The Mystery of New York’s Renegade Subway Psychic

Sometimes the weirdest mysteries pop up right under our noses. It often seems that one doesn’t have to travel far to find the strange, and some of these mysteries orbit our everyday lives. One curious oddity revolves around a mysterious stranger who has managed to operate on one of the busiest subway systems in the world, a supposed psychic who has managed to dodge all attempts to actually find out who they are. 

Many who have ridden the New York subway may have noticed over the years a curious flyer, often under the plexiglass where other advertisements are found but sometimes plastered straight to the wall or even the ceiling of the train cars. The flyer advertises “Keano Spiritual Consultant,” and features a mystical looking pyramid with an all-seeing eye peering out and the whole of it surrounded by mystical imagery of the stars and the moon. In these flyers, the mysterious Keano, who also calls himself or herself a “powerful master in love,” offers psychic and spiritualist services to those in need, and although the flyer has sometimes changed over the years, it typically says “Discover the Mystery of the Psychic,” and “The Moon & the Stars Can be Yours,” and reads:

Tells past- Present- Future. Removes Jealousy- Evil Eye- Bad Luck. Reunites the separated. If you are having problems in business- Love- Health- Marriage I can help. Don’t let fear-pride-doubt be your enemy. Reach out and let me help you! I’m here for you call me now!!!

The flyer then lists a phone number and offers “One free question by phone.” These flyers have been popping up all over the New York subway system for years, but they have long had mystery surrounding them, propelling them into a little piece of local legend and lore. The first and most obvious mystery is that, depending who you ask, the phone number listed doesn’t seem to actually do anything. There have been many reports of people calling the enigmatic listed number only to get a busy signal again and again, or to have the line cut out for no reason. In othrs someone obviously picks up, but then hangs up. Others describe reaching merely a recording of eerie music, or of coming to a voicemail box. Journalist Paula Mejía has said of this for The Gothamist:

The only lead is the number on the card itself—granting you one free question by phone—which often leads to mixed results ranging from voicemails to no answer at all. When I tried calling one of the numbers that appeared on the Keano ad as of March I got a dial tone. Phone records for that number turned up nil. The more I combed through court records and forums, learning nothing, and called lines with no answer, the more the unblinking eye went from inquisitive to taunting. I even bought a burner phone with the intention of having several conversations with Keano on it, but the minutes on it ran out before I got very far. Suddenly I went from seeing Keano on a handful of trains to running into the ad everywhere, a dead end staring me in the face as I went from point A to point B.

Although the main consensus is that there is no way to reach the enigmatic Keano through the listed phone number, even though the number has always remained the same, there have been some who claim to have actually gotten through, although it does very little to answer the mystery of what is going on. Redditor “KingBotsAlot” has said on a Reddit thread on the topic:

Prank called them when I was a high schooler for my free consult. I started off saying I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back. She played with that train of thought but promised me there were things she could do to make them fall in love with me. I was using an old lady voice so she automatically assumed I was an older woman.. hook line and sinker she made up another woman in the picture and how she could predict the circumstances needed for him to leave her. Then she said the free call was over but we can talk if I pay her a few hundred a week.

Despite this, few claim to have ever spoken to the mysterious figure personally, and no one is really sure who it could possibly be. Very few have spoken to them, and the flyers themselves seem to just appear out of thin air, often in positions that would be difficult to reach without a person being conspicuous, such as behind the plexiglass or on the ceiling of a train car. On occasion there have been supposed sightings of someone putting up the flyers, but the descriptions of the one doing this have varied. Many of them describe a nondescript, plain-looking middle aged white woman, but others have deviated from this, such as Redditor “Klaasjesnyc,” who would claim that the one putting up the flyers is a young, very aggressive man, saying:

OMG I saw his person in the 6 uptown the other day. He got SO aggressive! This keano person dropped a flyer on the seat and this middle aged woman pointed it out as she wanted to help and this Keano person went MENTAL. Swearing to the lady and said he would beat her up and it almost got out of hand. Continued on screaming to her while continuing to hang other flyers. Damn. Not very spiritual lol.

What is going on here? Are any of these people the real Keano or just someone they have hanging up their flyers? Adding to the mystique is that there was never any address listed on any of these ads, no online presence for “Keano,” and seemingly no way to reach him or her, so trying to figure out who was putting up ads for a psychic that seemingly led nowhere was like chasing a ghost. Mejía, who became fascinated with solving the mystery, would say of it:

Keano has perplexed me as long as I’ve been living in New York. I used to live off the F train, in Brooklyn, and saw the ads on that line constantly. They’re usually on the Q line, and I often see them on the C train too. I’ve never been interested in Keano’s promise that “the moon & stars can be yours” so much as understanding how they managed to swiftly and subliminally weave themselves into the very consciousness of New York City. Keano’s advertisements have become ubiquitous to commuting—which is to say it’s a part of life here—yet this entity may as well not exist. Keano⁠—whoever they are⁠—have a scant online presence, with no website or physical location listed, so even if you wanted to go visit them in person, you can’t. Despite looking into an address found in Bay Ridge, the original Keano remained elusive to us—was she a front for something else? A team of psychic scammers? Did she even exist?

As Mejía continued her quest to track down the mysterious individual responsible, Keano was attracting quite a bit of online discussion and debate as to what was going on. Some said it was a real psychic who had hidden cryptic clues in the flyer that one had to solve in order to reach the real number, like a puzzle, perhaps in an effort to weed out the insincere or unworthy. Others called Keano a scammer, while others said it was likely more than one person, a group engaged in some sort of guerilla marketing campaign. Reddit user “Rhododendrites” has said of this:

I hate to create an extension of its “guerrilla marketing,” but they’re just so persistent and ubiquitous. I know it’s come up in this subreddit before, but I’ve yet to see any real information aside from e.g. anecdotes from people who crank called. It’s impressive just how often I see the flyers, though I’ve never actually seen anyone put one up or take one down. I’d like to think Keano is an elderly man or woman with a tiny unmarked storefront and a cult following that puts the flyers up all over town. More likely, however, is that it’s a company like “Psychic Friends” (or one of the other silly hotlines that advertise on tv at 3 AM).

Meanwhile, Mejía would continue her quest to track Keano down, and at some point in 2019 a new version of the flyer started appearing. This one utilized the same sort of occult imagery as the original, but these had a more dramatic bright purple backdrop, they were advertising the services of Angelina, not Keano, and they also had an address, listed as 613 86th Street, located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Intrigued, Mejía would follow this lead but come across more questions than answers, saying:

If you look up this location online, the “Psychic of Bayridge” pops up along with a website where you can book appointments. There’s not much in the way of information about Angelina under the site’s “about me” page, save for: “I Am A Natural Born Gifted Third Generation Psychic Spiritual Life Coach. With Over 28 Years Experience.” Is this person someone from the Keano camp, a promising psychic intern who had since set out on their own? Or was this someone who was ripping off Keano’s graphic design aesthetic as their own? Is this part of an ongoing flyering war throughout the New York City subway system? For now, it seems Keano’s mysteries won’t be unraveled just yet. After several calls to the new number, one Angelina answered. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to be a part of this story and hung up, but I’m still left wondering.

A reporter from the New York Times, Sam Kestenbaum, began doing his own research into these new flyers and would claim that after continually visiting the;location to find no one there, he was finally able to encounter a woman who claimed to be the elusive Keano. “Keano” also claimed to offer different kinds of consultations, including palm reading, face analysis, and aura and tarot readings, and would say of herself:

I am Greek. I am Argentinian. Keano is my true name. This gift we have, it’s in the family. It began when I was 16. I had a premonition that I would be hit by a car. And I was. I was hit by a car crossing the street. I was run over. I broke my ankle. But I survived. And since then, I have premonitions about other people. We don’t do black magic, only deal with the light. We’re not Illuminati. No witchcraft. No voodoo. I want you to know this. Trust me. I made it (the flyer) myself. Simple. Powerful. The eye is for seeing into the spirit. The moon is protection. The earth is for thinking victoriously.

It is sort of difficult to trust her when a little more digging showed that this self-proclaimed “Keano” is neither Greek nor Argentinian, and Keano is not even her real name, as she was born in Manhattan with the name Vella Nicklas. It also turns out that when she actually does meet with customers instead of jerking them around with cryptic phone numbers and mysteries she charges them hundreds of dollars for her services. Reporter Ben Yakas would write:

Eventually, it emerges that Keano was born in Manhattan with the name Vella Nicklas. Now 61, she has lived in states all along the East Coast, including in Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and New York, with some time spent in California, as well. Like most psychics in the city, she is essentially a scammer taking advantage of vulnerable people, as is revealed in several asides and anecdotes in the piece in which she asks clients for hundreds of dollars for vague mystical promises and spells.

The question of who “Angelina” is never seems to be answered. Although the New York Times article claims to have solved the mystery, others are not so sure, and believe that this is a person merely using Keano’s name for profit, and not the original creator of the ads. There are the different flyer designs, no evidence that she is really Keano, and why would she suddenly start listing an address when for years there was nothing more than a phone number that didn’t seem to lead anywhere? Could it be that the real Keano is still out there while Nicklas is an imposter? After all the original flyers still continue to appear, so is this, like Mejía said, the result of a “flyering war?” Indeed, the strange case of the mysterious Keano still has a good deal of mystery and mystique surrounding it, with plenty of questions that still remain without concrete answers.  

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