Who you gonna call? Not these guys…

A deathly hush envelopes the room as the words left her lips: “tonight we are going to prove to you that there is life after death.” It’s Psychic Night at The Pilgrim, and yours truly has come along, not necessarily with any intention of speaking to the dead, but more out of a belief that one should always strive to have new experiences, no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

“Are there any sceptics in the room?” asks Deana, who seems to be the boss of the seven-strong team of ghosthunters. My hand shoots up and I immediately regret it. Deana throws me a look, which says, for the briefest of moments “we’re going to get you, lad.” My fear is that even if they fail to fully convince me of the existence of the afterlife, they will at least spend the next five hours pulling enough confidence tricks to make sure I leave the pub a quivering, gibbering wreck.

One of our number, Sicky Vicky, has a valid reason to be here, namely, to contact her dead grandmother. She has arrived in a wheelchair and although I’m happy to see her, I can’t help but consider a cartoon-like scenario where I run a-shriekin’ with fright from the Pilgrim to leave my disabled friend to face the ghosties alone.

After a ‘protection ritual’ we’re led into a dark, dusty loft where we huddle round a ouija board and various members of the group take turns invoking their dead relatives who have conveniently popped in from another spiritual plain to have a natter. The only two who appear to be ‘in contact’ turn out to be roaring drunk (it’s an alcohol-free event, and it’s starting to become clear why).

By midnight, it is soberingly evident that nothing which can accurately be termed ‘paranormal’ has happened or is going to happen. There have been only two incidents of note: one lady claiming to have been clobbered by an unseen force during the protection ritual, and a man wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘Show Me Your Orbs’ who was the target of an evil spirit’s potty-mouthed tirade. We suspect both to have been planted among us.

With two hours left till the end of the séance, the group has more than halved, and we can’t conceal our mirth when one punter scoffs on her way out: “the only spirits in here are behind the bar.” So there are a number of options for the ghost-hunting team, the most sensible of which would be to cut their losses and apologise that they have been unsuccessful in making any meaningful contact with the dead tonight. Instead, they begin to act out a bizarre piece of improv theatre to try and fool their remaining customers into believing they are for real.

One medium is pacing the floor with her finger to her lips, another has his head between his legs and is moaning while the rest argue about the best way to banish the evil spirit that has followed them upstairs from the basement. For an hour.

Hilariously, this has the opposite effect; as they slowly run out of ideas, their acting gradually becomes more laboured until we find ourselves in the most farcical of situations where:

a) we know we’ve been conned

b) they know we know we’ve been conned

c) they are too afraid to admit it

d) we are too polite to call them on it

Sicky Vicky, sensing the fun to be had out of this preposterous stand-off, decides to indulge the exhausted ghost-hunters by begging them to help her grandmother pass over into the light. Perhaps mindful of the consequences of denying the grandmother of a wheelchair-bound customer eternal rest, the team dutifully agree to help. Having lost patience with the whole charade by 1am, I was not there to witness it, but apparently Sicky Vicky stayed and made them finish their ridiculous pantomime.

So, my first Psychic Night was nothing but a bad joke. Do I regret going? Of course not. The Sheffield ghost-hunters made a fast buck, Sicky Vicky had her fun with them and I had a hilarious story to tell. The only people who lost out are the ones who came in the belief that they were paying £4 for the answers to questions that have baffled us since the dawn of time, and left with a good mind to call Trading Standards in the morning.


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