My Week with the Psychic Hotline

reposted, because very few of you read it.  and it was fun.

I’m not psychic.  Nobody is.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to be a psychic.  This is about my experience working for the Psychic Hotline.  Those of you who are psychic, you somehow probably already know, so don’t bother reading.  The rest of you, well, you’ll have to suffer from your non-psychic disability and read it.

I was a chatroom surfer back in the late 90’s and early 00’s.  I spent hours at night jumping in and out of random “places” all in search of communication, someone to talk to.  I had recently separated and was en route a divorce and living far away from friends and family.  Most anyone I had known in the area was connected to my ex-wife, so it was that “choose a side” kind of thing.  Eh, it happens.  The social media explosion was roughly in stage 3 of 10, and advancements were expanding by the week.  I was in charge of technology at work, so it was my obligation to keep ahead of the curve, stay informed so I would be able to answer questions from those I was supposed to be ready to help.

Most time spent in chatrooms was wasted.  It’s not like anyone was “real.”  Most people were pretending to be someone other than themselves, which is part of the beauty of computer lives:  you can be anyone you want to be, haven’t been, never could be, or haven’t yet become.  Of all the chatrooms, my favorite was always the “psychic” rooms.  The main thing there were people either asking for or volunteering to give psychic readings.  You’d find someone in the chatroom, then break off into a private chat to participate in the personal psychic experience.

Not only am I not psychic, but I don’t believe in any of it, and I am certain it’s complete crap.  However, I love the idea of the potential possibility of maybe-ness that people can actually have those visions.  I love stories from those who believe they can talk to the dead or have seen spirits, auras, or any kind of visible version of the non-living.

When I volunteered to give psychic readings, it was never in a private chatroom.  I wanted everyone in the room to see what was going on.  Call me an exhibitionist, in more ways than one.  I wanted everyone in the room to see the absurdity of the activity.  When it came to the psychic readings, I didn’t even wait for a request.  I would just being my proclamation to all 20-something people in the room:

I have a vision!  Tomorrow there will be an event to behold!  There will be a great light in the sky, probably around 5, 5:30.  This great light will increase its intensity during the day, reaching its most brilliant point at about lunch, if you’re on the day shift.  Then!  This great light, after having examined us and chased away the puddles, this great light will begin its downward slide.  It will fade, little by little right up until about it’s time for World News Tonight on channel 6 (if you’re in the Philly area).  Do not be surprised if it happens again tomorrow!  If not, then I declare the likelihood of things falling from the sky.  Don’t worry.  It’s just water…

I could never tell just how many people were thinking, “Yeah, this is stupid.  I’m going to get some ice cream.”  Or, “I feel like an idiot.  For this and for not being able to help my 4th grader with his homework.”  But that’s not what this is about.

One particular chatting night I received an invitation for a private chat and naturally accepted.  It went something like this:

Them:  would you be interested in working for the Psychic Hotline?

Me:  no, because there’s no such thing as psychic ability.

Them:  doesn’t matter.  We need people who can keep callers on the phone for a long time.  Engage them in conversation.  Keep it going because they pay by the minute.  Y’know?

Me:  I know, but it would feel weird because I’d be tricking people into something I don’t believe in.

Them:  it pays $12 an hour and you never have to leave your home.  They call you.

Me:  ok.  I’m in.

That resulted in a few e-mails to explain everything and some papers that arrived in the mail two days later.  After learning how to dial in to a phone server system and how to use tarot cards in a very basic way, I was ready to go.  Before I started, I reviewed a few other things, including a friendly suggestion that I might want to light some candles before I start.  “Why?” I wondered.  The answer was because candles are “white light” and can keep away “dark light” just in case some bad or evil forms of light entered the room while I was “reading.”  It was hard not to laugh.  However, since I was accustomed to having candles lit anyway, I sparked a couple.

I had to dial in to a phone server in order to enable my number into the psychic system.  Then, when people called in to find a “psychic,” I was in the pool of random people on call.  I lasted about a week, and – because that was about 10 years ago – I can only remember three specific calls of the many I answered, but they were memorable for a reason.

Tarot cards are very complicated, so much that I can’t remember a damn thing about them except that there’s a long and a short way to give a tarot card reading.  I was only capable of the short version, which basically had a list of characteristics associated with each card.  If someone asked you a question, you could pull a card and draw a prediction from the symbolism of the card to the situation involved with the question.  While a regular deck of cards has 52, a tarot deck has 78.  Instead of suits like spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, a tarot deck has wands, swords, cups, and pentacles.  On one particular phone call, I was asked three questions.  Even though I rigorously shuffled the deck after each question, I selected the exact same card each time.  The mathematical chance of that happening is 1 in 474,552.  That’s interesting, and it made me a little dizzy.

Another call was from a woman who wanted to know if she should take a new job she was offered.  I asked her a series of questions such as which job was further from home, the difference in pay, health benefits, hours at work, etc.  I then told her which job she should take, but my mistake was telling her how I came to that conclusion – the answers to her questions.  Her reply was, “That’s not psychic.  That’s just common sense!”  Enough said there.

Last was the reason I quit after just a week.  A lovely, elderly woman from Kansas called because it had been about a year since her husband had died.  Originally, she wanted to ask questions about him.  Where is he?  What’s he doing?  Does he remember me?  Is he waiting for me?  I don’t remember if we got to any of those questions, but I do remember having a wonderful conversation in which I asked her a million questions and she smiled a million times giving a million answers.  After a while, she asked, “How long have we been talking?”  I hesitated to answer, saying I wasn’t sure.  She then said, “Oh my, it’s been about 45 minutes.  Do you have any idea what this is costing me?”  I said, “I don’t really know anything about that part of the business.”  She kindly thanked me for talking to her and was then going to bed.

After that, I hung up the phone, put the tarot cards back in the box, blew out the candle, and dialed the special number to disconnect my phone from the psychic hotline server.  I never reconnected again.  I also never mailed in the time sheet for the calls I took and the money I was supposed to make for my services, no matter how accurate I might or might not have been.

134 thoughts on “My Week with the Psychic Hotline

  1. Another illusion shattered. I always believed that the people who worked on those psychic hotlines, at least BELIEVED that they themselves had psychic abilities, however delusional the belief, or at the very least believed that psychic abilities were possible. Man, I’m so naive!

    I’m sure you probably helped that elderly lady though, just by listening and talking…

  2. Ha.. I remember there was a Hotline Psychic called “Madame Cleo” and I had a friend drop too much $$ on her only to find out later it was a Scam with a Capital “S”..

  3. Great post. It made me smile a lot. Seems the people who least need to be exploited by these things, are often the ones who are.
    I tried, in my youth, to ‘get in touch’ with my psychic abilities. turns out I don’t have any but I am pretty good at reading body language and voices – maybe that’s half the job done. You confirmed for yourself that you’re kind – that must have been worth it in the end.

  4. Hi Rich,
    Thanks for re-posting this. It was a fascinating glimpse into a nether world and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, about some help with the lottery . . .

  5. Certainly sounds like a great way to keep yourself occupied. Also that makes you older than I thought you were…

    (is it sad that the thing that made me happiest is that you got the probability right?)

  6. Oh, this made me sad… I hate when people prey on other people’s loneliness and fear (yes, I know it happens all the time, but still…). Well done you for never collecting that money!

    • Thank you very much. There are many things that happen regardless of what we do, but at least we can have the inner peace to not take part.

  7. Funny post. Neverthess, in “defense” of psychics, I remember a question a friend asked me:
    “If you had been born blind, do you think you would be the type of person who would doubt that other people had the gift of sight?”

  8. I really enjoyed this post. First of all, I should say that I have had some strange experiences and wonder if there are scientific explanations for them which we haven’t discovered yet. Also, as I am working on a chilling novel at the moment, I decided to watch “Most Haunted”, this is an English programme. A team of investigators visit properties which are meant to be haunted. I almost choked with laughter as the presenter loudly announced “If you are there show yourself,” – these are meant to be experts but from the odd experiences I have had, I know it doesn’t work like that. Lastly, the chat rooms you mentioned are now on television. I saw it the other night. People ring up and ask things like “a guy at work was looking at me whilst leaning on the coffee machine. What was he thinking?” The physic then replies live. We were roaring with laughter. The problem is when someone has lost a loved one and truly believes that these people can get in touch with them – I think that there are maybe a few people who have some sort of gift – but in the main I think the ones on the television are mostly charlatans. So – Rich – you’re not in your twenties then?

    • 20’s, oh dear, i sure wish i was. double that, then add more. in october coming up i’ll be 50. as for those shows, i laugh because they’re all the same. they claim to hear voices and play the tape back only to hear nonsense that they translate into what they hope to have heard. and my daugther and i laugh because they say the same two sentences throughout the show:

      1. “what was that?”
      2. “did you hear that?”

      seems that’s all they have to say.

      • So you’re definitely not in your 20s then! I’m sure that you are. I think you’ve got your calculations mixed a little – even if you did teach maths. The American programmes sound very similar to the English ones. It sounds as though your family and mine have similar experiences of hilarity when watching them.

      • do they pull that trick with a flashlight? put a flashlight on the floor or a table and tell the “spirit” to press the button and turn the light on if they are present in the room? and then, every time, the light comes on?

      • No, I haven’t seen that yet but I will be watching another one tomorrow. They use a oujji board which they say moved. They also have a guy in who is meant to be a physic – he says he senses gold coins or whatever but my problem with what he said was that historical research done on the area prior to the programme could easily have come up with what he says. I wish you could see Yvette Fielding shouting out “Show Yourself”. At one point she actually says “Show yourself sweetheart,” which made it even worse.

      • i have a cousin who claims to speak with people who have passed on. she also claims to speak with my mother occasionally. she’s told me nothing that couldn’t be said by anyone, especially from someone who knew my mother well. we sat once with all my brothers and sisters to “talk” to my mother. it was disappointing.

      • I know what you mean – I don’t know if people who pass over normally are there to contact the living, if that makes any sense. I feel that unless the death has been brutal or the soul is tormented, it moves on to a higher place.I think your mother will be there. However, I am always open minded if there is proof. I am very cynical about it all even though I have had a lot of experiences which I would really like an explanation for. This sounds potty but I don’t know if happenings can be stamped through time. I saw three people who were dressed in the Georgian style in my bedroom looking out of the window – they were totally unaware of anyone else being in the room – what was so obvious was that they couldn’t see me or any of the furniture. By the way – I don’t do drugs, never have and I hadn’t had a glass of wine. I thought – I’m going bonkers – the point which really stood out was that they were obviously not in the same furnished room as me and they were oblivious to me. I know that makes it sound like a dream but I was awake. There you are – it’s confirmed – the English are potty.

      • You are right – I will have to watch it again. I love this movie – it’s inspired by Henry James’ “Turning of the Screw”. I really respect and enjoy the works of Henry James. I think I am going to see if I can find out more history of this space in which I live. The church next door dates back to the 15thC. The clothes the people had on were later than that. I am sure there could be a scientific explanation to these things – we will probably never know.

      • that’s the kind of stuff that i would love to see but have great trouble believing. i’m very skeptical, but i’m willing to learn.

      • I’m the same way as you – I find it very hard to believe, this is why I don’t understand why I’ve had some of the things happen to me which I have. Some of the worst times have been in holiday homes in France and Spain when we have rented them for a couple of weeks. The one in Northern Spain was horrible, there were dreadful noises in the night, we all heard them. I thought I was in an awful horror movie. I had to sleep with the light on but it kept going off. All the rooms had unbelievable amounts of religious pictures in them – in one of the downstairs sitting rooms – there was a type of religious altar with a statue of the Virgin Mary – one day we went in to find the floor covered in a mass of dead insects – it was like a swarm. It was only on reflection that I realised that all the religious stuff must have been an attempt to cleanse the house or something. The problem is that when you don’t believe in things like this and it happens – you won’t complain to the owner because it sounds stupid even to yourself. None of us could wait to leave. There was a massive difference between seeing the figures in the bedroom as they were not aware of me but the thing in that Spanish house did not want us there – the malevolence was overwhelming. So I think that obviously two different types of energy or happenings or whatever are involved here.

      • reminds me of a house i went to see that i was thinking of buying. when i entered the house, i felt like i was being watched. i was afraid to open doors, as if something would be on the other side that i didn’t want to see. in one particular room, i felt like someone was standing in there watching and telling me to leave. someone else was with me, and they said the same thing but when they were in a different room.

      • Thank goodness you were open to your feelings, I don’t think you would have been happy there. I don’t know if that is a case of a person dying and not realising that they are dead. Maybe with a sudden death. I think they were probably wondering what you were doing in their home. They might have tried to get you to move out if you had moved in. I know that sounds barking mad but these feelings have to come from somewhere. We don’t imagine them because other people get the same feelings and we only get them in certain places – what is your view on this?

      • my view is that when we die, we are gone and done with. however, i’m open to having something teach me that i’m wrong.

      • I think it would make sense that when we die, we are gone and that’s it – I think that is logical but refers only to the body. I feel that the soul is something else. I think I would think that even if I hadn’t had a lot of strange happenings. It might simply be a source of comfort, it is easier to imagine an afterlife than nothingness – I love the poems, music, art and stories too much for that.

      • although i’m skeptical, i do have a couple of stories involving the paranormal. and my kid sees a ghost regularly in her mother’s house. as does her baby sister.

      • You sound like me. What has happened to you? Does your daughter know the background to the ghost she sees? I love this because when someone questions it as you do, then it is more believable – I am so curious to what really happens. Lots of English Victorians were really interested in the supernatural, including Arthur Conan Doyle.

      • her mom’s house is over 100 years old, so many things could have happened in there. I don’t live there anymore, so i can’t say much about it. the 3-year old sometimes says she can’t sleep because the man with the claws is in her room again. the 14-yr old sometimes sees a man sitting on the sofa as if he’s watching tv, but usually he disappears when she gets too close. sometimes she hears someone typing on the computer keyboard, but there’s nobody sitting there. if she gets too close or even looks in that direction, the typing stops.

      • Your daughter doesn’t sound at all frightened, this doesn’t sound like a malevolent but one who can see your daughter and wonders why she is there. I wonder if the guy died in middle age in his sleep suddenly. Does anyone know anything about lived there in the past? Actually it would be on the census forms. You could play detective and find out who lived there and then using the death records find out if there were any unusual deaths. I think there’s a story in that. Only an idea. I love a mystery.

      • the mother, my ex-wife, doesn’t want them to talk about it. she doesn’t want to hear the details. it would freak her out. they’re not allowed to talk about it.

        once the 14 yr old was recording something for school and playing it back. during one part, the words to one particular sentence did not sound like her voice. it sounded like an old man’s voice. and the words spoken said something like “you’ll never catch me.”

      • Oh – I’ve got shivers down my spine and my moth shout wide open. This is so fascinating. It is such a shame your ex feels that way – it obviously fightenens her. It would make a fantastic research and writing project for your daughter and yourself to do together. Such a shame it can’t happen. I wonder what this man has done. Oh heck, a horrible thought has crossed my mind. Don’t take offence – but what if he lived there and did a murder and buried the remains somewhere within the property or gardens and that is why he won’t leave. That is why he thinks he will never be caught, he is making sure no one ever discovers the body. Tell me my imagination is running away with me.

      • i will tell you no such thing. there are people in my area who investigate such things, and i would love for them to check out the house, but it’s not my house anymore – all hers – and she won’t allow it.

        when my daughter was recording something and there was a creepy voice on the tape for only a few words, my daughter played it for her step-father to hear. he immediately erased it. bastard.

      • The step-father really had the wind up then. How the hell are kids supposed to question and evaluate with that attitude? It’s amazing how he thinks that if you deny it, it doesn’t exist. I told my son Will about the voice and what he said, I then told him my theory of why the spirit is hanging around and keep vigilance. He said that I’d made all his body shiver. If you ever get time, you could always research the newspapers for that area going back in time to see if any bodies had mysteriously disappeared. I think there is a novel in that – a present day guy looking for a past murderer. – you don’t have to go into the house to do that. You wouldn’t even have to say which house it was. Just an idea – it looks like a great opportunity. I might be wrong, you might not find anything – you might find something totally different – who knows?

      • i might look up the people who owned the house before me. i know where they used to live after they sold the house to me. i might see if they ever had any experiences.

      • Please do – I am really excited by this. The person who lived there might be a bit cagey at first as folks are embarassed to admit to these things sometimes. I remember going to Lavenham in Suffolk (look it up, it has gorgeous old buildings) and staying at a bed and breakfast which was built in the 1500s. I kept hearing a child’s voice but there was no one there, in the end I started looking out of the window to see if the voice was coming from outside – this caused really naughty giggles. I didn’t want to ask the owner about it in case it caused offence. However, the next day when speaking to her, she was very nice and extremely chatty, I remarked casually about what had happened. She then told me that a friend had been coming to visit with her daughter. When they came to the door, the daughter wouldn’t come through the door. After a lot of persuasion etc they finally got it out of her that the girl wouldn’t let her in, she was barring the entry to the door. They couldn’t see a girl, so they carried her through. As soon as the friend and daughter unpacked, the daughter’s favourite toy disappeared. The girl was fed up and crying. As soon as the friends left, the toy turned up it had to be sent on. We had Will with us and at the time he was about ten but he was fine. The child just seemed to get a bit of fun out of me. It seemed as though she doesn’t like little girls being there as if they are competing for affection. I wasn’t going to mention what happened to me to the owner of the bed and breakfast because I thought I might either offend her or she might think I was a bit nutty. So the people you ask might keep things close to their chests at first. I am looking forward to hearing more.

      • The previous owner was definitely a little crazy. The wife insisted there be a clause in the contract that said if her husband died within the next 30 days she would get the house back and I would get my money back. They were a young couples only about late 30’s or 40 ish.

      • This is getting weirder and weirder. Oh my goodness, something has occurred to me. What if this vigilant spirit had whispered to the woman, like in the tape, that if they ever leave the house the husband will die and then she will die within 30 days. If the spirit felt that they were weak people who would never be curious enough to uncover his secret, he would want them to stay. He would be taking out insurance on this by threatening them. Is my imagination running away with me? Can you think of any other reasons why she might have said that?

      • cannot think of other reasons. but i like where you’re going with this. and this is where stories come from. good ones. also, about two months after i moved in, she walked by one day as i was doing yardwork. she asked me if she could dig up some plants that she had wanted to take but forgot. i told her sorry but no. maybe something was buried beneath those plants!!!!

      • Do you think she found something and that’s why the spirit might have threatened her with death? The other alternative is – I don’t like to say this – but if she was involved in something untoward but her husband was unaware of it – that could have caused problems if he wanted to sell and she didn’t. This mystery is deepening by the minute. How did she react when you said “no” over the plants?

      • thanks – although i haven’t found one yet. i had a house, made an offer, it was accepted. but when it was time to actually sign the contract, the seller changed her mind.

  9. i used to live with a psychic, she was my landlady…..i’ve never known anyone get herself into so much trouble – not with punters or anything, just horrendously bad decisions involving men – maybe her spiritually tuned brain had to make some cutbacks in the common sense department….lovely woman though

    and if you ever find any derren brown tv show stuff; he shows brilliantly how bogus it is

  10. Great blowing the cover off those early scams. I used to tell a friend of mine what twisted con artists these dialing for dollar scammers were but she didn’t believe and spent a small fortune on them.

      • i always like your opinions, even if i do not agree with them. i prefer you openly disagree with me because maybe you will convince me that i am wrong. if you silently pass me by, i don’t have a chance to learn from you.

      • And you didn’t say thank you for translation by the way ,I was waiting you to say that ,or you didn’t like my translation it’s so beautiful I assure you that . I know you didin’t ask me to do that but I really feel sO happy when people thank me it shows they love seeing their work in an other language .

      • i’m sorry. i have not seen the post. i will go find it. i have not read many posts from anyone in the past week, but i’m trying to catch up today and tomorrow. i will go find it now.

  11. Haha I love this post so so much! Especially the, “It pays $12, Ok I’m in!” 🙂 And yes I read the whole thing!!! You need a picture of you doing a psychic reading to go with 🙂

  12. As with every good story, there’s the ending that sort bunches it all together into a nice little package. The ‘old lady’ being the keeper for me. However much she paid for that phone call I’m sure she remembers you…for good or for bad…we’ll never know.
    I enjoyed reading it 🙂

  13. I was glad to read you never turned in the time card. I’ve had too many dreams come true and visions happen not to believe. Firsthand accounts that can’t be denied… I am a believer. I don’t call it psychic though. I think we all have the ability to see things and that time is a manmade illusion….but that’s just me being me…… Interesting post. 🙂

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