TELEPHONE PSYCHICS EXPOSED: MANY
ARE UNEMPLOYED ACTORS!
by Hank Willow, staff reporter.
[August 19, 2002]
Psychic phone hotlines are ripping off millions of honest hard-working
Americans every year by staffing their lines with phony "psychics" who
are untrained, poorly screened -- and may not even have any psychic powers!
Even more shocking, many phone "psychics" are unemployed actors hired off
the street through ads placed in acting trade papers such as BackStage
That's the startling bombshell
revelation of a former telephone psychic in an exclusive interview with the Weekly Universe!
Now, as then, an unknown
actor living in Los Angeles, he says he was hired as a phone psychic in
May of 1996. "I was looking for work in the classified section of
BackStage West. I saw an ad for psychics. I'm not psychic,
but the ad said I could earn up to $15 an hour, no experience necessary. So I called, and they invited me for an interview."
The interview was on the
tenth floor of a nondescript office building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly
Hills. "It was one of those modern offices that looks like they just
moved in, and might soon leave. Sparse, like a telemarketing or boiler
room outfit. They had me fill out an application, so I listed my
acting jobs and gave them my headshot. Why not? They'd advertised
in an actor's paper."
Shockingly, the actor did
not claim to have psychic abilities. Even so, he was passed through
for an interview. "The place, and everyone in it, looked like what
you'd expect. The interviewer was a fiftyish guy, shirt unbuttoned
to his waist, gold chains on a hairy chest. He looked and sounded
Israeli. Short, but muscular. Fair, but vaguely Mediterranean.
"He was the only guy in the
place. Everyone else was a young woman of color. Mainly Latinas,
but also one or two blacks. The receptionist had really long fingernails
with multi-colored, sparkly nail polish. The whole place look like
it was created by Central
Central Casting casts film
and TV extras, and has employed this actor in the past.
The interviewer's "test"
consisted of a single hypothetical question, and seemed to focus more on
the actor's phone manner than on any psychic abilities. The actor
no longer remembers the question, or the answer he invented on the spot.
"I'd brought a deck of tarot cards -- along with the instruction book. I'm no expert. But I guess my answer was acceptable, because he began
to explain the job. He told me not to give any legal or medical advice,
and not to predict horrible things, like death or disease. And he
told me to try and keep them on line for at least twenty minutes."
There were no phone cubicles. The actor was expected to work from home. He was instructed to call
and "log in" at certain hours, then wait on line until a caller came on. He was also required to buy a headset -- the company did not provide one.
"I bought one at Radio Shack, but it broke, so I returned it. After
that, I just used my phone. I don't know why a headset was 'required.' No one ever found out I wasn't using one."
Although the actor called
in from his phone, toll charges were paid for by the company.
Before logging on, the actor
would light a candle and lay out a deck of tarot cards, all to get "into
the role" of a psychic. "I'd taken four months of method acting a
few years earlier. I thought, even if I'm not psychic, maybe if I
felt the part, I could do the job. It's all acting, isn't it?"
Yet despite his candle and
tarot cards, the actor admits he wasn't a very good psychic. "I think
I lucked out with about 40% of the callers. That's how many didn't
hang up in disgust or exasperation.
"One woman called me about two
o'clock in the morning to ask about her boyfriend, who'd just dropped her
off at home. She sounded depressed. My cards looked bad, so
I told her the relationship looked bad. She sounded real sad, so
I apologized. She said it was okay, she'd already thought it was
over with her boyfriend, but just needed it confirmed. I wished her
luck, she thanked me, and that was that. That was my most successful
Amazingly, every caller --
without exception! -- was female. Callers ranged across the ages,
from young teens to older adults -- but always female.
"I had groups of
teenage girls calling, giggling and asking silly questions. I had
a surly woman call from her office, telling me she was bored with her job
and wanted to know if things were gonna change. I should have told
her: Don't expect any promotions while you're wasting the company's time
and money on psychic hotlines. Instead, I fumbled around for correct
answers to her questions. So she hung up in disgust.
"I had a lot of hang-ups. Like I said, I wasn't very good.
"I had this one distraught
caller. She'd just graduated high school, and had enlisted in the
Army. She was due to report in a few weeks, but she didn't want to. The Army said it was too late, she couldn't back out now. She was
hysterical, real desperate. I guess calling a psychic hotline was
her last ditch effort. After a long while going in circles with her
problem, she hung up. I can't say I gave her any solutions. She was near tears when she hung up. But I'd kept her talking a while. That was my job."
Why did only females call? "I guess if you're gonna waste money by paying to talk to a stranger on
the phone, guys prefer sex to psychics."
Astonishingly, despite his
poor psychic track record, the actor was never fired. Instead,
he quit after three weeks because he was only earning ten to fifteen dollars
"I'd log in, then sit online for shifts of two to three hours
of nothing. Dead air. No callers. Which s*cked, because
I only got paid for time talking to a caller. Technically, I was
getting $15 an hour -- but on some shifts, I might get ten minutes of calls. So I'd get a few dollars for three hours of sitting on the phone -- below
This is legal because the
"psychics" worked from their homes, and are free to do as they please between calls. "I guess that's why they told me to get a headset. But all I did was sit with a receiver cradled in my neck, my candle burning
nearby. And I read a lot."
Even more amazingly, which
psychic hotline he worked for remains a mystery. "One of the psychic
lines, obviously. I don't know which. The BackStage ad didn't
name them. The paycheck came from Integrated Information Network,
of Beverly Hills. They probably run a lot of phone lines."
A 1997 article from the Boulder
County Business Report, "Psychics Close Up Local Shop," indicates the
above actor may have been working for the American Astro Psychic Network.
Hank Willow is a Los Angeles based tabloid reporter who has extensively investigated Hollywood scams against actors. Read more about his journalism in Hollywood Witches
Copyright 2002 by WeeklyUniverse.com
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