "I don’t mean, go back to New York or China," she explained. "But go at least a few miles away from here."

Psychic Two: She saw me going on a short and hasty trip of no particular significance.

Psychic Three: "I see you on a long trip over blue water to another land. It’s a pleasure trip with a tall, dark woman, and you’ll be gone from 10 to 18 days, this spring."

Although I have no trips planned of any kind, the prospects of 18 days in Tahiti, with or without a tall dark woman, are most pleasurable.


Psychic One: She felt I was in the wrong job, overworked and underpaid, and urged me to seek another job that I really wanted.

Psychic Two: She, too, felt I was overworked and unrewarded, but urged me not to give up and to stick to my present job for in the spring it would bring me much fame and money.

Psychic Three: Although she had inquired about my work early in our conversation, and I had told her I was a writer, she saw my fame coming ultimately in art. Painting, she said.

I believe I have chosen the proper career. It is hard work and nowhere near as well-paying as fortune telling seems to be. And I assume I have gained some slight modicum of fame through my writing. But painting is a sometime hobby of mine.


Psychic One: No mention of either.

Psychic Two: She saw important papers in my future. She recommended that I sign them, even though I would be anxious about them, but not to worry.

Psychic Three: She saw two letters one bad and one good. "Read the papers over three times, before you sign them" she cautioned me. "And do what you really want to do, not what others try to persuade you to do."

Number Three did it again! The very next day I actually did receive two letters one good and one unpleasant. And I do have some papers to sign of great importance.


Psychic One: She said I have known hundreds of women. None I could trust. There is a woman far away very jealous of you. She claims to love you, but is only happy when you have problems and troubles so that she can be in control of your life.

Psychic Two: She said I have known perhaps hundreds of women but none that ever gave me peace and contentment, a complete and whole life.

Psychic Three: She saw two women for me in the crystal baH. A light, tall woman and a dark, tall woman. And she saw flowers which meant that I would marry in the spring to the tall, dark woman.

I’ll take the Fifth Amendment and simply say I don’t even know a tall, dark woman, and there's no need for any jewelry salesman to call me.


Psychic One: Many times in the past, spirits have tried to warn me, but I ignored them. There were none in my vicinity at the time of my reading.

Psychic Two: She dismissed the subject.

Psychic Three: There are two loved ones of mine in the spirit world who watch over me and protect me. She was surprised that I didn’t know who they were or recognize their descriptions. "One is a tall, dark man, with the initial ‘B’ and he was your friend in high school. His name will come to you later she said, after prayer, and after lighting candles."

Naturally I have loved ones who are dead. None, however, with the initial "B" that I can think of. But it is a comforting thought, if true, that loved ones in the spirit world are looking out for my interests.


Psychic Three: She saw me incarnated in India and Egypt. "I see you painting pyramids in Egypt. You lived there once long ago."

I have painted pyramids, but on canvas, and in this life. But I don’t deny a fascination with both reincarnation and things Egyptian. Alfred Hitchcock once unkindly rejected a short story of mine about an artist who was a reincarnation of an Egyptian priest. "Too psychological," he had scrawled, whatever that meant.


Psychic Three saw a boy and girl playing on a broad lawn in front of a big white house. She also saw an unexpected visit from a relative from far away. I spent the holidays in Palo Alto in a big white house, and my nephew and his wife, after four years in Europe, unexpectedly called on me there.

All three saw a big loss in my life about 10 years ago and again about a year and a half ago. That was true, too.

MODUS OPERANDI: How they work

All of these psychics were very attractive, slim, exotic women. From their sentence structure and accents, English was not the native tongue of any of them. Psychic One permitted no note taking (I didn’t bother to ask the others), and all asked me to keep her reading confidential, except for advertising them to my friends.

I kept a tape recorder in my car, however, and was able to record practically every word said, while still fresh in my mind. They all had more than one price. One charged $5 for one hand and $5 for the other. Obviously, if you didn’t take the complete package, you would feel uneasy; wonder if the most important message would be left unsaid.

Two of them asked me to make two wishes silently and then reveal just one of them to them. They seemed delighted that I had wished for good health, a pretty common wish, I would have thought. They all invited me to come again.

Number Two seemed interested in how I made out.

Number One felt I had no hope without her.

And although Number Three saw nothing but good for me, she wanted me to return,too.


Are these fortune tellers gifted psychically are they prophets? Or are they in it just for the profits, earning a living from gullible, troubled souls? I don’t know a little of both, I think. They all told me things that cannot be proved or disproved.

Was there an attempt on my life by an unknown enemy?

Does "B" watch over me from the spirit world?

Is my abiding interest in things Egyptian and in painting, a vague remembrance of a past life, painting pyramids?

I’ll never know.

But then I did have a visit from relatives far away, and unexpectedly, and I was in a big white house with a broad green lawn. I must admit I got two letters, one good and one bad, and have important papers to sign. For the rest, I just don’t know, and I feel I must investigate these psychic phenomena further.

There are apparently dozens of ways to attempt to foretell the future: Tarot cards, I Ching, ouija boards, pendulums, and astrology. They all have their loyal adherents. I must add that all of these fortune tellers exuded sincerity and seemed to genuinely believe in their abilities. Their reading rooms seemed more like chapels than the popular notion of gypsy tea rooms.

But, even though two out of three predicted a rosy future for me, they claimed I needed more help. Psychic Number Three, who prophesied a life abounding with health, prosperity, happiness and love, felt very strongly that I should buy her special imported candles, costing either $5 or $lO each (once again my choice). I definitely needed nine of them, she declared, to dispel the gloom and exorcise the evil spirits around me. Well, if this be gloom, I cheerfully accept my fate as I happily contemplate the 46 years before me abounding with every good thing that life can offer. Yes, I’m overjoyed with Psychic Number Three’s predictions. You know, I just might take my painting more seriously. Who knows? If Pollock and Picasso can earn fame and fortune...

By David E. Eriksen

National City Star-News, 14 January 1973