Crossposted at NoSleep here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/706q32/not_all_psychics_are_frauds/
Not All Psychics Are Frauds
By Jasper DeWitt
Last year, I went to see a psychic for the first and last time. It might have been the worst way to spend my money I’ve ever encountered.
Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Psychics are frauds! They just tell you what you want to hear and then bleed you for money! What did you expect?” You probably think I got some bullshit cold reading disguised as the whisperings of fate, only to be told that my aura was irrevocably unclean and that for just one small payment of $1000, it could be completely cured. After all, that’s what con artists do, right?
Well, that’s just the thing. This wasn’t a waste of money because the psychic was a fraud. This was a waste of money because…well, just listen and you’ll understand.
The whole thing started when I was walking back from the subway after work. Due to a rather unpleasant financial necessity, my apartment building is about two miles’ walk from that station, and I don’t have a car, so walking home takes between 40 minutes and an hour most of the time. To me, this is usually an annoyance because it takes away time that I could be curled up in my apartment with a good book and a glass of wine, but on the bright side, my neighborhood is actually very pretty and quaint, so at least the walk is nice to look at. All the same, normally, I don’t pay much attention to shops or restaurants on the way. They just sort of blend into the scenery.
But that day was…different. Because that day, I noticed the rundown old psychic shop with a cheap neon light shaped like an eye over its door for maybe the first time ever, and I’m sorry to say, I decided to go in. What’s doubly infuriating is that I’m really not sure why I noticed the place at all, let alone entered it. Maybe it was because it had been an unusually slow day at work, so my mind didn’t have as much to be preoccupied about, or maybe it was because the weather was so nice. Or, more likely, it was just the fact that the shop’s owner had decided to put out a big fat sign advertising 50 percent off Palm and Tarot readings. Whatever the reason, I made one of the worst decisions of my life and stepped over the threshold.
The shop’s bell dinged in a dull, tuneless way as soon as I was inside, and even though the shop was up a flight of stairs, the rank smell of incense mixed with old fast food was still strong enough to hit my nose. I very nearly turned around and walked out right then. However, as I was in the act of leaving, a squat, sour looking, middle-aged woman of indecipherable ethnicity came waddling down the raggedy carpeted stairs. As soon as she saw me, her face split into a poor attempt at a welcoming smile whose insincerity was only compounded by the multiple gold teeth that dotted it.
“Hello, sweetie!” she cooed in a faux-soothing voice that made my eyes nearly roll out of my skull. “Can I help you?”
“Um…” I began as I mentally winced from how awkward this whole thing was. “Um, I saw the sign outside…?”
“Oh, yes!” said the woman, bustling over to me and taking me by the hand. “And what sort of reading were you looking for today? Palm is $10 and Tarot is $25.”
“Oh, I don’t think…um…that is…thank you, but I’d better go.”
“Nonsense!” she said, seizing my hand in a surprisingly strong grip. “Something in the energies brought you into my shop today. I can feel it. I’ll tell you what, dear, why don’t I just give you both readings for a round $30? I don’t do that for just anyone, but you seem like someone really special.”
It was one of the more hamfisted sales pitches I’d ever encountered. But, I’ll admit, I’ve always been a sucker for new experiences, and shelling out $30 just meant I’d have to skip one drunken happy hour that week. So I said yes. The woman beamed, or rather, her mouth split wider, since I’m not sure her face was really built for the whole “smiling” thing.
“Excellent, come on up with me!” she said cheerily.
And with that, I found myself being hurried up the stairs into the foul-smelling shop. However, I didn’t get much of a chance to look at the dust collecting manuals on Reiki Healing, or the giant charts showing different Chakras, or the multiple plastic vats of different colored crystals contained therein because the woman had hastily shepherded me into a side room where the smell of incense was so overpowering that it completely drowned out everything else. There, I was unceremoniously dumped into a moth-eaten floral armchair next to a small, rickety wooden table. The woman took a seat across from me and reached out her hand.
“Now, first of all, what is your name?” she asked.
“Hello Emily, my name is Josie,” she said. “Now, may I see your palm?”
Admittedly, I have no room for comparison, but I’m pretty sure that what followed was substandard even for hoax palm readings. A fortune cookie would have been more informative about the future, and a self-help book written by a homeless person probably would’ve offered more useful advice. But the sheer uselessness of the information gleaned from the reading isn’t the only reason I pass over it. I pass over it because the really relevant stuff only happened when Josie pulled out her worn Tarot deck.
If the palm reading had been laughably un-specific, then the Tarot reading was bewilderingly specific, albeit mostly in unverifiable ways. For instance, I was told to watch for a man five years my senior whose name began with M, because he could very well end up as my soulmate. Further, I was told that the month of November would be a period of great turmoil for me, though in retrospect, given this happened during 2016, this was actually a pretty solid prediction for me and millions of others.
And then there was the weirdest prediction of all, which emerged when Josie flipped over the Ten of Swords midway through the reading, and from which this whole story begins. When the card appeared, Josie grabbed my arm and stared deeply into my eyes.
“Beware the man in the red brick house with the blue door on Winston Drive,” she intoned solemnly.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little creeped out by this sudden change in her aspect, not least of all because she held my gaze for a good ten seconds after she said it without blinking. Then, as if nothing had happened, she flipped up more cards and kept going with her mix of vague mumbo-jumbo and oddly specific yet still unfalsifiable predictions.
Once she’d finished with an all-too-convenient assurance that my life would have many great changes in just a short time, I expected her to try to upsell me on something else. After all, I’d heard stories from friends who’d seen psychics about how they would use things like palm and tarot readings as an excuse to try to sell you even more pointless bullshit. But, to my surprise, nothing like that happened.
Instead, Josie simply stood up and asked if I’d be paying by cash or credit card. I said credit card, and she asked if she could have my driver’s license along with the card because it was store policy to check IDs whenever credit purchases were made. I dutifully handed over both my card and my license, and after checking over both, she swiped my card, handed me my receipt and thanked me for coming in, adding that of course I should feel free to contact her and return anytime I liked. To be honest, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I found the whole thing disappointing.
Now, you’re probably wondering at this point why this awkward but otherwise completely forgettable experience is something I regret so much. I admit, it doesn’t sound like much. But just wait.
So just over two weeks after my encounter with the psychic whose powers I thought were an obvious hoax, I ended up bar hopping with some friends from work on the weekend. And as it happens, all of us lived around the same suburb so, logically, we started there. Given how much we drank, and how little of that was water, it’s probably surprising that I remember the evening at all. But some things even a totally drunken mind apparently can’t forget.
Anyway, around 4 AM, we finally decided to go home. And because the last bar we’d visited was about a half hours’ walking distance from my building, I decided to just make the trek rather than spring for an Uber or a Lyft. In retrospect, this was a horrible idea, but given that I was very drunk, that my neighborhood had a reputation for safety, and that the night was at just that perfect temperature you get midway between Summer and Fall, I like to think it was at least understandable. And perhaps I’d have got out of it unscathed had it not been for the particular route that Google Maps told me to take when getting home.
You can probably guess where that route went, and you’re right. Ten minutes or so after I’d started walking, I was instructed by my phone in the chipper Uncanny Valley-esque tones of my GPS to “turn right on Winston Drive.” Now, as I’ve said, the experience with Josie the Shitty Psychic was entirely forgettable, so normally, I would’ve done just that: forgotten it. But somehow, in that oppressive pre-dawn darkness, with a cool pre-autumn breeze blowing around my ankles, the eerie remembrance of her staring into my eyes and telling me to beware the man in the red brick house with the blue door on Winston Drive came flooding back.
If I’d been even slightly soberer, that memory would’ve spooked me. But, with Vodka/Red Bull number umpteen rushing through my veins, I just thought it was hilarious. The bitch had bilked me out of $30, after all. Fuck her! Here I was on the very street she had mentioned, and dammit, I was going to prove conclusively that one of her “predictions” had been a joke. And then I’d leave a Yelp review to prove it. Ha. Ha. Ha!
God, drunk me is stupid. Nevertheless, in that moment, it seemed like the best idea ever. All I had to do was find a red brick house with a blue door and survive the encounter, and the proof would be right there, plain as ink. So, with all the purpose that a drunk white girl can muster, I turned down Winston Drive and started walking straight down it. Or at least, it felt straight. I’m pretty sure in retrospect it was sinusoidal.
Anyway, I know you’re probably thinking that even given that I’d found Winston Drive, Josie’s clue wasn’t particularly helpful. After all, red brick houses with blue doors aren’t exactly rare architectural wonders. And you’d be right, except that somehow, when it came to this section of Winston Drive, they actually were. Oh, sure, most of the houses were red brick, but I guess most of the inhabitants of Winston Drive must’ve been too aware of how the colors would clash to paint their doors blue. White? Sure. Black? You bet. Grey? No doubt. But blue was nowhere to be seen.
That is, until I got within just a few blocks of where Google Maps was telling me to turn again, and there it was: a quaint looking little two story red brick house with a door painted a color that, even in the dim light of the street lamps, I could tell was a vivid shade of blue.
By this point, the alcohol had started to wear off slightly, so I’m glad to say I didn’t waltz up and ring the doorbell like an idiot, as I’d considered doing a few blocks and about two hundred weaving steps back. And no, I didn’t avoid this out of some sense of consideration for sleeping residents, because – and this should’ve been my first sign that something was wrong – the lights in the house were still on despite its being past 4 in the morning. In fact, even still being about 80% more drunk than I should’ve been, the sight of those lights still winking out of the windows in an entire blacked out street, combined with the now much more urgent seeming warning from Josie the Bad Psychic, suddenly made me very wary. In fact, while the wind had picked up and the night had begun to turn more chilly than pleasant as a result, I’m pretty sure the shudder that ran down my spine looking up at that house had nothing to do with the weather.
I was about to turn away and walk much more quickly away from the place when a sudden flurry of movement in one of the basement windows caught my eye. It was only a shadow, but to my eyes it had looked – somehow – like someone’s hand clawing at the glass from the inside. Now both genuinely creeped out and transfixed, I stared at the house for a good ten seconds, waiting to see if something else would happen.
It only took eight for the Thing to happen. With an audible smack, the unmistakable outline of a woman’s body emerged from behind the wall at the left side of the window, and began clawing at it, trying desperately to get it to move. The light was behind the woman, and I was standing a good 20 or so feet away, but what I could make out of her features at that distance was bone chilling. The most horrible, pleading expression of raw animal terror had twisted her face, and her eyes bulged like a deer when it’s trapped in the jaws of a wolf. For just a few seconds, she kept scratching and clawing at the window, trying to tear it upwards with effort that I sensed was probably breaking her fingernails.
Then, she saw me. And when she saw me, she screamed. Not that I could hear it, but the shape her mouth made forbade any other interpretation. And as she screamed, my brain, now suddenly feeling as stone cold sober as if I’d drunk an entire tank of coffee, registered that she was mouthing a word: “Help.” But she wasn’t able to get out many repetitions of the word before a huge, muscled hand appeared from the other side of the window and yanked her backwards from it by the hair.
At that moment, I made perhaps the worst decision of that night: I screamed, too. It was reflexive, and I clapped my hands over my mouth almost immediately after it happened, but the sound was so high and keening that anyone could’ve heard it. And someone did, because a fraction of a second later, the hulking outline of a man appeared at the window. He must’ve seen me, because he vanished only a moment later. I was still frozen in shock, and didn’t quite know what to do. Until I heard the sound of that blue door scraping outward, and saw the huge, beefy hand pushing it.
That snapped me out of my stupor immediately, and I ran. I ran desperately, like a hunted animal, not pausing to look back or listen. Worse than this was that I didn’t need to look back or listen. Within just a few seconds of my sprint, I heard the ragged, angry, grunting sounds of breath being drawn behind me, and the heavy footfalls of someone unimaginably bigger, stronger, and more malevolent than I could ever be implacably catching up. I quickened my pace and ran down any street I could, but it seemed to do no good. Slowly but surely, those feet seemed to only get desperately closer.
Then, a sweaty, grasping paw of a hand swiped my hair and I panicked. I screamed like a banshee, with a volume and pitch so high that it should’ve broken every window in every house around me. And even if that sound may or may not have reached the ears of the residents of those houses in time, it reached an audience far more attentive and in the moment, far more helpful. All at once, the silence of the entire neighborhood around me was shattered by the barking and howling of dogs, and with it, the blessed sight of lights in windows popping into life like Christmas lights draped across the sky. I heard the sound of swearing from a deep, oily, rasping voice, and suddenly the oppressive sense of proximity from the creature behind me, and the dreadful pursuing footfalls stopped. But I didn’t. I ran all the way home, and as soon as I’d slammed my apartment door shut and locked the door every way I could, I called the cops and told them what had happened and what I’d seen and experienced. To their credit, despite the early hour, they responded immediately.
I suppose you can guess at what they found in the red brick house with the blue door on Winston Drive: clothes, jewelry, and the bodies of numerous unfortunate women, as well as one terribly frightened, and horribly physically abused live woman. She told them that the man in the house had kept her captive and, between raping her, had branded her every night with an iron shaped like a sword. There were three such scars on her when they found her, but on each of the corpses, there was one consistent number: ten. Just like the card Josie had seen when she warned me about the man. And no, by the way, they haven’t found him yet, which is a fact that gives me nightmares more than anything else that has ever happened to me.
Now, you might think that this experience convinced me that Josie had a genuine gift, despite her apparent inability in most areas as a psychic. But it hasn’t, and it hasn’t because of a very simple fact.
You see, the driver’s license I’d shown Josie when I paid her with my credit card, while it was still current, had been issued a few years back. In fact, it had been issued when I lived in the same city, but at a different address. I mention this only because when the police called me in for questioning and I told them about what had happened with Josie, they asked to see my driver’s license as well. At first, I didn’t understand when the officer’s face went the color of stale oatmeal upon seeing it. But then, he told me the other thing that haunts me to this day: my address was the exact one that the girl they’d rescued was living at before she was kidnapped.
They haven’t found Josie yet either. But they raided her shop the next day, and found an entire ledger of stolen credit cards, driver’s licenses and social security numbers stashed in the very backroom where she’d done my readings. All were eventually traced to the victims discovered in the red brick house with the blue door on Winston Drive.
So now you understand why, despite what seems like clear evidence of a genuine psychic, I’m never going back to see any of the breed again. Because it’s true that not all psychics are frauds. But some are something much, much worse.