NEW YORK — Amid the clamor one might expect in the presence of 100 psychics offering free readings in a New York City mall, clairvoyant Noreen Renier seemed removed from the hullabaloo.
The self-proclaimed psychic detective was obviously perplexed by the endless rows of psychics and the winding lines of people queuing up in search of a little peace of mind.
"I could never do my work in an environment like this," she said, stepping outside for a break and lighting up a Capri 125. "Too much noise, too much energy flying around."
Renier was a headliner of sorts at the aptly named "Psych-Out," a gathering of the nation's foremost, or perhaps most infamous, psychic investigators, clairvoyants, seers, holistic healers and channelers.
The massive event, organized by Court TV, took up two levels of the luminous Time Warner Center mall, where blocks of psychics were arranged in neat rows of tiny, circular tables, which are normally used for dining in the business-casual mall food court.
Renier's fame comes from her experience working with Scott Peterson's family in the months before Laci Peterson's body was found on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.
At the behest of Jackie Peterson, Scott's mother, Renier conducted two remote viewing sessions using articles of clothing that belonged to the pregnant woman.
By touching the items, she says her mind was transported to Laci Peterson's body. She was then able to divine that the 27-year-old was weighted down in a watery grave before investigators found the corpse.
While some law enforcement agencies say they do not employ the use of psychics — the FBI forbids it — others across the country seek out their help as a last resort.
For that reason alone, psychic investigator Barbara Mackey says she has never turned down a criminal case.
"When the police come around, it means they're desperate," said Mackey, a New Jersey-based psychic investigator, who most recently was consulted by police in Brick Township, N.J., in their 2001 search for a missing woman named Jennifer Pammer.
Mackey said she told police she envisioned the woman trapped in an enclosed space in a wooded area. A few weeks later, Pammer's body was discovered in the trunk of her lover's car, hidden in the woods.
As is usually the case, police wouldn't comment on the extent of their conversation with her except to say that they had consulted her.
Like Renier, Mackey also believes Scott Peterson will be found guilty, although she feels it will be a difficult decision for the jury to reach.
"It's a lot of circumstantial evidence, but in the end, they will convict," she said.
She is certain, however, that Peterson killed his wife.
"He didn't mean to kill her. Words were exchanged and there was a struggle in the kitchen, and he hit her over the head. He's definitely a no-good scoundrel, but he didn't mean to do it," Mackey said. "On some level, he wanted it to happen, and when it did, he figured he had to get rid of the body."
Many talents, many methods
While Renier and Mackey use remote viewing techniques to do their work, healer Salim Faruqi uses a crystal to channel energy and answer the questions people ask him.
Seated at a table in front of Barnes and Noble, Faruqi demonstrated how it works.
He held a crystal dangling from a chain in a neutral position, shut his eyes and slightly furrowed his brow in concentration.
"Scott Peterson will be found guilty of killing his pregnant wife," he declared as he opened his eyes.
Regardless of whether authorities put much credence in the insights psychics offer, the event's success made it evident that a large portion of the public still does.
Some visitors came with questions about their love lives, health and careers, while others searched for answers to questions they didn't know of yet.
"I feel fine, but you never know what's in the future," Luba Tolk, 26, said. "I just want to see what they have to say."
Dawn Shepherd, on the other hand, traveled to the event from New Jersey with questions about what the future holds.
"I just relocated and I'm just settling in, so I have a lot questions," she said. "My life is going through a lot of changes and I want to know what to expect."
Tolk and Shepherd were among 1,000 people who waited patiently, sometimes four, five, or six times, to consult with one of the psychics while on a lunch break.
In a manner befitting the immigration section of an airport, a psychic would raise his or her hands to notify a line guard that his or her table was empty. The guard then pointed the person waiting behind the velvet rope to the available table.
Cynics step up
Even skeptics showed up, just for the fun of it.
"I'm very suspicious of it all, but I live just around the corner and my husband told me I should come," said a woman who identified herself by her initials, D.C. "How can I really judge it until I try it out?"
Most psychics say they've had their gift since childhood, although they're quick to acknowledge they didn't realize it until they were older.
"I just thought I was a very observant, smart kid who was good at reading people," Jill Patterson said. "When I was a teen, I began experimenting with tarot cards, until I realized I didn't need them."
Faruqi believes everyone has a bit of a psychic touch, but that only a few connect with it.
"It's like building a muscle of intuition or knowledge, a way of clearing your mind to come to the realization that everything is one — to come to that realization is very freeing," he said. "Our heads get filled with monkey chatter; we have to quiet the chatter in our minds."