"Call Me Now!": The death of Miss Cleo and the demise of the commercial psychic

"Call Me Now!": The death of Miss Cleo and the demise of the commercial psychic

When my sister was a teenager in the early 90’s the most important relationship she fostered was with her telephone. It was a lifeline to the world, calling friends, pranking unsuspecting elderly curmudgeons, and infuriating our parents with slightly more expensive phone bills. Yet, there was one time where the cost of the phone exponentially higher than usual, to the tune of $700. Being the practical woman my mother is, she called the phone company to see if the expense was added by mistake. After analyzing the number, the phone company representative said that the call had been placed from our phone to a television psychic. My mother got him to take the inordinate extra fee off, on the stipulation that this was the only time he’d do it. When confronted with my mother’s evidence, my sister lied profusely, despite the fact my father thinks psychics are con artists, my mother is deeply religious, and I was but a small infant. She adamantly held her ground, though the guilt shone clearly on her face, both literally and figuratively, because from that day on she was struck with chronic acne.

When I arrived home from work today, my mom shouted from the other room, “Miss Cleo is dead!” I knew the woman by reputation only, but her visage is etched in our cultural consciousness. Her rise to fame in the 90’s was one that could only have germinated before the advent of the internet, because the obvious sham was less detectable. Our population was still gullible enough to believe that this woman held the answers to all of life’s problems. Her pleas of “Call me now!” with her thick, exaggerated Jamaican accent beckoned us to shed our problems and take solace in the answers she provided.

In all actuality, she was an L.A. actress named Youree Harris, and this hoax was found out, Harris was tried and disgraced, and we all became a little bit more wary of believing the pied piper with blind faith. In the years afterwards, she would be seen on the periphery of our culture, even voicing a character in the popular Grand Theft Auto video game series. She was diagnosed with colon cancer recently and died today at the age of 53.

With the extreme recent culture phenomenon of Pokemon Go!, we have seen a chilling juxtaposition for a 90’s obsession rising from the ashes and one whose light has burnt out. For someone who was born in 1991 (which I like to point out every now and then, because most people think I’m secretly an 80-year-old yenta disguised as a 24-year-old) it’s fascinating to see the bending and shifting of time. No one can predict what fad will fade and which will endure, or when one may return from the ether.

The idea of Miss Cleo brings thoughts of the philosophy of blind faith. People dialed this jolly woman’s number and either listened to her advice with no objectivity whatsoever or laughed in her face. Sadly, though I don’t have research to back it up, I think more people leaned towards the former. She lured uneducated victims in with her honeyed voice and no-nonsense attitude and proceeded to rearrange their life with no background to their mental capacity or past.

Objectivity, in my eyes, is the golden tenet of an educated being. I take very little on face value, and I always research, read, and attempt to understand the things around me and the ideas that I encounter. The era we live in is one where people are sinking and gasping for breath, hoping to find something to cling onto. Any ideology, no matters its rooting in reality, is fair game and most don’t have the time or mental energy to question their beliefs.

You need only look on Facebook to see the effects of this black stain of the consciousness. People post things, and share things, that are riddled with misinformation and shock with their clear disregard to the subject at hand. People, at this time in history, are more willing to believe something their cousin shared from a click-bait website than do actual research for themselves. We have become a people not of philosophers, but of consumers of tainted knowledge.

The spread of misinformation is a cancer on our society, and one that ties in closely to the idea of Miss Cleo. In the search for easy answers to life’s tough turns, these people watched her flip her colorful tarot cards and render their fate in plain English. Tarot cards, like any card game, are guided by chance. Those who believe in their power say that, for the person whose hand is chosen to wield them, a spirit will guide the right cards into their hands. That’s like saying if I pick a Queen of Hearts out of an old Bicycle card deck that I should throw myself off of Niagra Falls. An inanimate object is only made up of the objective materials used in its creation. There is no spirit residing in a mass-produced deck of poorly-reproduced tarot cards.

I have always rejected the blind faith of The Psychic, because there is simply no objective value in putting your life and decisions into the hands of a con artist, no matter how well-meaning they might be. Blind faith is a cavity, burning craters into the teeth of our society.

The only cure to this disease is fierce introspection. Only when we look within ourselves will we find the root of our belief in these inane ideas and hope to reform them. Even if fortune telling is seen by a person taking part in it as a farce, there are millions who believe that it holds the answers to our deepest, most personal questions and issues.

Miss Cleo’s life and death should be the lynchpin of the idea of the commercial psychic. If we are to evolve as a people, we have to stop giving clearance to these charlatans of chance and define, investigate, and research the issues we face in life, whether they be psychological, social, or personal.

Now is the time to find say farewell to Miss Cleo, or should I let her do it?

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  • Very random thoughts:

    Chicago TV stations would bring out Irene Hughes around New Years Eve to make her predictions for the upcoming year. It wasn't until years later that it was pointed out that no one fact checked last year's predictions.

    Irene must have been a better psychic than Miss Cleo, in that Irene lived to 92. Miss Cleo should have seen in her crystal ball to get a colonoscopy, or at least have had a vision of The Great Oracle, Katie Couric.

    There is an advertisement for a psychic in a bus shelter on Dempster. Does that mean you don't need Bus Tracker?

    On your sister's acne, there is now the digital TV expensive goddess, Proactiv.

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