The night I spoke to my dead father
By Petronella Wyatt, 19/01/03
My father was sitting there, beside me, just three feet away. This was singularly odd and extremely unexpected as he has been dead for five years and one month. I felt a bit like freaking out. I saw his facial expression, his body movements, even his eyes. I have never seen a ghost - never believed in them - but this was the closest I had come to the experience so many others make claim to.
This had all come about when I received a letter from a man called Graham Dare, who called himself a clairvoyant and spiritual healer. I had never heard of Mr Dare. The letter invited me to a 90-minute session. It was accompanied by various glowing testimonials by such ‘celebs’ as Melinda Messenger and Joely Richardson.
This made me cynical, so I decided to go along and expose what I assumed would be a superannuated quack. My visit belied this impression, however. Dare’s room was simple and free of photos of himself with his better-known clients. It had one couch, a table and two chairs. Dare, a man in his mid-40s, was dressed in a white shirt, a severe face and a beard.
Nothing like Mystic Meg, then. More like Grim Graham. He shook my hand gently and asked me to sit down. Inexplicably, shyness overcame me and I was at a loss for words. Eventually I blurted out that I had been bereaved five years ago.
‘Ah yes,’ he said in a low, cello-contralto voice. ‘I get a lot of bereaved people. I use clairvoyance to contact their loved ones.
‘Well, can you contact my father?’ I asked, without much hope. My father, the late peer and former Labour MP Woodrow, was hard enough to contact when he was alive, so I doubted Dare would get through to him in the afterlife. But he told me he would try to ‘tune in’. ‘I might not reach him but someone close to him,’ he warned. This alone would be a miracle, I mused. But then something extraordinary happened.
Dare’s face suddenly took on my father’s distinct beaming smile, one that crossed his whole jaw and lit up his face. ‘I’m beginning to talk with my hands,’ said Dare softly, ‘and rubbing my face. I never do that. He did. I can feel him.’ Good gracious. I was losing my fear and had begun to feel a little moved by the old, familiar sight.
Then Dare’s right hand, resting on his knee, began to tremble slightly. I asked him why and he said it was my father. This struck me forcibly. I had demanded if Dare had ever read about my father and he swore in the negative. Even if he had been fibbing, it had never been made public that Dad suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which caused a slight tremor in his hands. Dare clutched his stomach and said he felt great pain. ‘His death had something to do with that,’ he pronounced. It was true. Although his obituaries said he died of cancer, the actual cause of death was a burst stomach artery. Dare then felt his chest and throat, claiming a restriction there. I stared in astonishment. That was where my father’s tumor had been.
With tears pricking my eyes, I urged Dare to reach my father again. During these sort of speaking trances he took deep breaths and leaned back. ‘I see grey hair, but curly,’ he said. That was his first big mistake. His hair had been white and as straight as a die. Perhaps he was seeing my elder half-brother, Nicholas.
Can I have a message please, Graham? I asked a little tentatively. Maybe my father would start berating me from the grave.
‘He tells you not to be put off by the obstacles you are facing but to forge on. He sends you great love and encouragement.’ This was a bit vague, if kind.
But then Dare said something really extraordinary. ‘He wants to apologise to you and your mother over something to do with works of art. He knows he made a mistake which has left you with a financial burden. I also see a house over which he made a mistake.’
This was truly astonishing. No one outside the family knew that my father had overvalued all the paintings in our house and failed to buy the freehold when it was offered him. This had indeed left us in financial difficulties. And now he was saying sorry. He never said sorry very often, and this time I felt like weeping.
There was no stopping Dare now. ‘He is telling you to be a good judge of character like he was, especially when it comes to relationships.’
Who will I marry, then? I was told I would marry a man in his 40s who had something distinctive about his left eye. I hoped this wasn’t a tick.
‘ No,’ said Dare. ‘Maybe he rubs it sometimes, or it is unusually bright. You have met him once or twice but suddenly you will feel a strong emotional connection. This is the man your father thinks is right.’
I couldn’t think who this could be. I had sat next to men in their 40s, on their left, so I wasn’t able to see much of them but their left eyes, but I hadn’t liked any of them.
Dare went on: ‘He will nod in conversation, be wiry, and have a voice that sounds as if he has a sore throat.’ I was beginning to be revolted by my future husband, so I asked him to tell me about my mother, who is still alive.
He reeled off her medical weakness, including spine curvature - true, and again not public knowledge - other genuine health complaints and a précis of her life and character. ‘She has suffered much and traveled from place to place,’ he said. This is vaguely accurate. She was a refugee. But she has also taken a lot of foreign holidays. I asked him to contact my Hungarian great aunt Vili because I had a bone to pick with her. She was supposed to leave me her jewels in her will, but instead became a nymphomaniac in her 70s and gave them to taxi-driver toy boys. Dare couldn’t get her to apologise, which didn’t surprise me as she was the most impossible woman in our family.
She did, however, die under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Her nurse would let no one in to see her and when the will was found, Vili, surprisingly, had left her flat to this woman. Was it murder?
Dare said not. But he added that there was a secret document hidden somewhere that would clear things up. Where was it hidden? He hadn’t a clue. Next I asked him about great-aunt Edith – the ugliest woman alive, until she died. Dare tried to say, kindly, that she went dotty in her last decade, which is an understatement. She left her door open and invited perfect strangers in to see her.
‘I see seven people,’ Dare said abruptly. I was gob-smacked. One birthday she picked up seven men and invited them to sit round her table and celebrate. Dare also said he smelt mothballs and wrinkled his nose. I told him Edith always wore the same boiler suit which did indeed whiff rather mustily. ‘I see an athletic woman, though. A great skier.’ This too was correct. Edith skied into her 70s. She had nothing else to do, poor soul, as no man ever wanted her.
I was keen to enquire about my father’s family, though, including his son from his previous wife. ‘I see Swiss in this woman’s family.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘She had Italian blood.’ ‘Was it Swiss Italian?’ ‘No, Graham,’ I insisted to his chagrin. This man was certainly persistent. He didn’t like taking no for an answer. I explained that I hardly ever saw my half-brother Pericles, who lives in America, and waited for a response.
‘I think you feel he has shafted you,’ Dare said sadly after a while. His instincts were true once more, but I had no intention of explaining further. ‘You push him away. He doesn’t move much towards you. But you push him back.’ Also correct. He might call once a year. A call I don’t return.
What about my father’s living blood relatives in England? I wanted his views on them. When Dare thinks he is right he really does think he is right. ‘They are very pragmatic,’ he said. I laughed out loud. The very opposite is true, alas. Kooky would be a better description. Dare had dared and not won this time.
It seemed a good moment to ask him about myself. He reached over and took my hand in his. I recall it being light and cool, producing a tingle in my own. ‘I see a double side to you. On the one hand you give the impression of being very extrovert and self-confident but on the other you have a deep need to seek advice and protect yourself.’ From what? He didn’t say, but it was a good summary of my paradoxical character.
Apparently I had also had a shock which I still have not got over. (This is correct, again. I have had two bad shocks in the past year and still feel them.) Dare told me I was very strong, like my parents, and would achieve whatever I desired and be a great success etc, but I doubt he says to his clients they will be big, fat failures. I took this opportunity to ask him how he became a clairvoyant.
‘It has always been a natural gift,’ he answered matter of-factly. ‘When I was a child growing up in London I saw ghosts and doors opening and shutting. I was very scared. But then many years ago I heard a medium on the radio who gave me courage to try to use this gift.’
Dare had worked in computers, but at the age of 36 he decided to visit a spiritualist church, the nearest thing to a university for mediums. There he trained for ten years before being allowed to practise.
Neither of his parents was spiritual — his father had been an accountant, which says it all, his mother was highly wary, but both proved supportive. I asked Dare what the Christian line was on clairvoyance. Surely the established Church still regarded it as heresy? ‘Yes, they don’t like communicating with the dead. But in my view Jesus is the best example there is of a clairvoyant and spiritualist.’
That is true. But he was the Son of God. And I doubt even Dare would venture to claim that parentage. At that moment he reached out, pressed my paw again and claimed to feel stress. Did I sleep? No is the straight answer. For many years I have suffered from insomnia. Dare suggested I lie on his couch. He passed his hands over me, three inches from my body, and I felt an intense heat and energy. His, unfortunately, not mine. I became tingly and light-headed.
After half-an-hour, Dare said my insomnia would vanish in a few days. I came to the Clinic as an unbeliever. Generally, I still am a sceptic. Most so-called mediums are probably frauds or deluding themselves and their clients. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few who can do something we can’t. Maybe there is a scientific explanation we have yet to discover. Perhaps a handful of men and women can really communicate on another plane.
And just maybe, just maybe, Graham Dare is one of them.