Spirit In The Dark

I was 6 when I realised that I could talk to the spirits; He describes himself as a messenger between this world and the next Janet Tansley speaks to Merseyside’s most well-known medium.(Features)
Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England); 8/22/2005
Byline: t Janet Tansley

ArtWork: Baltoboy Steve

DOORS slam with sudden force. Whispers seep from ancient walls and temperatures plummet to an icy chill.

But while everyone around shrinks in to a quivering heap, world-famous spirit medium Derek Acorah calmly coaxes out the mischief-makers to make contact with the world beyond.

“They can’t hurt you,” reassures Bootle-born Derek, co-presenter of Living TV’s cult programme Most Haunted.

“They can dishevel you, but they can not hurt you. I am always asked if they can kill you, but they cannot take you out of your physical body.”

The psychic star who has captivated audiences for years by communicating with the dead, now has TV viewers on the edge of their seats as, with co-host Yvette Fielding, he explores some of the most haunted houses in the country.

While Yvette screams and shivers with fear, Derek is the settling influence; the expert who explains the reasons for the strange goings-on and often, indeed, who is behind them But while he is at ease with his extraordinary gift now, he didn’t always extend a welcome to the unusual visitors.

“I told my gran, who was also a medium, that I didn’t want to be a gook like her,” he admits.

Derek was six when his talents became apparent: “At the time my family was living in my grandmother’s big Victorian house, which had an attic where myself and my elder brother and sister used to play.

“Because our house was opposite the school we would go home for lunch and go up to the attic until our meal was ready. On this particular day I was going downstairs when I heard this male voice loud and clear saying ‘come here, you young scamp’.

“I looked up and there was this man who looked, to me, like a giant, who touched me on the head and said he had a message for my grandmother. He told me to tell her that, within the next two months, we would be leaving her home.

“I passed the message on and when I came home that evening my grandmother had an album of photographs out and she asked me to look at them and see if I could spot the man.”

It turned out to be his grandfather who had died five years before Derek was born.

“I wasn’t frightened because I was talking to a ghost,” says Derek, 55. “At the time I was scared because there was a strange man in my grandmother’s house who wouldn’t let me off the landing until he had given me this message.

“I wouldn’t say I fought it but, you know, I just wanted to play football.

I tried to blank it out.

“I mean, there I’d be, sitting on the loo and seeing faces in the painted door opposite. You could often hear me saying ‘go away’, ‘

leave me alone’.”

Although Derek’s passion for football saw him signed up for Wrexham at 13 and by Bill Shankly for Liverpool at just 15, his dreams of soccer stardom were thwarted.

Let go by Liverpool, Derek headed to the other side of the world where he became player/coach for a first division team in South Australia. But an injury saw him on a plane back home at the age of 27 and, within weeks, his career was taking a very different turn.

“I put a small ad in the ECHO offering my services as a clairvoyant medium,” says Derek, “and in the first week I had five calls and did five readings. In the second week there were 20 and in the third week it got ridiculous.”

And that’s pretty much how things have gone on from then.

Derek began to perform at bigger venues like the Orrell Park Ballroom and Crosby Civic Hall before bigger venues like the Liverpool Empire Theatre beckoned.

Radio shows swiftly followed as his fame spread, before TV cottoned on to Derek’s amazing talents in the worlds of the paranormal and the media.

On the Sky Channel Granada Breeze, Derek was given a livetime twice weekly slot, Psychic Zone, and has his own regular programme, My Predictions With Derek Acorah. It was after filming Predictions that the show Most Haunted was created.

“I was having a pizza in Manchester just over four years ago with Yvette and her husband, Karl Beattie, who is producer of Most Haunted, and they had an idea for this show. It sounded right down my street.

“We produced a pilot which was offered to all the big main channels, but they rejected it. Then Living TV wanted it – and that was it. The series was recommissioned when it was only half-way through the first and each month the ratings went up.”

The series, still incredibly successful, has now spawned a book called Most Haunted: The Behind-the-scenes Official Guide (Penguin, pounds 12.99). It gives an insight into all the ghoulish goings on and answers questions – like what do ghosts sound like and look like, and what do mediums see?

Says Derek: “There’s been a hugeshift, not necessarily in people’s consciousness of the paranormal but in their wanting to know more about the existence of spirit people.

“It gives people a huge comfort to know there is an afterlife. Also ordinary people have and have had experiences and have been afraid to step out in fear of ridicule. Now they will openly come out and talk.”

New-found openness has no doubt helped the success of Most Haunted which is now screened in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. It has gone down a storm in every place, says Derek.

A man of huge faith, Derek says people try to get back in touch to reassure loved ones they are okay, especially if they have ‘gone over’ tragically, or to let them know they are still watching, especially when something is happening within a family, like a wedding or a baby’s birth.

And Derek is delighted to act as messenger between this world and the next: “I’m thrilled. I know this is my profession now but I believe in God and this is a God-given gift; this is my calling. It gives me huge satisfaction to know how many people are touched by what I do, lifted and elated.”

But not all spirits are pleasant. “When we were filming Most Haunted Live in Pendle,” famous for the Pendle witches, says Derek, “that was horrible. There was a group of women, spirit people who had never moved on and were determined to try and destroy and kill all of us in the team.They are stronger in a group and they knocked us down like pinballs.”

Derek says he can spirit people into his body to make their voices heard. While some try to convince him they are ‘decent folk’ they may quickly show a different side: “It can be horrible with the negative ones because I sometimes take on the feelings of that person, and if that person has been a killer or a rapist, obviously these are feelings totally alien to me and I getthem out as quickly as possible.” But the majority, he says, are loving people who simply want to get a message to someone they have left behind.

Derek’s sincerity is one of the reasons why many people have turned to him, including ordinary people and celebrities alike. He has advised the likes of Cher, Bette Midler, Joan Collins and Whoopi Goldberg , and even Robbie Williams who has become mates with the man he calls ‘ Degser’.

“He is a very good friend, very talented and sensitive. He is one of the nicest people of all the celebrities I have had the pleasure to be with.”

Needless to say Derek’s skills are in demand. There’s talk of a new programme planned for him in the States, more Most Haunteds and a secret ‘never-done-before’ new show for Living TV to go out in November.

So it looks as though whatever the will of the spirit world we’ll be able to make plenty of contact with Derek

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