Spirit-seeker Derek Acorah, best known as the resident medium on Living TV's Most Haunted, is showcasing his psychic abilities at The Beck in February. SIBA MATTI is suitably spooked after speaking to him...
CYNICS have long been sceptical of the spirit world and the ability to communicate with the dead, but Derek Acorah has made it his life's mission to prove the pessimists wrong.
The spirit medium, who hails from Liverpool, had his first supernatural encounter at just six years old, when his grandfather's ghost came to him in the middle of the night. Derek explains: "At the time my dad was a seafarer, so my mum and I lived with my grandmother in her big old Victorian house.
"One day in the early afternoon, I was at the top of the stairs and heard a noise. I turned round to see a strange man, who appeared very clearly. He walked towards me but I didn't recognise him.
"My instinct was to bolt down the stairs but I was frozen to the spot and before long, he was gone.
"I immediately told my grandmother, and she asked me to look at a photograph of my grandfather, who was also a seafarer and sadly died from septicaemia - and it was the same man.
"My grandmother didn't seem surprised at all, but it wasn't until I was nine that she revealed that she herself was also a medium and we shared the same gift - at the time, she just thought I was too young to understand."
Derek, 58, a life-long supporter of Liverpool FC, later pursued his dream to become a midfield footballer. However, fate seemed determined to intervene and a knee injury cut his sporting career short, prompting him to follow his 'true' path.
Today, almost 50 years later, he proudly claims to be the UK's biggest spirit medium, having achieved cult status as the star of Living TV's Most Haunted and Ghost Towns.
"I was devastated when I had to stop playing football - it was my life - but now I accept it was all part of the path I am destined to follow," Derek says.
The cheerful Scouser started by doing one-to-one sittings of spiritual visitation - which, put simply, is when spirit people come to their loved ones. Soon after, he got his first big break presenting Livetime on Granada Breeze in Manchester, which sent the phone lines into meltdown, with people from all walks of life calling in - from doctors to taxi drivers and even journalists!
This exposure catapulted Derek into the limelight, helping him to land the job on Living TV's Most Haunted, where he enjoyed (or perhaps endured) many a memorable moment while searching for spirits.
"Probably one of the most terrifying times was at Leap Castle, which is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland," Derek remembers.
"Even before we started filming, I encountered a very beautiful lady standing on the gallery in a long, flowing red gown - but I couldn't believe what I was seeing when she started shape-shifting into the most grotesque apparition of a beast, with glowing red eyes.
"She was warning us against going upstairs and when she was gone, the smell was unbelievable, the most terrible stench you can imagine, and it lingered throughout the whole castle.
"Whenever you visit a place with a supernatural presence, some signs are apparent immediately.
"For example, you might get the 'chill factor' whenever you enter a room, even if it was warm before. You might sense movement or hear sounds, which are often shrill.
"Often the hairs will stand up on your body - but there are very few times you will encounter something as strange as that woman."
So what can visitors expect to see at The Beck? "It's not about reading tea leaves, it's about creating a dialogue and giving people closure after their loved ones have passed away," Derek reveals.
"The live show will be mainly focused on readings rather than investigations, and it is not scripted or edited, so there is so much excitement and energy in the room. Plus, it's the perfect opportunity to prove it's not a myth or mumbo jumbo.
"Many people are concerned that their loves ones might have suffered when they died and just want peace of mind. They are worried about the after life - but the show is about healing people and helping them to say 'see you later'. There is absolutely nothing to fear and I am certainly not afraid of death.
"People often ask about my own spiritual beliefs and despite being brought up as a Catholic, I stopped practising when I was 11 - I genuinely think that with most religions, only a small percentage is truth.
"I do, however, believe in karma, and how we live as physical beings is reflected in the after life - but there are so many dimensions of what we consider utopia.
"Having said that, my work is not about converting people - I always focus on being as respectful and polite as possible, and I would invite everyone to come along to the live show and see for themselves. I'm sure the sceptics will be surprised."
* An Evening with Derek Acorah takes place at The Beck on Monday, February 23 at 7.30pm. Call the box office on 020 8561 8371 for tickets or visit www.becktheatre.org.uk