It happens everywhere, in all cultures, across the world. From the Spiritualist churches that have arisen since the mid-1800s, to the Voodoo ceremonies that occur in Africa and Haiti. The art of the medium is, quite simply, to commune with the dead. This practise has seen acceptance and popularity in various religions and races throughout history, but a more modern day phenomena has thousands of people flocking to theatres and TV studios as mediums and psychics make a career for themselves before amazed audiences.
Popular TV psychic Sally Morgan is one of the largest names in this field of spiritualism and entertainment. After hosting her own television series, Psychic Sally on the Road, she has been touring across the United Kingdom on an almost constant basis, reaching audiences to the tune of hundreds of thousands. Other popular mediums and psychics make a name for themselves not only in theatre demonstrations, but also through guest appearances on paranormal series, such as Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures.
Sylvia Brown, Uri Geller and John Edward have all succeeded in gathering a following for themselves through the promise that contact with the other side is possible. People who come to shows for entertainment are often left feeling amazed and stunned, but for those seeking out psychics and mediums in the midst of grief, the experience is an altogether very different one.
After the loss of a loved one, many search longingly for confirmation that those they love are not really gone, but simply exist in a spiritual dimension, such as heaven. The idea that proof can be offered of their continued existence is almost too much of a magnetic pull to those who are left behind, grieving, missing the deceased. Is this new trend of psychic entertainment really a help to those who are in pain, or is it merely taking advantage of the vulnerable?
In October of 2014, The Independent reported that Sally Morgan had upset a member of the public by describing the death of a 36 year old cyclist who had recently died – also describing him physically, and passing on a message. Nicola Tait, the cyclist’s girlfriend, said of Morgan’s supposed psychic connection with her deceased boyfriend: “This has now upset me and family a lot to hear the account that was told that evening to hundreds of people,” she told the Woking Advertiser. “I am left to feel upset, betrayed and even more confused… I do not think any of us should have to suffer any more or be put through any more pain.”
Despite accounts such as the above, psychic demonstrations as live shows is seeing an increase in popularity. According to Morgan herself, she doesn’t understand how she does what she does, but she believes it helps people: I’ve been given this gift for a reason and need to use it in a positive way. The ability never stops amazing me; it’s very rewarding to see people receiving comfort from what I do. Everyday people tell me that I have changed their lives and that means the world to me. Being able to speak to spirit world and pass on messages to people from their loved ones is an amazing gift.
So, are psychics such as Morgan really helping the grieving? According to Doctor Julie Beishel, a psychic medium researcher, after doing a pilot study on those who were grieving and sought out psychics for contact or messages from loved ones, most people reported feeling better after the experience.
The argument that so-called psychics are manipulating the vulnerable is a strong one. People who are in the midst of coping with huge loss, are unable to think as clearly as normal, and are certainly unable to process emotions in the same way they normally would. However, if people who attend shows or pay for one-to-one readings with these artists leave the venue feeling a sense of hope and comfort, is it really such a bad thing?
There will always be cases where people have felt uncomfortable or possibly even manipulated by those proclaiming to be able to channel messages from the dead, however ultimately, the responsibility has to lie in the hands of those attending. Are they willing to hear a message? Are they happy to accept that they may hear things that are upsetting or may revive precious memories?
Questions on the morality and necessity of psychic artists such as Sally Morgan and Uri Geller are always going to be debated. After all, even the very existence of psychic abilities is, itself, under heavy scepticism from the scientific community. There really is little basis to back up the existence of this ability. Furthermore, the huge financial profit made from certain popular TV shows ads to the feeling of unease for a sceptical audience.
Are these entertainers lying, and playing a game that could provoke psychological distress, or is the comfort brought to many from their shows enough to justify the continuation of the practise? Either way, the right for one to choose is ultimately where the issue lies. It is a matter of personal choice, and much like religion, if something of value is born from the personal and spiritual experience, then to deny or criticise the practise is surely unnecessary.