A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
You may have thought that black "magic" was consigned to the Dark Ages or only manifested itself in faraway places such as Haiti. But a man in Leicester who goes by the name of Pandit Harinath Mukya claims he can not only diagnose spells put on you by others, but he can also cast spells to counter them.
I'm always interested in paranormal claims, but was particularly interested in Mukya (pictured), because most self-proclaimed psychics I have previously visited have come from a British cultural background.
It would be interesting to see similar claims originating from an Asian cultural background.
Having said that, I went along expecting readings similar to those I've experienced before – someone making a small amount of money providing simple readings, deluding their clients and themselves into believing their cold reading skills are genuine psychic ability.
What I found, at least to me, appeared very, very different. The entire interaction seemed as if it was designed to separate as much money as possible from the client.
Mukya's operation is run from a terrace house on Paton Street, off Narborough Road, in Leicester's West End.
Having phoned ahead to book a £10 consultation, I arrived to find the bay window decorated with posters advertising his services, and even an A-frame sign outside.
Inside, the front room of the house had been converted into a small shrine. The fireplace was decorated with religious paraphernalia, as was the table we sat at.
Religious posters covered the walls. By contrast, Mukya seemed remarkably unceremonious. He answered the door in jeans and a T-shirt, though he did add what I can only describe as a kind of religious scarf when he sat down.
Mukya's English was poor, but I could follow what he was saying. I was initially sceptical of the professionalism of this operation after he failed to predict my age shortly after I gave him my date of birth.
But it wasn't long before he demonstrated he was serious about this business.
Mukya told me that four of my friends were out to get me, that they were conspiring against me behind my back and this was bringing me bad luck. I had the impression that he was attempting to get me to trust him as the only friend who could help.
It wasn't long before we moved on to the question of money. He could help me but this was going to cost £350. He confirmed that this would take away any bad luck and bring me good luck.
He claimed it was important to start immediately, and asked me how much money I had with me. I opened my wallet to show him that all I had was £15. He suggested that we visit a cash point.
I told him that I didn't have that kind of money – I could only get £200. He said he would help me out, he would use some of his money.
He told me he was my friend – that he was there to help. At the end, he asked me to put all the money I had with me on to the fireplace and we performed what seemed to be some sort of Hindu-style prayer together. He gave me some nice red rice to put in my pocket and keep with me all the time.
Before I left, I confirmed with him that if I returned the next day with £200 all the bad luck would go away. I was there for less than 25 minutes. I was amazed how quickly he had progressed on to such significant money.
I came back the next day and told him apologetically that I could only muster £120. I wanted to drag out this payment as long as possible to enable me to discover more about the operation without parting with much money.
He assured me not to worry, he would help me by using some of his own cash. But we soon reverted back to how much money I could find. He asked how much I could bring the next day, and when I would be able to bring more.
He asked me to come back tomorrow and see how the pooja was going. A pooja is a kind of Hindu prayer or magic spell.
The visit lasted less than seven minutes and I left him with £120.
The third visit was the strangest. After a brief introduction, he immediately guided me upstairs, whereupon a second person started chanting. So far as I could tell, this person only began chanting when he heard us start to ascend the stairs. We entered a room where a man in religious dress was sitting next to a rug covered in what I can only describe as a variety of vegetarian sacrifices. There were a couple of large opened bags of turmeric powder in the centre with some other foodstuffs and the whole rug was circled with about 25 small apples.
This set-up appeared designed to convince me that my money was being well spent on the pooja rather than going straight into his pocket.
When we came back down he told me that he'd performed the same pooja three times already with three more to go and each time the sacrifices were thrown away and replenished. I found that hard to believe.
Again he asked for more money. He tried to convince me again of the costs, saying that they were sure to bring results. In the end, we agreed that I would come back next week with more money. He started hinting at this point that he would just be giving me the names of the people that were conspiring against me rather than removing the bad luck. Once again the consultation was brief. I was there for less than seven minutes.
On my fourth and final visit, I approached with the remaining £80 and looked forward to seeing the names of my four friends who were conspiring against me.
This time inconsistencies started to creep in. Initially, he had told me that he would be able to get the names of my enemies after I had ceremoniously thrown an item into moving water. Then it seems that he had forgotten this, and it no longer seemed important. Secondly, when he revealed the names of the four friends, it turned out that there were only three – and that two of them were not my friends after all, but people who simply knew of me.
The name of the friend was simply given as "John" with no surname. I think I know about 10 Johns.
It was then that the subject turned to money. In order to reverse the pooja, more money was required. I was told that some of the rituals could not be performed in this country for legal reasons and the man I previously saw upstairs had already flown out to India to begin the next stage.
I tried to push him to give me a price for this next stage but he flatly refused.
He did, however, appear to want to prepare me for significant costs. Obviously, if someone needs to go to India, I should be expecting a large figure.
But then he started telling me that the three people conspiring against me had already spent £28,000. The implication was clear – if they'd spent £28,000 I would need to at least match it.
I've visited a few other self-proclaimed psychics in Leicestershire and although I thought none of them demonstrated any real psychic ability, I did get the impression that they believed in what they were doing. I didn't once get that impression with Mukya.
I'm not sure how many people have gone through this operation, but even one person progressing to the next stage would be deeply concerning.
The rented house on Paton Street seems to be dedicated to this purpose, and full colour leaflets are being distributed as far as Oadby, so if nobody had paid money into the scheme, it is unlikely to be financially viable over a period of time.
I brought an audio digital recorder to each of my visits and the sound quality is crystal clear. The recordings have been passed on to trading standards.