Yoko rages over 'tacky' TV seance to contact Lennon

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If John Lennon had been as good as his word, he would have been in touch from the afterlife by now. But, though he and the other Beatles came to an understanding that any of them who died would send back a message, Sir Paul McCartney is still waiting. "He knew the deal, but I never had a message," he once said.

Since Lennon's interest in such matters once led him to take part in a seance led by two elderly American mediums, those whom he left behind could be forgiven for also trying to reach him. But a spokesman for his former wife, Yoko Ono, has criticised a US television company's attempts to do that, labelling it "tasteless, tacky and exploitative".

Elliot Mintz, a close friend of Lennon as well as Ono's spokesman, said the pay-per-view television "seance" which viewers will be charged $9.95 (£5.70) to watch next month, is "another example of the misuse of John's affirmation of life as opposed to the preoccupation of his death". Lennon was "an amazing communicator of heart, mind and spirit," Mr Mintz added. "He still speaks to those who choose to listen to his recordings. That was the medium he chose to speak with us. A 'pay-per-view' seance was never his style."

The producer, Paul Sharratt, insisted that his programme, to be aired on the American digital channel In Demand, is "making a serious attempt to do something that many millions of people around the world think is possible". Ono had been invited to appear, Mr Sharratt said, but had not given her blessing.

The programme will feature psychics travelling to sites of significance to the former Beatle. These will include the Dakota apartment building win Manhattan here he lived and was shot dead in 1980 by Mark David Chapman, and a town in India where he went on a spiritual retreat. The psychics will then assemble around a seance table for 30 minutes and infra-red cameras may capture any "presence".

Mr Sharratt's company was also behind attempts in 2003 to contact Diana, Princess of Wales, in a seance. Critics skewered the The Spirit of Diana in which the princess was found to be "having fun" and spending time with Mother Teresa while working with children and watching over her sons from the "other side".

The show drew more than half a million US viewers willing to pay $14.95 (£8.50) to watch it.

Mr Sharratt said he had chosen Lennon because the former Beatle, like Diana, is an icon and was also deeply spiritual. " It's a natural follow-up to the Diana seance," he said. "I didn't come out [of that programme] a total believer, but it was good for a lot of people as a tribute to Diana."

The interlocutors with Diana were Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, who were the resident psychics on Channel 4's Big Breakfast when Paula Yates was the host. They were taken to Paris before the seance to retrace her last hours. "It sounds crazy, but I saw her in the Ritz foyer," Ms Hamilton-Parker said.

To guard against accusations of fraud, Mr Hamilton-Parker has devised his own set of ethics for such seances. This seems to be the norm in the psychic industry - it is unregulated except for the Fraudulent Mediums Act, brought in by Winston Churchill after the Second World War to stop psychics claiming contact with dead soldiers.

If Mr Sharratt's psychics do reach Lennon, they will not be the first to claim such a feat. In 1999 a psychic from Fargo, North Dakota, claimed to have received several new compositions from the "other side" from Lennon, including Listen to the Angels and Don't Make Heaven Mad. They were played on US radio stations.

Yoko Ono's views on the seance are conspicuous by their absence. A writer, Geoffrey Giuliano, has claimed it was she who arranged for Lennon to participate in the original seance, which deteriorated into a ridiculous show characterised by references to acquaintances which were "vague enough to apply to anyone and designed to keep John off guard".

Ms Ono said recently that she no longer thinks of the afterlife. "Life is beautiful," she said. "My dream is that people will become so healthy we don't have to think about death or illness any more."

Magical mystery tour to 'the other side'

* Writer Michael Munn described messages received by American medium Bill Tenuto of San Diego, who has claimed to be in touch with John Lennon. According to Tenuto, Lennon was having a whale of a time, having met - among others Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ ("a great person")

* Yoko Ono reportedly claimed that Lennon's ghost once appeared before her, sitting at his white piano saying "don't be afraid. I'm still with you."

* Lennon's obsession with the occult in later years, which led him to an interest in seances, was fuelled by John Green, his wife's tarot expert, according to writer Geoffrey Giuliano

* 'Psychic' Linda J. Polley was quick to record Lennon tracks including Listen To The Angels and Don't Make Heaven Mad which she claimed he had sent to her from the afterlife. US radio stations gave them airplay.