Showing posts with label Emma-Louise Rhodes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emma-Louise Rhodes. Show all posts

11 April 2008

Psychics On Ebay - By Emma-Louise Rhodes

You can buy nearly anything on eBay. From tractors to tricycles, from lipgloss to liposuction – if it’s legally available, then you can purchase it on the world’s favourite auction site.

Not only is eBay one of the best places to make the odd penny from your unwanted Christmas gifts or the antiques you’ve recently rediscovered in your attic, it is also a useful means of a steady tax-free income for thousands of people all over the UK. Artists whose work might never get further than the local gallery can now exhibit and sell nationally and authors whose self published books were only ever available on a handful of bookshop shelves can now get worldwide distribution on eBay.

Amongst those who make a profit from auctioning their wares are the psychic community, who offer a whole range of spiritual delights, ranging from one question readings, to in-depth past life dossiers, all done never having never even met their ‘clients’ or touched or seen anything belonging to them or their dearly departed loved ones.

Of course telephone readings have been a source of income for lone spiritualists, along with those larger companies who specialise in making a profit from the pain of the bereaved, for quite some time now. At the back of most women’s magazines the reader will always find, between the ads for plastic surgery and abortion, columns of psychic phone lines offering their advice and assistance. 

However, the beauty of eBay is that it is far cheaper and easier to control. An advertisement in the back of Cosmopolitan, for example, will cost in the hundreds, yet an online auction listing is less than fifty pence. Also, the seller can plan the exact time and date that their ‘item’ finishes on eBay, therefore knowing just when they will be asked for the reading (payment permitting).

Another aspect of eBay is the ‘Buy It Now’ feature, where sellers can place multiple items for purchase at a set price. On the basis of this, a small time publisher could market twenty copies of his book in one single advert at a relatively cheap listing fee, or an astute psychic sell as many readings or tarot spreads as they wish at a fixed price of their choosing. 

Over the past few months I have personally purchased several readings from a range of different spiritualists on eBay, in order to compile a small amount of data on exactly what is on offer and, more importantly, precisely what it is that people are buying. Having collected a certain quantity of information, I then discovered, with great interest, that not only are psychic readings readily available on eBay, but so too are electronic ebooks with exact instructions on how to make a profit from tarot cards and other such spiritual money-makers. 


An extremely interesting eBay purchase of mine was a digital download bought from an American seller listed as “MAKE $ DOING PSYCHIC TAROT CARD READINGS”. The download (entitled ‘Psychic Reading Money Machine’) comes with a complete tarot reading programme and instructions as to how to design, list and sell the reading on eBay. Costing only 73p (a lot cheaper than £100 for a ‘Mediumship Course’, also offered on eBay), the blurb forthrightly it informs its reader that:

After running the auction, you need to be prompt 
in dealing with each customer individually … do 
your reading via the computer generated tarot and 
then write it in your own words. Don’t copy the 
reading word for word as it needs to read like an 
authentic reading and not some generated one.

It continues by posing the question “How much money can you actually make?” and answers it with the following information:

A lot of people who sell this type of service on eBay 
usually charge $15.00 per reading and sell 15 – 20 
readings per week, which generates around $300 a 

The actual computer tarot consists of entering the virtual sitters name and date of birth. It will then give a ten card spread, which features pictures of the cards and fairly detailed and informed descriptions, under the headings ‘Your Power Cards’, ‘Your Desire Cards’, ‘Your Core Cards’, ‘Your Growth Cards’ and ‘Your Lucky Cards’. 

The electronic programme goes on to inform its reader that, when listing such items on eBay, it is:

… best to offer a selection. Services such as 
Numerology, Natal reports, Biorythms and 
Compatibility readings, all of which are unique, 
would be excellent sellers.

afterwhich it offers such complimentary programmes at a reasonable cost. The final words of advice from the ‘Psychic Reading Money Machine’ are:

Mispelled (sic) words are ok while doing a reading. 
A real reading is not of perfection but a reading of 
personal guidance. If it is to (sic) textbook, it will 
not seen authentic.

Of course, the computer generated cards are very similar to buying a set of tarot cards and an instruction book and producing a spread, then looking the meanings up in the book, typing them into a credible format and emailing this to the buyer. Nevertheless, by using the computer it is incredibly quick and easy and, by asking for a name and date of birth, it seems more authentic. However, whatever name (male or female) is typed into the computer generated tarot, if the date of birth is the same, it will always produce identical cards and explanations. 


There are a variety of readings available on offer on eBay (around five hundred at any given time) and, in sifting through them and making my selection for purchase, I tried to be as diverse as possible in what I chose. The price scale of readings ranges from very inexpensive (around two pounds) to the more extravagant (£150 for a comprehensive yearly psychic forecast).

My first buy was from a spiritualist who had only just started to sell his goods on the internet and was, due to that, very cheap. I paid 99p for a very detailed reading, from his ‘Ancient form of Irish Celtic Reading’ assisted by his ‘spiritual guide’.

The content of the reading dealt with the usual – money, health, relationships and emotions. The use of cold reading was extremely evident and everything addressed could have been applied to anyone (‘you need to stop people putting you down – be more sure and assert yourself in a nice way’). The names presented in the reading were very obvious ones, such as John, Anne, Paul, Joanne and Clair. 

The reading ended with ‘Many blessing, all my love’ followed by the offer of answering any more questions that I might have via postal reading, telephone or email, along with promoting candles that are made and blessed by the spirits. 

Another eBay reading I chose was ‘One Question Only – Thoth Reading’. Here I was able to ask the spirit world any question in exchange for the winning price of the auction, along with supplying my full name and date of birth. The question I posed was ‘Is anyone in the spirit world trying to contact me?’ An hour later I received an email regretfully telling me that the medium was unable to answer this question (although for more money she would be very happy to do so) and that I could either ask the spirits another question or get a refund. 

It is interesting to view what else the psychics are selling on eBay whilst simultaneously offering the readings. A tarot reading purchased on a ‘Buy it Now’ auction was from an ‘in house psychic’ of a company who specialised in detox pads. Here a five card spread was used in answer to a question, and written in six precise paragraphs. A week later I purchased another tarot reading from the same seller and received (although a different spread of cards) exactly the same formatted and paragraphed structure of equal length. Both readings, neatly presented and well written, strikingly resembled the composition of the computer generated tarot readings.

eBay uses a ‘feedback’ system in order for users to assess whether or not they want to purchase an item from a seller. For example, if a member has had a bad experience with a purchase, they can leave negative feedback and this information can be accessed by other users. In browsing through the list of psychics selling tarot spreads, healing and past life readings, it is insightful to peruse at what others who have bought from them have had to say. 

A certain lady psychic who refers to herself as a ‘Famous TV Medium’ on eBay, was selling readings at £15.00 a time (‘Buy It Now’), until she received negative feedback from her clients. Within the space of a month, comments were appearing on her feedback page such as ‘Sorry but the reading was unclear and not useful at all for me’, ‘Not brilliant, expected more …’ and ‘DO NOT BID!! Total rubbish plagiarised from AOL’s horoscope – didn’t even change words.’ 

After these unconstructive observations, the medium in question was forced to lower her price to £5.00, before gaining enough positive feedback to enable her to put the cost back up again in time for Christmas.


Description, layout and image are extremely important when marketing a product on eBay and, when there are four hundred and ninety-nine other sellers all trading the same sort of product, it is crucial that yours stands apart from the rest. 

eBay psychics tend to utilise a range of images to promote themselves and their goods. Some will use their own photographs, others pictures of beautiful blond women and others still illustrations of tarot cards. Descriptions are varied, as are the titles, but generally always include the words such as ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’ ‘ honest’, ‘spirit guide’ and ‘destiny’.

With such tough competition, sellers rely heavily on feedback and sometimes use their positive comments in their item description. However, as with the marketing of specific products, there are certain colours and images associated with spiritualism and these are sometimes also employed by the psychic sellers. The popular spiritualist colour blue features on quite a few of the auction adverts, along with images of crystal balls, Native American Indians, wolves, angels and rainbows. Some sellers go further in their personal descriptions, as the following illustrates.

I am a practising Witch (sic), mother and 
grandmother, attuned to Nature (sic) 
and the power of the elements and a 
professional Psychic (sic) and am well 
skilled with several forms of divination 

Another description of a psychic reading included the statement:

Just to be clear on what to expect … don’t 
expect, just be wiling to except help from your 
silent witness with the view that this is purely 
and simply a prediction and foresight as what 
your guides have seen as the most probable 

The use of the word ‘counselling’ is also an effective means of selling. Tarots, rune castings and spiritual readings focussing specifically on love are also seen to be good sellers, with mediums asking for pictures of the both their buyer and the loved one in question, along with some background information on the situation. 

Information on the particular psychic is also sometimes available on the auction description but, interestingly the TV mediums rarely state the programmes they have featured on. However, one particular eBay clairvoyant is all too happy to inform his readers that he is a ‘famous Polish TV celebrity and fortune teller’ whose TV career started with the Polish edition of Big Brother. His eBay biog continues by telling his readers that he:

… predicted the outcome of the last presidential 
election in Poland and was hired by politicians to 
help them predict what would happen to them 
in that time …

The astounding life story doesn’t stop there as his spiel continues, telling his readers that he has:

… read tarot cards to many TV, theatre and show 
business celebrities around the world (as an 
example Steven Segal, the Polish premiere and 

However, amazingly there is absolutely no mention of this ‘famous fortune teller’ when his name is typed into a search engine such as Google, apart from his eBay listings and a snippet of a book review that he has written, where he proudly calls himself ‘The Only Polish Famous Ventriloquist and Mindbender’(sic).


Readings via email are not incredibly recent and some prolific mediums have been using this form of communication with clients for quite some time. Craig Hamilton-Parker, for example, began offering a similar service from his website some years ago, although he now only gives one to one consultations, but he offers a link to a very similar site (endorsed by him) where online psychics proffer readings via email or telephone. 

In today’s society, where nearly everything can be accessed through a PC and where we find ourselves increasingly isolated from the outside world because of this, what better way than to connect with the spirits than via the internet? Instead of having to turn out to visit the spiritualist church on a rainy Sunday evening, or attend a psychic meeting at the local community centre on a blustery winter’s afternoon, eBay offers a whole range of mediums offering a varying selection of spiritual amusements for the susceptible masses. 

However much human kind relies on computers and technology and, due to this, inadvertently find themselves distanced from each other, one thing is clear – the need to be loved and receive love in return along with the desire to believe in the life hereafter burns as strongly as ever and, depending on just how much money you have to burn, anyone can be spiritually reassured, comforted and counselled by the simple click of a mouse. 

By Emma-Louise Rhodes

7 April 2007

Fifteen Minutes of Fame - Psychics And The Media - By Emma-Louise Rhodes

Anyone can be famous, or so the media tells us. The Big Brother society that has been created over the past ten years in Britain has demonstrated that the least talented and the most desperate can aspire to becoming a ‘star’, regardless of the cost. Yet among the endless list of wannabe singers, actors and presenters all baying for their brief spell in the limelight, another kind of ‘celebrity’ has emerged: that of the TV psychic.

Day in day out, the viewing public is bombarded with talent contests to seek out ‘real’ talent and market it. The message is clear – if you have what it takes, then it could be you. Of course, stage schools and performing arts courses are hugely oversubscribed with those frantic for fame (along with those who truly believe in their art) and the competition is immense. Therefore anyone who is ‘gifted’ in another, less likely, field stands slightly more chance of grabbing their fifteen minutes of fame and gaining the love/hate of the fickle British public.


Since the dawn of the Spiritualist movement, many mediums have been awarded celebrity status. Margaret and Katie Fox of Hydesville, New York were the first Spiritualists who achieved notoriety (post Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davies) – their elder sister swiftly securing press interviews and a theatre tour as soon as the ‘rappings’ created by the girls became public. The revelations surrounding the Fox sisters soon gave way to a nationwide craze, with everyday folk claiming that they possessed supernatural powers in order to capitalise on the Spiritualist frenzy. 

In particular, young women became attached to the movement. In her book, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, Alex Owen writes of early Spiritualism in Britain:


‘The 1870s ushered in the beguiling, youthful
creatures …These young women introduced new,
thrilling and daring phenomena and a theatrical style
of mediumship which emphasised visual spectacle
and display.’

Both Florence Cook (who produced the ‘materialisation’ of the famous spirit Katie King) and Mrs Guppy (who conjured up flowers, fruit and blocks of ice on her séance table) could well have been stage actresses or vaudeville entertainers as opposed to the infamous Spiritualists they instead became. Women attracted to mediumship were both the flamboyant and the bold; those who desperately wanted to break free from the constraints of Victorian life and ‘become’ something or someone else. This, coupled with the dashing Daniel Dunglas Home representing the make faction, made Spiritualism something which was, not only exciting and out of the ordinary, but also hugely saleable on the worldwide stage. 

The response from the general public, both in the US and Britain, was that of fascination. This search for knowledge by individuals who had never before considered the supernatural, fuelled the need for mediums to make themselves known and become minor celebrities in the process. The fact that the Fox sisters had performed in theatres early in their career, immediately placed Spiritualism in the entertainment bracket, as well as forming itself as a fringe religion. Mediumship and performance soon went hand in hand – a partnership which has not been separated to this day. 


The renaissance of the ‘medium as celebrity’ in the UK was undoubtedly led by Doris Stokes in the early eighties. As the first medium to appear at the London Palladium, Stokes, for the first time in over fifty years, became a psychic who was a well-known household name. Her books sold millions of copies worldwide and, although claims of fraudulence were abundant both in and after her lifetime, Stokes undoubtedly secured herself notoriety as one of the most famous British mediums of all time. 

The advent of the TV show Crossing Over with John Edward in the US in 1999 again sparked interest in celebrity mediums. In the UK, Living TV’s Sixth Sense with Colin Fry followed in 2002, along with Most Haunted in the same year. Millions tuned in to Most Haunted Live specials, to watch medium Derek Acorah being apparently possessed by the spirit of witch finder Matthew Hopkins, highwayman Dick Turpin and more infamous characters from history. 

Mediums are always ready to cite their experiences of contact with a famous deceased individual and, in doing so, many hope to secure such prominent status themselves. TV medium Sally Morgan (‘Psychic to the Stars’) has often spoken of her alleged psychic banter with Marilyn Monroe and mediums Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker are always happy to exploit their ‘The Spirit of Diana Séance’ (where a group of people who had worked with the Princess ‘contacted’ the late Diana via the Hamilton duo). 

Magazine programmes, such as This Morning and Richard and Judy, realise that their target audience (predominantly women) generally share an interest in psychic phenomena (as is so often illustrated in the cheaper female magazines) and, due to this, it provides an interesting topic for discussion. Psychics regularly appear on daytime TV, desperate to show off their talent and win viewers over. However, as is so often the case, such segments nearly always demonstrate to the astute viewer nothing more than predictable cold reading by the mediums in question. 

The debunking of medium Craig Shell on the Bad Psychics website (1) illustrated a typical example of a young man, desperate for fame, fortune and celebrity status who was willing to do whatever it took to establish himself alongside the likes of Colin Fry and Derek Acorah. Although completely unknown before the BP expose, Shell’s website proclaimed: “Do you need a celebrity figure to open an event or fate?(sic) Craig will be happy to attend and speak with any guests and to become involved in any day to day activities (price on application)”. The site - titled Celebrity Medium - also included the Living TV and Most Haunted logos at the bottom of the page (although he had no association with either). 

Should such people be scorned and punished for taking advantage of the basic human need to be reconciled with a dead loved one? Certainly there should be appropriate laws in place to discourage such behaviour (and prosecute when necessary) and the general public made aware of the fraudulent techniques used by such persons. Yet, regardless of their gross manipulation of the bereaved, it is surely as important for us to understand the need for fame in today’s throwaway world, and the psychology of those who will do whatever it takes to gain renown. Although exploiting the grieving is far more damaging to society in general than, say, appearing in a pornographic movie, there is really very little difference. The need to break out from the mundane nine to five lifestyle and ‘make it’ often ensures that countless individuals leave their morals behind in search of the apparent fulfilment of fame and, in doing so, are swept along with the imaginary façade that they have created.


The numerous TV channels that have been created in the past ten years in Britain have caused an influx of the diverse and the drab. This, along with the need to publicly recognise and embrace the supernatural (regardless of how ludicrous this might seem) has seen a desperate increase in programmes ‘investigating’ the paranormal. Such investigations rarely fulfil their criteria in terms of uncovering the truth behind Spiritualism and merely encourage the dangerous belief that a mortal can transmit the thoughts and wishes of the deceased. ‘Celebrity’ mediums usually feature, typically showing off their ‘abilities’ by summoning up the dead in a two-up, two-down semi in Bradford. Regardless of the sense brought to these programmes by sceptics such as Professor Chris French, the producers are always keen to leave a question mark over the possibility of life after death and careful never to knock the psychic in question too harshly. 

Many programmes carry a disclaimer at the end of the credits, not unlike that which appears on Sixth Sense with Colin Fry stating:


‘This is an entertainment programme only.
Differing opinions exist to the true nature of
clairvoyance and clairaudience.’

Yet medium Craig Hamilton-Parker expressed his dislike of the way the media treats psychics by stating the following:


‘Mediums often have to put up with a lot of stick.
If we demonstrate on TV we are expected to have
a sceptic on the show to add balance - unless it is
billed as entertainment, which to most Spiritualists is
abhorrent.’ (2)

It seems that Hamilton-Parker does not find theatre tours or once featuring as ‘resident psychic’ on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast in order to promote his work abhorrent, although these are deemed as entertainment to just the same extent. Spiritualists who remain firmly in churches, giving readings for free, must sometimes cringe at certain mediums who appear in the media for (it appears) their own personal gain. On the other hand, one would consider that surely a psychic who has a special webpage titled ‘Psychic’s TV’ with numerous clips of his ‘portfolio of TV shows’ wouldn’t be too offended by the word ‘entertainment’. But, in a somewhat contradictory way, Craig Hamilton-Parker obviously is.

The dislike of the need for questioning is always very apparent in mediums. Many project a ‘Why should I have to prove myself to you?’ attitude, yet know that their TV career depends upon it. If they don’t come up with the goods, then the chances are they will not be hired again. 

The basic need to be respected and admired can manifest itself in different ways. The desire to be rich and famous burns in many, and striving to attain this often sees those who might, on the surface, have high principles selling out in order to grab the public’s attention. Regardless of whether the medium in question has made a cold and calculated decision in manipulating the public, or whether they honestly believe that they have a gift and should make themselves known nationally due to this, the want for recognition of some kind in an undeniable element in undertaking such a career path.

In a society where we are constantly inundated with, literally, the good, the bad and the ugly on our television screens, the division between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred. It is surely up to the viewing public to make their own informed decisions about truth and lies, right and wrong, yet the very fact that a programme such as Most Haunted has been running for over five years (with strong viewing figures) and never actually captured the whole form of a ghost on camera, dictates otherwise. Do the viewers really believe, due to the documentary style format of such programmes, that they are one hundred per cent fact, or do they suspend their disbelief and enjoy an hour of television where celebrity mediums are possessed by the souls of the dead all in the name of entertainment?

Perhaps by questioning some of our own personal motives and agendas we can come to understand the psychology of the celebrity medium. In an article published in the New York Times in 2006, Benedict Carey wrote on the strong motivation of fame:


‘… fame-seeking behaviour appears rooted
in a desire for social acceptance, a longing
for the existential reassurance promised by
wide renown.’

By understanding the need to belong, along with the desire for celebrity we can begin to comprehend just why ordinary people decide to deceive and manipulate others by fraudulently conjuring up the dead spirits of departed loved ones - be it at a local Spiritualist fete or on a nationwide morning talk show.

By Emma-Louise Rhodes


(2) Hamilton-Parker, Craig, ‘We’re No Frauds’, Daily Express, 2 June, 2004

Carey, Benedict, ‘The Fame Motive’, New York Times, 22 August, 2006
Owen, Alex, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, University of Chicago Press, 2004