In 2009, I visited my long-lost first cousin Mark. During the course of a 4-hour visit, I did a little mindreading.
“I didn’t used to believe in that stuff,” he said.
“What made you believe?”
And that’s when he told me an extraordinary story.
About ten years ago, he went to the mall with his 8-year-old daughter. It turned out that the mall was holding a fortuneteller’s convention. His daughter asked for a palm reading, and he reluctantly complied.
They sat down and the palmist took his daughter’s palm. She spewed the usual generalized claptrap that encourages belief but says nothing specific, and Mark went along with it for his girl’s sake. When she was done, the fortuneteller asked Mark for his palm.
“Oh, I don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” he said.
“Come on, it won’t hurt,” she said, and grabbed his palm.
Immediately, though, her attitude changed and she dropped his palm.
“Oh, your father is here,” she said.
By the 1980s, Mark’s father Richard had been overworking over a period of years at his job as a mechanic at Disneyland. He never had time to rest. He didn’t listen to anyone who told him to slow down. My mother always talked about it with dread. His wife complained that he wouldn’t listen to reason.
Then one day in 1987, he had a heart attack. He wasn’t the kind of man who liked to go to the doctor, so he refused to go. His wife pleaded, but he was adamant.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “I’m okay. What is a doctor going to do?”
Two weeks later, he was hit with another heart attack. That was the end of him. In the ensuing years, we’ve always considered it a great tragedy.
“He has a message for you,” the palmist told Mark. “He says you’ve been worried that you weren’t there when he died, and you shouldn’t worry about that.”
That stopped Mark cold. Mark had been medically trained as an X-ray technician, and for years, he had indeed been haunted by one terrible idea.
If I’d been there, I could have saved him.
“Your two brothers are also here,” she said.
That puzzled me, because I’ve always thought of Mark as an only child. In fact, he grew up an only child. But in fact, Mark reminded me that he had an older brother who lived for a few weeks and a younger brother who died in childbirth.
“Oh yeah, I seem to remember that,” I said.
“There was no way she could have faked that,” he said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the mall. Same thing with the decision to have our palms read.”
As a magician, I’ve done some thorough reading of fake psychic strategies, and trust me, no fake psychic can bluff her way through such a specific reading. You are instructed to stay away from specifics.
You sometimes think that you’d be further along in your career if you’d applied yourself more.
Then you look at their age, physical presentation, and attitude, and say general things arising from that.
But “Your father is here with your two brothers”?! Perhaps his father was there.