After an investigation that lasted three months, Weekly's editor in chief, Touria Prayag, booked two consultations with Christine Daguy, a household name in the field of fortune telling, to find out more about this hidden world with its supposed gift and ability to read the future and talk to the dead.
She used a hidden microphone to record Daguy's 'predictions'. The soothsayer spoke elaborately about Prayag's husband's life in heaven... a husband who is still very much alive! Here is a real-life story about lies and swindling.
In the Mauritian world of fortune telling and soothsaying, Christine Daguy stands out as a real authority. She comes to Mauritius every year and spends three months under the sun, bathing in the azure blue lagoons... and a sea of deceit and banknotes.
Christine Daguy's real name is Christiane Goursaud. You get to know this when you agree to pour Rs60,000 of your hard-earned money into her bank account when you insist that you cannot walk around with that much cash. She qualifies herself as an "international medium and parapsychological adviser". And on her Facebook page, she congratulates herself for her "offering my lights to help those who are most in need for as long as possible". Except that those who "are most in need" can probably not afford her services.
I took an appointment with Christine Daguy to gauge her competence in parapsychology. It was part of my quest to tackle this evil world of charlatans and witchcraft. Since she is the most famous 'medium', I thought I could start there.
Her husband gave me the appointment and explained to me where they were and volunteered the tariffs. "There are two types of consultations," he said. "One is about one single issue and it costs Rs2,500 and one is about everything, lasts about one hour and costs Rs5,500." Yes, you heard right: Rs5,500. He also asked me to bring a photo of someone in heaven I might want to talk to. Christine was fully booked and I had to wait for nearly a week to get an appointment. Then I headed towards the place where Christine spends three months every year, bleeding our compatriots dry. It was not easy to find. So I called Christine's husband. He was arrogant and his tone rather condescending. As a client prepared to fork out Rs5,500 just for being gullible, I expected a bit more patience and respect. You don't make a client who you are about to take to the cleaners feel stupid, even if they are.
I walked in with a colleague I passed off as my niece. She was not allowed in. The driver and the colleague in charge of placing the microphone equipment on my body were parked far away. I was invited to walk up the stairs, while Christine was escorting out a lady who must have already been shorn of a handsome sum of money.
Christine was cold. Very different from the loving, caring person I had heard speak on the radio. The room I was shown into had two parts: one with a desk and a few chairs, and one with a bed. The two were separated with a wooden partition covered with a few pareos. When Christine walked in, the first thing she wanted to discuss was payment. For someone who is happy to "offer her lights" to enlighten humanity, it was gross. I said I agreed to pay the full tariff and have a full consultation. The look she gave me sent a clear message: "Is there something you don't understand about what I said?" Then she spelt it out, "You need to pay in advance!" So before the consultation even started, she took the money, placed it in a cupboard and looked more relaxed.
She sat me at the desk across from her, turned my hands over, checking my rings - I had removed my wedding ring before I got there - the type of watch I was wearing, whether my hands showed hard work or not... I knew the game and I allowed her to play it. She took my name and my date of birth. In every interview Christine has given, she has specified that "the name and the date of birth allow me to connect with the person. I start seeing images in my head as on a TV screen." So all the information I gave her about the names and dates of birth was genuine. We don't want the wrong information to interfere with her direct communication with God, do we?
From there, things got a bit complicated. She asked me what I wanted to "consult about". "About me," I said. She was confused. People like Christine hate 'clients' who give them short sentences and let them come up with the rest. It's too risky. Most people who go to the medium give so much information without realising that the fortune teller has enough to bullshit them with. If you add that to the general things that apply to all of us, you can sustain an hour's conversation and the client can go out of your 'consultation room' thinking you told him/her things s/he actually told you himself/herself. "You are too kind and too generous," she told me. Who would disagree with that? "You give more than you receive," she added and waited. "You should stop that," she demanded. I didn't want to say anything so there were very long moments of uncomfortable silence. She stayed on safe ground: "You have loads of problems in your life, but your health is OK. You will live until you're at least 85." A safe bet, the important two words being 'at least'. If I die sooner, I won't be here to contradict her. If I live beyond that, 'at least' is a good safeguard. Silence again. Pushed against the wall, Christine asked me to mention the name of someone I wanted to "consult about". "You can't consult just about yourself," she said. I took that to mean "Help!!!"
After long periods of silence where neither of us was going anywhere, I finally told her I wanted to speak to my husband in heaven. Her face lit up. She had loads of information in that one sentence. It was a great lifeline. Then she looked at my hands again and started, "Your life is full of sadness. In fact, you have stopped living. Your life is insipid, colourless and odourless." And she played with all the synonyms of sadness to fill the time. When she had finished, I told her I had someone in my life. She wanted to know his name and his date of birth. I gave the date of birth of someone a bit younger. "He's not quite free," she chanced. She did not take much of a risk: someone in his late 40s is unlikely to be totally free, are they? She steered clear of more specific words like "married" or "engaged". "He is about to become free," I answered. She did not take a second chance. This was followed by a long silence. Then I put an end to her misery by asking her if I could talk to my husband in heaven to find out if he didn't mind me being with someone else. "Do you have a photo of him?" I handed the photo to her and she placed it on the desk. For Rs5,500, I was at least expecting some theatrics - some lights going out, some playing with flying candles, a few minutes of fake concentration, some incantations, a crystal ball, something. Anything. There was none of that. She merely took a pointed object hanging from a string and moved it a couple of times around the photo of my smiling husband. "How did he die?" she asked. "You are the one in direct communication with God and with my husband, aren't you?" I felt like saying. "Where is the television screen and the images triggered by a mere photo and a date of birth that you keep boasting about in your interviews?" I was burning to ask. Instead, I answered, "A heart condition."
"You see this smile on his face on the photo?" she asked. "He has the same smile in heaven." I smiled contentedly and she must have read that as an invitation for her to tell me more. So she kept on repeating that he is happy where he is. This was the only thing she had got right since the start: it was a public holiday and my husband was actually chilling on the beach. I guess he was happy.
"Is he OK with me and Ashvin having a relationship?" She had almost forgotten about the guy I was supposed to be dating. "Oh, yes, yes, he says he is happy for you to go ahead." I fixated her eyes like someone who wanted reassurance so she added, "Yes, he told me to tell you that you should start living and that you should come out of the situation you are in today. So, yes, he says you should date Ashvin. He is happy about that," she summed up.
Then she moved to her favourite topic: money. She treaded carefully: "You don't have any financial problems," she tested. I nodded. That encouraged her to carry on, "You will never have any financial problems," she added. When I did not tell her about my debts, she suddenly told me, almost out of the blue, "You know what killed your husband?" "His heart," I answered. "No, no, not at all! What killed him is black magic," she said. "There is a lot of jealousy around you. People are very jealous of you and they have worked very hard to harm you. Someone has hexed you. Now you will never be happy until you have removed the bad spell put on you."
"How do I do that?" I asked in as innocent air as I could muster.
At this point, Christine became very talkative: "You need to bring me a photo of you, your date of birth, that of your parents and their date of death and the place where they died, your address and a swatch of your hair." Then she added as an afterthought, "And Rs60,000!" "One off?" I asked. "No, in three instalments," she replied, explaining to me that she would work for seven months to rid me of the evil curse.
She wasted a few more minutes writing all the items I should bring her if she were to free me of the evil curse and then she signalled the end of the session. "But I was told for Rs5,500, I was going to spend an hour with you. I have barely been here for 20 minutes." She looked stern when she told me that she had diagnosed the problem and was prepared to work on it for Rs60,000. Once that has been done, I will start living again. Otherwise, my life would remain dull and sad for the rest of my days.
I asked her if she would still talk to my husband and give me news about him. She immediately answered, "Yes, of course!" Should I leave his photograph with her? "No, no, no! I have his date of birth and that's all I need."
I was wondering if the Mauritius Revenue Authority knew anything about this loot so I asked for a receipt. She looked surprised, took out a piece of paper and wrote the sum of money I had paid her on it. There!
As I was leaving, I spotted another lady in the waiting room. So in that short time I had visited Christine, there were two other customers. Assuming they were all as gullible as I am, she will have made Rs16,500 in less than an hour, cash and tax-free! But this is just the starter. The main dish comes with the 'work' she will do for seven months and which will cost Rs60,000! Something that led to my second visit.
On my second visit, I was well prepared. I walked into her 'practice' - a nice villa she spends her time enjoying with her husband while our innocent compatriots are working hard to pay for it. My colleague - passed off as my niece - was there and so were the technicians. I had a microphone under the lapel of my jacket, an android smartphone on the table and plenty of equipment in my bag. I placed my bag under the table and hid the phone with an envelope.
Christine not only could not see a thing but she could not even remember I had visited her two days before. I tried to sound desperate to talk to my husband again in heaven. She sounded desperate to get her hands on my Rs60,000. For a few minutes, her whole energy was focused on that. "It's Rs20,000 every month for three months," she said. "After that, you will be happy again."
I dangled a carrot in front of her; "What if I paid you Rs60,000 in one fell swoop? Would you accelerate the 'work' you will do to rid me of the evil spell?" Her eyes lit up. "Can you do that?" she asked, her eyes brimming with greed. "Oh yes, no problem. I will send a mail to my bank today and in less than five minutes, you will have the money in your bank account." She spent a few more minutes making sure that the money would not go into someone else's account and that she would be notified of the transfer. She hesitantly took my photo and the swatch of my hair and pasted them on a sheet in her notebook. I managed to see a number of pages with other people's hair and photos. Loads of Rs60,000 in the making.
I took the opportunity of her elation to ask her if she could talk to my husband and find out if he is well. She immediately said she had to charge me Rs2,500 more. I said I had no problem paying. "Money is nothing to me," I said. "It is my happiness that is important." She loved the words and nodded a few times. I pushed my husband's photo towards her and she again unceremoniously waved an insignificant pendulum over the photo and, in literally 20 seconds, she claimed she could see my husband. She must be a very regular visitor to heaven and knows every nook and cranny of the place so she immediately spots her targets. My husband, she said, was not happy today. "He fears for you because of the evil spell," she said. "He is telling you to get rid of it," she insisted. I chanced a question, "Could you please ask him who cast this evil spell on us? I mean who caused his death?" "He is shaking his head," she said. "He does not know." I insisted, "He has to have an idea. I have some suspicions. He needs to help me." She then said in a voice which was almost irritated, "We won't know until the spell is broken," she said. "In a few months - read after you have forked out Rs60,000 - I will be able to tell you," she said. Then she put an end to the conversation by telling me that my husband is now smiling again. "Because he knows you will get rid of the bad spell," she concluded. I smiled and took that to mean that I was to transfer the money.
Before she ended the session, she looked at me in the eyes and calmly said, "Your husband is saying he is keeping a place for you next to him." That's what he does every evening, I felt like replying. Instead, I thanked her profusely for being such an angel and she modestly admitted she was.
The thought of the number of my compatriots being fed this bullshit and being fleeced for it is appalling. Denouncing this scam is not going to make me popular with anyone. But I could not stay quiet.
I hope that this opens the eyes of some of our compatriots to this big sham. I truly do.
My thanks go to Darina Naidu, Daren Mauree and Abel Pel for their help with this journalistic investigation.
Christine Daguy's 'supernatural powers'
Her real name is Christiane Goursaud. She claims to have "a natural gift" of clairvoyance and that she only needs someone's date of birth and photo to be able to know everything about them.
Christine Daguy's lifestyle is the stuff dreams are made of: she spends three months every year in Mauritius, from January to March. During this time, she gives 'free' advice to our compatriots and invites them to go and visit her at her 'consultation ' - a villa in Trou-aux-Biches that she shares with her husband, who doubles up as her secretary.
When Christine Daguy is not bleeding our compatriots in Mauritius dry, she is in Martinique, Guadeloupe or St Barthelme, bleeding the Caribbeans dry. There, TV stations open up for her and she can dish up even more 'wisdom' to be drunk by innocent people. She has kept this lifestyle for the past 25 years.
In France, she is little known outside Toulouse, where she has a 'consultation'. Her reputation is based entirely on lies and lack of fact checking. There is not a single prediction that we know of that she has got right. And there is no shortage of the ones she brags about: from predicting an icy winter when she was seven to helping her father find her mother when she was nine through to predicting the end of the USSR and the death of President Anwar Sadat. None of that can be corroborated in any way. She is particularly proud of having predicted an earthquake in Egypt in 1992 in front of 27 journalists! There is nothing in the Egyptian press to confirm that. Either the 27 journalists are all dead or they have been struck with a bout of amnesia. At any rate, when you make so many predictions and forget the ones you got wrong in 25 years, you are bound to get something right through the principle that a broken clock is right twice a day. But Daguy persists that "in this milieu, there are so many charlatans!" She does not see herself as one.
You want to know what her predictions were for the world for 2015? Here they are as given to our colleagues from other publications: "The US will go through an agitated period with President Obama taking decisions which will anger his people. The Russian/Ukraine conflict will continue but will gradually give way to a precarious balance. The French political situation will flare up with protests against President Hollande. On the health front, 2015 will see a breakthrough in research for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I let you examine that very rationally, sift out all the vague, meaningless 'predictions' and concentrate on the more concrete ones and which ones actually materialised. Think Trump, think Macron... As for the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers, I hope they did not read Daguy's predictions.
If you want to know what Daguy predicted for our country at the beginning of 2015, here it is: "This team will keep its promises and everything will be done so that the measures announced during the electoral campaign are materialised." I thought I'd let you savour that joke!
For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, subscribe to Weekly for as little as Rs110 a month. Free delivery to your door. Contact us: (link sends e-mail)firstname.lastname@example.org