In a complicated, often frustrating world, wouldn't it be nice if you knew someone out there who had the answers? Someone who could guide you to happiness, wealth or romance, reunite you with a lost loved one, or tell you what might happen next week or next year? How much would you be willing to pay if you truly—sincerely—believed you could harness that kind of power?
Throughout history, people have paid untold billions to biblical prophets and clairvoyant crime solvers, even to market prognosticators who claim they can pick stocks by reading the stars. For those of us who remain skeptical, there are actually organizations that claim to promote and enforce ethical standards among psychics.
At the top of its 8-point code of ethics, the Australia-based International Psychics Association says its members "should give advice as responsibly and accurately as possible."
"Our late founder, Simon Turnbull, always said a reading should cost the same as a good haircut, and that does tend to be a fair guide," spokeswoman Leela Williams said in an e-mail to American Greed.
But, she notes, "Not all psychics are members of our association or any similar group."
That's almost certainly true of some of the most notorious crooked clairvoyants in history. They include a storefront psychic from Oregon who gained control of a valuable, thousand-acre tree farm as well as its owner's heart; a Florida fortune-telling fraudster who was so good that she duped a best-selling author, and many more.
Travel with us into the past and meet some of the charlatans who claimed to see the future, when all they were really looking at was a fast buck.