I went to 24 fortune tellers

To find out what the new year and the next half-century hold in store for me and the world I have just had my fortune told 24 separate times by two dozen of this country’s leading soothsayers. The average person would probably have consulted one fortune teller and called it a day. If you ask me, however, that’s like trying to watch the World Series through a knothole in the fence. The future nowadays is becoming much too complicated for any one mystic to predict by himself.

I had no trouble finding 24 seers. Last year approximately 5,000,000 Americans spent around $200,000,000 taking clairvoyant tips (In 1950 the number promises to be greater). My theory in seeking the advice of two dozen professional psychics was that there’s safety in numbers. It seemed the decent, democratic way of peering into the beyond was to take a poll of prophets, add up the votes and let the majority rule.

Most of the unsuspecting fortune tellers who participated in my survey were respected big-leaguers psychic advisors to a plush retinue of society matrons, senators, diplomats, military brass, and Wall Street financiers. The fees charged by these super-seers enabled them to live in moon-bathed penthouses high above the planet Earth. One, for example, got $20 for a half-hour session. Ten dollars was the normal fare for a trip out into space and time, although four sandwich-shop swamis did the job for less than the price of a cheeseburger.


They tried everything

All the methods of divination ever practiced here or in the Orient were used on me: periscope eyes perused my palm, scrutinized my tea leaves, scanned my stars, and watched the events of the next three decades kaleidoscope in my coffee grounds. I have just added up all the predictions and must admit I don’t know exactly what to make of the whole thing. Seems that destiny has endowed me with more lives than a cat, more heads than a hydra, more careers than Leonardo da Vinci and more wives than a dynasty of Persian Sultans. The following factual report on my future, as foreseen by the top professional prophets on the Eastern seaboard, seems a little confusing to me at close range.

For instance, a tea-leaf reader in Pennsylvania predicted I would fall off a fishing sloop and drown next year. On the very day this Phila-delphic drowned me, however, one of his clairvoyant colleagues in New York caught sight of me in his crystal ball making valuable contributions in nuclear physics to the Atomic Energy Commission in 1960. The opinion of this crystal gazer, incidentally, that I am some sort of a mathematical wizard seems to have gained wide acceptance in the spirit world. How it ever got a foot hold up there is a mystery to me. In my time I have flunked every mathematics course in the curriculum, and nothing in my youth ever terrified me as much as the square of a hypotenuse. Nevertheless, nearly all the seers I consulted immediately divined that I’d make a wonderful accountant, bookkeeper or bank clerk.

A phrenologist, analyzing the bumps on my head, looked dismayed when I happened to mention that playing the saxophone was one of my main interests in life — which it is. "In 1952" foresaw the scalp psychic, "you will suffer an accident which will impair your sanity. It looks to me — now I’m not positive of the instrument, mind you — but it looks to me as if a bass-violin string will snap and hit you on the head while you’re playing in some band."

But others adept at piercing the fog of the future got no inkling of that thwack on the skull. In fact, before the week was up my sanity was completely restored by more optimistic mental magicians who foretold that, before the age of 50, I would attain fame as a construction engineer, restaurateur, traffic cop, United Nations delegate, professor of philosophy and, of course, as an accountant and bank clerk.

Direct hit

the surprising thing to me was that none of the 24 mediums detected the fact that I planned to write a magazine article on their powers of divination. One palmist, at any rate, did make a direct hit. After assuring me about my talents as an accountant, she added, "But you’d also be very good in anything having to do with dramatics. In fact I definitely see you in the theater — even if it's only in the audience." Call it coincidence if you like, but two weeks later I attended a performance of "Kiss Me, Kate."

There’s a disturbing outlook for my love life. In fact, on the Ouija Boards, I am definitely the Freudian freak of this century. For example, there’s one all-foreseeing eye who, for $10, told me: "Young man, you will take the vows of celibacy, enter a monastery and withdraw from society in 1953." Other sightings taken the same week, however, took a more rakish slant. During my lifetime, the tallies showed, I am slated to marry 11 girls of all hair-tints and nationalities, divorcing only two and yet remaining, in at least, one tea-leaf arrangement, a single man all my life.

As a dividend on a $2 card reading, one Gypsy threw in free advice on how to catch a mate. "Sprinkle salt and sugar, and burn nine candles at the foot of your bed every night for a month". I did this. Result: one mouse delighted by sugar, three moths singed by candle.

Enough time has now elapsed since the beginning of my experiment to take stock of some of the shorter-term forecasts. For instance, a list of my "good" and "bad" days was drawn up for my guidance by one of Manhattan’s foremost experts. To shield her identity from 50,000 clients, we’ll dub her Madame Zunk.

The admiral's letter

Madame Zunk is a plump, bustling, unethereal ball of energetic aspic. To her credit, she made no effort to affect Oriental mannerisms. A towel turhanning her head was, I believe, due to her having just washed her hair. Lying conspicuously on her desk was a book authored and autographed by one of her most famous clients — a top admiral of the Bikini project.

"The admiral wrote me a letter after the explosion and told me he owes his success to the advice I gave him." she volunteered. However, this writer owes nothing to the advice she gave him. "Let me give you a warning," she said. "Keep in mind that not all the contracts you sign this year will last forever ... examine business prepositions carefully, and above all, don’t sell anything at a loss if you can help it."

Then she peered more intently at the Milky Way. "Beware of October 3," she continued. "It's the worst possible day for you. Stay in bed all day. Seeing people and doing things would result in minor catastrophes."

That’s about all Madame Zunk revealed for $15. But I kept an eagle eye on my ill starred 3rd of October. At 9 a.m. the post man brought a letter containing a $300 refund on last year’s taxes. By two o’clock that afternoon, I had carded the best golf score in 20 years’ tussle with the game — a sizzling 75, highlighted by the lucky sinking of a 50-yard niblick shot and finding two practically brand-new golf balls in the rough.

A tough day

One of the smilingest days of my life was nightcapped by dinner and dancing at an idyllic restaurant. My date’s father owned the restaurant and picked up the tab. Thus ended October 3 — the day I was supposed to stay between the sheets.

Although Madame Zunk had failed me, there was one lady palmist whose uncanny ability at reading the character of diners at a New York night club inspired me with genuine respect. This gifted mentalist took one look at my palm and said: "You are a genius." The following week I returned t this night spot with a girl whom I wanted to impress. The palmist came over to my table, held my palms, failed to remember the previous reading and gave me an entirely new analysis — minus the genius. She now rates in my book as the biggest fake in the thole profession.

The reception of messages from the "other side" seemed to be particularly bad for spiritualists during my survey. I don’t know whether it was sunspots, Russian jamming, or just plain weak tubes.

Ghost to ghost broadcast

One medium, for instance, claimed to be tuned in on a ghost-to-ghost broadcast that bristled with information just for me. “Do you have a relative named William?", she asked confidently. By coincidence I happened to be one of the few people in the U.S. who do not have a relative named William. I told her so "Oh, yes you do," she contradicted. "You probably didn’t know him. You see, he died four centuries ago. He’s coming through from the spirit world now, clear as a bell. Wants to be remembered, and says to take care of your self.”

Once I deliberately tried to see how far I could mislead a psychic. I had traveled 50 miles into New Jersey to contact a spiritual medium who had been especially recommended.

For an hour, feigning a trance, die fished for information like the rest of her col leagues. Her monologue went like this:

"Why do I see a British flag around you? Why do I get vibrations of a girl named Margaret? Do you know a girl by that name? No? Well, just wait, you will. I see the letters PH around you. Could be Phil, Philadelphia, phobia,or Phi Beta Kappa... And why do I associate you with the New England states or Baltimore? I see a trip to Brooklyn for you... Now, tell me," she wound up, "do you have any questions or problems you’d like me to clear up?"

Four wives

"Yes," I answered earnestly, "I do have a question, a very serious one indeed. I was raised in French Morocco. Following the Mohammedan custom of that past of the world, I married four local girls. Recently I met an American girl whom I’d like to marry. Should I go to the trouble of divorcing my North African wives, or just forget them?”

"You know, it’s strange," she exclaimed delightedly, "but as soon as you walked in the door, I got vibrations of many wives. Only I could have sworn the radiations said six, and not four." The advice she gave me was to abandon my African commitments and marry the nice American girl.

Later, rounding the comer on my way back to the station, I caught sight of the medium jabbering breathlessly to three neighbor ladies on her front porch — peering with ravenous eyes and pointing to the young man with four wives and a fiancee.

Hope for finding predictions that might come true was now centered on the 24th and last visionary on my list, a pundit we shall call Ichabod Asterisk. He enjoys one of the finest reputations in the U. S. and several photographs from famous people adorn his walls in testimony of that fact.

Right on Truman

Asterisk prides himself on having foretold Harry S. Truman’s re-election. He also loses no time in relating to new clients how he once promised a girl that she would one day be wealthy. She is said to have laughed at this idea, after which she met and married a millionaire.

Naturally, my expectations of Ichabod Asterisk were high. That is why I have taken great care to record his revelations to me exactly as he uttered them. The following is a faithful report of his conversation.

"Young man, you will never regret consulting me. If I charged you $20,000 [he charged ten], it would not be too much for the guidance you get here. I am in a position to take you by the hand and lead you safely past life’s pit falls. Judging from the aspects as they’re shaping up, you are entering a seven-year period of unlimited opportunity. Unfortunately your health outlook isn’t too good. Don’t eat chocolate. You’re allergic to chocolate, and it may give you athlete’s foot. You say you don’t feel well. Of course you don’t. You’ll continue to feel terrible until the spring of 1952. There’s nothing you can do about it." (The ailment of which I complained was an allergy to falling leaves. It vanished a few days later.) Asterisk concluded: “You will have great attraction for the opposite sex and the opposite sex will have great attraction for you throughout the period of October 26 to November 10.”

I made a careful check of this prediction. November 10 having now come and gone, it is possible for me to state definitely that my attraction for the opposite sex has still not begun, and theirs for me will never end.

By Leslie Lieber

Evening star, January 08, 1950