Reflections from a Meeting with a Psychic, Part II
“I’m seeing a young girl who passed recently, maybe months ago,” said our psychic looking directly at me as I sit in a community church, one of 30 other anxious hopefuls wanting to make a connection with a lost loved one.
Our psychic comes from another country, but she exudes California: she is barefoot, with loose diaphanous clothing and the shoes she has discarded just might be Birkenstocks.
“I see rainbows and two bridges and a boy with her … do you know who that could be?” she probes. I don’t, but her manner is so personable, so disarming, I want to say that I do.
“Her name has three syllables, but she called herself a name with just one syllable,” she continues. Nope, she only ever called herself Natasha, but I nod encouragingly.
“She is happy and feels well and she loves you. She wants you to be happy, too.” Damn, now I feel the tears well up, despite my reservations about psychics and intention to remain emotionally detached.
Our psychic tells me that she might come back to me later, or rather my child’s spirit might come back to her later, and in the meantime she works the room.
Having read the work of the Skeptics Society, an organization that promotes a “sound scientific viewpoint” in investigating the paranormal, I know the drill: apparently psychics use “cold reading” techniques to get the sitter to reveal information about loved ones, without them being fully aware of it, and “hot readings” in which clandestine research is done before the meeting. Critics have heaped scorn on celebrity psychics, most recently attacking “Long Island Medium” Theresa Caputo, saying that her TV show is expertly edited to showcase her hits and skip her many misses.
Is our medium an imposter motivated by the success of Caputo? At times she is clearly floundering. “I’m getting a Martha coming through. Does anyone know a Martha?” she asks. The audience shrugs, there’s a lingering pause until one woman says that her grandfather’s wife was a Martha. The psychic says that Martha felt unimportant, unnoticed – was that true? In fact the sitter had never met her. On another occasion, the psychic tells us that a Michael with New York connections is coming through … another awkward pause until someone says that he thinks his father, a Michael, lived in New York at one time.
Natasha’s spirit has rejoined us, says our psychic. She is right in front of me doing an art project and playing with her cat. I am smiling in spite of my skepticism. My daughter was a gifted artist, constantly working on a project and like me, she loved cats. “Have you bought tickets to go away for a vacation,” she asks. In fact, I have. Natasha wants you to have a good time. Did she pass away close to the holidays? Yes, she did. My daughter wants the family to enjoy the holidays every year and not grieve during this time, she says. Once again, I am smiling.
As we leave, I catch snatches of conversation from other audience members. One woman is pleased that the psychic accurately described the manner of her husband’s death; another is comforted by her description of a brother who died in an accident. One man who had come to support a female friend has maintained a steady scowl. He had shaken his head in response to her questions: Was he looking at a career change? Had he lost a female relative? When the psychic realized she had picked the wrong target, she left him with a stern warning to “watch your back wheels.”
Some of what was said about Natasha was true. Among the statements that hit a chord: days after she passed we witnessed a double rainbow, the first we’ve ever seen. One bridge (not two) can be viewed from our neighborhood on a clear day. Were these and other correct pronouncements intelligent guesses or did she recall previous conversations about Natasha at another reading attended by the friend (but not by me), who is also accompanying me today? What role did her psychic ability play? Perhaps none at all.
In a recent e-mail exchange between myself and an unnamed someone from the Skeptics Society, I was told that psychics (the “bunkum department”) are dangerous, both psychologically and financially.
At $130, our session was not cheap, but there was no merchandise to pedal or references to upcoming readings. Earlier I had Googled “Are psychics all frauds?” and found an article written by Chris French, a psychologist in London.
“Many self-professed psychics, possibly the majority are sincere in their beliefs that they possess a gift,” he writes. They are probably unintentionally using the cold reading technique to convince both themselves and their sitters that they are tapping into a paranormal source of information. But because it is not being “exploited deliberately and systematically,” readings are “usually unimpressive to anyone except hardcore believers.”
Spirits making their presence felt
Those more impressive readings, French says, are usually the results of con artists, who rely on both hot readings and the more sophisticated cold readings with “clever use of language, careful observation and vague and ambiguous statements that the sitter interprets and remembers as being more specific than they actually were.”
An interesting viewpoint and one that is easier to accept than the take-no-prisoners stance of the Skeptics Society.
Back home that night I recall the psychic’s words about spirits reaching out to their loved ones by making their presence felt. She had told me that I’ve noticed it already and that now I will notice it even more.
How I long to feel the presence of my 12-year-old daughter. But no, I don’t feel her presence, neither before nor after the meeting with the psychic. I feel her absence. Profoundly.