Of all the weird things I've written, the one where I asked psychics to connect with my non-existent dead sister provoked the strongest reactions. While I received some supportive messages, a lot of people also decided I was a horrible person, my favourite being the woman who sent me a 436-word rant about how "your heart mind [sic] is closed and your intentions are impure and your eye are blind and your ears are deaf."
I think I'm doing OK for being blind and deaf with impure intentions, but it hurts when someone says my heart mind is closed. Also, as I was researching my original story, I realized there was a lot more to the psychic world than talking to the dearly departed—there are an astounding number of methods for tapping into the past, present, and future via natural talents, cards, pendulums, and other props, for example. Since I'd only seen a narrow slice of the psychic profession, I was curious to experience more of it first-hand. Would other psychics be as janky as the four I went to last time? Are some parts of the psychic world more legit than others? What's a psychic channelling, anyway?
Conveniently enough, the annual GTA Psychic Fair, a three-day event celebrating all things metaphysical and otherworldly at the International Centre in Mississauga, was right around the corner. The centre also happened to be hosting an antique car show and Croc warehouse sale when I went on Halloween Day but I waltzed passed those to Hall 6, where I shelled out a $15 entrance fee in hopes of broadening my psychic horizons.
One psychic who "connected" with my sister for that original article said she'd warn every psychic in Toronto about me. Either she has a stunted professional network or belongs to the forgive-and-forget camp, because I gained entry and strolled amongst dozens psychics for hours without being hassled.
As I did my first round of the tables, about three-quarters of which were occupied, I was bombarded with pamphlets offering everything from psychic surgery to all-natural, non-cancer-causing deodorant. Posters were tacked to the backs of the empty booths and covered topics like alien abduction (symptoms include memory loss and sperm extraction) and the powers of crystal skulls. The few dozen people in the crowd seemed to be primarily middle-aged women, but the psychics were a fairly even split gender-wise, and I was surprised at how many accepted credit card payments. Everyone had qualifications that ranged from being born with a veil of skin over their eyes to certificates from schools across the continent. Everyone was probably violating copyright law when it came to the graphics and photos on their banners.
Unsure where to start, I attended a talk on on how to pick a psychic. The half-hour was mostly occupied by a woman with an irritating, nasal voice asking the speaker how to tell dead relatives beaming advice into her head from her own thoughts, but I managed to glean that the best psychic for me would be someone I had a good connection with.
I decided I had a decent connection with the guy at the front offering a future, biorhythms, palm analysis, love scope, and tarot package for $10. Not only was it the cheapest thing available, but it also incorporated technology—by scanning my right hand and inputting my name and birthday into his computer, the man could cross-reference my details with a database of readings made by hundreds of psychics and spit out readings. It told me, amongst other things: I should guard against being distant in my relationships; that I'm "often lured to faraway places" (I have a pretty bad case of wanderlust, I guess); that I "can be fetishy or kinky" (sure); and that there will be failure in my future (well, shit) but a high chance of recovery (phew). Although some points seemed to align with my life, the statements and predictions seemed vague enough that could probably apply to anyone. The package was entertaining, but not exactly life-changing. Though I'd probably do it again in the future for shits and giggles.
Time for another talk—this one was on spirit guides, where I learned that dead people are literally everywhere watching us all the time, even when we're on the toilet or fucking.
Back to wandering. At one table, a steady stream of people forked over $40 for aura photos. Auras look oddly like multicolour smears drawn around someone's face in Microsoft Paint. I opted for a $15 palm reading done by "the world's oldest machine" instead and got a map of my hand and a reading ("valid for a period of approximatly [sic] 3 months") printed on continuous form paper. A disclaimer at the top warned that "the science of Palmistry is arbitrary," but I'm tentatively excited—highlights include "a big business deal is about to unfold...to your advantage $$$$$" and making "marvelous new contacts." I'll also apparently be hit by a wave of dick and/or pussy soon, because "your sexually energy is mounting and romance is about to bloom again in your life" and I can "allow sexuality to the maximum."
The reading also said I'm an "astute wheeler dealer." Not sure what that means. Same deal with the first package though—highly entertaining, but nothing that blew me away.
Enough with the machines, though—it was time for some human interaction. Most people were charging between $60 to $95 for 30-minute sessions, but I found a woman offering psychic channellings for $20. Psychic channelling, the man fielding the crowd explained, didn't look into the future—it focused on the present and what you needed to know. Sounded good.
I put my name on the waitlist, then did another round of tables and read a poster about the links between the Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy assassinations. When I came back, I took a seat across from an affable middle-aged woman and she ran over what was about to happen: She would connect to "The Council," an otherworldly group with supreme knowledge and insight, and I'd get to ask one question.
The channelling began. She sat eyes closed and silent for a few minutes, pursing her lips and exhaling sharply. When she spoke, the words came out slowly, devoid of emotion and in cryptic sentences—long story short, I have a bright future and a lot of good challenges ahead. About 15 minutes in, I was prompted to ask my question. I asked what challenge I should focus on. The Council said on making a choice about what path to follow.
The woman's eyes suddenly popped open and she began speaking in her normal, peppy voice. The Council had shown her a vision of me standing in front of a map of the world, but with North America crossed out—a sign that perhaps I should be, or want to be, somewhere else. The Council added that even though I followed a line of education didn't mean I couldn't or shouldn't try out a new path.
This was my first "oh shit" moment of the day, because I'd been thinking over what I want to do with my life and boiled it down to two options—continuing pursuing journalism in Toronto, which I've been grinding at since starting university in 2011, or, moving to Japan to teach English.
Did she mention travel and adventure because, really, who in their 20s doesn't want those things? Or is there really something to The Council? I have to admit, being told I should be grateful that I'm in a position to be making choices, and to be choosing between two good options at that, was comforting. I could understand why people do channellings—at the very least, it's a mini therapy session that leaves you with some peace and clarity of mind.
I strolled around the tables for the millionth time. A poster with three photos on it informed me that what looked like dust specks lit up by camera flash were, in fact, ghosts.
Further on, a sign offering a rune casting readings caught my eye—that, and the guy wearing a conical wooden hat and a cape sitting behind the table. I wasn't sure if it was for Halloween or his normal garb, but the scene reminded of my preteen love for RuneScape and that was enough of a good connection for me.
I sat down across from Cape Man. He shuffled what looked like a deck of oversized YuGiOh cards, then made three piles of two cards each. The runes were in the corners of each card while vividly-coloured drawings of fantasy creatures and settings sprawled across the faces—fire-breathing dragons, armour-clad men drinking in a firelit homestead, green fairies with giant tits, that sort of thing.
He did this twice, with both casting reading about the same. The first pile was my past, and it looked rough—a death in the family or financial problems, perhaps? (Nope.)
Next, my present: I'm cautious as a result of my past, but the lessons I've learned will benefit me (I hope so). My love life is pretty dead at the moment (true), but it's because I feel like there isn't anyone good enough (maybe?). I should open up to the romantic options available and take chances I'd normally brush off (cute friends, holla at me).
Finally, my future: Like both machine readings earlier, this one said my finances are set to improve, and I'll also be travelling with a friend. In a bit of a downer, I won't find a soulmate anytime soon but I'll still be happy with my romantic life.
I also got to ask the runes a question and went with Japan vs. journalism thing, although I just said I was contemplating two career paths. Cape Man laid out two rows of cards, told me to assign a path to each row and then started interpreting, which is when I got my second "oh shit" moment of the day.
Path 1, which I assigned to Japan, would be an excellent financial move, will put me in a position of power and make me an adult. Path 2, journalism, won't work out so well financially and I'll feel like a child, but I won't be a "corporate stooge." Loosely accurate on both counts, I guess. Rune casting seemed to fall between the machine readings and psychic channelling - gets you thinking a bit, but leaning more towards machines when it comes to accuracy and entertainment value.
But the weirdest part, and what broke me that day, happened as I was getting up to leave. Cape Man asked if I was "gifted." I said I didn't think so. He said that I am, in fact, an empath—someone who can pick up on and channel other people's emotions, energies and physical feelings. He could tell because empaths are like the "red-head children of the psychic world" and encouraged me to develop my gift by looking up stuff online.
Up until then, I could deal with whatever the fair had thrown at me. Fortune-telling machines, talking to angels and dead people, wish-granting rocks, getting probed by aliens? Fine. And I'd found all of the one-on-one experiences I had at least a little enjoyable and insightful, even.
But after being called impure, a trickster, and an otherwise awful human being after writing about how psychics lied to me, I've been a goddamn psychic this whole time? I've had powers I don't really believe in all along, while believers gave me shit for not opening my heart enough? Is this karma? Some sort of sick cosmic joke, a form of divine retribution? What do I do now?
It was too much. Mind overloaded, energy drained, and wallet emptied, I made a beeline for the exit.
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