Measuring the Larry, Moe and Kirlian Effect

Anyone who makes the unexpected discovery that they may have special extrasensory psychic powers -- as I did a few weeks ago during an extraordinary encounter with the clairvoyant Baba Darya (as recorded ingraphic detail in this column) -- really has only one option open to them in St. Petersburg: the State Psychic Powers Testing Unit.

Located in a monolithic building on Petrogradskaya, the unit is run by a rather eccentric gentleman named Professor Konstantin Korotkov, who has invented an ingenious apparatus for measuring what is known as the "Kirlian Effect," or the configuration of the human aura in space. The subject presses each finger in turn against a metal pad, an image is recorded by computer and after a couple of minutes the professor produces a set of supernova-like "aura fingerprints."

As each of my prints was taken, the professor's assistant placed the grubby cut-off leg of an old pair of jeans over my hand "to shield against interference." Then, after the first set of miniature sunburst auras had been printed out, the professor asked me to try to manipulate my own energy levels, a sure sign of psychic ability.

I sat for five minutes in the corner massaging my temples, grimacing and sporadically howling "om." When I had finished, to the relief of almost everyone inthe room, another imprint was taken by the machine.

At this point, the proceedings took an idiosyncratic turn, as a colleague of the professor's, a rotund, ball of a man named Yevgeny Kavalov arrived with a new device he had invented to protect people against computer radiation.

This high-tech contraption looked uncannily like an ordinary stick, which he proceeded to place on the monitor beside me. I was then moved directly into the path of a flood of computer-generated X-rays, and another reading was taken.

Finally, Professor Konstantin sat down with the pile of multi-colored aura images to asses the data. My aura balance, he said, had significantly improved during exposure to "the stick," much to the delight of Mr. Kavalov, who then offered to sell me the stick for the very reasonable price of $70. I was sadly forced to decline. Radiation is infinitely preferable to being deemed insane by friends and acquaintances alike.

As to the vital question of whether I actually do have special powers, the result was unfortunately inconclusive. Professor Konstantin did see some slight shifts in energy levels but these fluctuations could have been caused by a breach in the grubby jean leg.

So, I will have to wait for some real, tangible results to find out if Baba Darya's diagnosis was correct, such as when cutlery begins to fly across my kitchen or young teenage girls swoon into my arms, overcome by the sheerforce of my psychic charisma.

I may be waiting a long time.