Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

First Person

A psychic said she’d spoken to my late partner’s spirit – and I didn’t like it

Clairvoyance is big business, with celebrities including Brad Pitt and Kerry Katona reportedly seeking out regular messages from the other side. Charlotte Cripps has tangled with the great beyond, too – if often by accident – and it’s left her with more questions than answers

Tuesday 01 August 2023 06:30 BST
‘I’d never wanted to communicate with a deceased loved one – let alone Alex. I didn’t know whether to feel excited or scared. Or even angry. Was I being conned?’
‘I’d never wanted to communicate with a deceased loved one – let alone Alex. I didn’t know whether to feel excited or scared. Or even angry. Was I being conned?’ (iStock)

Six years ago, I tagged along with a friend to a psychic seminar. It was held in a dowdy old church hall, with around 50 people sitting in rows of chairs, each of us told we could be put in touch with the dead. I wasn’t looking for answers myself – I only wanted to support my friend. But then the psychic pointed at me, uttering something that left me shaken: “He’s saying he regrets what he did.”

What the psychic didn’t know was that my late partner, Alex, had tragically taken his own life two years earlier while suffering from a bout of depression. Suddenly I seemed to be on a spiritual speed dial with the love of my life. But was it really him? The psychic chuckled. “He’s saying he was ‘past his sell-by date’,” she said. I was dumbfounded; this was a typical Alex remark, all black humour.

I soon came to my senses and started to feel a little uneasy and sceptical. I’m not opposed to the idea of the occult – at secondary school we played with Ouija boards, and I’d studied how to read tarot cards. I’d always liked to think I had second sight at times, but who knows? I’d never wanted to communicate with a deceased loved one – let alone Alex. I didn’t know whether to feel excited or scared. Or even angry. Was I being conned?

After Alex died, I didn’t seek out a medium to try to talk to him because I didn’t feel the need. I’d had therapy and come to terms with what had happened. Time is also a great healer. However, many vulnerable and grieving people are desperate for this kind of spiritual connection, or a chance to find out how their loved one is doing – to either rekindle communication or find peace. But the truth is that it can leave them open to exploitation from opportunistic shysters.

Not everything the psychic told me was convincing. She dropped a particularly noteworthy clanger – saying Alex was insistent that we had two children together. We didn’t – just Lola. And yet, 18 months later, with a spare embryo left over from the IVF we’d done before he died, I was pregnant with Liberty. Whether the message was a sign or not, it definitely spurred me into action.

Clairvoyance is big business. For celebrities, a medium can be as essential as a personal trainer, with stars as diverse as Brad Pitt, Lana Del Rey and Kerry Katona all allegedly devoted to hearing tales from the great beyond. Princess Diana was reported to consult mediums regularly, including Sally Morgan and Simone Simmons – the latter claims that she maintains contact with Diana to this day, telling the press in recent years that she’s heard the late royal “worry about Kate [Middleton] losing too much weight” and insisting Britain vote for Brexit. Surely not?

A report in 2017 found that 22 per cent of US adults have consulted a psychic or a medium, while 38 per cent claimed to have felt the presence of a spirit during their lifetime. Women are far more likely to experience these feelings than men, according to the report – nearly half (46 per cent) of women, in comparison to 30 per cent of men. However, the same report found that nearly half of US adults (47 per cent) are of the opinion that most people who advertise as psychics or mediums are fakes.

Sometimes you can’t get through – it’s a bit hit or miss

Notting Hill Gate psychic

A psychic based in London’s Notting Hill Gate tells me that tuning into the dead gets overwhelming – particularly when her clients insist on hard evidence about their late loved ones. “Sometimes you can’t get through – it’s a bit hit or miss,” she says. “Other times the connection is really strong, and I can manifest the ticks or mannerisms of the person who has departed, [or receive] a clear message. It can be inane stuff that comes through, like, ‘Oh, you bought a red dress the other day’ – or more profound. You never know. You get what you get.”

It’s eyebrow-raising stuff – but she talks about communicating with the dead as if it’s as normal as making a cup of tea. When she’s not working, she tries to “switch off”, she says, and become what she calls “clair-vacant”. “When [messages] come through in a very clear picture, it can be hard, especially if they died in tragic circumstances,” she explains. But she knows her gift helps people. “It allows people to move on – or get closure when things are unresolved. It confirms that there is an afterlife, that they will be reunited with their loved ones again, and they can start to rebuild their own lives. There’s such relief for people when they get a message – it brings the living back to life. It’s joyous, and they don’t feel so sad.”

That said, I’m not sure I even need a psychic to put me in touch with the other side. I’ve often thought I’ve felt Alex’s presence in my flat. Once, while I was clearing out his DVDs, a helium balloon from a kid’s birthday party floated across the room and landed on top of his favourite film.

After the light on the bathroom mirror switched itself on and off three times, I begged him: “Please DO NOT appear at my bedside in the night!” Others have experienced these incidents as well. About five years ago, Alex’s cousin dog-sat for me. I walked back into the flat, having returned from a holiday, to find him ashen white. I jokingly asked, “Did Alex come to see you, then?” When he told me what had happened – that Alex had fleetingly appeared in the hallway – I burst into tears.

The late Princess Diana was reportedly a fan of psychics, and regularly consulted with them (Getty)

I know some people might be doubtful about all this, but I believed Alex’s cousin. It also left me with more questions than it did answers: was there really life after death? Should I be helping Alex’s spirit depart the land of the living? Was this ultimately nothing? Was the thought of him being gone for ever so hard to fathom that we had to manifest him in our minds?

I still don’t know whether these moments were a product of our shared grief, but if I had to bet money on it, I think ghosts exist. I’m not alone in experiencing such strange occurrences, either. Earlier this month, author Santa Montefiore wrote in the Daily Mail that her famous sister, the late “It-girl” Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, had appeared sitting on her bed one night, six months after her death. It prompted the columnist Amanda Platell to admit that she’d seen her big brother, Michael, sitting at the end of her bed nearly 30 years after his death, too.

Clearly, for those of us who claim to have seen ghosts or talked to the dead, it’s a phenomenon that is inexplicable but very real. To tell us it’s something we’ve imagined is surely dismissing a profound and often deeply personal experience. I’m sure that many of my weird experiences with Alex since his death could be wishful thinking, but I can’t deny that they left me unsettled – the thought of a ghost sitting at the end of my bed was enough to put me off the whole psychic-medium thing for good. As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer my deceased loved ones to live in my heart and not my bedroom.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in