NYC psychic Tammy Mitchell was recently accused of grand larceny and "fortune-telling" because she charged a stockbroker $487,000 to fix his bad juju. With mystics on almost every street corner, we wondered how far they have to go to make a buck in this town. Slip beyond the beaded curtain to find out.
Wed Feb 27 2008
Photo: Tim Soter
JOSHUA THE PSYCHIC
The 29-year-old Upper West Sider has been doing birth-chart and tarot consultations for 12 years. He is as sweet as a cherry pie (but far more personable), and takes great pleasure and pride in his astrology and knowledge of the cards—which seems to exceed what most people learn in four years of college.
Location: Private residence, 949 Columbus Ave between 106th and 107th Sts (646-784-3628, psychicjoshua.com)
Cost: $90 for 45 minutes, including a full birth-chart analysis (down to the minute I was born) and tarot-card reading
Ambience: Consultations are run out of his sixth-floor walk-up, the walls of which are covered in his own abstract paintings. I feel slightly claustrophobic, but equally cozy, having my consultation on the couch in the living room.
His reading: I’m a Pisces, so I’m artistic, see. But I’ve got a Virgo rising, which makes me really organized (ha!). But then (you won’t believe this part!)…I’ve got some Capricorn up in the mix (pragmatism, yo), making me, like, the ideal human being (all while creating cool sculptures as I compose a sonnet in iambic pentameter). Joshua says I’m also a giver. He does manage to conjure a few eerie details out of nowhere, like that I have two roommates, a cat and a really awesome little sister who wishes I called her more. Guess I’m not perfect after all.
The spin: None. He really is a doll. He offers me 15 percent off my next reading for every friend I recommend. Wink!
How he got into the biz: Joshua went to Emerson College in Boston, which is just a few blocks down from the Original Tremont Tearoom—the oldest psychic salon in the United States. Once he found out that “the dark arts” had nothing to do with the devil, he joined up.
Heard about the half-mil swindle? “That's an old Romany trick,” he says. “They tell you you have cancer and that they can cure you.”
Photo: David Rosenzweig
The gray-bobbed psychic has two visible bottom teeth and is wearing a red-cotton nightgown and slippers when we meet. She's worked out of the front room of her apartment for 35 years.
Location: Tarot Card and Palm Reading, 124 MacDougal St between Minetta Ln and W 3rd St (above Meskerem)
Cost: $35 for a 15-minute tarot session
Ambience: Plastic plants and wooden Buddhas. I can hear the TV in the next room.
Her reading: “Do you sleep alone?” she asks. How does she know?!? (It’s date time on Valentine’s Day… But yeah, it’s true—I sleep alone. BFD.) “There’s darkness in your bedroom; the hermit and the nine of swords.” According to Tina, desire and temptation await me. She sees that I haven’t been here long (seven and a half years), so I need to be wary of the demons around me. But there’s good news: “You have money coming.” (Hear that, IRS? Refund! Cha-ching.)
The spin: Offered a palm-reading for an extra $25
How she got into the biz: “You could learn yourself,” she says. “Get a book.”
Heard about the half-mil swindle? “I saw that on television,” she says. “Well, he was dumb enough to give her that money. I wish he was dumb enough to give me that money.”
Photo: David Rosenzweig
An intense man with glowworm-green eyes originally from the Dominican Republic, William is in his early thirties and wears a purple dashiki. He is speaking quietly with a woman who came in for love soap. “No,” he tells her. “I have what you need.” She leaves with something called leche del hombre amado (milk of the loved man).
Location: Centro Botanico y Esoterico Gran Bua, 1582 St. Nicholas Ave between 189th and 190th Sts (212-740-0449)
Cost: $30 for 20 minutes of very intense tarot action
Ambience: The narrow passage between shelves of orisha candles bearing trabajos (spells such as “Do as I say!“) and cabinets of talismans, dragon's blood, “stay away from me” oil and religious statues is further cramped by folding chairs. I ascend a skinny, winding staircase to a closet-size space in a storage room, filled with candles, statues and two chairs, and sectioned off by a red-velvet curtain.
His reading: I would have been freaked out by William’s intense reading if my friend had not been there to translate. I have greatness inside me, he says. An exceptional, larger-than-life aura. I could do what he does, he says. But everyone is jealous of my power. Many people are performing voodoo spells on me as we speak (creepy!). Luckily, none of the voodoo has been strong enough…yet. I will need extra luck to fend off these haters.
The spin: William suggests a foot-high pink candle ($10) and a luck bath called “La Magia del Dólar” ($8). I am to burn this candle night and day for one week and return for another consultation.
How he got into the biz: “I was born with this gift,” he says, eyes widening, his face wearing something between a snarl and a smirk. He emerged from his mother, it seems, in a dashiki-style onesie with a working knowledge of tarot.
Heard about the half-mil swindle? William has nothing to say about the psychic con, but as he makes his way down the stairs to the shop to sell me some para(normal)phernalia, he calls out to the woman behind the counter: “La gringa, se quedo encantada.” (“The white girl loved it.“)
Photo: David Rosenzweig
Karter seems like your average cookie-baking late-middle-aged woman, until she sings along with the spirit world and then barks out, “Am I clear, dear?!?‚” in an Exorcist voice. She came to the city from Omaha with a singing scholarship to Juilliard and found a second career as a medium.
Location: Private residence, 66 W 94th St between Central Park West and Columbus Ave (212-663-7434)
Cost: $200 for an hour-long session; numerology analysis included
Ambience: Karter's apartment is on the top floor of a UWS co-op. The place is spotless, save for a very tall stack of books on which I am ordered to place my purse (my every move is micromanaged during the session), and is decorated with African-American art and pink Victorian furniture. Two folding chairs face each other at opposite ends of the room, with the blinds meticulously half-drawn on a wall of windows, leaving Karter in shadow and giving the warm setting an ominous edge.
Her reading: After “going into” my circulatory system, Karter recommends that I eat more beets. She asks what sport I play; the spirit had shown her a ball above my head. “I used to play volleyball,” I reply, and she seems pleased that her “vision” is confirmed. (Note: I’m six feet tall.) Many of her character assessments are spot-on—I worry too much, I’m a klutz who doesn’t get enough sleep, etc.—but her more specific predictions sound dubious. For example, she says I’m involved with a man whose hair is darker than mine. (Um…I’m blond.)
The spin: She suggests I buy supplements, get a massage and have my birth chart read by her friend. I suspect this friend returns the favor.
How she got into the biz: When she was seven years old, Karter says, she had a vision of her grandfather, a mason and minister, lying on the ground. Soon after, he fell from scaffolding while constructing his own church and died. She knew then, she says, that she had the gift. She began studying as a young person and became a full-time medium after a consultation with astrologer to the stars Hans Holzer.
Heard about the half-mil swindle? “She was a phony. I try not to commercialize what I do. Most people with real gifts don’t even come out into the open.”
Photo: David Rosenzweig
Young and pretty with a Cindy Crawford beauty mark on her upper lip, Kitty is abrasive, unlikable and yet, still effectively manipulative. Like the mean friend you had in junior high.
Location: 551 Fulton St, entrance on DeKalb Ave between Flatbush Ave and Bond St, Downtown Brooklyn (718-930-9780)
Cost: $10 dollars for two palms ($5 for one palm)
Ambience: A block into Downtown Brooklyn's Fulton Street Mall, Kitty's shop is the quintessential psychic storefront. She sits in the window with a slightly chipped crystal ball and a curtain that she pulls across when you enter. Her daughter colors with crayons nearby.
Her reading: I have no sex appeal, she tells me while tracing my palm with a perfectly manicured, petal-pink fingernail. Because I was a man in my former life. Men aren’t interested in relationships with me—they get a friend vibe. Apparently there is a shadow on my chakra, my aura is funky and I’m damaged. She points to a part of my palm and says something about scarring on my heart. Interestingly, she is pointing near a scar on my palm from Valentine’s Day 2003. A boy bought me flowers (my first ever!) and I attempted to make a vase out of a Poland Spring bottle and cut the bejesus out of my hand with a pair of scissors.
The spin: When I ask for the $10 palm reading, she tells me that palms are “for the kids.” What I really need is a tarot reading ($45), or better yet, she recommends “The Lovers’ Layout” ($55), which includes tarot and palm. I am clearly unhappy and afraid, she says later, and I need to come back.
How she got into the biz: Her mother and grandmother were fortune-tellers (hence the inherited crystal ball). “But that's enough about me,” she says. Back to my damaged chakra!
Heard about the half-mil swindle? She has not heard the story. “Well,” I tell her. “It’s made me a little wary of psychics.” “You see?!?” she says. “I told you I saw fear.”