August 24, 2022
The Clairvoyant Explained


The Clairvoyant Explained

Clairvoyants in books, movies, and popular culture
by Annabelle Lewis

Clairvoyant literally means “clear-sighted.” It’s an adjective as in—“I’m not clairvoyant, so I didn’t see it coming.” Or as a noun—a person who has extrasensory perception, as in, “I’m making bank as a clairvoyant!”

A person either purporting or having such ability is known by many names. Depending on their specific skill set or predilection, they could be called a seer, prophet, sibyl, soothsayer, oracle, medium, spiritualist, mentalist, astrologer, telepath, mind reader, fortune teller, numerologist, visionary . . . or quack, if you’re so inclined.



As long as man has walked the earth, they’ve been in search of answers to the great questions. Civilizations have formed around beliefs, traditions, and superstitions. And despite loads of evidence for psychic fraud and fakery, many people believe in the supernatural. Some studies show that those believers tend to be less analytical thinkers. But a truly analytical thinker should be the first to admit that they don’t have the answers. Which makes room for the what if.

The Christian church harshly warned against and snubbed anything that went against biblical references. Even today, going to a psychic “just for fun” is frowned upon—like it’s a gateway drug for radical thinking. Putting religion aside, kings, pharaohs, Roman generals, Napoleon, Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan, and average people on every continent continue to explore the unknown in unconventional ways and consult with those who claim otherworldly insights.

Roman priests would read the guts of sacrificed animals to read the future. Rasputin steered the Romanov family and the court of Czar Nicholas II so far off course he abetted their downfall. Hitler and Goebbels were followers of astrology and British intelligence services planted horoscope predictions to their own advantage, but both sides used astrology for propaganda. One specific quatrain from Nostradamus, the French astronomer and seer, was used as “proof” of Germany’s actions and destiny: “The great empire, dismembered early/Will grow from the inside out/From a small country/In his lap the sceptre shall rest.”

Yeah. Nostradamus was good. He left vague and general predictions that people are still puzzling over today. But as in any work, cherry-picked content and the use of individual interpretation can be dangerous. Or profitable.

Which brings us to Gypsy fortune tellers, the Romani. Always women and best known for methods of fortune telling through tea-leaf reading, tarot cards, and palm reading, their nomadic origins date from as early as 1414. Interestingly enough, their legendary abilities were never practiced on their own people.



Do the words “mother’s intuition” ring true to your ears? What about déjà vu? Ask almost anyone if they’ve ever experienced an unexplained occurrence of foresight and the answer will most likely be yes.

And while there are laws of biology and nature, nature evolves. Who is to say what part of the brain might advance? What about the use of advanced pharmacology or the introduction of mutant DNA?

Genius is real, as are prodigious savants—people born with extraordinary abilities or splinter skills that cannot be explained. Studies on brain function and brain plasticity science have not reached their limits. Should not extrasensory perception remain on the list until definitively disproven? Some would say there is no way to disprove it, so hey, no argument will ever be conclusive.



It all begins with the stories and legends. Before the modern age, there were only stories passed from generation to generation, but once they began writing the tales down, they became something called books (and then movies).

The Legend of Arthur began before the 11th century. Part of the story revolves around Morgan le Fay,  the mother of Mordred, a powerful enchantress who tricks Merlyn the Enchanter. Ever heard of those two wizards?

Shakespeare – I don’t have a lock on all his work, but I know he used soothsayers in Antony and Cleopatra. And the soothsayer gets the big line – “Beware the Ides of March.” Bingo.  

Stephen King, Dean Koontz, there are too many authors to list. Paranormal stories about things that can’t be explained are wildly popular, in particular a sub-genre known as paranormal romance that covers a broad range of relationships with vampires, time travel, ghosts, and other beings.


The list of movies dealing with the popular subject matter seems endless and there are subcategories—psychic horror, thriller, mystery, comedy, psychological, fantasy, action, and crime. A brief list of some of the movies that are top of mind below:

The Wizard of Oz – The psychic relevance is kind of in the title there. And Professor Marvel—although portrayed as a probable con artist—did seem like a pretty decent guy. “Poor little kid, I hope she gets home alright.”

Phenomenon (John Travolta), Ghost (Whoopi Goldberg), The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis), Family Plot (Alfred Hitchcock), The Mothman Prophecies (Richard Gere), Hereafter (Clint Eastwood), Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), The Conjuring (too scary).

Five on the short list were written by Stephen King: Carrie (Sissy Spacek), The Shining (Jack Nicholson), The Dead Zone (Christopher Walken), Firestarter (Drew Barrymore), The Green Mile (Tom Hanks).

Movies with a more charming take on the supernatural are: All of Me (Lily Tomlin). Her wealthy invalid character thinks she has found a way to live forever by having her soul transferred into a brass pot. But the psychic miscalculates and when she dies she goes into Steve Martin’s body. The end is beautiful and life-affirming, a story well told. Only You (Marisa Tomei). She follows the love advice of a psychic and finds Robert Downey, Jr. Big (Tom Hanks) Yes, the ‘psychic’ was a machine named Zoltar, but he held a crystal ball and performed magic so I’m counting it.



The use of psychics in police work is a real thing. While controversial it is ongoing. Naturally the CIA has done studies, spending millions, but no surprise, most of that government-funded research is classified. Some of the research was done because the US was worried that the Soviets were ahead of us in utilizing these powers. That old chestnut.

Charlatans—people without a conscience are out there taking advantage of people suffering—bother me a lot. I’m talking about those psychics that can supposedly speak to the dead. But what if these psychics comfort people? Who am I to judge? You get what you pay for and ‘pay to play’ – rarely ends up in court.



I’ll end with a personal story. I was once at a New Year’s eve party where the host hired a palm reader/psychic. I’d been experiencing a lot of emotional pain dealing with my young son with autism and worrying endlessly about his future.

As I sat in front of the woman with a smile on my face and nothing but a “this should be fun” notion in my heart, something changed. The moment she took my hand and said, “Ask me a question,” I went to my root cause of pain. “Will my son be okay?” The psychic glanced at me and then stared again at my palm for what seemed a weighty amount of time before dropping my hand and sitting back. She gave me a determined look and stated flatly, “I see nothing wrong with your son.”

And just like that my heart broke. Because I’d never looked at my son through that lens. My child was perfect, for he was who he was meant to be. That tiny piece of psychic illumination was a tremendous gift. And one that I carry to this day. 

About the Author

Annabelle Lewis is a pseudonym for the author who lives in Minneapolis with her husband, children, and a wild thug of a dog who sleeps beside her. A multi-genre writer and publisher of 10 novels to date, all her books have a theme—taking down the bad guy. In addition to fighting evil, The Boston Clairvoyants mystery/thrillers also contain a bit of romance and a mythological hierarchy. (And dog lovers will adore the books.) Sign up to follow Annabelle at 

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