The evening’s all a-bluster as we trundle over the West Gate Bridge and point our quackmobile towards Geelong. It comes as a surprise that there’s a psychometry group in this direction. While the Mornington Peninsula is a hotbed of psychic activity and angel guides (there’s a whole newspaper devoted to the stuff), the Bellarine Peninsula is less concerned with esoteric wisdom. Sure enough, our destination turns out to be quite godforsaken looking, and about as spiritual as a sock.
Or is it?
En route to this Monday night gathering, at which we must give psychic readings for other members, Esther and I rehearse our scripts, utilising the cold-reading tips set out in Professor Richard Wiseman’s book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There.
I practise my double-headed platitudes: “You’re a person with great depths who enjoys pondering the big stuff alone, yet people seek out your company,” I postulate.
“You’re not one to gossip, but people value seeking out your advice,” Esther counters.
For today’s mission, we will need some kind of personal trinket, which will be put anonymously into an envelope and picked by someone else, who will do a reading based on it. Esther has a rummage in the car for something I can use.
“But it’s got to belong to me,” I point out.
She looks at me sharply. “You say that as though makes a difference.”
Nevertheless, once we get to the venue, I can’t help noticing Esther has a superstitious riffle through the empty envelopes on offer until she finds one with her favourite number printed on it. Sap!
Terry also notices. He’s the leader of this group, and also – according to my Googling skills – a local performer in the vein of Tom Jones. Right now, he’s lurking under the pretence of handing us nametags, as I stuff an earring into my envelope, trying to duck behind Esther.
Tonight there are 12 of us – all women, including Terry’s wife – sat in a tight circle in a barely lit Masonic hall. We’re not allowed to cross our legs as Marg leads us through a guided mediation, presumably so that the ‘christlight’ in us can seep out unhindered.
After the meditation we’re all asked to share what we saw. Everyone, bar us two interlopers, admits to having had a conversation with their spirit guides. Terry had also conversed with a dolphin “that seemed to know me” and seen all sorts of spectacular wizardry that Ronnie James Dio would have baulked at. Personally, my mind had just wandered down its usual route. I hope the group can’t smell my sexy pheromones.
Next it’s the bit we’ve been waiting for – the psychometry. Terry picks my envelope, and waxes lyrical about a totem animal, an eagle, that is coming to him loud and clear.
I open my envelope to find some kind of necklace with a ‘T’ on it. I pass it from hand to hand, tangling the chain between my fingers.
“I get the feeling this person has been waiting very patiently for their time to come,” I say. “They’ve watched others have their moment in the sun, but they really feel it should be their time now. And it will be. But they need all the support from their family they can get.”
“That was 60 to 70 per cent right; so that’s really good,” says Terry when I’m done. He spends the rest of the meeting trying to unsnarl his necklace.
“I’m getting bananas,” Esther shouts when it’s her go. “I don’t know why, but I can smell them really strongly … and I can feel a pain in my head, here.”
Carmen reclaims her ring. “I quite like bananas,” she admits politely. “And I get headaches sometimes.”
I notice that there’s a script of sorts being stuck to here. Almost everyone complains of a burning sensation coming off their object, and “I can tell this person has great wisdom” gets bandied about a lot. My overwhelming feeling, though, is that I’m in a room full of curtain twitchers.
We finish off by healing Annie, who – I am deducing – has a serious illness. We stand around her and hold hands as she weeps. Terry warns her about a couple of dubious men in her life who mean her harm, touches her head and gives it a little push. Cured!
As we bid our farewells, two of the women tell me I have a remarkable gift, steadfastly ignoring Esther.
“I actually did see a banana!” she says indignantly as we jump in the car.
I really hope Annie seeks proper medical attention.