I've long been a skeptic when it comes to those who purport to talk to the dead. I have read extensively on the subject and like many have also watched numerous videos on YouTube. My guiding light in my non belief is the legendary James Randi, whose one million dollar prize for anyone showing true paranormal abilities remains unclaimed. The thing is, I'd never actually been to a night of mediumship so when the opportunity arose to attend one a hundred metres from my house I couldn't say no.
It was held at a local LGBT bar called Cameo, a thoroughly nice place. All 120 tickets had been snapped up for a tenner each – as a result it was hot and rammed. Due to perform were three mediums, and thankfully all the money was to line the pockets of the Bristol Royal Infirmary rather than the performers. The crowd was at least 95% female, and of that at least 95% over 30. It seems the young aren't so interested in this sort of thing. The headlining act, who didn't give her name, instructed us not to 'feed the mediums', and to only give 'yes' and ;no' answers. She also informed us that we shouldn't be too serious, as 'no one in the other world is serious or unhappy'.
First up was Gary, a tall man in his 30s. His first attempt didn't go too well, as his suggestion that he was channelling a woman's grand parents was rebuffed, until she helped him by saying 'I wonder if it's my Mum'. This gave him a good hit on an initial comment about a red scarf, which he pounced on. Thing is he was determined to paint the spirit as eccentric still, which was a total miss, as was his suggestion that the lady worked with her mum. He tried to deflect in onto anyone sitting near her but they weren't biting either. He reinforced the red scarf to get back on track, and scored a hit with the medium's favourite – lower back pain! Still convinced the woman's mother was some sort of hilarity machine he again missed with the suggestion she was really funny, and threw bad after shite with a suggestion she was a 'practical joker''. This guy just didn't know when to let a bad guess go. He tried to rescue it by hitting on the fact the woman had lost her sense of humour, and finished by saying that dear old Mum just wanted her to 'cheer up'. A staggeringly bad performance by a staggeringly bad medium, it seemed.
His second go was just as bad, suggesting that the dead person loved clothes and fashion, and rescuing it by saying she liked shoes (a woman who likes shoes! Whatever next!) - as did the mark. Confident, he used a trick that I was to see a few more times – the old 'you need to make a decision' gambit. Despite getting a hit he ruined it by suggesting it was about college (nope) or something 'up north' (nope). Oh well, never mind – it will all be sorted by September. I noticed this was another of his tricks used a few times – pick a future month and say things will be better then. This was asimilar to when a date was fixated on, the mark was told to go home and check with family if they didn't recognize it as significant. It's a case of out of sight out of mind, as the rest of the audience will not remember it as a miss.
More misses followed, and the lady admitted she didn't know of a joke involving glasses, didn't know any significance of the dates 21st June and 21st July, had no memories involving giraffes (!) or helping decorate a christmas tree (surely usually an easy hit). The third reading was, if anything, worse. Gary had to change targets when he was getting nothing but No, with the new target missing on everything of any significance. He rescued his evening with a young man who seemed very keen to agree to most things about his granddad (nothing out of the ordinary though), and finished up with a catastrophic final act where he batted almost zero and I had to stop myself pissing my pants with laughter.
Straight after Gary was Sharon, who did not introduce herself. She had more of the look associated with her profession, and was immediately more confident than he had been. She did okay with her first mark, missing with guesses about kids (she had none), back pain (ditto) a dog (no small dog) and the month of April. Her hits were nothing unusual, and another pattern emerged – that of woman coming through that were strong and too no nonsense. Thing is, the ages of the women would have made them war survivors – a generation that were almost all that way. She pounced on the young barman next, with a bizarre conversation about driving. It started with total misses about a car accident, and when she hit that he had an older brother insisted that the person in question must be a friend of his brothers. A common theme for the night was scoring zero on names, and she struck out with both Tom and Peter, the proceeded to completely miss on him having passed his driving test or even be taking lessons. She tried to rescue it with accusations that he drives illegally, and even though he obviously (from his replies) hadn't done so for a while, she overpowered him by basically calling him a liar. She was extremely bossy, this one. If a mark disagreed with her she would often insist they were wrong, making it seem she was accurate and not missing all the time.
Sharon made a prime error with her next mark, a lively man who was obviously gay. When she found out he was single she said “'Single man over there ladies!', and to make things worse he admitted he was the owner of the bar and another one in Bristol, something the voices didn't think important to mention. Once she knew that she tried an easy hit with the names Michael and Charles, and lets be honest you own two bars you know a lot of people. Hilariously, even then he didn't have anyone close by those names. When she threw the name Liz at him as someone in the spirit world he said he didn't know anyone of that name and she said “Yes you do!”. Oh, that must be a hit, then...
Sharon continued to have more misses than a serial adulterer, then when she was told to do one more she suddenly turned into the world's best medium! An old lady was told about her dead son , with hit after hit rolling in. About half way through the woman let it slip that she had contacted him before through mediums and everything got a little clearer. The likely explanation is that Sharon knew her, or of her, and therefore did not have to fish – either that or she was suddenly able to talk to the dead, despite not having been able to do so up til then. You decide.
There was another medium on after, one who has worked all over the world, but by then I was fed up of the horribly obvious fishing and fakery. I was not the only one. I'm glad I got to see this first hand, and all it has done is reinforce my certainty that it's all a load of bollocks. The only successful reading was a woman with a history of visiting mediums (and obviously a lot of grief over outliving her son) , and it is a well known fact that mediums and the like swap information on regular customers.
Further reading: Psychic Blues: Confessions Of A Conflicted Medium by Mark Edward