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Confessions of an Ex-Phone Psychic (Part 2 of 2)

Posted 20 August 2003, 4.50 am by VanGogh

Note: This is the second half of a story I started telling on August 9th, 2003. If you haven't already, you really should read part one first. Scroll down to find it.

I can still remember my very first call. A soft voiced lady with a southern accent. She quietly answered the mandatory questions about name, address and e-mail address, and obediently wrote down the 1-900 number and my personal extension. With tarot deck in hand, I asked her what she wanted to talk about. Without hesitation, she asked me to look into the cards and see what her husband's reaction would be if she shared her secret with him. Not quite settled into the whole “I’m a magical psychic” role yet, I asked her what her secret was. She answered, “I used to be a man.”

Yeah, this job was going to be special.

On average, I’d work the lines for four or five hours a day. Even so, I wasn’t always making money. Fact is, unless I was actually on the line talking to someone, I didn’t make a cent. When I was on, I’d make anywhere between 20 and 23 cents a minute, depending on when I was signed on, and how heavy traffic was. For the mathematically challenged, that means I was making between $12 and $14 for every hour I spent talking. Not bad money really, especially when you take into consideration that I was often sitting around in my pajamas while doing it. On the other hand, if you consider what the network was making on that same hour of talk time, what they paid me was something of a minor crime. After all, an hour of call time grossed them $299.40 . I assume operating costs ate into that figure a bit, but somehow I don’t think Ms. Cleo or her gang were ever in fear of living the poor life.

Still, I was paid to wheel and deal the tarot cards, and that is what I did. In the beginning I relied on the cards a lot. I don’t know who wrote the text for the cards, but they should be crowned ‘King of Hot Air’. Never has so much been written without actually stating anything. I’ve always been a smooth talker, what they call a ‘Closer’ in sales circles. But bullshitting gets a bit trickier when the caller wants an answer without telling you what the question is. Instead of wasting time making up things to say to the caller, and then hoping I was close, I just delivered the information on the cards, and focused my energies on reading the persons voice to see if I was hot or cold. Reading the voice was the real trick of it all. I learned that on the first day.

More times than not, people will tell you everything you need to know about their lives with nothing more than the sound of their voice. Don’t believe me? Think about a time when you’ve been out in public, maybe at a restaurant. You heard the couple behind you fighting. You couldn’t hear what they were saying, and they weren’t yelling or anything so obvious, but all the same you knew they were fighting. How’d you know? The stress of their voice. The way they breathed. Pregnant pauses in the conversation. A thousand little clues that come together to deliver an instant and fairly accurate forecast of the emotional weather over at Table 9. Being on the phone is no different. Sometimes it’s even easier.

In the course of taking calls I soon learned that there were three basic types of callers: The bored, the curious, and the desperate.

The bored rarely stay on past the first three free minutes. They spend their time trying to prove that you aren’t REALLY a psychic. They ask typically impossible questions just so they can feel the thrill of proving what a scam it all is. The most typical type of question from the bored set is to ask you what they are wearing. But when you skip the obvious answer, which is that you don’t know, and instead reply, “clothes”, it seems to throw them off of their game. They usually hang up sounding more confused than victorious. Of course, that was little comfort to me when I knew that they just made my goal of a 19 minute average call time that much harder to reach.

The curious are a tossup. Some I would lose before I could even get their name, some I lost as soon as charged time kicked in. But a small percentage of them are willing to be flipped. (To ‘flip’ someone is to turn them into a believer.) These are people who know the horoscope in the paper is junk, but still find themselves reading it everyday, just in case. If you can get a curious to call late at night, when the world is dark and their troubles are weighing heavy, you can sometimes take them to a place where they believe, if only for the evening, that you really are psychic. I had several callers who started out as curious, and then flipped to full on desperate. You can hear it when it happens. The ominous sound of skepticism melts from their voice, and then nothing but awe and hope remain. When that happens, you own them.

The last type are what I call the desperate, because that is exactly what they are. Though the specifics of what they are desperate for tend to vary. Some want answers, other want advice. Most just want a friendly ear. They are the reason that the psychic lines exist. They are true believers who are at the mercy of the psychic. In the manual, it says a talented psychic can keep a caller of this type on the phone for up to an hour. I call that underachieving. It was nothing for me to keep a desperate on for 3 or more hours. My record stands at 6 and a half hours, a call that we will get to in a moment. Needless to say, these were the moneymakers for both me and the company.

The calls themselves ranged from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the cute to the truly bizarre. One common question I received was what the caller should name their newborn child. At first, this question stumped me. Aside from the fact that relying on a psychic to name your child struck me as incredibly stupid, I simply didn’t have a clue as to what to tell them. I flipped through the tarot cards looking for some ideas, but unless the caller thought that “Eight of Wands” was a great baby name, the cards held no answers. Then inspiration hit, and I was never at a loss again.

I told them to name the child ‘Jaime’. I figured if it was good enough for me, then it was good enough for their kid. I always made sure to tell them to use my spelling of it as well, since the way I spell it is a tad unusual, at least in Ohio. In my time working as a psychic, I was probably asked to name a child 3 or 4 dozen times. Whenever I need a smile, I just think of the small army of Jaime’s I set loose upon the world.

Another common request was to pick lucky numbers. There is a way to do this using tarot cards, but I soon tired of using them, and instead developed my own process. I’d pickup the nearest thing I could find with a barcode and start reading numbers off of it. Once a guy called me back and thanked me, said he hit the pick three for $500 using my numbers. Go figure.

By far my favorite calls were from people having money problems. They never ceased to amaze me. They’d call and ask questions about how they could get out of debt for an hour or more, all the while running up a huge phone bill with me. It was always on the tip of my tongue to say, “Well, the cards tell me that if you grew a brain and stopped paying $4.99 a minute for my bullshit, you’d be well on your way to positive income.”

By far the easiest part of the job was when I got a lonely caller. I just clapped my hands and prepared for some easy money. I had several lonely women call who would just talk and talk. At first, I tried to provide advice, but soon I learned that they didn’t want it. Didn’t want me to talk at all actually. They just wanted someone to listen. And so that is exactly what I did. I’d hear about new grandkids, new neighbors, new recipes. I’d hear about it all, and all of it at $4.99 a minute, simply because I was willing to listen.

My most amusing calls were always from the desperate. And sometimes the desperate were also idiots. For example, take my personal best call time of 6 and a half hours. During this call, the women did all of the following:

Had me give her psychic reading.
Had me give her reading again, so she could tape record it for later study.
Had me give her a full reading for her cat.
Had me give her another reading for her mom’s dog.
Try to make contact with her dead uncle.
Put me on hold for over 20 minutes so she could Finish watching the movie Titanic. She owned it, but really wanted to finish it, since it was her favorite part and all. ON HOLD. FOR OVER 20 MINUTES.
Put me on hold seven other times, for a grand total of 40 minutes, so she could answer her call waiting.
Walked outside, handed the phone to a neighbor, and had me do a reading for her. Just so she could see I was, and I quote, “The real deal.”
Had me tell her what numbers she should use for her locker combination at work.
Had me look into the cards to see whether a gentlemen she slept with was HIV positive.
Had me look into the cards again to see if her husband of 20 years knew about the other guy.
Asked me to advise her on what kind of car she should buy. This conversation lasted over an hour. I know nothing about cars. I ended up telling her to buy the same model car I own. She was thrilled. No really, she was.
Asked me, and I swear this was a serious question, what she should have for dinner. She seemed concerned that the hamburgers might me bad. She wanted me to check for her. I told her to opt for pizza.
Put me on hold, called her mother, and three-wayed her into the call so she could introduce me to her as “the new friend she met”. I was invited over for dinner.
The last hour of the call was spent with me staring at a wall, listening to her yell at her kids and tell me what she was watching on TV, and how Jerry Springer was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The call only ended because the battery on my headset phone was dying. She was disappointed when I said I had to go, and promised to call back in. And call back she did, every week for as long as I worked.

For those of you keeping score at home, that call cost her somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000. I’ll allow you a moment to get your chins back into their upright positions.

Of course, not all of the calls were fun. I got calls from women who wanted to know what they could do to get their boyfriend or husband to stop hitting them, who really believed it was all their fault. I got calls from moms who wanted to know if their new boyfriend was sleeping with their child. Calls from scared teens who were pregnant, and needed to know if they should get the abortion. Calls from people who were looking for someone to stop them from killing themselves. Those calls take all the air out of your lungs. They remind you that it isn’t a fucking game. These are real people, with real problems. And what I may think of as nothing more than a witty answer to a borking question, they take as serious instructions for how to live. In short, it’s real easy to fuck up peoples lives when they believe the gift you have is psychic ability when all it really is is a natural talent for bullshitting.

When those calls came in, I stopped the bullshit and tried my best to just be their friend. I gave them the same advice they were probably getting from everyone in their lives who loved or cared for them. Sometimes they even listened. I think maybe that's because they chose to call me, chose to ask me for help. Those were the calls that scared me to death. Those were the calls that burned me out. But they weren’t the calls that made me quit.

That call came from a soft voiced lady with a southern accent. For all I know, she might have been the same lady whom I spoke to on my very first call. She quietly answered the mandatory questions about name, address and e-mail address, and obediently wrote down the 1-900 number and my personal extension. When I asked her what she wanted to talk about, she told me that her husband had committed suicide less than two weeks before. All she wanted to know was whether or not he had made it to Heaven.

For reasons that I’ll never be able to explain, I didn’t just fake the reading and give her the answer she was looking for. Instead, I got out my tarot cards. It was the first time I had used the deck in over two months. I had abandoned it as soon as I memorized most of the text on the cards. Since that was all I needed them for, actually dealing out cards become a pointless exercise. But now I took them in hand and shuffled, then dealt out the top three cards face up.

The Hanged Man
The Devil

I just sat and stared.

Each card has meaning beyond that implied in the name, but as the old manual states, sometimes the cards mean just what they say. Knowing that this was NOT what I wanted to be telling this woman, nor what she needed to hear, I shoved the cards back into the deck and shuffled. I told her that the first reading had been fuzzy, so I was doing a second. I shuffled for what must have been a minute or more, all the while giving her a smooth patter of soothing words that I wasn’t feeling at all. Then I dealt out another three.

The Devil
The Hanged Man

Same three cards, reverse order. I put the deck down and explained to the woman that I wasn’t getting a clear reading, and asked her to call back in to talk to someone else. I hung up without waiting for a response, and put the deck away. I signed off the network and never took another call again.

If you’ve read through this article, then you can speak with some authority on that which you've always suspected, that psychic lines are scams. Psychics are nothing more than talented cons who merge the arts of conversation, entertainment and psychotherapy into some sort of wondrous brew that the general public just can’t get enough of. I agree with all of that. I’ve experienced it from both sides, and I know how the show works. I know it.

I also know that I’ll never be able to explain my last call. I’ll never be able to rationalize it. I know that everything that I experienced in the business was fake, except for those three cards. And in the end, I think that’s as much explanation as anyone needs for why the psychic industry just keeps on rolling along. Because even when you know it all, you still have those three cards. And then you don’t know a thing.


Posted 18 August 2003, 3.08 am by Villager

I feel I am at something of an impasse. I have always had goals and aspirations, however vague or trivial. I have always felt that there was plenty of room for personal improvement, both in the way that I viewed myself and the criteria that I should set for myself. Now, whether through a subconscious triumph of vanity or a solemn realisation that there is no such thing as a path to enlightenment or even real worth in striving, I no longer feel these things. I no longer desire to improve myself. This past year I have vastly accelerated my thirst for knowledge and have given much care to giving time to learn about such things that occur to me now and then, some typical and obvious, others less so. I have also endeavoured to improve myself physically, and am now in the best shape I have ever been. I am physically as healthy as I could wish and I want for nothing. Intellectually, you could say I have the world at my feet. I have the time and freedom to learn and develop myself psychologically in a fashion that the great majority of human beings have never enjoyed. Perhaps I am merely inherently ungrateful, and am registering a kind of spoilt boredom with the life I lead. I feel disinclined to label it mere apathy; I've been there before and decided it to be a far simpler emotion. The strangest thing is that I'm not entirely unhappy about all this.

You see, it all started off with a kind of contemptuous backlash at the materialistic and superficial nature of seemingly all that surround me (something I know to be an unfair generalisation, but that seems not to be of great import). If I'm honest - which seems to be an unduly difficult task when it come to myself - I thought that a desire to become learned, coupled with my lack of enthusiasm for consumerism, meant that I was somehow better than those I looked down upon. But of course, though I exist in a comparatively simple way to some, I love and rely upon my modern comforts just like everyone else. Now, as I find myself rather similar to when I embarked, my task seems to lead nowhere. I have a fit and healthy body, but nothing to do with it. My mind is more open and welcoming of new ideas than ever before, yet I no longer feel compelled to seek them out. I am not really unhappy, and at times even allow myself to feel content, just existing. I am drifting along in a gentle current of comfort, indulgence and repressed confusion. While broader questions of existence and purpose of course remain unresolved, they seem rather less urgent than they once did.

Perhaps I am just tired. Perhaps I will feel very different in a few months' time. Or perhaps I'm not so different as once I liked to think.

Round and Round

Posted 15 August 2003, 10.37 pm by Green Mamba

Sometimes we follow the light … sometimes the darkness ... sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

With the sun on my back I followed my shadow … into the sea of Tranquility … and as the day grew older … my shadow longer … my steps became urgent. Until suddenly my shadow escaped and I was left in the depths of a vast empty ocean of darkness … afraid and alone. So I sat down in the soft gray sand and built a castle with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard…

The darkness passed and the sun waved at me from the distant shore … so I looked at my castle and I looked at my shadow behind me … wondering why he had left me alone in the dark. All through the day I followed my shadow … and all through the night I built my castle until one day I realized that the shadow I followed was following me …

So, with my shadow behind me I followed the sun … into the sea of Tranquility … and as the day grew older … my shadow closer … my steps became labored. Until suddenly my shadow caught up and I was left in the depth of a vast ocean full of light … afraid and alone. So I sat down in the soft gray sand and built a castle with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard.

Midday passed and my shadow crept towards the distant shore … I looked at my castle and I looked at the sun behind me … wondering why he had left me drowning in this ocean of light. So all through the rest of the day I followed the sun … and all through the night I dreamt of my castle until one day I realized that the sun I followed was following me…

So I looked at my shadow and I looked at the sun … and I realized that I was right back where I started … So with my shadow behind me I followed the sun … and when my shadow caught up I rested a moment and followed my shadow … and all through the night I built my castle … with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard…

Drive a Porche Carrera!!

Posted 10 August 2003, 8.41 pm by Craig

Visit Site.

Perfect Plastic People

Posted 9 August 2003, 9.13 pm by The Green Mamba

Erratic sunlit waterfalls breaking through the clouds … casting jagged broken dreams on stark gray concrete sidewalks … shadows walking though the city … leading you and me into everlasting hell. Where are you going and what is your name? I have lived a thousand lifetimes, but yesterday is already fading in the murky depths of what is still to come.

I fell asleep on the couch during a movie about the meaninglessness of life and awoke sometime later watching “Who wants to be a Millionaire”. Awkwardly twisted limbs have left my right foot asleep and I struggle to write a long overdue letter to my mother with my left hand… thanking her for all the milk and cookies over the years.

The Easter bunny’s coming to town and all the hunters have loaded their rifles … rabbit season is now officially open. We’re gonna shoot them in the head, cut off their balls, paint them in all the colors of the rainbow and hide them in the bushes … just to see the smiles on our children’s faces. If only they knew the price we paid for a basket full of eggs. In a crimson sunset chocolate looks just like blood on our hands.

Through dusty lucid eyelids I ascend into the sky surrounded by a swarm of raging rabid butterflies … gnawing at the pile of old bones in the closet of my mind. Fortunately the mind-numbing strobe-like picture perfect world of shifting polygons is there to eradicate my consciousness. Strange how the only progress we have made since man was carved from a pile of mud (or was that shit) is an artificial means of escape from the world we live in. From a struggle to stay alive to a struggle against insanity … all we have shown the gods is our ability to shift the focus of our hopeless dreams.

Once upon a time, the only thing mankind cared about was a food and shelter for its family. Now we sit around on our fat lazy asses hoping there’s something good on TV, watching the news … bitching and moaning about the crooked hand that fate has dealt us … listening to the gunshots being fired less than two miles away. Do you ever contemplate the fact that by the time that sound reached your living room, the person the gun was pointed at may already be dead? It may even have been someone you know … or worse … someone you care about.

But who cares … really … Baywatch is up next and we can indulge ourselves in the plastic lives of picture perfect people shooting fake bullets and crying onion induced tears over stay-fast makeup behind a perfect set of bleached teeth and artificial tans.

Confessions of an Ex-Phone Psychic (Part 1 of 2)

Posted 9 August 2003, 3.03 pm by VanGogh

To begin, we must set the scene. It was pre-9/11, but the economy was already headed south. As always, I was working as a self-employed web designer. Business was getting thin, and I was looking for ways to make a few extra bucks. I was discussing my plight with an online friend who was in a similar situation. We were joking about odd jobs we could do when she directed me to an ad on It went something like this:

Tarot Readers, Spiritual Advisors, Astrologers, etc. Work at Home
We are looking for tarot readers, spiritual advisors, astrologers, etc needed for our psychic line. This is a work at home position. Must have psychic ability. Must have good communication skills and the desire to help others. For more information, you can contact me at

I laughed and surfed on.

Then I thought about what a kick it would be to say I had been a psychic, and I went back. I looked at the ad some more. I focused on the line that read “Must have psychic ability”. Hmmm, definitely a stumbling point. I’ve been called many things, but never psychic. Throwing good sense to the wind, I decided to go ahead and make contact anyway, if for no other reason than to see how they tested that sort of thing.

Though the ad said nothing about it, it turned out I was applying to work for Ms. Cleo’s Psychic Network. That would be the incense-burning, West-Indian-talking lady who slapped down tarot cards and advice at a breakneck pace on infomercials all over late-night TV in the United States, and all over the rest of the world for all I know.

I sent out an email asking some questions and received what may be the fastest personalized response in the history of email. It wasn’t a form letter, but a bunch of specific answers to my questions, and a request for my phone number. Being in a rather playful mood, I sent it to them. Within two minutes I was on the phone with Rachel, the lady who was to become my “Psychic Manager”, a.k.a. my boss.

Rachel was very polite, if in a slightly business-tone sort of way. Very professional, and didn’t give off any of the flaky vibe I had been expecting. It felt more like I was talking to a real-estate agent than a person who traded in spirits and misdirected hope. After some quick questions about my background, my age, and whether or not I wanted to do this full time, she asked me for my fax number. I gave it to her and she faxed me a sheath of papers. Amongst the sheets was a list of rules, (no call-waiting on your phone, no explicit discussion of sex, no putting someone on hold), and a poorly written, grammatically butchered ‘Psychic Manual’. This manual, amongst other things, described a typical call.

According to the good manual, my ultimate goal during any call wasn’t to provide the caller with answers, or psychic insight, but to simply keep them on the line for an average of 19 minutes. (19 minutes x $4.99 per minute = $94.81) This isn't as easy as it might seem, especially since the first three minutes of each reading are free. Knowing that, many callers hope to get a the answers to their questions in those first three minutes, and then hang up. (I had more than my fair share of hang-up clicks as the first three minutes of the calls drew to a close.) And of course, since you looking for an average call length of 19 minutes, those two and three minute calls can really hurt your average. To counter the free three minute thing, we were instructed ask each caller for his or her name, address, and e-mail address, so that Ms. Cleo could continue to communicate with them by mail. I was also required to give out the company's 900 number, together with my personal five-digit ID number, so that the customer could call back "in case we get disconnected." All of that, of course, takes up most of the free three minutes. Not that we were to tell them that. After all, that would almost be fair.

At the heart of each conversation are the 78 cards of the tarot deck. A "psychic" puts a caller at ease, collects their name, number, email, mailing address, and anything else they’ll give us, and then deals out a specific number of cards in varying positions. (There are as many ways to do a tarot card reading as there are people doing them. As you shall see, my personal style varied from orthodox to downright silly.) You then read the cards and try to make some sort of impact on the caller. Above all else, you keep them on the phone. Every minute they keep listening is another minute you get paid for.

The card meanings themselves are insanely generic, monumentally unspecific, and usually hopeful. For example, "The Empress" card carries the following explanation: "A young fertile female. Can also represent material gifts. Maybe a mother having a baby or fertility in your financial situation. Gifts and money in progress. A good money card, or a female influence." A lot of ground covered here, a wealth of possibilities. Easy to adapt it to your life, especially when you’re desperate enough to be paying $4.99 a minute to hear this reading in the first place.

Money and sex are two fairly consistent threads throughout the cards. Either a lack of, or an addiction to. Sometimes both. There is an occasional negative card, but for the most part they are optimistic; wealth and happiness are the most common upshot. According to the cards, we are all a bunch of success stories just waiting to happen.

So with all of this information in hand, I started my life as a part-time phone psychic. I purchased a deck of tarot cards off of ( This Deck, if you’re interested.) I had a 1-800 number to call when I wanted to work. I called it, entered some pin codes, and then I hung up. Pretty soon the phone would do it’s special three chirp ring to let me know I had a call, and that was when the fun really began.

(To Be Concluded)

channel 4 experiment.

Posted 6 August 2003, 10.17 am by TonyChef

Heads up english grinders- Derren Brown, the mind reading nutter from the channel 4 shows has decided to play russian roulette... and you could load the gun!

Click on this link and complete the application (not what you might expect...). I have already, i cant wait to see gray matter!

laughed my ass off!

Posted 6 August 2003, 10.09 am by TonyChef

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A year or so ago I undertook a study entitled 'Faces of Death'. I produced a quite substantial body of work concerning corpses, and faces in particular. I concentrated mainly on victims of murder. This image was produced by rolling a thick layer of ink onto a steel plate and rubbing, scratching and soaking it off with turps. The plate was then pressed onto paper, and this is the result.

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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness


80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!


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