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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 West!

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 Casting."

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 call."

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 a week.

"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 minimum wage!"

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.

Another phone psychic responds to this article.

Areal psychic reveals how to be your own psychic!

And a tabloid reporter turned psychic

Read more about phony psychics in The Naked Quack.

Copyright 2002 by


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