Is Anybody There?

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Is Anybody There?

Post by Azur on Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:11 am

The Telegraph Newspaper - London, 11-7-2002

Gyles Brandreth whose sister died this year, signs up for a course to help him commune with the dead - and has some unexpected visitors from the other side...

Earlier this year my sister Hester died. Aged 60, and full of life, she was suddenly overwhelmed by cancer. I miss her more than I can say.
She was a remarkable individual, noted for her energy and strength of character. I was with her when she died and what struck me at the moment of her passing was how instantly she disappeared. The very second the heavy breathing juddered to a final stop, she vanished. Death had come and Hester was gone. There was just a lifeless body on the bed.

The question is: where did she go? What happened to all that energy?

I have been thinking about my sister this week because, this time last year, I was in Mexico where, between October 31 and November 2, families recall their lost loved ones in extraordinary style. Hallowe'en in Mexico ushers in the Day of the Dead when Mexicans in their millions visit their neighbourhood cemeteries, festoon the graves with gorgeous paper flowers, and generally have a ball. Armed with sweetmeats and tequila, sophisticated 21st century Mexicans - of all ages and classes - commune happily, chattily, with the souls of their dear departed.

In Britain we are more squeamish about communicating with the dead. It really isn't done. But last week I thought I'd have a go; I thought I'd try to make contact with those who have gone before, the folk "on the other side".

Unsure of where to start, I turned on my computer, logged on to the internet, typed "talking to the dead" into a search engine and hoped for the best. Eighteen websites later, I found myself looking at a list of 563 UK-based "certified and registered mediums", each of them, apparently, ready and willing to help me make contact with "the Spirit people".

For 10 to 20 I could secure a private sitting with the medium of my choice. The website warned me: "Results can never be guaranteed. Your medium will attempt to provide you with evidence of the survival of the human soul after death, but remember we are completely dependent upon the wishes of the Spirit people.

"We cannot 'call them up': it is they who decide whether to communicate or not. However, if less than satisfied, you should ask for your fee to be returned."

I picked the medium nearest my home address, telephoned her (anonymously) and made an appointment for the following day.

Marion Denny, 81, lives with her 60-year-old invalid son in a small house in Collier's Wood, London SW19. She looks as you hope she might: cosy, beady-eyed, bespectacled, a nice cross between Dame Thora Hird and Mrs Tiggywinkle. As I arrive, she says, "Do you want the bathroom?" I laugh and say, "You must be psychic." She doesn't laugh. She is hard of hearing.

"Do you like cats?" she asks. I do, I tell her, and it's just as well as there are five of them on the prowl. As I sit at a small, square table in the middle of the sitting-room, surrounded by several months' worth of household supplies (cases of long-life milk, multi-packs of orange juice, great sacks of cat litter, piled high against the walls), I feel as if I have entered a scene from a Joe Orton farce.

Upstairs, Mrs Denny's son starts flushing the lavatory (repeatedly, over several minutes). Downstairs, the wiriest of her black-and-white moggies suddenly goes berserk, jumping wildly from chair to sofa to table, sending papers and Tarot cards flying, eventually landing in the litter tray by my feet and performing there, copiously.

The room is very small: the smell quite disconcerting. "Oh, Lucky," chuckles Mrs Denny, producing her aerosol air freshener, "you choose your moment, don't you?" Vigorously, Mrs Denny sprays every corner of the room and then, in a haze of lavender, sits herself down opposite me and says, sweetly, without preamble, "Let's see if anyone wants to talk to you, young man."

She asks me no questions, she makes no small-talk. She closes her eyes to concentrate, lifts her chin slightly, tilts her head to one side. "I can usually contact loved ones," she says. "Not always. If they didn't like you when they were here, they're not likely to get in touch with you now."

Eyes tight shut, she smacks her lips and nods her head. As each "spirit" arrives, she gives a little grunt of greeting. "Oh, yes," she says to me encouragingly, "Here they come. You've got quite a crowd."

"Can you actually see them?" I ask.

"Yes," she says, "Clearly. There's a lady here wants to say hello. She wants you to know she misses you, but she's happy. When she arrived she really resented being denied her three-score-year-and-ten on earth, but she's settling in nicely now."

"What does this lady look like?" I ask.

Mrs Denny offers a loose description of a fair-haired middle-aged woman that could certainly fit my sister, adding, "Don't take this amiss, but there's something rather masculine about her manner and appearance. Does that make sense?" It does and it is quite disconcerting.

Mrs Denny's description of my late father, who apparently has also turned up and is encouraging me "to stiffen my backbone", is detailed and accurate, but could, I reckon, be applied to several million men of his generation.

"What about my mother?" I ask. Mrs Denny snaps open her eyes. "Your mother isn't dead," she says, sharply. "Your mother's going to live for years." Maybe my tone of voice betrayed the fact that it was a trick question. Or maybe Mrs Denny is indeed a psychic.

There are no other close relations waiting to have a word, but a lady from what Mrs Denny guesses was the court of Henry VIII turns up. "I think she's some sort of ancestor," she explains. "And there's someone here with a name. You don't often get people giving their names. Is it Robin? Is it Christopher? Is it Christopher Robin?" I suppose it could be. I did know Christopher Robin Milne.

Mrs Denny is on a roll now. "And there are some animals to see you," she purrs. "Several cats." Well, she could see I like cats. "And a dog." Would a cat-lover necessarily like dogs? There has only ever been one dog in my life: a smooth-haired fox terrier called Ross who died 28 years ago, about whom I rarely speak and have never written.

"What kind of dog?" I ask Mrs Denny. "He's white," she says slowly, screwing up her eyes. "What breed?" I ask. "I'm not very good at breeds," says Mrs Denny, "I'm getting tired." "Come on," I say. It is my turn to sound sharp. "What breed?" She tilts her head to the side and says, almost in a whisper, "A smooth-haired fox terrier."

As I hand over my 20 (she only asked for 10) and she helps me into my coat, I say to her, "How do you do it?" She smiles at me, a sweet, grandmotherly smile: "I don't know, dear. It's a blessing. It's a gift."

"No," says Simone Key sternly, "It's a skill." Mrs Key is in charge of training for the Spiritualists' National Union, the professional body that provides the likes of Mrs Denny with their certification. Mrs Key, also a medium, is 30 years Mrs Denny's junior, friendly but brisk and businesslike. "Mediumship," she insists, "is a skill that can be honed and perfected with the right kind of training and practice."

I have moved from the small two-up two-down in Collier's Wood to Stansted Hall, a handsome mansion in Essex, home of the Arthur Findlay College, the Hogwarts for mediums. I have enrolled for the Short Course in Advanced Mediumship (265 for the week) and Mrs Key has brought me to the staffroom to meet the course tutors, nine of the jolliest and seemingly sanest souls I have encountered.

There is much laughter in the air, fuelled by the boisterous, high-camp joshing of the course leader, Glyn Edwards, 53. Once a monk, later a hairdresser, now the Liberace of the medium world, outrageous but compelling, as soon as he sees me he launches into a fruity apology for his appearance: "Since I gave up smoking in January I have put on four-and-a-half stone, so the Gucci cannot be worn.

"But, as the students learn, I am still tough, tough, tough. I have to be. Our purpose is to prove the claims of mediumship. Our role is to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that there is life after death. That means we deal in facts, details, dates, specifics, hard evidence - not airy-fairy flim-flam."

There are 83 students on this week's course, ranging in age from 17 to 70. Some are here for obvious reasons (a mother has lost her 14-year-old daughter and needs the consolation of knowing she is "safe on the other side"), a few look like goggle-eyed train-spotters, but, overall, I am amazed by how unweird they seem and how many of them are in their twenties and thirties.

Joanna O'Keeffe, 27, a beautiful girl with red hair, comes from King's Lynn and is an NHS training officer. She has enrolled at the college to improve her "trance skills" and tells me that the course's trance tutor is really terrific.

He doesn't look it. Ron Jordan, 55, is a mild-mannered Liverpudlian with a small grey beard and cardigan to match. I join his class and do my best, but quickly realise I am trying to walk before I can crawl. The advantage of the trance, according to Ron, is that it can make you a more effective conduit for communication with the spirit world.

"Close your eyes," he says to us as we sit in a large circle around him, "relax from the toes upwards. Relax the spine, relax the shoulders, relax the neck. Now, see a white light before you, a brilliant white light, put your energy out to the spirit world, step into that white light, step into, step into it, now."

I can't. It seems others can. He is particularly pleased with the progress made by a grey-haired lady in pink: "The vibration I feel around you is very much in the healing area," he tells her. She claps her hands. She is thrilled.

I ask Simone what is going on. "When people are in a trance-like state, Ron looks at them and assesses the quality of their auric field - that's the energy that manifests itself like an aura around their head. Your auric field is your personalised computer. It's the instrument you use to make contact with the spirit world."

Apparently my auric field is a beautiful blue and has potential. I have my doubts and then, an hour later, during the creative writing class, when I have my eyes closed and tinkly music is being played on a portable CD player, suddenly my head is filled with a brilliant, overwhelming white light. (I am telling you what happened, that's all.)

Predictably, Glyn's class is the most exciting. He divides the students into pairs, one to be the subject, one to be the medium. He reminds us: "What we're looking for are specific facts, not woolly generalisations." I am paired with Laura Lloyd, a jolly 45-year-old from Birmingham. She is instructed to consider my auric field and describe what I was doing aged 10.

"Not nine," barks Glyn, "not eleven, but ten." Laura has a reasonable stab at it, relaying, correctly, that this was the year when I moved from London to a school in the country. "Which part of the country?" demands Glyn. She is lost.

"Picture a map of England," he suggests, "See the map in your mind's eye. Now move around the map." She does as she is told and we end up about 50 miles from the right spot. (She is only a student, after all.)

Next, Glyn invites her to see if there is someone out there who would like to speak to me. "Concentrate," he says, "describe them carefully." Laura closes her eyes, lifts her chin, tilts her head, and bingo: she is laughing, she is blushing, she is evidently excited. She says to me, half opening one eye, "Would you believe it? It's Diana, Princess of Wales."

"Oh," I say, suitably flattered. "Oh," says Glyn, aghast. Simone steps forward, "I don't think we want Diana, thank you, Laura." "Why not?" asks Laura. "Thank you," says Simone, firmly, "I think we'll let her go, don't you?"

"But she wants to speak to Gyles," protests Laura. "I've no objection," I murmur. "I think it's better if we let her go," repeats Simone. "She really doesn't want to leave," pleads Laura. "Let her go, Laura," says Glyn, "let her go."

Poor Laura. Poor Diana. Poor Glyn and Simone. Throughout the day they have tried so hard to be credible. They know I am writing about them. Understandably, they feel that a message from the late Diana, Princess of Wales, transmitted to the readers of The Telegraph via a novice medium, is just too good to be true.

I liked everyone I met at Stansted Hall. At worst, what they are up to seems to me to be harmless hocus-pocus. At best, they are offering consolation (spurious or otherwise) to the bereaved and hope to those terrified by the prospect of death. Is there a spirit world and are they genuinely able to communicate with it?

It seems unlikely to me, but what do I know about the after-life, the nature of energy and the possibilities of communication? Two hundred years ago what a mobile phone can do would have seemed utterly incredible.

I could explain away most of what happened to me last week - but not all of it. Just now, to clear my head before re-reading what I have written, I went for a walk around the block. The light was fading and, as I reached the corner, a small animal ran across the road. It's Hallowe'en, but it wasn't a black cat. It was a smooth-haired fox terrier.

Azur


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Re: Is Anybody There?

Post by Azur on Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:27 am

Nice article thought i'd share Smile

Azur


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Re: Is Anybody There?

Post by zerdini on Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:51 am

Azur wrote:Nice article thought i'd share Smile

Interesting article but I note it was nine years ago. Wonder what he thinks today.

zerdini


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Re: Is Anybody There?

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:57 pm

Yes i wonder if he followed up on it. Thanks for the post Azur
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Re: Is Anybody There?

Post by Quiet on Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:21 pm

That made me smile Smile

Quiet


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