So….is palm reading real or fake?
It is 100% fake.
It is undeniably fake.
It is lacking a single shred of scientific evidence supporting it.
It is without a single doubt….pure quackery….pure speculation….and pure horse shit.
But……………It kind of doesn’t matter.
There’s a teeennny little part of us that deep inside wants to know answers, even if we suspect they might be fake.
Palm Readers, Fortune tellers, Tarot Card readers…..they all rely on the human brain’s thirst for an “answer” to a question.
They all exploit Probability Observation.
They all exploit Power of Suggestion.
They all exploit Cold Reading.
By combining these three tactics any sort of fortune teller can fool gullible (or vulnerable) minds.
A person who goes to a psychic or fortune teller will often be fooled by small “accurate” suggestions such as:
Some people legitimately will believe (or secretly WANT to be believe) this person has some mystical ability. But what’s really going on is a Probability Observation and the Power of Suggestion in a nice little combination:
Probability Observation: There’s a woman asking for her fortune to be read which probably means she is looking for some clarity or answer about a problem in her life. She’s in her 50’s and overweight.
- There’s a 90% chance she’s experienced some lower back issues or pain.
- There’s a 100% chance that someone close in her life has died by this point in her life.
- There’s a 95% chance she’s experienced some “health issues” with a loved one which may cause stress.
Basically, within a few seconds of meeting this person the “psychic” can make many assumptions and exploit them.
Power of Suggestion: By “vaguely sensing” some sort of “pain” the fortune teller is asking the woman to search her brain for anything that matches. There’s a 100% chance she’s had a physical or emotional pain by this point in her life. By accurately “guessing” events in her life, she’s more likely to trust the next suggestion.
This “power” can be used for good or for evil.
A mom grieving about the loss of her child is suckered into a psychic saying she can communicate with the child from “the other side.” She tells the mom not to tell anyone about this contact, and to keep coming back to her twice a week to speak with her child (for a nice heft fee of course)…
A mom grieving about the loss of her child goes to a psychic to ask if her son is ok. The psychic “contacts” the son on “the other side” and “he” tells the mom he is doing great and that he is in a better place and safe. This appeases the mom and she feels a sense of relief and can begin the process of accepting her loss.
I actually don’t mind this aspect that much. People crave closure, and if this is a way of resolving it, then I’m actually ok with this being the method.
However, I think it leads down a dangerous path. If the person starts to believe in this hocus pocus “a liiitttllle too much” it seems like it can go in an unhealthy direction.
One of the reasons I actually care about this is because I once used to own a palm reading business!
Yup, at one point in time I owned a palm reading business!
In 2006 one of my friends looked at my palm and said I had a small “Money Line.” Well as a young & greedy Indian kid I couldn’t just let that comment slide! I had to prove them wrong!
As a joke, I went online and searched for palm reading sites where I could upload a picture of my palm and get my palm read by a professional palm reader. 24-year-old Neville thought this was clearly a service offered somewhere online.
Well it turns out most palm readers aren’t the greatest online web developers, so there was literally NO site capable of doing that on the entire interwebs.
Young & Dumb Neville thought, “Well if no one is doing, then I bet I could make a ton of money doing it by being the first!!!”
(2016-Neville would punch 2006-Neville in the face for thinking a dumb thought like that).
So I bought the domain PalmReport.com, spec’d out the entire business, contacted a Romanian web development team I knew well, and by early 2006 had a website, blog, and fully customized backend (complete with palm uploading feature) in place!
This cost me a grand total of $700 to develop.
In 2006 the site looked like this:
(Click here to see an archived version of PalmReport from 2006).
I have to admit, by 2006 web design standards that site was THE SHIT!!!! I was especially proud of the Flash banner that was made for the homepage (many mobile devices can no longer view Flash, so don’t freak out if you can’t see it).
Till this day I’ve never been more proud of a site. It literally made me smile when I looked at it :-)
There was even a fully custom backend for PalmReport that allowed me (or whoever the palm reader would be) to access the images of paying clients. Here’s some screenshots of all the different functionality it had:
Anyhow, I started writing articles for the website about different lines of palm, and how to get palm readings. I was essentially doing what nowadays is called “content marketing.” Because of these articles I was writing, it pushed the site’s web traffic to between 100 and 200 search engine visits per day.
I figured if around 1% of the traffic converted to a paid reading, I could start off getting 1 or 2 orders per day pretty quickly.
But the next part was more difficult, I had to figure out a way to actually read palms!
I went online and bought 5 books on palm reading. I started reading and taking notes. I wanted to devise a repeatable system I could read each palm with and deliver a satisfying palm reading.
The information I found online and in books was all-over-the-place, and there was usually zero explanation of HOW these things worked or how they figured it out. There were really bold claims that “The mound on the bottom right of your left hand equates to how creative you are.” There were be no explanation at all, which left me scratching my head in disbelief that this “science” even existed.
Quickly I realized it might be harder than expected to give a good palm reading by just reading these books. Some of the information just seemed sooo fluffy and made up.
The Hunt to Find A Non-Scammy Palm Reader:
I searched for “Palm Readers” near my neighborhood and actually found out there were A LOT more palm readers around town than I expected…including one just a mile from me!
I promptly drove over to this place which was more like a run-down house/office than a proper retail store. It was super stereotypical looking:
- I walked through one of those beaded curtain-door things.
- There was incense burning.
- There was and new age music playing.
- The woman who greeted me was an Eastern-European gypsy-looking older woman with a head wrap on.
- There was a round table with a purple cloth draped over it.
- There was a big round crystal ball on the table like you’d see in the movies.
I asked the woman if she could do “Chiromancy” which is the art of palm reading that people like Aristotle even kind of believed in. I asked for that specifically because Chiromancy is the pseudo-science of palm reading, and it has RULES you can follow.
The rules of Chiromancy are like: “If the Life Line has a 45 degree angle and a break half way through, it can indicate a mid-life crisis.”
…..yeah, so it’s 100% bullshit, but at least there’s RULES I could follow (and therefore I replicate for PalmReport.com’s customers).
The palm reader lady brushed off the question and told me YES she could read my palms. She then took me to the little table with the crystal ball in the middle of it and took my right palm. She then placed a large crystal in my palm that nearly 70% covered up my entire palm.
I thought to myself, “How is she going to read the lines of my palm if there’s a big-ass crystal on it?”
She held my palm, closed her eyes, then opened them WWWIIIDDDEE and said in a super-loud voice like she was possessed:
“YOU HAVE HAD A FINANCIAL CONCERN IN THE LAST TWO YEARS!!”
“YOU HAVE FRIENDS YOU DO SO MUCH FOR, BUT THEY DON’T RETURN THE EFFORT!”
“YOU HAVE HAVE HAD A QUARREL WITH A FAMILY MEMBER IN THE LAST TWO YEARS!”
I immediately started laughing on the inside and was biting the inside of my cheek to not burst out laughing in her face!!
I couldn’t believe this was actually happening!! She was talking in a comical “possessed” voice like a skit from Saturday Night Live and was literally spouting experiences nearly every human has ever had (although I didn’t understand the friends not reciprocating thing). I mean, even Bill Gates has had a “Financial concern” in the last two years!
After this silly reading was over, I thanked her, paid her the $20 fee and left.
I figured I just went to a crappy psychic and I would have more luck elsewhere.
This same type of experienced happened to me about 12 to 15 more times with other palm readers over the next few weeks. I saw palm readers across the city. I was at a county fair and did a palm reading there, same thing.
It was literally like they were all saying the same thing.
Years later I saw this video on YouTube where someone did an investigative report of palm readers giving the EXACT same reading over-and-over:
This was the exact way some of the palm readers delivered the readings.
One of the worst experiences was when one palm reader pulled the same routine on me, and then told me I was CURSED! ….and for only a “small fee of $200” she could remove the curse on me by performing a ceremony! I quickly started to see this palm reading stuff as even more of a ripoff than I originally anticipated.
After a few weeks of going to over 15 different palm readers and forking over $20 each time, I was pretty discouraged. I had already fully developed PalmReport.com, and now I still had no way to read palms in a non-scammy way.
So poking around on some obscure listing site, I came across a woman named Kianna Smith who was in Austin that did “Palm readings and iridology.” (I found out “iridology” is like palm reading, but in the iris of your eye. They take a high-res picture of your iris and then analyze it. It’s like half science and half fortune telling).
I called this woman up and asked for a palm reading session, and she said the price was $120. I couldn’t believe it, this was 6x more than I had ever been charged.
Anyhow, I was intrigued and drove to meet her. I wanted to see what a $120 palm reading was like compared to my standard $20 gypsy weirdos.
As I arrived at her home I noticed it was a fairly large house, well furnished, and divided into two sections. One for her “healing center” and another for the “family” portion of the house.
It was the first time entering a palm reading office that wasn’t some some dingy hole-in-the-wall next to a Quizno’s or seedy lingerie shop.
I spoke with Kianna for a bit, she had an extremely warm personality, and I first asked her a test question (because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to lose $120 on the same crap readings I’d experienced before). It was this:
“Can you tell how many children I will have based on my palm?”
She promptly replied, “You don’t really think your palm could tell you something like that do you?”
SUCCESS!! She wasn’t a total scammer at least! The other palm readers would look at some vague marks on the side of my hand and with certainty say “You will have 2 to 3 children.”
It was such B.S…..and also just a calculated guess on how many children people normally have.
Anyhow, Kianna then did something I never saw: She got black ink and rubber roller thingy, and completely inked up my hands with a thin layer of black ink.
I couldn’t find any pictures from 2006 of this (it was pre-iPhone), so I jacked an image from the web of how it looked:
(Image cred: Getty Images)
She then had me press my inky hands on a large sheet of paper. When I removed them, there was a PERFECT outline of my hands and every single little detail of the palm! I had never seen my palm so clearly before.
Kianna started pointing to specific lines on my hands, and little features on them, and using them to EXPLAIN what she intuitively felt about me. It was a FANTASTIC formula that really made me listen to her:
[Pseudo Science] + [Intuition] = Plausible.
Even though I came there to just “test out” if she was a good palm reader and a good fit for PalmReport, I’m not going to lie….I was HIGHLY INTERESTED in the things she was telling me.
She would say something like, “Ok let me see what I can find about your life purpose…”
You damn well bet I was curious about what she had to say!
Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves, so when this seemingly wise lady with a beautiful house starts analyzing small features of my hand and telling me about my life, OF COURSE I was listening!
I don’t think she MEANT this, but she was definitely utilizing the powers we spoke about above.
Cold Reading: A 24 year old Indian kid drives up to North Austin in a nice Lexus for a palm reading and then talks about all the cool side-projects he’s doing. My attitude was smiley and friendly, not depressed and sad. My enthusiasm, smiling, rate of speech……I mean, just based on these immediately observations any smart person can DEFINITELY infer some generalizations about me by then.
Probability Observation: She knew my age was 24, so she probably could infer I didn’t have kids. She probably could tell my health was in good condition. Because of my age and lack of a ring she probably knew I wasn’t married.
Power of Suggestion: She would say there’s a “break” or “deviation” in my life at a certain age, and ask if there was any inflection points around that time. Of course your brain can always come up with something that matches that description.
The combination of noticing all these things and combining them is what humans call our “intuition.”
To some people, this intuition makes them feel they can see things about this person others can’t. And to be fair, if someone is well-trained at doing this, they probably CAN tell a lot about someone in a few moments!
Kianna delivered the palm reading like she was a great therapist.
Because she told me all these great things about myself, and things to watch out for, I walked out of that place feeling great!
In my head I knew I found the right person for the job.
So before I left I told her about PalmReport, and showed that it was up, running, working, and ready to accept orders. We cut a deal that she would get half the revenue from the palm readings she does. It was a pretty un-official agreement with no paperwork as I can recall.
When we would get an order, it would appear in the PalmReport custom backend. I would even sometimes take the pictures and quickly alter them with Photoshop filters so Kianna could look at them in great detail.
I would include the normal palm, a black & white version, and HDR enhanced version, and an inverted-color version. When shown in full-resolution and blown up on a screen, it was AMAZING how much detail you could see:
Normal palm, no enhancements:
Black & White palm:
Inverted colors palm:
We did a few tests, and what people loved the MOST was when Kianna would record a 10-20 minute reading of her reading. This also happened to be the easiest, as it didn’t require a lot of Photoshopping or typing (the original palm reading was many pages of Kianna typing, which was tedious and slow, and frankly not exciting as the recordings).
Kianna had a great voice which was calming and kind, so recording the readings was how we proceeded. I set her up with the free software Audacity (which was the dominant free recording platform at the time) and little headset so she could record hands-free.
She would then pull up the photos on her computer and the user-submitted questions and start the palm reading.
Since we had users tell us about themselves, ask specific questions, and submit pictures of their palms, Kianna had a reasonable amount of information to go on. From this she would deliver very insightful readings. People definitely loved the service.
When I started PalmReport as a pure side-project business, it never got A LOT of attention from me. It brought in money every month, but eventually we called it quits and sold the site off. After splitting the money with Kianna the site made a few hundred bucks per month, but nothing exceptional. Not bad for a recent college grad like myself at the time, but my other side businesses were making much more, so PalmReport went by the wayside.
What I did find fascinating was that while some people’s “intuition” is maybe naturally high, it’s actually pretty easy to dramatically increase the amount you can tell about a person by just observing them for 10 seconds or less.
How much information you can read about a person in the first 10 seconds
Try it for yourself! See if you can look at someone and “guesstimate” what’s going on in their life just by their outward appearance and the context around the situation:
- Do they look happy?
- Do they look upset?
- Are they uncomfortable?
- Are they nervous?
- Based on their physical appearance, are they healthy?
- Do they have a wedding ring on?
- Do they look old enough to have kids?
- Do they look like they are from another country?
- Do they talk quickly?
- How is their eye contact?
- What is the setting they are in right now?
- Do they look sleepy?
- Do they look alert?