Pots of Human Filth
A lot has been said in the past about medium events, and before you roll your eyes at another soulless, sceptical magician claiming there is nothing more than is dreamed of in his philosophy, I’m not here to say whether or not people can commune with the dead. However, from Houdini to Dickens, plenty of people have done a whole lot of work finding and exposing frauds, so at least some of these people are just making stuff up,
There is plenty around on the subject. Books have been written and many excellent documentaries have been made, with one of the most accessible being Derren Brown Investigates The Man Who Contacts the Dead. At one point in it he questions whether it really matters. Despite knowing all of the techniques which might be used to appear psychic himself, he’s very careful to stress that these are what a person could do, not necessarily what they are doing. He goes further and at one point wonders if it matters if it’s a fraud; after all there is clearly a sense of closure or some kind of cathartic experience happening for many involved. Mind you, he very quickly comes down on the side of it not being fine.
Perhaps I’m slightly less hard line. I understand that what for me might be a slightly campy show involving someone using some pretty basic techniques is, for another person, a chance to reach out and touch for a moment a lost loved one. I might view it in the same way as many of us look at a palm reading booth at Blackpool - a bit of silly diversion – I do know that to someone else it’s a deeply profound experience.
But I suppose I can stomach that. I might not agree with it, I certainly would never do it, but if it goes that far and no further well - we live in a relatively free society. I don’t believe drinking sweet yoghurt is going to make me healthy, but Yakuylt* still get to make their 'scientific' adverts so there is it.
However, the other night I was sat at a bar sipping a blackcurrant cordial and soda (rock and roll) and I overheard a conversation. Someone had recently died and two men were talking about that and - as is so often the case in these situations – talk quickly moved around to the broadly theological. The standard ‘when it’s your time, it’s your time’ platitudes were heard, but then something was said that made me prick up my ears.
"I went to see a medium once. They could tell me things that were amazing. And they told me I'd die at 69. I mean, I'm not far off that now..."
Someone at some point in the past had told this perfectly polite seeming gentleman that he would die before he reached 70.
I know magicians who practice what’s called ‘cold reading’. These amazing performers are able to direct a conversation in such a way that it appears that they know deep truths about you without you ever telling them a single thing. I also know people of faith, spiritualists, who truly believe they receive messages form the other side. To them this ability is a gift from God. They refuse to accept payment for sharing it with others. I know nobody, nobody, who would ever give such an odious, disgusting message.
I could tell from their conversation that he really was troubled by this. Now I don’t really do a lot of mentalism tricks, but I politely interrupted and started showing him a few bits I do know, each time explaining that I was a magician, that this was a trick. As I showed him things I also explained how it was similar to the techniques he might have been talking about. All in all I spent maybe an hour performing for him and I think that by the end of it he did feel better about things. I’m glad I was there that night. At the very least I was able to divert someone from the loss of his friend for a little while and, if I’m lucky, I helped reassure him about his future.
Oh, and if you are someone who claims psychic powers and you give that kind of a message for whatever reasons: you are a vile pot of human filth.
*Other brands of overly sweet, runny yoghurt are available