Reading The Cards Or Your Expression?
After coming down with a case of paranormal paranoia, one writer puts
a Tarot-card reading to the test.
They call themselves clairvoyants, fortune tellers, and psychics. But do these people really have the ability to predict one’s future or know detailed aspects of one’s private life? I decided to find out by going to have a reading with the nearest medium, Francine Tesler, who peddles her psychic wares at Pete’s Saloon in Elmsford every Tuesday. Tesler’s brochure states that she is “the psychic for people who don’t usually go to psychics.” Perfect. I’m one of those people.
For $40 and my John Hancock, I was given about 30 minutes with Tesler. After shuffling and cutting the deck of her Tarot cards, Tesler began. The first thing she told me was that I have a “very young body,” but my soul is, she said, “extremely old.” I just graduated college so I could hardly be mistaken for an old man, but, hey, I don’t know the age of my soul… I am, she told me next, extremely gifted in the art of multi-tasking and have a good gut instinct. Trust it, she advised; my first reaction, she said, is right more times than not. Gee, that made me feel good—and all I did was give her two crisp Andrew Jacksons.
Without my telling her where I work or what I do, she said she saw me in media and that I should apply to Westchester Magazine. Wow! That’s amazing, I thought. I studied journalism in college and today am Westchester Magazine’s fact-checker and
researcher. “Yes,” I said. “I can see myself doing that as well.”
Next subject: the girl I am going to marry. “A dirty-blonde-haired girl” Tesler predicted, “or a short girl with dark hair.” Okay. The expression, “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” really seemed to apply to this proclamation.
Then, it was back to my career path. “You would make a good lawyer. Have you ever considered this?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Perhaps you should consider acting.” Dumbfounded, I said, “I guess that would be cool.”
“But I also see you in the club or restaurant scene,” she said. What about computer programming, I wondered, or social work or neuroscience?
Next subject to crack: my family. My mother, she told me, was pregnant once (strike one), three times (strike two), or six times (strike three). My mother stopped at four—and, no, she did not have any miscarriages.
She asked about my siblings. “I have three brothers, two older and one younger.”
“Your older brother,” Tesler declared, “has a distinct voice.” Really? Gee, I never noticed but, hey, he’s my brother. “I can see him in politics,” she said. Politics? Um, my brother is a store manager for a ShopRite.
Then, “I see your father owning his own business.” Not quite. “Well, he might not own one, but he would be very good at it if he did.” Good catch. She also said my dad is strongly regimented, with a particular strength in finances. Interestingly, my father is an auditor and gets a kick out of balancing his checkbook.
How did she get that right? How did she get anything right? I called magician-turned-skeptic James Randi, formerly “The Amazing Randi,” to find out. He said what Tesler did to find out about me is called “cold reading,” a technique used by fortune tellers to elicit answers from clients on the down low. “They tell the subjects nothing, but make guesses, put out suggestions, and ask questions,” Randi said. “Based on the person’s body language, responses, or facial expressions, they can pick up if they are accurate or not. Most of the time, they are off. They ignore all the misses and amplify the right guesses. The teller will wait for feedback. That is the mistake people make: they do not realize that they are the ones actually supplying the information.”
Besides, Randi points out, just consider the Tarot cards. “Does it mean that if you shuffle again, the cards are going to come out exactly the same way? And if they don’t, does that mean your fortune changes within a matter of minutes?” Randi and his foundation have a standing offer of $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of supernatural or paranormal powers. To date, no one has claimed the prize—not even Tesler.
Still, I have my eye out for a dirty-blonde-haired girl.