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PROOF OF SPIRIT

An Afternoon with Ankhara

Source: Echo 20 Sept 2001
By Jo Moorhouse

"I'M putting a new fridge round you. Can you take it?" No, I hadn't suddenly developed a desire to be costumed in kitchen appliances. I was, in fact, attending a clairvoyant evening in Southend. The medium in this case, a middle-aged man with a long grey plait, was telling a woman in the audience that he could "see" a new fridge round her.

Puzzled at first, I soon realised that the clairvoyant world has its own terminology - if a clairvoyant "sees" something he or she can "put it round" the person in question, and if true, the person can "take" it. I've always kept an open mind on the whole psychic/clairvoyance question, in the sense that I don't believe everyone purporting to be a medium is a charlatan, but am well aware that an awful lot of these so-called "phenomena" can be explained away rationally.

So, the idea of visiting and "testing" practising psychics in south Essex seemed a good way of seeing if there was anything in it. The evening of clairvoyance was the first step. Accompanied by a friend - another journalist - I paid my 4 admission and skulked to the back. Having no experience at this sort of thing, I'd vaguely imagined the medium would be asking whether they knew people named John, or telling them that Granny had a message of love and peace to send. As it happens, it was quite a bit like that. Many of the names mentioned, to an audience of mainly over-fifties, were old-fashioned - Lily, Arthur and so on - or very general - Steve and, yes, John.

People of middle age and over were asked if they had a grandparent "in spirit", and then given nebulous messages of love and support. Other messages could have been explained away by clever observation - the woman, told she hadn't been out much lately, who was still utterly pale after a two-week heatwave, for example. My own "revelations" were that I had a new boyfriend (I don't), had lost an earring lately (last wore earrings six months ago) and did a lot of paperwork (I work for a paper, of course, but it's not the same thing at all). The only other person under 25 in the room was told exactly the same things. But that's not to say he didn't get anything right - he asked one old lady if she'd done a parachute jump, only for her to say her husband had just completed one for charity.

My companion was told she'd just bought a new flat and that a man, a keen gardener, was holding a freesia out to her (the flat part was true and she carried freesias in her wedding bouquet). The pitfalls of this kind of belief were illustrated by one very keen woman who agreed with everything the psychic told her - even if she had to think for a minute or two. I got the strong impression she would have agreed if he "gave" her an elephant. Next stop was a one-on-one consultation with another clairvoyant. Patricia Putt, of Rayleigh, has appeared on a string of national TV programmes and said she first showed psychic ability as a young child.

Ankhara told me I was going to be a bridesmaid in the future and described the dress, saying that I would hate it (she was right, I would), and that part of my family came from Cheshire (again, right). She spoke of spirits around me, many of whom I did not recognise, although one did sound like a great-uncle who died when I was just a year old. Patricia also told me I'd enjoyed history at school (I did, and took my degree in the subject), and that someone I'd been at school with died in a motorbike accident (someone resembling that description did die, although it was a car crash). The majority of what was said did not seem particularly personal, but there were certainly specific parts which could not have been deduced or guessed at.

I'd also brought some "props" along for Ankhara to work with. Presented with a photograph of my partner's grandfather, she said he had been an intelligent man who loved music, and she could hear the operas Tosca and La Traviata (I later found out that he only liked singing if it were in a foreign language). A lot of names followed, most unfamiliar, although Ankhara did describe a young woman "connected" with the man in the photo who sounded very much like my partner's sister.

Then I handed Ankhara a locket, belonging to a friend, and a ring. She didn't say anything about the ring - but she was eerily accurate about the locket. She told me the lady who had owned it died of a heart attack (true - it had belonged to my friend's late mother-in-law) and spoke of a young man in his twenties who died in the Second World War (her brother did).

Another man, who died in the Korean War, was not recognised by my friend, but Patricia also described my friend herself - and was spot-on, even down to her asthma.

And in conclusion?
Well, I think it's important to keep an open mind - and that includes reminding yourself that at least some of what you're hearing may be clever guesses, and that vague predictions can be made to mean anything if you want to believe in them.

But it does seem that the truth is out there...