“Here’s something to think about: How come you never see a headline like ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?”
— Jay Leno
There’s something particularly dishonourable about preying on the vulnerable and profiting from other people’s misfortunes.
In the days after 9/11, there was the firefighter who claimed to have been captain of a New York City firefighting unit that lost 12 men as they fought to extinguish the blazing twin towers.
The only thing is, he wasn’t actually there and made the whole thing up to come off looking like a hero.
In Burlington, Ont., a couple of years back, a young woman was convicted of fraud after she pretended to have terminal cancer and claimed her parents were dead in order to elicit thousands of dollars in donations from generous, caring people.
Closer to home, and just recently, distraught people with missing pets in the St. John’s area received phone calls from a man claiming to have found the animals, and then — in a sadistic twist — he would tell the pet owners he had just beaten their beloved pet to death.
This scheme was particularly sick because the only gain was the twisted pleasure of creating false hope in people and then inflicting emotional pain.
Now, there’s a new game in town.
The other day, I came out of the supermarket only to find a psychic’s flyer under the car’s windshield wiper. (Shouldn’t they have known I wasn’t interested?)
Now, I don’t mind a bit of harmless entertainment. In fact, I once paid $25 to a charming older woman who claimed she could see the future, but mostly served up the sort of generic prophecies that apply to most folks — you will take a trip (I went to Mount Pearl), you will come into some money (the next day was payday), and so on.
There’s no harm done and there are no dire warnings of someone’s imminent death or a family member living under a curse.
But the flyer left on our car takes things a whole lot further and sells the promise of “spiritual healing.”
It is aimed directly at people who are in crisis and promises to cure all their ills.
“Are you unhappy with love, marriage and business? Do you feel someone has done you wrong? Are you or a loved one having problems with drugs, alcohol, legal matters, immigration, school, work or financial problems? … I can and will destroy all of life’s obstacles. …
“I will heal the sick, cure any skin disorder, childless couples become parents, reuniting the separated, stopping loved ones from marrying outside their faith and culture and restoring happiness …”
Those are pretty hefty promises, with results “guaranteed” in 12 hours.
Now, aside from espousing the jingoistic and anachronistic notion that people should not marry those of other faiths and cultures, this is clearly a blatant attempt to part the desperate from their money.
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And while there’s truth in the argument that if you’re foolish enough to subscribe to this sort of charlatanism you will get exactly what you deserve, the fact remains that there are times in life when people are down and out and are willing to try just about anything to turn their luck around.
If you had a persistent skin disorder that was making you feel hideous and miserable, and conventional medical treatments had been consistently ineffective, would you be willing to take a gamble and take this “spiritual healer” up on his or her offer?
What if you had cancer and desperately needed to hear something positive?
What if you suspected your spouse was cheating and wanted to know for sure?
It is people in precisely these sorts of situations — willing to shell out a few dollars on a last resort — that this “service” is targeting.
It’s also a blatant charade.
But hey, they do offer house parties. Healing the sick — now that’s my kind of entertainment.
Let’s get this straight: no self-proclaimed spiritual healer is going to solve your immigration problems, legal matters, drug addiction, infertility or broken leg.
They’re not going to rid you of cancer or canker sores or chapped skin.
Here’s my prediction, and I don’t need a crystal ball or Tarot cards: the only thing they will cure you of is a desire to waste your money on anything so clearly rooted in deceit.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at