Psychics and Mediums: What Do You Believe?

psychic illustrationThe past two years around Halloween, a group of women from my office gathered together for a psychic party. We headed to one of our houses for the evening, snacks and cocktails in hand, and hired a psychic-medium or two. As the rest of us relaxed and chatted, each of us had a private, 20-minute reading.

Before I get too far, let’s talk about the stereotype of psychic-mediums. You know the one I’m talking about—the woman dressed in a headscarf, wearing lots of jewelry and gazing into a crystal ball. And then there’s the reality TV version i.e. Long Island Medium. So, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into when the psychic showed up to the party that first year. I think several of the other women in the group felt the same way. To our surprise, the woman who walked in looked completely average. She was friendly, down to Earth, and made us all feel comfortable with her light-hearted sense of humor. The same goes for the psychic-mediums we hired for last year’s party. Weird, right? I was half expecting Madame Serena a la Teen Witch.

Once we knew what to expect, our group was able to let go of our collective anxieties and just enjoy our readings. The alcohol and conversation may have helped too. As each woman reconvened with the group following her private session with the psychic, the rest of us listened intently, on the edge of our seats, as she recounted her experience. Some reported goosebump-inducing accuracy that made the hair on my arms stand right up. They claimed that the psychic exposed detailed information about their lives that no stranger could possibly know. For example, in the few years we’ve done this, the psychics have veraciously touched on distinct illnesses, miscarriages, exact ways relatives have passed, nicknames and symbols of loved ones lost, one woman’s previously-unspoken plans to move to a specific new city…the list goes on and on. One girl even reported that, as she walked into the room, the psychic-medium immediately said to her, “I’m sensing lots of twins.” She herself is a twin, and her boyfriend is a twin. The psychic didn’t have our names or any information about us prior to these readings. How would she have known these things?

And then there were the readings that were admittedly far-fetched. Specific deceased relatives were named who did not ring a bell. One woman was asked about her large family of brothers; she has one sister and a small extended family. Another couldn’t piece together anything that the psychic was telling her; none of it made sense.

In the two years that I’ve been participating in these parties, I’ve experienced both a wash reading and a good, precise one. They both began with the psychic portion, the women first talking about my personality. While these descriptions were fairly spot on, they were general enough that they could’ve matched a lot of other people’s personalities too. I wasn’t buying it.

During my first reading, in October 2014, the psychic completely missed the mark on some very important and emotional events that were happening in my family. Instead, she blabbed on about my job, and how I don’t give myself enough credit. She told me that, within 18 months at the most, I’d be working for a huge company. Here I am, two years later, still happily working at the same small company.

After my first, somewhat disappointing reading, I researched the practice of psychic-mediums. I read extensively about cold readings, which is a tactic that psychics use to make you believe what they want you to believe. They ask lots of probing questions and read your body language to gather information. If they ask about your brother, and you say you don’t have one, they quickly move on to your mother or father, for example, to deviate, claiming that they misread the signals. Both psychics let us record our readings, and when I listen back, the first psychic was absolutely using this method. My answers to her many questions fed the reading. So, that, coupled with the research I’d done about cold readings, instinctively made me want to attribute others’ accurate readings to gullibility, or maybe lack of a poker face. But, I knew my co-workers well and couldn’t shake the looks on their faces as they came out of their readings, or the stories they told, like the one about the immediate identification of twins.

And then came my second reading. I went in, ready to prove it was all a bunch of practiced bogus. Instead, that second psychic-medium only managed to muddle my beliefs. She asked questions, but only after bold and emotional assertions. Her directness and accuracy caught me off guard. I won’t talk about specifics here, out of respect for my family, but they were both a little shocking and comforting to me at the same time. Every time I listen back to the recording, I believe in her more and more; I always get goosebumps and teary eyes. Sure, it’s possible that she was well-versed and more talented at the art of cold reading than the first psychic I saw, but everything she said was so on point that I just can’t believe it was made up. The biggest question mark for me is, if not for cold readings, how do psychics do it?

There’s someone I know, who I won’t name, but who I would never peg as a believer in psychic-medium ability. This person is of the Catholic faith, is very practical, and really has his head on his shoulders. And yet, he told me that he and his wife visit the same psychic-medium every year. They believe in this woman so wholeheartedly that, once, he paid her just to talk about what she does, and how she does it. Their psychic told him that, for her, spiritual messages come through music. Based mostly on reactions of her clients, she has taught herself how to interpret the sounds she hears. And, from what this man has told me, her interpretations have been spot on. Of course, what she’s saying may or may not be true, but coming from this man, trust me, it’s at least compelling.

All in all, after my research and two psychic parties, I’m still not convinced about the “psychic” part—the telling someone about their personality, or talking about what might happen in the future—it’s too easy, like a horoscope. Psychics can just make vague claims that, no matter what, every person can find a way to make relevant to herself or her life. The medium part, on the other hand, I want to believe there’s some truth there. Not in a way that’s anti-religious or evil—in fact, quite the opposite. Instead, this belief reinforces the comforting idea of an afterlife. And in my opinion, those who go through life believing there is more to come beyond our Earthly beings are the ones who win in the end.

What do you believe? Would you ever get a psychic or medium reading? If you’ve had one before, what’d you think? I’d love to hear about your experiences, too!

{Illustration by Allison Myers for tracing paper}