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I Was One of America's Top Psychics—And Like All of Them, a Complete Fraud

An excerpt from Mark Edward's new book, "Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium."

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Orange County is a strange part of the universe. It's conservative country. It's John Wayne country. Some of the wealthiest families in the United States come from this sprawling Southern California landfill, but they are notorious for wanting to spend as little as possible on anyone else but themselves. Boats, cars, and homes are collected like less affluent people collect baseball cards. Assets per household are some of the highest in the nation. People in

Orange County--or the OC, as the locals more frequently call it--are used to getting whatever they want whenever they want it.

Yet the citizens of this cozy, insulated world are no less likely to crave, and pay good money for, the encouragement and guidance of a clever psychic or spiritual guide. In fact, the psychic business here is one of the busiest and best-kept secrets on the West Coast. A converted church in Anaheim, called the Light Path Foundation, held legions of psychics cashing in on that trend. I encountered many in this wonderful world of the Woo-Woo Gurus who were truly kind, compassionate souls. A few even truly meant well. But to paraphrase Theodore Sturgeon, ninety percent of science fiction is crap, but then ninety percent of everything is crap. Many of these self-proclaimed devotees of metaphysical sharing were merely business-minded opportunists, and I must regretfully include myself among these fortune-seekers. I had come there to learn, but I also needed to make some money out of the deal.

Just how provincially minded and lowbrow these new-money denizens could be was related to me once by a palmist who plied his trade in and around Orange County. Quinn was one of the top palm readers in town when I first became acquainted with him. While I got to know Quinn and his wife Jeanette, he shared some of the brightest gems of wisdom of any of the psychics I have ever worked with. He was a charming, genuine, down-toearth guy--the type of fellow you would be happy to talk to about anything.

I suspected he was a fugitive from a hippie commune. Shy, self-effacing, and slightly balding, he chose to never appear too "New Agey." He often dressed in Hawaiian shirts and khakis, and sported a neatly trimmed handlebar moustache. I immediately recognized in his demeanor a kindred soul.

One evening Quinn told me he had worked a private party in Laguna Beach. The police had shown up and summarily handcuffed Quinn, taking him to the police station for nothing more than performing as a palmistry expert. It seemed there was a law on the OC books stating that it was perfectly legal to read the lines on a client's hand, but if the palm reader touched that person's hand or made physical contact anywhere else, this was considered "massage," and if the citizen decided this constituted a severe breach of etiquette or that the palm reader had somehow gone too far, that reader could be arrested on the spot. Charges could even be brought from a third party who had witnessed the exchange. Unfortunately, it's always the sitter's word against the reader's. And the reader could be jailed simply because a sitter didn't like what the psychic had said during the reading, or had decided the reader was a gypsy (read: vagabond or transient), or even if that sitter disliked the psychic's cologne or the cut of his or her clothing.

Every time a client in the OC wanted to book me for a performance, I remembered Quinn's plight and crossed my fingers. I still prefer to have professional agents and event planners take the heat from megalomaniacal lunatics who book parties and frequently invite the most punitive, vindictive, and mercenary guests. If I discover a client lives in Orange County, I will ask a lot more about the who, where, and why of an engagement before I agree to anything. Fortunately, there were a few venues that offered a safe haven for psychic readers, though whether or not they had any special legal arrangements with the powers that be within the OC city council was an unspoken mystery.

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