Tarot card readings, astrology, clairvoyance and windows to the future. From fellow human beings who have tapped into another plane of existence come these wonderful gifts – all for a price. Brantford’s annual psychic expo hit the town from October 1-3 and for even walking through the door of the Civic Centre, visitors are hit with an $8 charge. The fee was understandable- travelling across Ontario is expensive.

The troupe of intuitives made their way to nearly a dozen different cities across Ontario this year, from Windsor to Guelph, Newmarket to Hamilton. The Brantford expo featured a variety of talents, like Jim Ferguson the self-described “Enchanted Peddler” of crystals and David Belne, who uses tuning forks to affect the human body.

Wandering around the various booths inside the Civic Centre, one finds a range of services at a range of prices, from $8 to upwards of $150. But many people are unfamiliar with this profession’s cost – and it’s not all dollars and cents.

A handful of the lucky psychics do not have any other employment outside of their clients.

“This is my full time profession, this is my life,” explained Tony Uberoi, a clairvoyant who describes himself as an intuitive life coach. Their clients range from visitors at expos, to those who call in to the increasingly common radio and television shows, to those who attend a full “clinic” where psychics demonstrate their abilities. Nonetheless, making a living in an oft-questioned profession is difficult.

This, like in any other occupations, results in high costs for services. An hour-long reading can cost around $100, though the price can be relative to the psychic’s reputation. Even a mere 15 minutes could set you back $25 in some cases, and this is on the cheap end of the spectrum – higher prices are closer to $50. Some psychics charged by the question, others by the hour and additional costs could be added if a tape or video was requested.

Online or television readings are generally priced by the minute. Most say charging a dollar a minute is fair. Chip Coffey, one of North America’s better known psychics, charges $200 for a 30-minute reading and $500 for a 30-minute spirit contact session- all of this over the phone.

Whether or not the price reflects the legitimacy of the reading is up to the client.

“The effectiveness of a reading is dependent on both the reader and client,” said Sophia, also known as “Sensitive Sophia,” a reader featured at the expo. “If either party is too distracted, not centered or too overwhelmed with any one emotion that overrides the transference of energy, than it will not result in a good ‘connection.’ Money does not equal satisfaction.”

But readings aren’t the only psychic service taking a toll on your wallet: all kinds of mystical memorabilia and tools of the psychic trade were up for sale at the psychic expo. Everyone was trying to get their piece of the action and judging by the sparse numbers in attendance on day 1 of the expo, there wasn’t a lot to go around. Crystals said to draw negative energy away from their holder were a popular sales item, sold by the aforementioned Enchanted Peddler, Jim Ferguson. The crystals ranged in price depending on purpose, origin and size. The Enchanted Peddler and his crew visit India annually, hunting for the crystals that vary from the size of your fingernail to the size of your head. The crystals are heavily intertwined with Indian culture, different stones possessing different properties.

Beyond paying the aforementioned sky-high costs to have tarot cards interpreted or see what is in your future, what is the cost it will have on your life? Some say nothing; psychics and psychic services are harmless, sometimes even helpful.

“My reading was very insightful and accurate, but I checked out all of the booths first,” explained Sarah, an attendee at the psychic expo.

Others beg to differ. Entire web forums, like www.whatstheharm.net, are based on the suffering psychic readings have caused people, both economically and physically.

Take the story of Jackie Haughn, featured on ABC News. The New Jersey resident fell into a downward economic spiral brought on by dependence upon the psychic industry. Haughn once went to an alleged medium, looking for guidance. What started out as a curiosity evolved into a crippling dependency, eventually costing Haughn $220,000 in service fees. But, as the news story eventually revealed, Haughn’s “psychic” was actually a fraud – a manipulative con artist with no paranormal abilities whatsoever.

In the case Pam and Craig Akers of Missouri, reliance on the word of a medium can lead to even greater emotional impacts. The Akers were told on television by renowned psychic, Sylvia Brown, that their son, Shawn Hornbeck, was dead after being kidnapped. Four years later, that same son was found, very much so alive. Browne, in her “reading,” described Shawn’s abductor and the circumstances of the kidnapping and murder in some detail. Later, after the abductor, Michael Devlin, was apprehended and interrogated, investigators gathered the true details of the story. StopSylvia.com lists the claims made by Ms. Browne and the veracity of each one: of 13 claims, she was incorrect on 8. Four of the claims could not be verified (for instance, the claim that “a blond kid named Keith saw Shawn” before he was abducted) and only 1 was correct – the abductor’s first name, “Michael.” The Akers later told Anderson Cooper during a televised interview that Ms. Browne had offered to tell them more about their lost son if they booked a private meeting with her at the cost of $700 for 20 minutes. Sylvia Browne continues to appear on the Montell Williams Show regularly.

Almost everyone is curious about the future. Whether we like to admit it or not, a sense of knowing can bring comfort. Fear of the unknown results in curiosity about the future which, in turn, leads to people willing to do whatever they can to find the sense of comfort that comes with seeing through even the smallest of windows into the future.

Jessica Lalonde, a second year Criminology student, described it this way: “The future is like a dark room – nobody likes the dark. Psychics are like a night light: they don’t illuminate the whole room but [they] give us a glimpse of what is in the room.”

The psychic industry will very likely continue to prosper in a society of growing concerns about the future. Jim Ferguson will keep on peddling his enchanted gems. David Belne will have no shortage of clients willing to lay beneath his vibrating tuning forks. It seems as if as long as there are people willing to sell it, there will always be others willing to buy the future.