Derek Acorah, Ghost-Hunting Psychic, Dead at 69 Jan 9, 2020 5:21:32 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Jan 9, 2020 5:21:32 GMT -5
Derek Acorah, Ghost-Hunting Psychic, Dead at 69
Derek Acorah, the UK’s best-known television spirit medium and ghost hunter, died Saturday, January 4, at the age of 69. Acorah, born January 27, 1950, succumbed to sepsis brought on by pneumonia.
Acorah made his name as the resident medium on the TV program Most Haunted alongside Yvette Fielding and her team of ghost-hunters, which consisted of an astrologer, an anthropologist, a parapsychologist and a medical doctor. The group stayed overnight in reputedly-haunted stately homes and castles throughout Britain.
In his 2004 autobiography, The Psychic Adventures of Derek Acorah, writing about an an investigation of Samlesbury Hall, a medieval manor house in Lancashire, he said he entered to the sound of “girlish laughter” and sensed he was in a former educational establishment. “The energy around me changed and I felt as though I was in an inn,” he claimed. “Once more there was laughter around me, but this time it was accompanied by the smell of ale and roasting meats in the huge fireplace … Then I heard a loud bang! ‘Somebody shot themselves here,’ I said.” Acorah came up with a name, Sir John Southworth, explaining the man had suffered at the hands of witch-hunters.
However, the medium’s credibility was questioned in 2005 when Most Haunted’s parapsychologist, Ciarán O’Keeffe, accused him of being a fake. O’Keefe claimed on one occasion, he fed Acorah false information about spirits, including a dead South African jailer called Kreed Kafer – an anagram of “Derek Faker” – at Bodmin Jail, Cornwall, after which the medium suddenly became “possessed” by the nonexistent spirit. Fielding, who, with her husband, Karl Beattie, owned the production company that produced Most Haunted, was distressed. “We tell people everything is real, then it turns out he was a fake,” she lamented, “so he had to go.”
Nonetheless, the television regulator, Ofcom, ruled the broadcasting code had not been breached by “fraudulently contrived” events because the program was broadcast as entertainment, not as a legitimate investigation into the paranormal. Living TV then commissioned a new show, Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns, which ran for three series, with Acorah offering private sittings to members of the public.
Born Derek Francis Johnson in Bootle, Lancashire, to Frederick Johnson, a merchant sailor, and his wife, Elizabeth, Acorah told people his psychic grandmother identified his gift for spiritualism when he was 6-years-old after encountering her husband – who had died three years earlier – on the stairs.
He attended Warwick Bolam Secondary School (now Bootle High School), where he played football. Two years later, he signed on as an apprentice-professional with Liverpool, then managed by Bill Shankly, whom Acorah later claimed to have contacted in the spirit world. Failing to advance beyond Liverpool’s reserve team, after four years, he returned to Wrexham, followed by a time at Glentoran and Stockport County, before moving to the South Australia football federation to play for USC Lion (now Port Adelaide).
In 1982, as injuries began to take their toll and his wife, Joan, whom he had married 10 years earlier, grew homesick, he returned to Britain. The marriage broke up and he changed his surname to Acorah – he said it came from a Dutch ancestor – and commenced working as a medium, using a spirit guide called Sam, a 2,000-year-old Ethiopian warrior. He went from private readings to appearing at spiritualist churches, then moved on to theaters and civic halls.
Acorah’s television break came in 1996 on the satellite channel Granada Breeze, with appearances on the magazine show Livetime, followed by Psychic Livetime and Predictions, which led to his own series, Predictions with Derek Acorah (1999-2001), wherein he visited allegedly-haunted locations, as well as private homes.
He appeared on several other shows and his fame was confirmed with a cameo appearance as himself in the 2006 Doctor Who story Army of Ghosts, about an epidemic of ghouls. He also was in the 2017 series of Celebrity Big Brother and parodied by Dawn French, in the guise of Dawnie Acorah, in a 2004 episode of French and Saunders, and by Jon Culshaw in the TV series Dead Ringers a year later.
In 2012 Acorah apologized to the family of Madeleine McCann after claiming to have received a psychic message from their missing daughter indicating she was dead.
Acorah’s second marriage to Barbara Keeton in 1985 also ended in divorce. He is survived by his third wife, Gwen, whom he married in 1995, and a son, Carl, from his first marriage.
Gwen Acorah is now claiming “jealous” psychics trolled her husband as he lay on his deathbed. Gwen, who was married to the medium for 24 years, spoke of a “vile couple” who “hounded” her husband while he was in hospital. “To the vile couple who hounded him for responses to their ridiculous campaign whilst he was in Intensive Care in a coma,” she wrote on Facebook, “I hope you have the decency to hang your heads in shame. I have things to deal with now but I won’t forget nor will I forgive what you have done!”
She said the harassment had been “going on for a while” and told a reporter, “They were just jealous of Derek and wanted his status. We didn’t report them to the police as you would just spend all your time in a police station. But I’m upset about it, especially as they were sending messages while he was in intensive care. I know they probably didn’t know he was so ill but they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Sources: The Guardian, December 6, 2020; Emmeline Saunders, The Mirror, January 4, 2020; and Kathryn Ingate, The Express, January 4, 2020.