When I was about eight years old my mum donned a large headscarf, equally enormous earrings, and looked into a crystal ball. I vividly remember this spectacle since she was performing a charade as a clairvoyant at the local school fete. It was a crude and rather comical caper, although people still paid to have their fortunes told. Later in life, I had my palms read on several occasions and mused over the general claptrap of a long, happy life with many children. In fairness as a broad statement, I guess this wasn’t too far off the mark, other than the second element being occasionally torpedoed by grief. In a nutshell, I wasn’t convinced about the possibility that any human being possesses the ability to communicate with the dead, let alone foresee the future. My mum had clearly demonstrated that a fair number of people enjoyed being duped and that it was no more than harmless fun.
Mainstream science echoed my obvious dismissal of this subject. I was still less convinced when I recalled my mum, dad, and uncle using a ouija board to successfully locate my grandma’s lost kettle. Indeed, how does one even go about losing a kettle? Anyway, in a more robust challenge to the notion of supernatural powers the National Geographic Channel conducted a most compelling experiment in 2015. Four volunteers, supervised by paranormal expert Mark Edwards, were encouraged to reach out to the spiritual world via the same apparatus that had magically located the AWOL kettle. One participant began to map out a seemingly convincing dialogue with ‘the other side.’ When the process was repeated with blindfolds the messages became gobbledygook. It was evident that one of my parents, or possibly my shifty uncle, had hidden grandma’s favorite utensil. It was all a load of nonsense, pure entertainment, and if some people were taken in by it then so what? It was hardly going to have any impact on my life. Then I encountered utter grief. Life-changing and all-consuming heartache which made me question my hitherto steadfast position.
In 2012 my wife Theresa was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although a benign chordoma its location meant that she would have to undergo three complex and high-risk brain operations. Each time she went to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford to be operated upon by the truly incredible neurosurgeons her chances of survival were slim. On the last occasion, I remember our kids, my mum, and I being taken to the family room to be told to prepare for the worst.
Miraculously Theresa pulled through and looked forward to a period of rehabilitation and proton beam therapy in America. Returning home her mobility was fragile and her immune system, shot to bits as a result of the intrusive treatment, was even more weak. A few weeks later she had a stroke which robbed her of her speech and movement of her limbs. Although a harrowing experience for my children who witnessed the event, we were all reassured that the recovery rates from this type of dramatic episode were nonetheless good. A short time later Theresa suffered a catastrophic stroke that left her in a total and unresponsive coma with no chance of survival. She was given twelve weeks to live but survived for nearly eighteen months in a specialist trauma suite where she received the most incredible care and comfort. When visiting her one day a nurse called me to one side and enquired if I had arranged her funeral. Until that moment I had always assumed that this event occurred after someone had died. I was scared, vulnerable, and faced my biggest ever fear – being without my soulmate.
One night I fell asleep and the most incredible thing happened. Theresa visited me. She held me tightly and said that I would be all right. I immediately felt unshackled from the fear of an uncertain future and awoke with her smell in my nostrils. I had experienced dreaming before, but this wasn’t the same. I had never, nor have I ever since, felt such a connection. In early 2015 she died. Since this experience, Theresa’s message has been proved to be impeccably correct. Over the years I decided to keep this intimate encounter a secret until the time was right to make sense of it. Had I experienced supernatural contact? And in doing so, had I been provided with a glimpse of my immediate future? After six years I felt ready to explore whether my views on the world of psychic phenomena still held true, or was there a more rational explanation? Indeed, would I ever be ready for a more scientific description? Meeting psychic Debbie Davies for the first time instantly dismissed my prejudices that all such practitioners look like my mum at the school fete all those decades ago. Bright, vivacious, with a charming celebrity character, she welcomed the opportunity to be quizzed by a still somewhat dubious observer of her proclaimed talent.
So, what does a psychic do?
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