A strange by-product of laws aimed at cowboy builders is that psychics can no longer claim to be genuine – they have to advertise as entertainment only.
But I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of the hundreds of people that turned up to see Derek Acorah, star of Most Haunted, in the flesh believed that he really was communicating with the “higher life”.
The 58-year-old claims to hear from spirits, helped by an Ethiopian spirit guide called Sam, and spends much of the show stood staring at the middle of the open stage.
He talks into the air to Sam and the spirits he apparently sees queuing up waiting to talk to audience members, delivering a drip-feed of names, descriptions and places.
When someone in the stalls recognises enough detail he focuses on them, passing on messages from beyond the grave and often leaving the audience member in tears and emotional, remembering a dead mother, husband or friend.
He plucks details seemingly from the air – problems with car tax, or a loved-one’s name – sometimes they stick, other times they appear wide of the mark but we are promised that a conflab with the family after the show will provide “confirmation”.
The spirits can apparently watch us, but the conversation is only one way and we can’t ask them questions. They can pop round our houses, but apparently can’t tell Derek our full names and addresses – just roughly where we are in the auditorium.
I arrived and departed a sceptic, but for those who took part there was an obvious emotional engagement and, for some, reassurance that their dearly beloved are OK.
The audience was clearly entertained. Whether it was by a genuine medium, or by a showman skilled at preying on the vulnerable, it’s much more difficult to tell.