Madeleine McCann probably is dead. It’s a sad thing to write down so starkly, but it’s likely to be true. Derek Acorah, on the other hand, is definitely a callous self-publicist, and either deluded or a charlatan.
The “psychic” (he’s not a psychic, obviously) told The Sun that “I know her parents are convinced Maddie is alive and I’m really sorry – but the little one has been over in the spirit world for some time. I don’t think it’ll be long before she reincarnates. When children pass over who haven’t had full lives I believe they choose the time to come back in the same form again – as another little girl.”
You can think what you like about the ongoing interest in this desperately sad but now five-year-old story. Children go missing, and as Dan Hodges points out, all the police hours spent on this case are not being spent on other, more likely to be resolved, cases; there is a strong case for everyone concerned to move on and to leave the McCanns to grieve in peace. But what there is not a case to do is tell a national newspaper that a visitor from the spirit world has come and told you that their daughter is dead.
I am honestly livid about this. The whole practice of “TV psychics” is disgraceful, preying on the gullible and the weak and the bereaved, telling them that their belated husband is happier beyond the veil, using cheap parlour tricks – cold reading, audience plants, even (allegedly, in the case of “Psychic” Sally Morgan) the blunt instrument of gathering information about potential participants before the show and having an accomplice relay it to the stage via a radio earphone. As Tim Minchin puts it in his hilarious song Storm:
These people aren’t plying a skill. They are either lying or mentally ill…
By the way, why is it OK for people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally f***** in the head
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?
But at least, at the very least, the people who wander into John Edward’s show, or Sally Morgan’s – or even the people who watch Most Haunted, the piffle that Acorah himself presents – choose to do it to themselves. The McCanns, on the other hand, were presumably not expecting to be told by a stranger that their daughter was going to be reincarnated.
I’d like to remind everyone of an episode of Most Haunted, in which Mr Acorah claimed to have been possessed by a spirit called “Kreed Kafer”, who he claimed was a long-dead South African jailer who had died at Bodmin jail where the episode was filmed. But Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, a parapsychologist on the show, later told The Mirror that “Kreed Kafer” was an anagram of “Derek Faker”, and that he had fed the name and description of the character to one of the crew. He later did the same with Rik Eedles, an alleged highwayman from Prideaux Place in Cornwall – this time an anagram of Derek Lies. He also, apparently, got him to talk about Richard the Lionheart haunting Craigievar Castle, which was built 500 years after the Lionheart died.
People have the right, in a free country, to believe this nonsense about ghosts and veils and whatever. I assure you, it’s nonsense, of the very first water, but nonetheless people are within their rights to believe it. People are also, I suppose, within their rights to exploit that gullibility, although I do feel that the Advertising Standards Authority should come in and check every single claim of clairvoyance and spirit-talking. But the rest of us should spend some time exposing the nonsense. It’s a comforting thought for some, I suppose, that their loved ones are somehow still around, but as Stan in South Park says in the perfect episode The Biggest Douche In The Universe:
At first I thought you were all stupid, listening to this douche’s advice, but now I understand that you’re all here because you’re scared. You’re scared of death and he offers you some kind of understanding. You all want to believe in it so much, I know you do. You find comfort in the thought that your loved ones are floating around trying to talk to you, but think about it: Is that really what you want? To just be floating around after you die, having to talk to this a**hole? We need to recognise this stuff for what it is: magic tricks. Because whatever’s really going on in life and in death is much more amazing than this douche.
Amen to that. Derek Acorah, you should be ashamed of yourself.