June 13, 1988 12:00 PM

Steve MacDonald listens intently to the peculiar whooshing sound in his phone. Slowly, carefully, he begins to conjure up an image of the young woman caller, 700 miles away in New York, who’s creating it by rubbing her palm over the mouthpiece of her phone. “I have a feeling you are going to be doing some legal business,” MacDonald says confidently. He asks her to pan her phone around her room. “I see a lot of art on the wall,” he says. “Do you have shoes off to the left somewhere? You do? I’d better quit while I’m ahead, huh?”

So goes a typical dialogue with MacDonald, 33, a Chicago investment-company clerk by day who doubles as the country’s hottest—well, probably only—over-the-phone palm reader. “I admit to being hyperintuitive,” he says modestly. “As the hand frictionizes the phone, I get a registering of how much tension a person is applying.”

A psychic autodidact who began reading palms the old-fashioned way at 19, MacDonald has performed some 500 phone readings since October when he first experimented on a friend’s sister at Wellesley. She raved about his astuteness, and soon Mac-Donald’s number began circulating at other Eastern women’s colleges. (“The cachet,” he says, “is unbeatable.”) He asks callers to use both hands on the phone. “I do the right with my right ear and the left with my left,” he says. “That gets to both sides of the brain.”

Customers are invited to send $10 for the service, but he reads all Wellesley girls free in homage to that first client.

“I can’t tell you how accurate he was,” says Amy Cunningham, 24, of Washington, D.C., who heard of him through a Wellesley connection. Not every caller is so impressed. “He stated I was born in the wrong era, I should have been a child of the ’60s,” says Wellesley freshman Mary Halloran. “That is probably the most inaccurate thing anyone ever said to me.” Unfazed by such cavils, MacDonald is confident of his future. “I’ll probably be reading full-time next year,” he says. “I might someday be advising people in high places, on behalf of the government.” Mrs. Reagan, start dialing.

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