I went to a séance last week.
In a mysterious chapel that stands in the centre of a cluster of 17th Century almshouses, known as Asylum.
It was hosted by a magician so really, I should’ve known it would all be one BIG LIE!
Despite having all the ingredients for a spooky night; the promise of talking to the dead in a crumbling chapel, some darkness and a distinct lack of heat (basically the end of the Blair Witch Project minus the snot), the end shock reveal was less ta-da, and more I-will-never-get-that-hour-of-my-life-back.
After waiting for a while outside the chapel, we were invited in. The chapel is AMAZING. All chipped stone and flaking paint and apparently disused, although later I found out it can be hired for special events and trendy weddings. With coats, jumpers and hats remaining on, we sat on wooden chairs and lit candles laid out for us. Because candles mean atmosphere, innit.
We were told a story about a ghost girl, who died in the chapel after being crushed by a falling ceiling. I believe it’s what they call “setting the scene.” This girl carried around a music box which went missing in the rubble. But guess who had managed to get his hands on THE VERY SAME ONE? Our host, the magical, mystical, magic magician man.
He reminded me of the boys at school who ended up as estate agents. Bleached blonde hair gelled into what he probably thought was a sophisticated style, polished shoes that men wear to get into Tiger Tiger and a contrived confidence that added nothing to the gravitas he so desperately wanted to command the room. I think his glasses were from the designer range at Specsavers and his neediness smelt like Lynx deodorant.
He introduced our psychic medium for the evening and she was rather attractive. This made me suspicious. When are mediums ever hot? It was at this point I began to smell a rat. And the rat too, smelt like Lynx.
She explained a bit about herself, her power and had some awkward dialogue with the magician. I knew we were to be treated to a scripted performance but perhaps one not so poor. It made me think about the potential of the every actor in Hollyoaks. After doing a few exercises, she guessed (sorry, read) the room and found out someone in the audience had recently lost their Grandmother. A classic “I’m, I’m, getting a…a…a…J….” reading complete with reaching fingers and a squint. I’d been trying to channel Michael Jackson, so I got rather excited. But no, it was old lady, Joan.
The medium got into a cubicle, similar to those used in hospitals, so she could “make the spirit feel safe” and more likely to come out to say hey. Or something. She had a bell, a book and the music box, later used as a dramatic tool to emotionally manipulate the audience. She was tied to a chair, as to not interfere with the objects and the curtains were closed. And then the bell rang.
A “volunteer” went in the cubicle to make sure the medium wasn’t fiddling with anything and confirmed the bell moved by itself. Then a little girl, dressed up for Halloween appeared and screamed. Then the musical box went off. Then the medium vomited.
After this song and dance, we were told it was all pretend. Well, duh! The vomit was revealed to be a simple mixture of flour, rice and carrot and the little dead girl was a real alive girl. The magician piped up and said with a wry smile: “You have been part of an experiment to explore how Victorian audiences were once fooled into believing they could talk to the dead. And I think we can safely say that audiences still can be.”
So, rather than doing a Derren Brown and treating the audience as intelligent, Mr Magician here thought he could win us over by treating us like dum-dums. But as I looked around at the cold and bored audience, still holding their freebie candles, it was obvious all were ready to lock him in the crypt.
Unaware, the magician then asked us all to stay a bit longer to film some more audience shots. “Look really astonished” he said. Several times.
So I widened my eyes, opened my mouth and laughed out my candle.