SOME LIKE IT COLD

So, dear imaginary reader, you’ve been on tenterhooks since the first thrilling episode of Psychic Club, where I alluded to my cold reading triumph…

Firstly, what is cold reading? Orson Welles explains it nicely here, and here is Uncle Derren doing it. And here’s the obligatory Wikipedia entry on it.

Secondly, how did I come to be marginally better at it than an actual psychic? Well – BEHOLD! The two shining stars bestowed upon me by Ian Rowland during his Applied Cold Reading Masterclass!

Behold!

If you’re interested in cold reading, you should read Ian’s book and do his course. Both are excellent and, now that I’m masquerading as a psychic, I realise how much I learned from Ian, and how useful the system he codified and teaches is. I don’t think I’d have the same level of insight into what worked and what didn’t if I weren’t familiar with Ian’s work. Thank you, Ian!

Thirdly, is psychometry a cold read? Hmm. Yes and no. I confess I’d just finished reading Corinda’s book the day of Psychic Club. So I considered my options to cheat do some mentalism – ie, I could have selected the watch to guarantee ‘success’. I guess it retrospectively feels closer to a cold read than anything else, plus my main lessons learned relate to cold reading. So there.

So. I’m sitting in the psychic circle and it’s my turn to pick an object from beneath the tray. Half the objects have already gone, so I’m praying I’m not stuck with a piece of jewellery. I feel around and find something intriguing: something squishy. I take it.

In my hands I hold a heart-shaped handbag charm or keyring attachment. It’s cream; imitation leather on the back, imitation suede on the front; the front is studded with copper beads; the chain is copper.

Some of the beads are missing. The clip or ring at the top of the chain is missing. The fabric is discoloured – not dirty, but just indicative of something that’s been knocking around for a while.

I think that this is most likely a bag charm. I look around for a handbag that matches. I don’t have a clear view of everyone’s belongings, but I can’t see a cream bag. This means that the owner must be carrying the object around for sentimental reasons. I realise that, if this is right, this will sound impressive and so make a note to play this up in my reading.

This object tells me a great deal about the owner’s style and socio-economic status. Based on this information, I think it belongs to a woman sitting two chairs away from me, but she arrived late and I can’t see her properly. So I waste the rest of the time doubting myself and wondering whether it might belong to two other women.

The readings begin. Quite a few women are eliminated, thanks to the proliferation of jewellery. So I’m soon confident I’ve guessed my owner. But people are saying lovely things about their object’s owner – the woman who’s got my iPhone cover correctly divines that I am, indeed, warm and sunny (though she thinks it belongs to someone else). So I realise my Sherlockian powers of deduction will impress no one and try to recall a Barnum statement or two, just as it’s my turn…

“So I got this little heart – I think it’s from a handbag or maybe a keyring. I sense that love is really important to this person. You seek and attract a lot of love in your life. I think this heart broke off a bag and you now carry it around for sentimental reasons. I feel that this person likes to make a statement with what they wear – these copper beads – they like a bit of bling. I thought maybe this person is a busy mum. I also thought they’re maybe thinking of buying a new handbag; it looks a bit worn. And I feel that this object belongs to… you.”

I’d been looking down at the object for most of the reading a) because my pretext is that I’m concentrating on the psychic vibrations or whatnot and b) because people kept giving themselves away, which irritated me as it would detract from my confidently reuniting owner and object. So I felt that this final flourish gave a pleasing effect that I’ll use again – perfect for a promising psychic student.

The readings had been pretty unspectacular: the highlight thus far was a woman getting a very strong impression of a Jack Russell dog from a ring that no one, try as they might, could make fit. So my woman seemed happy with my ramblings. My big lesson learned is that she responded most to the thing I almost dismissed as too trite to mention: love. She was like, “Wow! Yeah. That’s amazing. You’re right. Love is really important to me. I do attract a lot of love into my life. Yeah. Gosh.”

She then confirmed that she carries her heart around as a sort of lucky charm, that it was, indeed, off an old handbag, and that she has ‘a thing’ for buying bags and loves her bling. (She didn’t respond to my statement about having kids.) But the things I thought I’d been so clever for deducing were just incidentals to her. I realise now I shouldn’t even have mentioned the details – the copper beads and the wear – the reading would have seemed more impressive without them. I was also too worried about my observation (that the handbag was inexpensive and a bit tatty, and thus likely needed replacing) being offensive to take advantage of the simple truth that the woman liked shopping for handbags.

In conclusion, I should have trusted my instincts on the owner and it being a bag charm; then I could have spent way more time crafting the reading. I wish I’d ratcheted up the love thing, perhaps speculating about relationships as well as saying more about ‘her’ personality. I’ll be rereading Ian’s book and course materials as I was terribly dismissive of the Barnum effect and people’s eagerness to make things fit when I first started learning about cold reading. People were gagging to be told nice things about themselves – my warm and sunny self included.

So how did our real psychic, Brenda, fare? I was left with no doubt that Brenda wholly trusts these things to psychic forces… because she wasn’t great. Hers was the final reading, so, even though we all therefore knew to whom the object belonged, she started by saying she’d sensed it might belong to the woman she read for – but also maybe two other women. And she was holding the tray as people put things in. So she is not cheating a secret mentalist.

Brenda sensed that the woman’s bracelet was a gift. The woman immediately screwed her nose up and started to shake her head on the ‘g’ of ‘gift’. I was waiting for Brenda to revise this as, “A gift to yourself”. But she didn’t. For ages. Clearly I wasn’t the only person waiting for this revision, as someone chipped in, “A gift to yourself” on her behalf. Brenda continued to labour the gift thing: she insisted she was getting the woman’s mum – she’d definitely sensed it was a gift from her mum, but there must be some other mum connection… This woman was pretty chatty and we’d already learned she was visiting from Australia for a few months, so Brenda speculated that the woman was missing her mum. The woman said no, she was not. Brenda insisted it must be her mum missing her then. She said no. Brenda interpreted this as a sign of a broken relationship. But it was not: the woman was just a cheery Oz in her 20s enjoying her jaunt to the UK. Brenda urged that there was something wrong, but conceded maybe it was her dad and would ‘missing’ fit there? It would not. Brenda continued to cast aspersions on this woman’s family relations for longer than was comfortable before finally giving the bracelet back.

When the time comes for me to leave Psychic Club, I will leave Brenda a copy of Ian’s book.

2 thoughts on “SOME LIKE IT COLD

  1. Your future as a psychic is bright. You’ll be happy to know that your Wiki link sent me down the Wiki rabbit hole on cold readings, warm readings, hot readings …. and you’re already mastering the trade ;)

    I do find it a bit fascinating how there are universal things we ALL want to hear, e.g. “your life is full of love” but at the very same time we desperately want those things to be unique traits — maybe we’re the ONLY person in this circle whose life is full of love! And all a psychic needs to do is manipulate these rather pitiful needs in all of us. I find the psychology here far more interesting than the supernatural.

    Also, do we think that Australian who buys herself nice bracelets was just trolling poor Brenda to humiliate her? I’ll bet both her parents miss her a lil bit…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy to have you follow me down this rabbit hole, Cole! The psychology is what hooks me, too. I came across a great quote from Margaret Mead that sums it up: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

      I don’t think the Aussie was trolling Brenda. I think she was just (understandably) disappointed. She was offering information up on a plate and a ‘psychic’ wasn’t using it in any way, shape or form – whether to make safe statements that could fit anyone or to make wild predictions for the future.

      Here’s how Brenda could have played it on the safe side:

      “I sense this is a g… [ON NOTING REACTION] …gift to yourself. [BLAH ABOUT BUYING YOURSELF GIFTS] But it’s strange, I also got a sense of your mum from this object. I know you’re far from home at the moment. I think you’re missing your mum? [‘NO’ REACTION] Well, perhaps your mum is missing you? [‘NO’] Or your dad..? [‘NO’]

      “You know, I remember the first time I left home for a significant period in my early years. I was so excited to see the world as an independent young woman, that it wasn’t til I returned home to my parents that I realised how much I’d missed them – just in those small ways: a home-cooked meal, a hug, those small gifts we give. And now I’m a mum myself, and I want my kids to go out into the world as independent people in their own right, too – but there’s a part of me that always misses them when we’re not together.”

      The last bit is a ‘time revision’, which is how a decent psychic/reader can always win. Because you can’t argue with what the future – allegedly – holds, right?

      My other favourite, incidentally, is the ‘metaphorical revision’.

      So, on the wild side, I like combining future-time and metaphorical statements for maximum prophetic impact.

      Here is one just for you, Cole: ‘You will hear the words that will change your life from the beak of a parrot.’

      LET ME KNOW WHEN IT COMES TRUE.

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