Today's New York Times has bestowed upon us a nutty but ultimately very sad story about a man duped into paying two psychics a total of $718,000, on the belief that they would help him put his life on track after a series of unfortunate turns.
Niall Rice is a successful 33-year-old consultant from England, a guy who made a nice chunk of change for himself through search engine optimization. But all was not well for Rice, who drank and did drugs to ameliorate the pain and awkwardness he felt as a human living in a world that didn't understand him. He entered rehab in Arizona, where he met another patient named Michelle. He fell in love with her, but there are pratfalls to connections made in such a tenuous and emotional setting, and ultimately, the thing fell apart. (The Times first reported an anonymized version of this story over the summer, which left out several telling details about Rice and his relationship with Michelle.)
Rice moved to New York, where he perhaps unwisely moved into East Williamsburg's most expensive garbage processing plant, McKibbin Lofts. He was depressed, and that depression led him to seek solace in a Delancey Street psychic named Brandy.
It's not uncommon for people to turn to higher authorities when the reality of day-to-day life seems too crushing to manage. The Times muses that "it seems almost unfathomable that anyone could be taken in so thoroughly, with such a breathtaking level of gullibility." Does it? A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identify as Christian, while another six percent is made up of believers of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. A non-negotiable prerequisite for any serious presidential candidate is the solemn belief that an undead Jesus crawled out of a tomb and was sucked up into Heaven, where he continues to monitor us from on high. Is it so unrealistic that a deeply troubled man might be willing to sacrifice money—the one resource he seemed to have in abundance—for a shot at finding a modicum of internal peace?
Rice gave Brandy $12,000 within a week of meeting her, because somewhere, deeper than his brain's logical side that enabled him to hold down a job and pay rent and put on shoes in the morning, he hoped that there was a kernel of truth in this whole "psychic" business, that Brandy really did have some power that could reunite him with the woman he loved, that such a reunion would fix all the other travails that plagued his life.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars and one disastrous meeting with Michelle later, Rice lost faith in Brandy. That's when he found Christina, a "psychic" practicing in Midtown. After finding out that Michelle had died, Christina convinced him that she could reunite him with his lost love—it would, however, necessitate construction of a bridge of gold leading to another dimension. Such a bridge would cost $90,000. Rice paid it.
"Christina" is actually 26-year-old Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, who was arrested on grand larceny charges in May. Rice is pressing charges. “I just want justice,” he told the paper. “I just don’t want her to do to anyone else what happened to me.” Between Brandy and Christina, Rice ultimately lost a total of $718,000.
It's widely acknowledged by psychics themselves that their services are a scam, preying on those groping for faith in something. Such people don't need psychics—they need access to mental health care.