People throughout the ages have turned to spirit mediums and sages in times of crisis. Oscar Wilde, in which I have a keen interest, consulted many mediums throughout his life, always whenever he needed advice and guidance. Indeed, one of them, a renowned palmist of the day, even forecast Oscar's disastrous downfall, declaring that his left hand - which in palmistry, represents the past - was 'the hand of a king,' but that Oscar's right hand - his future - 'was the hand of a king who will send himself into exile.'
Mediumship in Oscar's time, the 1890s, was as popular then as it seems to be today. There was the famous Madame Blavatsky and her talking bazoomas - well actually, it was a baboon, but photographs of her ample bosom do lead one to speculate...
Madam Blavatsky led the then growing spiritualist movement in late Victorian England, which attracted the attentions of many famous faces, Oscar Wilde being a case in point. However, the skills of these people seem to be on the wane, if my recent experiences are anything to go by.
Perhaps humanity has become so dehumanised by the information age that it has lost touch with its spiritual side, or is suffering from a severe case of myopia of the third eye. Perhaps all those dimly-lit rooms, with their flickering shadows and stuttering oil-lamps - to say nothing of the London smogs - were just bettter at attracting manifestations from the Other Side.
In the modern age, however, the quality of mediumship seems to be on the decline. Like Oscar Wilde, I confess to having an unfortunate tendency to consult psychics during times of crisis or uncertainty. My recent experiences, however, may have succeeded in putting me off this particular habit.
Of the two mediums who came to my house, both were bordering on certifiable. The first one was a lady - who shall remain nameless in case she decides to make use of her sparse talents and send her ethereal friends to haunt me. This lady insisted on sitting on a book because she said it helped her make contact with the other side.
After being late due a public transport malfunction she spent the best part of an hour muttering strange and incomprehensible words that sounded like a cross between Ancient Egyptian and the lyrics to Agadoo. Every now and then she would stop, stare at me and say, 'do you know a woman called Doreen?'
By the end of the session she had established nothing except that, a) the number 27 bus didn't go through the town centre - and b) I didn't know a woman called Doreen. Oh, and she charged me twenty pounds for the priviledge.
The second one, a man, walked into my Victorian flat, which is bedecked with antiques, declared with enthusiasm, 'I can feel something coming through,' looked around my house and said, 'hmm, I'm getting "oldy", and I'm getting "worldy."' He spent most of the session telling me I needed to take a vitamin supplement for my energies - which he had decided must be low, in spite of my attempts to get rid of him by dashing around the room like a mayfly on an acid trip, dusting.
During this uninformative visit he gave me numerous Tarot readings in which we kept getting The Fool. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be me, or him. He stayed for nearly two hours and I was beginning to think I'd never get rid of him.
The whole time he was here he did not stop talking and I couldn't help thinking that the reason the spirits were not coming through was because they couldn't get a word in edge ways. As he was leaving he threatened to return ,and give me another free reading, to which I muttered something about being otherwise engaged until Judgement Day and slammed the door.
Such experiences prompted a chain of thought that led from the world being full of blarney-spouting devious con-merchants to the idea that maybe there are no ghosts anymore. After all, the modern living room has the wrong atmosphere for a seance, in spite of the efforts of Laurence Llewellyn Bowen. Gone are the dimly-lit rooms and the stuttering oil-lamps flickering oh-so-evocatively across darkly painted walls.
The modern spiritualist holds hands while sitting on a 'Harvey's the Furniture Store, Sponsors of Coronation Street' sofa, by the light of a metal 100 watt lamp from Ikea , utters the immortal words, 'is anybody there?' and wonders why there is no reply.
Maybe, after all, it isn't the mediums who are to blame but the atrocious state of contemporary decor? (That said, they didn't make an appearance in my house either and mine definitely looks the part).
Of course it could simply be that the world is so over-populated that there are no dead people left because all the souls have migrated to this side... Whatever the reason, it seems there are no ghosts, not even for ready money...