I’ve been extraordinarily busy of late with a fun yet time-consuming new job, so I heartily apologize for the lack of posting. To make up for it, please enjoy this awesome investigative article by a very clever and dedicated skepchick. The company referenced is lobbying to have the article removed, so Karen, the author, is encouraging us to spread it around the World Wide Intertubes. I was going to post it in full but realized that would completely take over the front page, so here’s an exerpt and a link. Enjoy!
The Psychic Skeptic
by Karen Stollznow
A psychic can claim to be â€˜skepticalâ€™, but can a skeptic be psychic?
Is psychic ability in the eye of the beholder?
These questions arose when I stumbled across a job opportunity for psychics, advertised at careerone.com.au. Job sharing, casual work and second, even third jobs are necessary evils in todayâ€™s world. Some replenish stock in supermarkets at night, others telemarket or work behind a bar. Only the very few can earn a few extra dollars as a psychic. That would require a specific skill, wouldnâ€™t it? But what kind of skill? Real psychic ability or cold/warm/hot reading skills and a glib manner?
The job advertisement was a call from an â€œethical psychic network in the US, as seen on TVâ€, seeking psychics and tarot readers (â€œpros onlyâ€) to work from home for chat room, telephone and email readings. Absolutely Psychic is operated by ACM Entertainment, a company whose very name suggests the solemnity with which we should view the entire industry.
The company recruits “psychic associates” online, advertising in chat rooms, on mailing lists and job boards, seeking staff from as far away as New Zealand and the UK. Interested parties were urged to submit an application via an online form. Professing no psychic or indeed any paranormal abilities whatsoever, I wondered how far I could infiltrate until I would be revealed to be a skeptic posing as a psychic.
The telephone psychic industry emerged in Australia during the early 1990â€™s with the advent of ‘0055 numbers’. This incited a trend generating thousands of hotlines. Simon Turnbullâ€™s Australian Psychic Association estimates that there are some 3000 services currently in existence. Psychic hotlines have evolved into a multi-million dollar industry. From its inception, the industry was completely unregulated (see Operation Termite, The Skeptic, Vol. 4, No. 4). Today, nothing has changed. Anyone can establish a telephone psychic business or indeed any psychic venture… but can anyone be a ‘psychic’?
Absolutely Psychicâ€™s standards are extremely high, if they do say so themselves. â€œOur clients immediately notice that all readers are carefully handpicked. We are very â€˜pickyâ€™, and we’re proud of it! Unfortunately, 94.3% of most applications are turned away. Ask around, weâ€™re not kidding!â€ Surely I had no chance of infiltrating the ranks. Why, even if I did purport to have psychic abilities, they only accept 5.7% of applicants! As they repeatedly claimed, â€œWe staff ONLY THE BEST PSYCHICS.â€
The criteria became even more stringent. â€œWe are only interested in readers with actual reading experience. Actual reading experience is defined as professionals that have experience giving readings to clients either via a Professional Psychic Network or private practice. Professional reading experience is NOT defined as experience giving a once in a blue moon free reading to a friend or family member. Professional experience is not defined as having a deck of tarot cards laying around somewhere. Though interests do lead to growth, please, only contact us when you have attained growth.â€ There are a number of talented cold readers around, but with no magic skills or reading experience, professional nor amateur; I am no Ian Rowland or Derren Brown. I would be relying upon a credible demeanour, but surely a â€˜professionalâ€™ would know the difference?
The application would be a rigorous four-stage selection process of testing. Besides psychic ability, the only other requirement was a typing speed of 30 wpm. Firstly, the online application form would sort the wheat from the chaff. Then would follow an email reading test. Then a fifteen minute online chat room reading test. Finally, success at all of the previous levels would lead to a gruelling ten minute telephone test. The assessment procedure would be a psychic survival of the fittest.