Nathan Evans on The Medium

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Evans searches for the message in an evening with a medium @ Hippocampus Magazine. The posters in the foyer of the theatre advertise the show as “An Evening With Psychic Medium Tony Stockwell.” My first reaction is to wonder what other kinds of mediums there are, and how interesting an evening it would be if you were watching one who didn’t even pretend to be psychic. I can imagine it turning into a riot or a lynching, as hordes of middle-aged spiritual types storm the stage brandishing Polaroids of their departed loved ones. We take our seats in the cramped auditorium as You Are Not Alone by Michael Jackson plays in the background. I can see how it might fit the evening’s entertainment, but it doesn’t stop it being more than a little creepy. The subject matter would be enough on its own, the fact that the singer himself has been dead for a couple of years completes the wrongness. I amuse myself, but not my wife, suggesting other songs they could play before the performance begins. Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell, perhaps, or the theme from Ghostbusters. I look round at my fellow audience members. I seem to be in a different demographic than almost everyone else. Kelly and I seem to be the youngest people present by a considerable distance, and we are hardly in the first flush of youth ourselves. There are a significant number of people who, I’d say, are paying twenty pounds for the possibility of contact with the other side when they could save themselves the money just by hanging in there for another couple of months. Not only that, but having a belief in the hereafter appears compatible with a very interesting range of haircuts. I hope they have better stylists in the spirit world.

I feel uncharitable for thinking that, but it’s easy to be rude about people when they’re abstracts.

The medium takes to the stage, all chirpy charm and bonhomie. He’s dressed in the sort of suit that people who aspire to shop in the local department store would consider sharp – smart enough to look like he’s doing well, not so smart that the audience might not think he’s one of them. It strikes me right from the outset as more about forging a link between the medium and the audience than it is about any link with the spirit world, and watching him at work is a fascinating exercise in psychology.

“I’ve got a man who must have been 64 or 65 when he passed to the spirit world, his name is Tom or Thomas. He’s the father of somebody here, and I’m getting a strong sense that he owned a boat,” he rattles out, fact after fact after fact, eyes rolled up towards the ceiling. A forest of hands shoots up around me. I fight the surprisingly strong urge to raise mine too and just agree with everything he says. I’m not sure whether it comes from wanting to stick out like a sore thumb or just hoping to belong. (Of course, it might just be that I’m a bit of a troublemaker. Yes, I think it’s probably that.)

Image: Heidi Kirkpatrick @ F-Stop Magazine

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