Derek Acorah is the country’s leading spirit medium and ‘paranormal investigator’. Heidi Blake watches his York show and talks to him about the ‘world of spirit’, his ability to see into the future and his 1500 year-old Ethiopian spirit guide, Sam.
Derek Acorah, the UK’s leading ‘full-time spirit medium’, has brought his roadshow to York, and the Grand Opera house is packed to the rafters; alive with nervous chatter. A banner across the bottom of the stage reads, in gothic script: “To the believer no proof is necessary. To the non-believer no proof is possible.” A water-tight disclaimer if ever there was one.
Overhead, on a large plasma screen, pseudo-eerie clips from Derek’s new LIVINGtv show, ‘Ghost Towns’, flash across the screen. As the house lights are replaced by swirling disco colours, an expectant hush falls over the audience, and as a deep American voice boomingly invites us to “sit back and allow the only modern-day Merlin to impart paranormal information you never thought possible!”, Derek Acorah strolls onto the stage.
Derek is a self-styled “full time spirit medium”, operating with the help of his ‘spirit guide’ Sam, apparently an acquaintance from a former life in Ethiopia some 1500 years ago. Speaking to me before the show, Derek told me that he first tapped into his skills as a medium when he was six, when his late grandfather visited him at night. It was not till later, however, that he made contact with Sam and fully realised his vocation. When I asked him about the nature of his relationship with his spirit guide he told me that it extends into his personal life as well as being a key part of his work. “Sometimes I speak to him when I need something answering, or when I’ve got something playing on my thoughts, and he’s the first person I turn to. He’s always constantly around, not always showing himself, not always speaking to me, but he’s there. Next to my wife he’s the closest soul to me. He’s a friend, he’s a father figure, he’s my mentor, he’s someone that I can rely on in every role.”
Derek assures me that a terrorist attack on Britain is imminent, and the royal family murdered Princess Diana.
Now, trundling through his well-honed preamble at centre stage in a melee of coloured light and eerie music, Derek’s speech is punctuated by interjections from Sam, which he registers with a hint of irritation, muttering “thank you, Sam”, and “yes, I’ll get to that, give me a minute!” He begins addressing the audience softly, informing us that there is “a supreme place designated for us all, and our loved ones that have gone before: a realm of light and beauty.” His tone heightens when he declares, with apparent indignation, “I’m always surprised at the number of cynical and sceptical minds who, when you’re having a perfectly normal conversation about the afterlife, completely reject the fact that there is a world of spirit!”
To begin with, it is hard not to be cynical about the integrity of Derek’s work, an impression which is exacerbated by the elaborate showmanship of the production. The swirling coloured lights, booming American voice-over and dramatic clips on screen contribute to a general impression of gimmickry and charade. However, Derek, standing on stage in a simple black suit, is almost devoid of affectation; far more natural in person than the theatrics of his trade suggest. Earlier, when I had asked him what he would say to someone who called him a fraud, he had responded: “Well, people have, and they continue to do so. That’s of no worry to me, because I know that we’re all here on different missions of progression. I don’t scoff at cynical minds: I show them the respect that they deserve, however they might not be in my direction. That’s of no consequence: I’ve got the responsibility of maybe understanding a little bit more than themselves, because they are not ready to accept yet.”
As Derek begins to communicate through Sam with the spirits which apparently manifest themselves on the stage before him, he speaks of them to the audience in such a matter-of-fact way as to lend an air of sincerity to proceedings, albeit against the odds. One lady who appears to him is described awkwardly as “a bonny lady. Not heavy set, but…you know”, all this accompanied by voluptuous hand movements. Later, when he tells us that a middle-aged man has appeared before him, he exclaims “Blimey! He’s a big chap! Huge shoulders!” There is something curiously anodyne about the messages these spirits have apparently come to convey; several of them being largely concerned with DIY. One ghostly apparition brings the message that the plumbing in an audience member’s house is faulty and needs to be repaired, while a visiting father is concerned that his son in law is not keeping on top of the garden. It’s hard to decide if the banality of these messages testifies to their veracity or otherwise. Certainly, contrary to the over-stated theatrics surrounding him, Derek is not interested in putting on a thrilling show.
One thing which seems apparent is that, however dubious the process occurring on stage may appear to an impartial observer, Derek himself is resolute in his belief. When I had asked him earlier whether his preoccupation with the ‘world of spirit’ ever infringed upon his personal life, he had told me: “If you allowed it to I suppose it could do, but I’ve practiced the discipline for a long time, and my lovely wife and my family understand that this is my vocation. But if you didn’t have time out, if you were continually linked to the world of spirit, that would be a hell state to live in.”
The show is not all banality. Some people seem genuinely moved and reassured by the messages they receive.
Speaking of hell, I felt bound to ask what Derek’s take is on the great enigmas of the universe. Is there an afterlife? A God and a Satan? He chuckled nochalently when I put these grand mysteries to him. “Well, there are different dimensions and different realms of the world of spirit. So there’s a bottom realm, which in religion would be called a hell, which houses the not-so-goods, the ones who’ve done horrible things in human time. You can’t really separate a heaven from a hell, because they’re in the same area. The hell as we are taught in organised religion, being down down down in this chasm type thing with fire and stuff, is not real. Our guardian ruler or God has created this realm, but it’s the lowest realm in the world of spirit and in the uppermost realm are the people who’ve done wonderful things. It takes a long time to be in that top realm – it’s like literally being at the right hand side of God. But there’s no Satan.”
I was intrigued by the grave sincerity with which Derek reeled off this ostentatious if convoluted theory, and was driven to ask him, perhaps cheekily, if he was able to deduce something about me which he couldn’t possibly know naturally. He did not appear impressed by this request, and told me sternly, “Well no, of course not, because I’d have to tune in first. All the time you’re in contact with that world there’s a certain drainage, and Sam and I are going to do a show tonight, so I’m saving all my energy for those people who’ve paid for tickets to come in.”
Slightly abashed, I asked him if he knows his own destiny. His response to this was more interesting. “That’s mainly hidden from me, but I do know of one event which will happen in and around my 63rd birthday. At that time I believe I’ll be working a lot in Canada and America, and the plane I go on will come down in icy water. I’m going to be one of three survivors on that plane.” I asked him how he deals with the burden of such knowledge. “When I was told that many years ago, I asked why they had to tell me that. I mean, how am I going to handle it? What do I do? When I get to that point in time do I just not get on a plane? Do I stand in the queue and tell everyone ‘It’s going to come down, don’t get on it?’ Many things, but I came to absolute contentment with it when I realised the purpose behind these things: if on that plane of 179 passengers, 176 have to perish, it is because they have all reached their time, they are ready to pass over to the world of spirit. I don’t go over, and two other people, because it’s not our time. Why do you think it is that when a plane comes down, or in a car accident a handful of passengers will survive? Why? Well, there’s your answer.” Derek also casually imparts a couple of extra pearls of psychic wisdom, in a kind of “here’s one I made earlier” gesture. He tells me that a terrorist attack on England is imminent and vows that the Royal Family was responsible for the death of Princess Diana.
Well, that’s as maybe, but I felt the need to ask what Derek feels he is achieving by “championing the world of spirit”, as he describes it. He cites two examples of times when he really felt his vocation was worthwhile. He told me he was contacted by a mother who asked him to find a healer for her young son who needed a bone-marrow transplant. “I saw with my own eyes the spirit working through healing, and his whole leg, which needed bone marrow or whatever, was healed without any operation. It was complete wonderment to my eyes – it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen.” Slightly more zanily, the other example he cited was of rescuing the spirit of a young woman which had been trapped for hundreds of years in a pub and tortured by the ghost of its former landlord. “Oh, it was a nightmare” says Derek, in a long-suffering tone. “I had to separate the two of them; I finally sent the lovely young lady, who he’d strangled and raped over and over, to heaven. Then I asked for him to be taken to the lowest region of the world of spirit, where he could be properly dealt with. He had been continuing to torment her in the spirit form, it must have been absolutely terrible for her. But she was so so happy that we helped her, and that the angels had come and taken her to her rightful place in the world of spirit.” So apparently it is all worth while, after all.
The show itself is not all banality and DIY. There are moments when members of the audience seem genuinely moved by the messages they receive. One woman is told that her grandmother has returned to help her resolve a dilemma which is troubling her. The woman’s face lights up, and she asks excitedly: “Does she know the dilemma is about her? Is it true what they’ve been saying?” Her relief is evident when Derek replies, “No, it is not true. You can put that out of your mind now.” Others seem reassured to be told that their loved ones are present and looking over them. Derek becomes visibly frustrated when the spirits with whom he is conversing are not recognised by anyone in the audience. “They get terribly upset when they’re rejected” he tells us. “How would you feel if you came back from another world and nobody wanted to know you?” One man in the audience who refuses to believe the messages received by his wife is told that her returning relatives will be visiting him in the dead of night to prove their existence. “You’re laughing now” says Derek. “But you won’t be when you hear the footsteps.” At another point, while Derek is relaying messages to a woman from a spirit she does not recognise, another member of the audience pipes up excitedly “Excuse me Derek, I think that’s my Grandmother you’ve got there!” Irked by this, Derek bellows back “No! No it’s not! I’d know if it was for you. You can’t steal other people’s messages!” There are many things one could say about Derek Acorah, but it would be hard to question the strength of his convictions.
Derek winds up the show with an impassioned plea to “unbelievers” to accept the “world of spirit” into their lives. “You can reject it as often as you like, but if you keep searching, I promise that you will be given proof that you’re eternal.” Then, amidst almost rapturous applause, Derek strides off the stage, calling over his shoulder for Sam to follow him. Looking around at the faces of the applauding audience, most appear to be lit up with belief, though some are sniggering behind their hands. It’s difficult to explain away the accuracy of some of tonight’s messages, though it’s also hard to shake off the impression of a lone man talking animatedly to an empty stage. Either way, however outlandish Derek’s beliefs may be, the sincerity of his faith in the ‘world of spirit’ is there for all to see.
Want more Acorah?
Derek Acorah’s Amazing Psychic Stories
Harper, 2006, £7.99
Our favourite medium provides an insight into his spiritual escapades with a series of tales of real-life ghostly encounters and rescues. Derek answers those burning questions we all harbour about the nature of the afterlife and the intricacies of spirit visitations.
Most Haunted Top 50 Moments
If you’re hankering after another look at your favourite Derek adventures, Livingtv is now providing a download service of the top 50 Most Haunted moments.
Most Haunted Series 9
Livingtv, Tuesdays 9pm
Derek and the intrepid gang return for a ninth series of ghost-chasing. The show tracks the progress of the spiritual adventurers as they travel to various locations around the country, tapping their psychic reserves as they go.
Psychic SMS Readings
84010, £1.50 per reply
If you’ve got a pressing spiritual matter, text ‘tarot’ and then your query to receive advice from a clairvoyant. “It’s a little like having your own personal Angel in your pocket”, says Derek.