The Shared Diary of a Novice Paranormal Investigator, aged 52 and Three Quar

When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.

(Stevie Wonder)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.


Ri fol ri fol tol de riddle dee.


I found a parking place very easily, then started worrying about finding my way home. 

The fair was held in a typical Victorian municipal building, with a broad flight of steps up to an impressive arched doorway.  Nobody stinted on tiles or carvings in those days.  You got a lot of building for your money with the Vics. The main purpose of such buildings was to make ordinary folk feel inadequate, which was certainly working as far as I was concerned.  A part of me expected some kind of social policeman to rise up from the skirting board and bar the way, ‘You can’t come in here!  You are sensible and steady!  Go back to Marks and Spencer, where you belong!’

 I held back and, observing that none of the fair-goers outside had two heads, I followed them in and through to a space the size of a small county. I was too nervous to take in much detail, and I felt too shy to stop and take a good look.  I was hit by a hammer of colour and sound.  My first clear view was shiny, shiny crystals and jewellery.  Good.  At least I could get something pretty out of it.  My second view was – oh welcome sight!  It was Mrs Used-to–Work-in-our-Building.  How wonderful to meet a friendly face.  And a bit of a coincidence, of course, as Mr Koestler would say.  Mrs Used-to was close to the door, selling Indian ornaments, head massages and eyebrow threading.  As she (ouch) tidied up my unruly face and told me all her news, I sneaked a little look around, one eye at a time.

It was, after all, just a large hall, with an ornate but not, strictly speaking, attractive, ceiling.  Stalls were crammed in an oval arrangement to make a circuit for the customers to roam around.  Ornaments, books, arcane bits of kit, CDs… there were plenty of things to buy here, and most of them smelled of incense.  Practically all of the stalls offered products, but many of them offered services, so some of them had scary hospital style trolleys, or ominous curtained areas.  Some of them displayed screens.  It was thronged with eager shoppers.  I had no idea how popular these events were.  I was in a maelstrom.

Released, and looking a little tidier, I decided that to recover from the rigours of the drive and the assault on my eyebrows I would need tea.  A small café had been set up in a side room, away from the hurly burly.  The queue was long, so I spied on my fellow visitors.  It was a relief to find my apprehension had been unjustified.  The shoppers here were less scary than the crisp chomping, belligerent buggied crowd at the local market.  The conversations overheard in the queue sounded civilised, if maybe slightly out of the ordinary: ‘You are where I was last year’, said someone behind me, implying that by this time next year, her companion might have travelled through all kinds of mysterious territory.  It sounded rather personal for public airing, but not too bizarre.  I started to relax.  Away from the main shopping zone, it felt like visiting a craft fair.  I anticipated scones.  Only one person did look seriously weird, a short, monkey looking man wearing far too much jewellery.  I do understand that boys may resist sensible sweaters, but surely there is a limit.  What kind of family would allow a loved one to leave the house dressed for a minor role in a fantasy movie? 

Over tea (alas, no scones), I read my programme.  The contents were based on the supposition that, if not here for the purchase of bright shiny things, we must be in need of healing or help.  They offered angels, tarot, reiki, different kinds of massage and more life coaches than you could shake a stick at.  I promised myself a go at one thing.  I did not feel strong enough to lie on a trolley in the busy hall with a stranger massaging my body, so I concluded that I was not well enough to cope with healing.  I did not want to have anyone messing with my head, either, so I was certainly not going near the hypnotist, even if that meant I would forego the opportunity to learn about my past lives.  I decided to have my aura photographed.  It sounded unusual enough to be exciting, without being dangerous or invasive.  I judged it to be a good starting place for a novice, and I hoped it would be a good colour.  Royal purple, perhaps, or a soft blue.

There were Talks, as well.  One was due to start just as I finished my tea.  The time was right, to jump in with both feet, to seize the moment.   What else was I going to do?  After all, I was supposed to be on an adventure.  I should not by-pass any Stuff coming my way.  Oddly enough, the speaker was a medium – just what I had planned to avoid.  Recklessly, I plunged in anyway.

He did not have two heads, either.  He was quite normal, except for his cord trousers.  He was pleasant, unassuming, reassuring.  Not theatrical at all.  There were three thoughts in my head.  They were, in this order:

  1. Real, deluded or fake?
  2. Please don’t let him speak to me, please, please, please.
  3. Please I want him to give me a message, please, please, please.

I did not have much time to think or observe: I had slipped in just as the show was starting.  We were in a semi-circular room which I thought might be used for very large meetings, or perhaps for a magistrates’ court.  There was a lot of good-quality woodwork, and the seats were upholstered in green, arranged in small tiers.  It had a slightly parliamentary feel.  I shoved myself into the first seat available, on the end of a row not far from the door, but uncomfortably close to the front.

I thought about how I would handle this audience if I were a fraud seer.  The tiers of seats divided the room into five sections.   To keep everyone engaged, I would have targeted one person from each section.  When this medium worked the crowd, he spoke to one person from each section, then two more.  I would have given bland, safe messages like:  Somebody says you must take care, somebody says you have not had the best from life recently… Most of his messages were like that – probably true of everyone in one way or another in dreary wet days when the autumn has arrived two months early, but it is still too early to think about Christmas. 

It was very interesting to observe how he presented himself.  He projected a cosy psychic-next-door image, even injecting some humour into his narrative, while maintaining authority as a person with special skills and gifts.  He had a stage presence; he had a persona.  There was no doubt he understood the craft of the entertainer. 

Being a member of that audience was a curious experience.  I was aware of how that setting must daily witness events of a very different nature.  Possibly only yesterday, councillors may have been wrangling over planning permissions and licences, but today, we were keeping company with the dead.  I found myself fascinated just by the seats.

As unobtrusively as possible, I observed my fellow punters.  They were a varied bunch; mixed sexes, mixed ages.  There did not seem to be a ‘likes mediums’ type.  It was not long, however, before some people emerged as punters plus.  Some people needed attention or assistance of some kind and they were the ones eager to engage the medium in a longer conversation.  Many of them seemed needy or vulnerable, and I was uncomfortable on their behalf.  One woman was memorable: physical and mental ill-health were written all over her, and she wanted help to become a medium too.

Twice, the medium said very specific things, – ‘Your Mother is dead’ ‘You are trying to sell your house’, which the punters said were wrong.  At least three times, he said very specific things, - ‘You had a cheeky puppy that died’ ‘You work with people close to death’, which the punters said were right.  I did not know what to think.  It was astonishing.

If everyone was so happy with the banal generalities about trying to get on, or not letting them grind you down, why did he take these risks?  How did he get some of them right? 

Just suppose, for a moment, he really was in contact with friends and relatives in a different place, where the Dead live.  This means that dead people spend their time trying to contact the living and, according to this particular gentleman, meddling with their affairs in order to secure them a better deal.  He mostly spoke to his punters about mortgages, promotions, savings plans… this was not just the stuff of life, this was the stuff of economics.  Nobody today was big on philosophy or relationships. Surely even dead people must have more of a life than that?  I was left with an image of a celestial cyber-café where the departed endlessly google their family and friends.  It cannot be right.

I cannot even begin to think about how his mediumship might be real or fake; it is the implications inherent in that world view which are a problem for me.  

I had started out today intending to avoid mediums; I ended up watching one.  I am none the wiser, although I do now have a whole winter’s supply of slightly soapy-smelling cut-price sandalwood incense sticks.  I give the last word today to Mrs Used-to.  As she waited for customers, she observed another organisation performing authentic, exotic Indian head massage.  She told me:  ‘I said to her, what are you doing it like that for?  We don’t do it that way in India.’

PS The aura photograph?  Went there, saw monkeyman in charge, ran away.

No comments:

Post a Comment