My First Trip To A Spiritualist Church/Medium

gattino

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#1
Having seen mediums and spiritualists on tv, in fact and fiction, in books, in movies...debunked, parodied or elevated to people with superpowers, but mostly having the piss taken out of them...and having read convincing accounts of them in books and articles, it occurred to me I've never actually witnessed any of this in person to make my own judgement. So last night I went to my nearest Spiritualist Church with 2 friends for the sheer novelty of..well...somethng new. Tautologies are us.

So I thought I'd recount here what it was like for those in the same position as me.. who think they've seen it but never actually have.

I'll prick the tension straight away and say no messages were delivered to me or my friends.

In total there were about 18 or 20 people in attendance besides us, several of whom were also first timers. Contrary to my expectations there were barely any white haired old dears or lonely house fraus amongst them...a few pairs of younger people were there and the largest demographic were older scruffily dressed men. At least one appeared to be a regular (he was greeted by name like Norm in Cheers) who one suspected was homeless and came in for a warm and a bit of attention. He seemed to want to put his hand up to claim any loose message going.

In terms of it being a "church", the place itself was a brightly lit hall as you'd imagine...with a dais or balcony rather than an altar. There were elements of a regular church service (2 prayers, 2 hymns, and a rattled collection box - doubt they got more than a tenner in loose change from it -- and a sort of brief sermon or homily from the guest medium) but besides the Lord's Prayer there was no reference to God or Jesus or the like. Even the hymn book included "Any Dream Will Do" from Joseph!

One odd and unexpected detail was that the man in charge was obliged to read out a disclaimer from a clipboard, like those at the end of TV psychic shows on Living...about how this is an experiment and no results can be guaranteed, no scientific claims are made etc. It stopped short only of saying the dread words "for entertainment purposes only". Presumably to avoid malicious or plain mad law suits, but it does make you wonder what would happen if the mainstream churches had to read out the same thing!

At last, the medium...
He's an invited medium, as they seemingly are each week, that's to say a different one each time doing the circuit. This one from Lancashire. He did his thing for about an hour. It pretty much consisted of I'm drawn to this side of the room or this gentleman here kind of thing...a good 3 or 4 times the individual he initially singled out struggled to agree with all he was saying (he insisted on yes or no answers) only for the person behind or next to them to say it all fit with them instead. He blamed his "aim" being off tonight. He also made a joke about envying these mediums who say they see a light over people's heads as he sees bugger all of that, and in fact doesn't believe them.

70% of his statements, I have to say, were evidentially rubbish...which is not to say untrue or inaccurate, but rather were so brazenly obvious, universal, or likely that a hit was almost inevitable and so was cynicism. Specifically the fact he nearly always was drawn to grey haired people only to ask if their father had passed on! Er... Add in lots of references to being in hospital, tender bedside vigils, difficulty breathing or heart problems before death (yeah..both stopped, Sherlock!) and "you keep a photograph/still talk to them" kind of statements...as well as character traits like sometimes stern fathers and tell-it-like-it-is mothers and my scepticism was getting a heat rash. Tellingly whenever he gave these typical older person character traits or habits (how many dead fathers used to have their own chair that no one else was allowed to sit in?) two young women a few rows in front of us, who were never the recipients, would turn to each other with a smile and a nod and whispered conversation that clearly implied "our dad/mum/uncle is just like that too"

I should repeat that the fact these things apply to "everyone" doesn't discount them from being absolutely true and coming from whom he claimed, but they were just useless as evidence. However......

One thing that the piss taker's gross caricature of these things got wrong is the idea of the medium saying "John..George..something beginning with a J.." It simply didn't happen.

For the most part he referred to people only by their relationship (Father, sister etc) but when he gave names they were singular, not in multiple variations or initials, and he didn't alter them at all. He got frustrated at the couple of hard of listening people who tried furnishing him with additional information rather than saying yes/no.

More importantly there were 3 separate individuals who, when he did "connect" to them got yes after yes after yes, as his comments went way beyond the "fits just about anyone" kind described above. Mentioning specific names, possessions, or incidents that happened two nights ago etc etc. The constant stream of yeses from the individuals in question were unhesitant and not to be confused with the "desperate for it to be me/agree with anything" types, of which there was at least one or two present. Just as impressive was the emotional response in these 3 cases as I was watching them, rather than the medium, and the dawning realisation on their part that this really was their dead whoever had them holding back very genuine tears of joy and amazement as they got apparent hit after hit.

We can't entirely rule out the possibility they were agreeing to things which weren't accurate for reasons of their own, but on the surface they appeared genuinely moved and their responses emphatic. Interestingly I can't tell you or recall what actually was said because it has no relevance to me personally, which is a strong indicator that you need to be on the recieving end rather than a mere witness to it to be wholey convinced and converted. Psychologically you can see from this why people would get dragged into pursuing medium after medium and private readings where they can...the tantalising hint that this is real, but just not enough to settle the matter.

The one exception to recalling specific details amongst the 3 individuals he had most success with is of interest here because it involved the medium suggesting - to emphatic yeses - that the audience member in question had been experiencing spirit activity lately...that it was indeed his mother who had breathed on his neck two nights ago, that he had been hearing raps, that he had been getting dead phone calls and dialling 1471 and that was his mother responding to his requests for such signs. All of these statements came from the medium, not the man, and already holding back tears his yeses were swift and emphatic.

Verdict? As uncertain on leaving as on arriving. There was enough to be impressed by to say maybe so, maybe so...but more than enough to doubt to leave you in limbo. But interesting..
 
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#2
Thanks for that interesting report. Why not send it as a letter to the Fortean Times? It deserves a wider reasing.
 

Zilch5

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#4
Good Review - but it still sounds like cold reading to me.

Call me unconvinced.
 

gattino

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#6
Cold Reading:

Well, I wasn't going to use that term but outside of the successes I referred to which I'll try and come back to and elaborate on, I would certainly say everything else was hard to distinguish from cold reading....like I said so many universal/incredibly likely descriptions of the elderly dying. On top of this was a repetition of certain motifs to different people. At least twice the kissing the mother's cheek as you're by her bedside (no, I gave her a good slap!)...Other things he repeated to more than one person were about having/talking to a photo (no shit!) and feeling their presence sometimes (uhuh)....

And things that ought to be true but, awkwardly weren't so had to be altered: eg suggesting the dead parent had been in hospital before they died, which you'd think a sure bet, got a no from teh person being addressed. So it became that they'd been in hospital prior to their final illness/death but had come out. While he gave, occassionally, clear unalterable names I can't recall a specific moment where the name itself got a definite yes (I really should underline here that I'm only refering to my memory and ability to testify, not remotely saying that the names didn't get yeses..I just can't recall to help you judge). Finally in the case for the prosecution even one of the series of seemingly specific yeses was suspect in that it was referring to the deceased leaving behind jewellery and each separate item...necklace, chain, earrings...got its own "yes" creating the impression of a succession of successes, and in relation to something that was once again a safe bet.

Case closed?

Now the case for the defence.
Some things you have to put in a maybe pile..they're suggestive of sincerity, but also seem familiar from tv psychics so might represent a standard "trick" to allay suspicion. But there's no evidence for that. I'm speaking of his repeatedly addressing person A, struggling, only for person B several seats away to recognise everything he's saying; an insistence in sticking with unrecognised statements because the "spirit" is adamant; and perhaps more in the positive than the maybe pile the fact that someone seemingly sane and sensible who he'd successfully "read" for earlier was volunteering that a second batch of info applied to him, when he was struggling to get a positive result from the people he was actually addressing, but he seemed genuinely reluctant to go back to the person on the basis he'd already been done.....he did in the end, but if the aim of the game is easy hits to impress the rest of us then it seemed odd to be turning down a willing volunteer with yes on his lips in favour of ones who were saying "no" to him. Finally there were the instances of very specific, insane to have guessed, claims which applied to no one but which he kept repeating...specifically a small girl in a wheelchair who died of polio. No one took it, but he spent some time insisting on it.

So what of the actual successes? The ones which seemed to suggest something really was going on. I said there were 3 but in fact there were 4 in total.

The first was the person - actually two people, male and female - mentioned in teh paragraph above, who claimed two readings. In both instancee originally addressed to someone else. The first time round they said they could take all the matches "between them". Ie some applied to him and others to her. They were behind us so only caught a tiny glimpse but they were relatively young and I suspect new like us. Their sharing the messages might seem odd but presumably they were related and they recognized everythign that was thrown at them.

As for the 3 cases I mentioned in the original post: They had 3 things in common. Each of them were individuals sitting on their own, in two cases it was another initially talking to the wrong person scenario, and in all 3 cases I noted their facial and emotional responses. Lest the suspicion they may have been plants or playing up for an audience creeps in I'll explain that people were dotted around randomly in the seats, as their weren't may of us, and in fact so few a plant seems a ridiculous idea. Tears were not for the public benefit simply because they were of the silent variety and where people were in front of you you only saw the backs of their heads, yet behind you they were invisible without turning round.

The first woman was behind us, and to the side of the room (we were in teh middle) I strained to look back and saw she was a tired faced middle aged woman with wet tearful eyes but smiling, confident and knowing in her repeated yeses, which had the air and expression more of a "OH yes!" as one who just gets every reference to family relations and connections and character traits and whatever else he was saying. Her expression itself made me start to be less cynical and his messages to her went on for some time, every one - from her response - correct. Sadly as I say I can't give you examples.
The second gentleman had more hesitancies over some things and wasn't unmitigated yeses (perhaps tellingly he was the only one of the 3 who the medium addressed from the start)..a few I don't know's a few denials, but ultimately a lot of yeses accompanied by a happy snort of recognition over a lot of references. He was an older man with disabilities..he had a hearing aid and a cane and a bend in his neck. He was sat right in front of us. His tears came after the medium moved on from him. He was quietly wiping them away.

Which brings us to the 3rd and seemingly most impressive case. The one with the ghostly happenings. He was sat right at the front but on the far side by the wall...and the medium had initially been addressing a group of 3 women several rows behind him, giving a fairly specific physical description of a short rotund lady in a pinny, and I think he gave a name...in response they gavehim silence and shrugs. The man at the front - 40 something, chubby, shaven headed - drew attention to himself as recognizing the references and, as with the woman above an endless series of yeses ensued. Again like the woman his expression was emphatic happy "oh yes"es of recognition to pretty much everything and in describing the deceased character and former behaviour he began to choke up...we could see as I was at an angle to him.. he covered his mouth at one point to hold back a sob in his voice. Then the medium says he'd been involved in spirit recently, or something along those lines,and recieved an emphatic yes. The same unhesitant agreement came in response to the breath felt on his neck two nights ago, hearing the raps, a long lamp he has at the side of his armchair flickering on and off, and recieving phone calls with no one there...this was her (I thnk his nan, rather than his mum) saying "gotcha!" There was some indication he'd been requestiing this contact/these signs.

Now whatever this was it can hardly be classified as cold reading. As guesses go its pretty extreme. If we want to exclude paranormal knowledge on the part of the medium we'd have to substitute it for one of the following:
1) a psychological compulsion on hte part of this individual - recognised by the medium - to agree to everything. We've nothing to base that assumption on.
2) Prior conversation with the man: perhaps he'd turned up early and was keen to start boasting of his spooky encounters to the professional, and he had the information just publically fed back to him. This is plausible, but again we have no actual knowledge on which to base the allegation.
3) He was a regular and the staff who runt he place informed the medium of his story before going on. Again plausible, but such conspiracy would be a bit of a dodgy exercise by the church to a visiting medium...it would only take one sincere and outraged person to be approached with an offer of information and they'd be publically exposed.

For all these reasons what largely resembled cold reading had enough elements to stop me concluding so definitively. Maybe it was real. But only maybe.
 

GNC

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#7
The "hits" might have been regular visitors whose pasts were already known, though. Just playing Devil's Advocate - I shouldn't think they get many unbelievers in attendance.
 

GNC

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#8
garrick92 said:
Why would you keep going back, once your personal details were 'compromised'? I genuinely don't get it.
You go back because you believe in it, and everyone likes to have their beliefs confirmed or bolstered. It's reassuring to be told your deceased loved ones live on elsewhere, and you will join them at some point.
 

Recycled1

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#9
I've been following this thread with some amusement, and GNC is absolutely right.
I've been a regular attender at Spiritualist churches for the last ten years or so , and I'm fairly typical of the sort of person you find in the congregation i.e. I'm a female OAP who has left the conventional Christian church, but who still believes in the "continuous existence of the human soul", (one of the seven principals of Spiritualism) and who enjoys singing hymns and meeting like-minded people!
There's nothing so dreadful about that, is there? :)

I'm not a total idiot -of course some of the mediums waffle and get things wrong -but just occasionally you will be told something that is spot on !
I don't go to church to "get a message", I already believe that my friends and relations etc are still alive and still love me (if appropriate!)
I like to hear the "philosophy" (i.e. address /sermon) -there's a different medium each week, just like different ministers on a Methodist circuit. You get to know the good ones, and the ones to avoid!

Ask me anything you like!
 

GNC

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#10
I'm tempted to ask about your best and worst experiences, but (a) that might be too nosey and (b) might attract legal action should any "bad" mediums you encountered be reading!

You could always be subtle, of course...
 

Recycled1

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#11
Hmm....well......

I've never witnessed anything evil /damaging, and I've never been asked for untoward amounts of money.
At the "ordinary" services, the collection plate is passed round as in a conventional church. If a "special" evening of mediumship is being advertised, the entrance fee is announced in advance.

BUT I've certainly been given "messages" that I couldn't relate to, and I'm also quite frequently disappointed in the standard of prayers, readings, and addresses . A lot of them remind me of "Patience Strong" type "uplift". - very cheesey, (That's not my style -I'm a graduate and a retired teacher.)

Different personalities appeal to different people, don't they? I avoid a certain gay male medium, not because I'm against gays (one grandaughter is gay) but because he thinks so much of himself. I don't like "showman" performances, I come from Baptist roots!

The best experience I've ever had, was early on in my days of attending the church in Woiverhampton. I was heading for a "Saturday Evening Special" -i.e.a visiting medium who warranted an admission price.
As I waited at the bus stop (I don't drive), I thought "The only person I really want to know about is my dad".
My dad had had what would now be called Alzheimer's before he died, and I worried whether he would be "himself" again after death.
Well, almost the first thing the visiting medium said was "Can anyone relate to the name of Rogers?".
This was MY maiden name, and I was the only person in the hall who could put a claim to it.
I was told "He just wants to say he's alright". (I'm welling up with tears even as I write this! :) )

Like the ad says -priceless!
 

Recycled1

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#12
No, I've never seen a transfiguratuon medium.
There's one coming next week to the Bournemouth church that I now attend, but it's by "Invitation Only", and as I'm not actually a church member, I haven't been invited!

I've seen a couple of trance mediums, and once witnessed "someone else" taking over the regular medium for the main prayer. Nobody made any comment about it -typically British!
I 've talked to a medium who "does trance". He said that when it first started, it made him feel extremely ill, physically, until he got more used to it.
As with everything, some trance mediums are more convincing than others!
 

Recycled1

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#13
I've just noticed your second question......

I've seen people very shocked / very moved by what they are being told.
Sadly, quite frequently, it tends to be people whose friends or relations have committed suicide or died in accidents etc.
There used to be a box of tissues kept on the window ledge to mop up the tears, in W';ton!.

Over the course of the years I've had believable "messages" from all my relations -including more from my dad. But I don't get many these days, because I know they're OK and vice versa!

We all question our beliefs at times.
When I think -as occasionally I do - "Is this all a load of poppycock?" I remind myself of my teenage experience with the home made ouija board, when it spelled out "DO NOT VEX ME" (I posted this in "Esoterica" some years ago, but I wasn't "Recycled" then.)
I am 100% certain (a) that it was real and (b)those weren't words I would use!
 

Recycled1

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#14
garrick92 said:
Recycled1 said:
No, I've never seen a transfiguratuon medium.
There's one coming next week to the Bournemouth church that I now attend, but it's by "Invitation Only", and as I'm not actually a church member, I haven't been invited!
I didn't realise the Spiritualist church differentiated between 'members' and 'non-members'. How does one become a member? Are there any perks?

Also, why haven't you become a member, if you're so involved with it?

(Also, I see from the above that I have referred to 'the' Spiritualist church -- for all I know there could be several denominations).




Why am I not a member?
Well...............

The Spiritualist Church has seven principals.
Number one is "The Fatherhood of God".
I have problems with this! I certainly don't believe in the "Mr God" of popular theology.

Another principal is "The continuous existance of the human soul".
I have problems with this, too! I think it implies forever existance, while I believe we may simply "fizzle out" eventually.

The perks of membership (£8 a year in Bournemouth, but it varies from church to church) include cheaper rates for "Special" evenings, and access to the quite extensive library.

Yes, there are "denominations" within Spiritualism.
There are "Christian Spiritualist" churches (I HAVE been a member of one of those in the past) and there are Independent Spiritualist churches.
All three exist in my area, but you see the same mediums working in all of them!
 

Recycled1

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#15
By the way, healing is an important part oif Spiritualism.
Healers have to do quite a long, intensive training, and there are strict guidelines as to what physical contact is allowed!
We serve tea and biscuits to people coming for healing -I act as locum tea lady when the regular lady can't make it!
 

Recycled1

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#16
garrick92 said:
I'm sorry if I'm bombarding you with questions -- I've never really investigated Spiritualism before, so I'm interested in the perspectives of someone who has lived with it for a long time.

What's the Spiritualist conception of the structure of the afterlife?

For example, you mention suicides -- I've read material that suggests that suicides experience a sort of unpleasant 'purgatory' experience before graduating to the 'nice' afterlife. Is that something you've come across?

Am I correct in my understanding that Spiritualists believe there are several 'planes' to the afterlife, through which a discarnate person progresses?
Quite honestly, the way to find out what spiritualists believe, is by reading books and searching the internet. You won't hear much nitty gritty stuff at a church service (just the Seven Principals, if you're lucky!)

From what I've read over the years (try section 133 in your local library!) there is a general concensus that there are different "planes" of development in the afterlife. It is mainly thought that we "judge ourselves" after death. One of the Spiritualists'"Seven Principals" is 'Eternal Progress Open to Every Human Soul' i.e. no absolute damnation.
(But of course that wouldn't stop a suicide /murderer putting himself into an imagined state of purgatory.)

Some spiritualists believe in reincarnation, some don't (just like the rest of the population.) It's not compulsory!

When suicides "come through" in church, they are invariably sorry for all the distress they've caused their families. You don't hear much about their surroundings or situation.

Anyone can, of course, pay for a private sitting with a medium.
Personally, I think it's best not to do this "just for fun" (like using a ouija board "just for fun" -not a good idea!)
 

escargot

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#17
My dear late Gran was a Spiritualist. Although discussing her faith with us kids was frowned upon by my mother, Gran'd occasionally let fascinating facts slip.

One was that she'd seen mediums who could make people appear, looking pale and wispy but recognisable, who'd walk among the congregation.

The way she described it there'd be a handful of these spirit people visible during the service.

Within the last 10 years or so I've realised that what she was talking about were Manifestation Mediums. She died when I was about 14, surely with no fear of death.

Interestingly, in line with her Spiritualist belief that the body is a mere vehicle for the soul, she was a fan of cremation before it was widely used in Britain and was pleased when the town crematorium opened in the 1950s.

Her husband died quite young and was buried with his parents. Her name is on their gravestone, ready for her eventual arrival. However, Gran had other plans and was cremated and her ashes were buried in a numbered plot a few hundred yards away.

I wish she'd lived longer so I could have grilled her about things!

My father, her son, discussed theories of life after death with me throughout my life. He wasn't worried by death either, and neither am I.

It's not a good idea to be too blase about death, of course. ;)
 

rynner2

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#18
escargot1 said:
...Gran had other plans and was cremated and her ashes were buried in a numbered plot a few hundred yards away.

I wish she'd lived longer so I could have grilled her about things!
Perhaps not the best way to phrase it! :shock:

(Or was that deliberate? ;) )
 

gattino

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#20
Garrick.. to answer a lot of your questions from the perspective of those practicsing the mediumship in the spiritualist churches I'd really recommend the book Consulting Spirit by Ian Rubenstein. I no doubt mentioned it earlier.

He is a GP for the NHS in London who slowly developed into a medium and went through the various stages that lead up to being one of those who goes to churches and gives readings. He did the various open and closed circles and spiritual development and all the rest of the terms you might hear on this subject, to get to the stage he's at, but all with the convincingly detached and curious undogmatic scepticism of you or I. He's not entirely sure whether what he does is spirits or not, but that he does it and it works is all he knows for sure. It's fascinating - and convincing - to hear it from the seemingly genuine medium's point of view.
 

marion

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#21
I recently went to a local Mediumship Meeting, not a spiritualist Church meeting but run along the same lines by a private company. I've always been interested in going to a meeting like that and I'm a firm believer in experiencing something before you can have an opinion. It was run by two mediums but there was a guest speaker. He was a bit meh to be honest, though pretty much everyone agreed with what he said the people 'coming through' were often clichéd- males who didn't show much emotion when they were alive but were sending lots of love and support from the spirit world or dead gobby Mams who called a spade a spade. After the main event there was a development circle where the two people who ran the event helped people who they were teaching and members of the audience could stay and participate too. This was much more like it, wow, spot on very personal details over and over again. This wasn't the 'main show' so there was no incentive to impress anyone or make anything up. I'm going back next month, maybe I'll be picked out next time though I don't really have any close dead I feel like contacting.
 

gattino

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#22
2 and a half years on from the original account here I'm intending to return to the church to see a different medium and in different company. I won't say precisely when and will be just as vague in the details of the strange incident that follows.. simply to limit any suggestion, should any thing interesting happen, that information was somehow gleaned from me posting here beforehand.

Just to report for now a rather eerie little oddity. In the perhaps unlikely event there are any "messages" for me and they really were from the dead the number of likely sources are very limited. I would expect, in such a hypothesis, that only one particular deceased person would be trying to speak to me. Let's for the moment give him the made up name Frank.

I confirmed plans/intentions to go to the church yesterday, until which I'd made no public refernce to it. I'm not going to any other kind of public performance in teh foreseeable future. So imagine how far up my eyebrow shot when also yesterday I recieved, on an urelated website, a completely random message from a faceless stranger (whose few details confirm is no one I know), in response to absolutely nothing from me. "Frank" wrote "Enjoy the show". That's it. No explanation, no follow up, nothing to precede it, and no response when I took the bait and asked the photoless stranger what he meant. Just "Enjoy the show" from an anoynmous Frank.

(for clarity that wasn't his name. My point is he had hte same name as the only person I would expect to recieve a message from on the other side, if such thngs are possible)

Don't get me wrong... I'm not seriously suggesting a ghost has hijacked cyberspace. It's just an eerie little bit of incredibly apt oddness to have me intrigued. I shall report back if anything interesting happens when I go.
 

Tribble

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#24
I confirmed plans/intentions to go to the church yesterday, until which I'd made no public refernce to it. I'm not going to any other kind of public performance in teh foreseeable future. So imagine how far up my eyebrow shot when also yesterday I recieved, on an urelated website, a completely random message from a faceless stranger (whose few details confirm is no one I know), in response to absolutely nothing from me. "Frank" wrote "Enjoy the show". That's it. No explanation, no follow up, nothing to precede it, and no response when I took the bait and asked the photoless stranger what he meant. Just "Enjoy the show" from an anoynmous Frank.
Well, if you and the medium do make contact with "Frank", ask him/her to post on these forums!
 

escargot

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#25
. For me, being unknown to them was the whole point. (I left quickly and didn't mingle with the rest of the crowd, so that no-one even knows my name, just in case I go back).
As is widely known, I once visited a local 'medium' (on a strong personal recommendation) who, when I didn't rise to the cold-reading/fishing for clues, managed to 'diagnose' me as a lonely lesbian sports teacher. I was at the time a newly-married (to Techy) criminologist.
 

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#26
As is widely known, I once visited a local 'medium' (on a strong personal recommendation) who, when I didn't rise to the cold-reading/fishing for clues, managed to 'diagnose' me as a lonely lesbian sports teacher. I was at the time a newly-married (to Techy) criminologist.
LOL :D
 

Monstrosa

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#27
As is widely known, I once visited a local 'medium' (on a strong personal recommendation) who, when I didn't rise to the cold-reading/fishing for clues, managed to 'diagnose' me as a lonely lesbian sports teacher. I was at the time a newly-married (to Techy) criminologist.
Ah, but your inner lesbian is lonely, give her a hug!
 

graylien

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#29
Hmm. I've only been to a spiritualist church once. At the time I worked for a national cancer charity, and the local spiritualist church was giving some of their proceeds to us.

So, I walk in wearing my charity T-shirt and settle down near the back. There were two mediums that night. The first one seemed to be very obviously cold reading the audience, who were nevertheless lapping it up. In the interval I went down to where they were serving the teas and coffees, so everyone had a chance to get a look at me.

Then the second medium came on. Again, she seemed to be obviously practising cold reading. It was stuff like "I'm getting an F here. An elderly gentleman. He liked his gardening. Does anyone have an F here who has recently passed over?" Again, the audience were lapping it up.

Then out of nowhere she suddenly zeroed in on me. "I'm getting a message for you from a male," she announced, as heads turned to look at me. "Maybe your father. Has your father passed recently?"

Well, he had passed, though over a decade previously. So I said, yes, he had passed.

"I'm getting that he died from.......cancer," she said. "He was always really close to you, wasn't he? He just wants you to know that he's here and he's always watching over you."

There were only a couple of things wrong with that statement. Firstly, my father had passed away though liver damage thanks to his life long alcoholism. And secondly, after my parents divorced when I was 4, he hadn't had anything to do with me.

So, what to do? Obviously I was tempted to say "you're wrong on both counts, and you're obviously a complete fraud!". But I was there representing work, and that would have been unforgivably unprofessional. So I just smiled and nodded, and she moved on to the next target. Of course, as far as anyone else in the audience was concerned, I would have registered as a 'hit'.

So, I wonder, what part does social pressure play on these occasions? How many people are playing along with the medium just because they feel everyone's gaze upon them, and they don't want to make a fuss?
 
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