Every neighborhood in New York City has something that makes it special—its claim to fame, that certain “something.” For the West Village and parts of the East Village, that something might be mystical readers. It seems as though on nearly every corner throughout the two Villages, tiny storefront signs read “psychic” or “tarot reader,” and they always seem to be open. While walking these streets, I have often thought, “There’s no way all of these psychics are for real.” It’s usually around this time that I hear a knocking from inside one of the shops’ windows, and a woman motioning me toward her, begging me to come inside.
My search for the most accurate psychic in the Village(s) began a couple of weeks ago. I wrote down a list of 10 psychics to call and ask for an interview. “I’m in Florida doing energy work,” said one. “I’m interested, but I’d like to know more about you first,” said another. “No, I’m not interested, but God bless you!” said a third. No one else answered the phone. It became clear that nobody wanted to talk to a reporter about their profession. I made a list of more readers. Ten became 30. Still, no one wanted to speak with me.
The next day, I walked through Washington Square Park, determined to talk to a man who refers to himself as “The Wizard of Washington Square Park,” a man who sits across from the fountain nearly every day offering tarot readings.
There he was, sitting in the cold, with his wizard hat on and a leather jacket, tarot cards on a milk crate, and two books he had written situated next to them. The Wizard’s name is Kyler James, an actor and psychic who began reading tarot cards on film sets over 36 years ago.
“I’m very exact and honest and people tell me I’m always right. I am truly psychic,” James told me.
The first question I asked was what he thought Mayor Eric Adams’s legacy would be. James closed his eyes, split his cards in two, and showed me the bottom card, “The Lovers.” Usually, The Lovers is a card that represents soulmates and, of course, love. James said the card meant good things for Adams; it meant that he is intelligent. Then he told me to close my eyes so he could pull another card to determine the future of the new mayor.
“It’s not great,” he announced.
James had pulled the Four of Cups, which he said indicated that Adams will be more inclined to “be social and have a good time. For business, it’s not good.” Then James said he was having difficulty interpreting the cards, which again pointed to Adams wanting to drink and be merry rather than remain strictly business-oriented. He pulled another card.
“It’s worse. I think we should quit while we’re ahead. The Five of Cups. It’s not happy and I don’t know why,” James explained.
I tried to ask about an even more pressing issue. “What will come of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?” But James replied that he doesn’t pull cards for global problems. “What about how Biden will react to the growing conflict?” I asked. “I’m more interested in pulling a card about you,” he answered. “Something about your love life, let’s do something personal.” We closed our eyes and James pulled the Five of Pentacles—not a good card, he said. Next, the Five of Swords. “You need to leave any jobs that aren’t paying you enough,” said James. I told him that no journalism job pays enough these days.
Keeping James’s thoughts in mind, I moved on. Over the next week, I called psychics, tarot readers, and astrologists from Thompson Street to St. Mark’s Place. One astrologist expressed interest in being interviewed. She said she could do a chart reading on Vladimir Putin, Eric Adams, or me.
“Anything with a birth date. I’ve even done a chart for the U.S.!” she exclaimed. The astrologist said she would need some time to prepare for the interview, and wanted me to email her. Toward the end of our call, she asked what my astrological sign was. “I’m a Virgo,” I said. She told me that Virgos think they are fun and social when in reality they are too critical to have fun with. Then she said she’d had problems with Virgos in the past. We ended our phone call and I emailed her. I never heard back.
A few days later, I called Aum Shanti, a spiritual bookstore on East 14th Street and Third Avenue. The store’s tarot reader, Alexander D. Santiago, said he would be interested in doing a reading with me. He refers to himself as a “Christian mystical,” but not a psychic, and has been giving tarot readings since 2001. I followed him into a small corner of the store, separated by a room divider next to the bathroom. Santiago told the store’s owner to close the bathroom door, and that it was “bad juju” to keep it open. The reading began with me on one side of plexiglass and Santiago on the other—we both kept our masks on. Behind Santiago were a tapestry, a large crystal, and images of different deities, including the Hindu god Ganesh, known as the Remover of Obstacles. Santiago pulled out a deck of cards titled “The Good Tarot” and told me to take hold of his cards and shuffle them. When I felt they were “ready,” I was instructed to separate the deck into three piles and choose the one I was the most “called to.” He then asked me what I wanted to know. I decided on the same question I had asked James: “What will Eric Adams’s legacy be?”
“Okay, that’s interesting,” said Santiago, as he pulled three cards from his deck. “No one’s perfect, but he has good intentions. He wants to do good for all. He’s like, ‘I’ve come this far, I’m not going to let everybody down.’”
As Santiago continued to look at the cards, he added that Adams would be known as someone who used “another type of intelligence other than the traditional.” By this, he explained, he meant that Adams would be seen as someone who uses a sixth sense, who knows what to say, and thinks for himself.
However, in real life, Adams is receiving criticism from New Yorkers. Recently, Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced a plan to remove homeless people, many of whom sleep on the trains, from the subway. I asked Santiago what he could tell me about Adams’s newest initiative, and what it would mean for his administration. Santiago shuffled the cards and said, “That’s gonna be one of the stains on his garments. He’s not cruel, but he’s overwhelmed. He wants to look like he’s taking care of stuff. He’s not gonna deal with the mental illness problem of the homeless.” According to Santiago, kicking the homeless out of subways is going to “cause a lot of sadness.”
Moving on from Adams, I asked what the future of climate change looked like, to which Santiago replied that my questions were good and that I should run for mayor. He pulled more cards and said that America’s coasts are going to “learn some hard lessons” in terms of water supply. However, the aftermath of the water shortage will “wake us up,” and people are going to come together and work toward a solution.
In answer to my question about what billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Gates will contribute to climate science, Santiago said, “They’re gonna do what a lot of people will be bedazzled by and think that they’re magicians because of their wealth and influence. They’re gonna sell their agendas in the name of sustainability and they’re gonna be very victorious and people are going to feel more hopeful about the future because of them. However, I want to give a little admonition. Because religion has failed us, we made technology and AI our gods—we have to be careful not to put all of our power in their hands.”
For the rest of the reading, I quizzed Santiago with questions about myself. We focused on my journalism, which he said was my destiny. “You’re smart. You’re not new to the rodeo, even though you’re young,” he said, adding, “Ace of Air. Be open to new approaches, and new ideas, and new vision, to enliven what’s in your heart.”
Before we parted, Santiago told me that he often advises clients to watch out for women who claim to be psychics in the Village. He said they will read tarot cards, tell someone that they’re cursed, and then charge them as much as $200 to “break the curse.” As I left Aum Shanti, I felt it was in my best interests to be confident that Santiago was an accurate tarot reader, and also that maybe psychics don’t really exist.
The next day, I called Aum Shanti again, looking for Santiago. The tensions between Russia and Ukraine were high, and I wanted him to tell me if Russia would invade its neighboring country. Santiago was out for the day, so another reader pulled a card.
“Queen of Wands. Sure,” he said.
A few hours later, Russia invaded Ukraine. ❖