Some days working as a journalist throws up opportunities you just can’t afford to miss. So when I was offered the chance to have psychic medium Tony Stockwell try and contact one of my loved ones who had passed over to the other side, I felt I couldn’t say no.
Now when it comes to matters of mediumship I would say I hold a very healthy degree of scepticism. I tend to attend card readings or fortune tellers for a bit of craic, perhaps hoping there will be something positive I can cling on to.
Of course there is a part of me which always hopes that someone I have loved and lost will send me a little message but after years of seeing enough swizzers and showmen I wasn’t overly convinced anyone really did have the power to communicate with the spirit world.
Tony is more than used to being challenged about his “powers” but when I asked him how he tried to convince people he was the real deal he simply replied that he didn’t.
“You’ll never convince a sceptic not to be a sceptic,” he said. “All I can do is do what I do and be honest. People will get their own answers from that.”
He doesn’t believe in bluff and blunder, he said. And while he does tour his show – which is coming to the Millennium Forum on Tuesday 6th November – he says he is no showman.
“I’m honest with people. For every ten people who may come to me for a reading, there will be maybe two who I simply can’t help. I won’t try to bluff them – or give them some wishy washy nonsense. I just say ‘sorry, I can’t help today’. The spirit world can’t be switched on and off – some days it works. Other days it doesn’t.
“I try to approach every situation with sensitivity and respect – and yes I do have a laugh with people but at the end of the day the majority of people who come to see me are looking for some sort of healing. I’m always aware of that.”
“The core of what I do is helping people to heal and move on. That is very powerful.”
Northern Ireland is one of the places Tony says he sees a need for a great healing. There is a different energy here, he said although fully admits he knows little about our troubled past. That energy however makes local audiences among his favourites.
“People in Northern Ireland are dead honest with you. They will just tell you outright if they believe you or not and they will challenge you to dig a little deeper and find a little more.
“They make me work harder but in some ways that makes it easier. The worst thing a medium can experience is someone who sits impassively and gives no feedback. Things from the spirit world can be misinterpreted and it helps to have someone willing to work with you to peel away those layers.”
With such a strong connection to the spirit world, Tony said he does not believe in a hell or a purgatory – he is not even sure he believes in a heaven.
“I think the spirit world is a place of healing – where we can let go of physical selves and our earthly emotions and we move on. I don’t think there is a naughty step you are sent to when you die – I think it is more than that. The spirit world allows you to let go of your past and heal.
“I don’t buy that there is a place we are sent to suffer. The world is a dark enough place as it is. As my gran would say, it’s not the dead you have to fear - but the living.”
As for religion, Tony says he believes in a God figure but not in religion. “I believe in that saying, let go of religion and embrace God,” he said.
“My mum would have said we were Christian growing up but we never grew up in any organised religion – we didn’t go to church. But I do believe in a God figure who is neither male nor female – more of a great spirit who guides and watches over us.”
It was then we got down to the reading. A week ago I had been asked to send Tony a picture of a loved one who passed so that he could try and communicate with that person.
I sent on a picture of my beloved Granddad who died almost 20 years ago but who was my childhood hero – and a hero to all in our family. He had only recently celebrated his 65th birthday when he died and I know that as I have grown up I have always wondered if he is watching over us. I always regretted that he was not there to see me graduate, or marry or get a job in the Journal, or write novels. I wondered what he would make of my naming my son after his middle name.
I know other members of my family have the same feelings. When Tony started to speak he started the conversation with a “Sorry. This one is a bit of a closed book” and my heart sank and then when he went on to tell me my granddad had died following a prolonged illness, my heart sank further. If I’m totally honest I thought “here we go again, another load of bunkum” but being too polite to say anything I listened on.
Within seconds Tony had confirmed to be exact details of the prolonged illness – indeed he clarified what he meant and immediately it was familiar. He gave me details which I remembered all too vividly and I had to fight the tears from my eyes.
He described the personality of my grandfather to an absolute tee. And he described the relationship he had with my grandmother – their chalk and cheese personalities and their very, very strong bond.
Taking into consideration the privacy of my granddad and the sensitivity of family members I can’t reveal too much more about what he said but it was as if, 20 years after I had last seen him, I was being comforted by my grandfather and I now know he is with me.
Tony Stockwell says you can’t change a sceptic’s mind. I beg to differ.
Tickets for Tony Stockwell at the Millennium Fourm can be purchased through their Box Office on (028) 71264455 or online at www.millenniumforum.co.uk