Adventures in the Occult: Tale of a Fortune Foretold

May 16, 2011By David JaggardC'est Ironique!

In France, a fascination with the paranormal is perfectly normal.  Image ©  Marco Coppola


I sincerely hope that my medical laboratory’s Web site has been the victim of a hacker attack. If it hasn’t, I’m kind of worried. Here’s what happened:

Every spring I get a blood test as part of my annual medical checkup. This year, as I was leaving the lab, the receptionist handed me sheet of paper explaining how I could get my results by Internet rather than waiting for them to arrive through the post. I thought this was laudably high-tech, so the next day I went to the site and followed the instructions, clicking on “Patients” and “Test results,” and then entering my ID information. Which was rejected by the server. This was no big deal since I was going to get the printout version anyway, but here’s the worrisome part: when I tried to exit the site, I got a popup ad. And not just any popup ad – a popup ad for an online fortune telling service: “Let Madame Margot Read Your Future in the Cards!”

I don’t know about you, but when I see a medical institution accepting advertising from an alleged clairvoyant it kind of makes me wonder if I’ve picked the right place. (“Cholesterol off the chart? If there’s no stroke in your star chart you have nothing to worry about!”)

In any case, this reminded me of the French fascination with the paranormal. Tarot readers, psychics, seers, numerologists and, for all I know, water dousers turn a decent euro here, and almost every general interest magazine has an astrology column — including, to my dismay, a publication I sometimes work for myself. A few years ago, the staff’s astrologer asked me to translate one of his weekly articles, just to have a sample of his work in English. It was well-paid, easy work for someone I got along with, so I did it. Like all diviners, he relied mostly on making vague, general statements that have a strong likelihood of coming true. Here are some of the actual predictions the guy included in his sign-by-sign rundown for the week in question:

Virgo: “Your career will gradually reach a turning point.”

The key word here is “gradually.” I myself can personally guarantee every single working person on the face of the earth that their career will more or less gradually reach one of two specific turning points: retirement or death.

Sagittarius:Daily life and work deliver their share of benefits.”

I like this one because he doesn’t specify what “their share” is – it could easily be zero.

Aries:Words have their importance in your home life.”

He forgot to add “unless you live alone,” but otherwise it’s true enough.

Libra: “Images and sounds will be your best means of communication.

Note this carefully, Libras: visual and audio communication are to be preferred. Over all of those many, many other kinds of communication. In other words, you don’t have to completely stop communicating by odor or tapping out Morse code messages on people’s arms, but try to cut down. Just for the next week.

Aquarius: “If you are an artist, your work is not appreciated as much as you had hoped.

Now that’s what I call a safe statement. He could also have predicted, “If you are a gambler, you have not been winning as much as you had hoped,” or “If you are a 16-year-old boy, you do not have as much sex as you would like.”

As is obvious by now, I have a cynical attitude toward all of this esoteric Taurus manure. But in the interest of fairness, journalistic integrity, equal time for alternative viewpoints, and gathering material that I can mercilessly ridicule, I decided to give Margot a chance to do her stuff.

Figuring that registering on a psychic’s site is tantamount to flying the Goodyear blimp over an Internet marketers’ convention trailing a banner that reads, “Send me every single spam message in the universe until I die,” I set up a new e-mail account under a pseudonym. Then I went to Madame Margot’s site and went through the procedure under my invented identity. You have to enter your name and e-mail address, of course, and, because Madame is also an astrologer, your date and time of birth – to the minute. I know I was born at about 9:30 a.m., but when it came to deciding between 9:28, 9:29, 9:30, 9:31 and so on, I was stumped. I would have to check with my mom, but I’m pretty sure the process took a little longer than that Chopin waltz.

Next, Margot asked me to enter my sign. She’s a professional astrologer, and I had just told her to within 60 seconds when I was born, but she needed me to remind her of my sign. But I played along, and finally got to the actual tarot reading. Essentially, you describe a problem, click on three cards, and, based on your selection, she sends you the solution to your troubles by e-mail. But you can’t just enter any problem – you have to check one box in a surprisingly short list. Not surprisingly, the choices are all about love, health or money. Since I’m already spoken for and my health is fine (at least according to Laboratoire Poppe-Uppe), I said that I wanted more money. After all, who doesn’t? Then a virtual tarot deck appeared, spread out face down, and I clicked, guided by the divine hand of two glasses of Pinot Noir, on three cards that turned over to reveal themselves as: The Emperor, The Moon and The Fool.

The results came in, as promised, the very next day. Margot sent me a link to a page on her site containing my personalized response, which was remarkably long. I was expecting her to say, “You’d be a fool to moon the Emperor,” and leave it at that, but her analysis went on for more than 3,000 words.

All right, smart readers, I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that the Web site automatically generates boilerplate interpretations and sends more or less the same response to everyone. Well, that just goes to show how much you know about the arcane, intricate, painstaking process of tarot reading, because you’re absolutely right: when I Googled a randomly chosen sentence from the report, I got 220 matches. Which is kind of odd because the sentence I chose translates as: “Throughout all my years of experience, studying a very large number of cases, I cannot recall ever having so much enthusiasm and conviction about a client’s wish coming true.”

So, okay, Madame Margot has a crappy memory. Hey, she’s supposed to see the future, not the past. Also, she apparently downed a couple of boilermakers before making her boilerplate, because there were whole paragraphs repeated, some of them three times. Interestingly, this enchanted forest of verbiage also revealed my lucky numbers – 9, 17 and 29 – which gave me a chance to branch out from pure theoretical research and do a test in the field: I bought a lottery ticket and filled it out using only 9, 17, 29 and sums of those numbers. The morning after the drawing, I went to the national lottery Web site to check the winning combination, and… Ahh, let’s just say that if those are my lucky numbers, I must be lucky not to have jumped to a higher tax bracket.

At the end of Margot’s message she summed up my case as follows:

• She already felt a close spiritual connection with me,

• Therefore she could just sense that I am going to experience incredible good luck very soon,

• But unless I learn to recognize the subtle signs of good fortune, I’ll probably miss out on it,

• So I need help,

• Her help,

• So I must sign up for some more detailed readings

• Immediately

• At €79 a pop, Visa or PayPal accepted.

• Click here.

• Click here.

• Click here.

I guess I should have seen that coming.

© 2011 Paris Update


An album of David Jaggard’s comic compositions is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, for purchase (whole or track by track) on iTunes and Amazon, and on every other music downloading service in the known universe, under the title “Totally Unrelated.”

Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is available from Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.

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