Picture a medium at work and chances are you’ll imagine a woman hunched over a crystal ball at the end of a pier. But today’s ‘paranormal professionals’ have given the industry a modern makeover to satisfy booming demand, says Claudia Connell.
The social media medium with nearly a million fans
With a gym-honed body, dazzling white teeth, a wardrobe full of designer clothes and a Mercedes sports car on the drive, Chris Riley is a world away from your typical psychic.
But with a quarter of a million followers on Facebook and Instagram, a host of celebrity clients and a long list of sold-out live shows at £25 a ticket, the 25-year-old is one of the most successful psychics in the country.
‘People do say I’m not what they expected when they meet me. I’m not going to walk around draped in crystals just because of what I do. I work really hard and, yes, I like to enjoy the rewards,’ he explains.
Those rewards will very soon include buying his first home – not bad for the boy from Colchester in Essex who started doing readings at 15 and developed his business via word of mouth. Chris now employs 25 psychics who do readings via email and text. But can you really tune into someone over a text message?
‘Of course you can,’ he says. ‘If you’re somebody who is able to communicate with spirits then they’re going to come through to you whether the person is in front of you, on a computer screen or phone.’ He does most of his readings via Skype, charging £100 per session.
Since he does regular readings for reality TV stars and counts Gemma Collins as one of his clients, Chris attracts a younger audience, and love-life woes are top of their worries. Live shows are also a big part of Chris’s work. He recently finished a tour taking him all over the country where he put his skills as a medium to work, charging between £20 and £30 depending on the venue.
‘We don’t sell tickets in advance because I don’t want anyone to say that I had people’s names and googled them all before the show.’ Fans queue to see Chris in the hope he can help contact their deceased loved ones. ‘People come along and bring photos. They put them on a table before the show – I don’t see them do it – and then I pick out photographs and see what comes through to me.’
With hundreds of five-star Google reviews and another live tour in the pipeline for later this year, Chris’s clients are more than convinced.
The £240-an-hour celebrity psychic
A professional psychic for the past three decades, Jayne Wallace founded the highly successful Psychic Sisters, based in London’s luxury department store Selfridges, 13 years ago. Since then she has become the capital’s go-to psychic and now employs a team of 16 ‘readers’ to keep up with demand.
A 30-minute reading costs £80 but to see Jayne personally, clients must join a three-month waiting list to secure a half-hour reading, which costs £120. Jayne and her colleagues see around nine clients each a day.
Customers are as likely to ask her for insight into their careers and businesses as they are about love and romance, but she never claims to have all the answers. ‘I can’t read for everyone,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I just don’t get a connection to somebody and nothing comes through and in those cases I have to say that I’m sorry, I can’t help them. I’ve built my business on my reputation so I’m not going to mislead anyone.’
Jayne, 52, from Epping, also operates a policy banning any clients she feels have become too reliant on her. ‘It’s lovely that people come and see me for guidance, but we have to be aware of when that tips over into an addiction. I have one client who I’ve limited to bimonthly readings as she was requesting too many appointments and spending too much money. It’s a privilege to do my job but I would never take advantage of someone.’
Privately, Jayne has built an impressive celebrity client list – including Kim Kardashian, and actress Kate Hudson – and she regularly flies to Los Angeles to provide readings for her Hollywood clientele. She has also expanded the Psychic Sisters brand, selling a range of products online including aura mists (£20), gemstone wands (£19.95) and candles (£25). Last year she signed a lucrative deal with online fashion giant Asos to stock the range, and the aura spray was so popular it sold out.
While Jayne admits that her business affords her a nice lifestyle, ‘You’ve got to consider how much it costs to have a concession in Selfridges,’ she says. ‘I’m certainly not swanning around on private jets!’
The house healer who quit her high-flying job
For unlucky homeowners who believe their house is plagued with bad energy, Emma Loveheart’s services are often a last resort. ‘People are embarrassed at first,’ she says. ‘They will tell me that they feel incredibly low at home, or they’ve suffered poor health or bad luck since moving into a property. They can’t explain it, but it’s like their home is zapping the life out of them. They’re all perfectly ordinary people who don’t understand what’s happening but have become desperate and need help.’
‘But you seem so normal’ is something Emma, 51, from Newbury, is used to hearing when she speaks to clients for the first time. ‘Their relief is palpable when they realise that I’m not barking mad. I always reassure clients that there is nothing wrong with them and they haven’t been targeted and they’re certainly not some magnet for misfortune.’
In a busy month Emma can heal 40 homes; her prices start from £195 per property. She heals everything from one-bedroom flats to huge country estates. Tuning into the spiritual energies of a house and land, she clears negative energy – caused, she says, by a combination of ‘stressors’, such as negative vortexes and even spirits that are inhibiting the property. She can remove unwelcome guests and replace the negative energy with positive.
While many people working in the psychic world claim to have had a gift since childhood, Emma was a latecomer. Seven years ago she had a high-flying corporate career, working in HR for a large telecoms company. Then, having never experienced anything of the kind before, she had a vivid vision that her daughter was going to be seriously injured on the skiing trip the family were planning and subsequently cancelled.
The vision was a turning point. Emma began to explore her psychic side and realised that she could talk to spirits and connect with energies, which evolved into her becoming a house healer. ‘I truly believe this is my calling,’ she says. But she has paid a heavy price for it. ‘My marriage broke up as my husband could not come to terms with what I wanted to do, and I lost long-standing friends who couldn’t accept it either. Thankfully there were others who supported me even though they didn’t fully understand why I needed to pursue this as a career.’
The modern witch who charges £120 to cast a spell
Pushing her trolley around her local supermarket, there’s nothing to suggest Dee Johnson is anything other than a well-groomed 50-something doing her weekly shop. But the Range Rover parked outside reveals her secret. Her number plate reads W22 TCH. ‘I’m so proud of who I am and what I do, I don’t hide it,’ she explains.
Dee, 56, from St Albans has known she was a witch since she was 15, but it was only nine years ago that she realised how lucrative her sideline as a witch had become and discovered it could be her full-time career. She now works up to seven days a week casting spells for clients at £120 a time. She also charges £60 for one-to-one or over-the-phone psychic readings.
‘Love spells are particularly popular,’ says Dee. ‘Often clients have experienced some trauma in their life and feel they have a blockage of negative energy. Others may want help getting a new job or have had a run of bad luck and believe they have been cursed. They seek my help often at their lowest moments.’
Dee’s spells can take several hours for her to prepare and perform. Although she won’t reveal her income, she says she now earns more than she did in her former career as a veterinary nurse.
‘To cast a love spell, I need someone’s full name, date of birth and a picture of them. I will only cast this spell during a positive Moon phase and on a Friday, as it is the day governed by the goddesses Freya, Venus or Aphrodite – all the same energy for love.
‘Then I take a red or pink candle and I anoint it with a “love oil” I’ve made from rose petals, rose oil, jasmine, almond oil and cinnamon. I visualise that person with love and as the candle burns, I look at the flame and say an incantation, which must rhyme. Every witch has their own spells and does things differently; some even use a cauldron – it’s very individual.’
Dee insists the proof that what she does works is backed up by her clients. ‘They tell me they’ve found that special person they were looking for, they got that promotion or they simply feel much more positive and empowered, depending on what spell I have cast for them.
‘If witchcraft didn’t work, it wouldn’t have survived for all these years, would it?’ she says. ‘I’ve cast spells successfully for myself, including one when I was desperate to sell my house, and it did the trick!’
The ghost hunter who’s spooked 200,000 people
Since launching her paranormal events company, Haunted Happenings, in 2008, over 200,000 customers have attended Hazel Ford’s ghost-hunting tours across the UK and Europe. But becoming a professional ghost hunter was never part of Hazel’s career plan.
The 58-year-old from Nottingham previously worked as a psychotherapist, but after attending a ghost hunt on a whim 13 years ago – and seeing inexplicable dancing lights while she was there – a fascination with the paranormal took hold. She started volunteering with a ghost-hunting group and quickly her hobby became her calling. She founded Haunted Happenings and now employs a team of people.
‘We used to run four ghost hunts a week but there has been a massive upturn in demand in the past few years. ‘Now we’re running around 16 events per week,’ says Hazel. Visiting sites known for ghost sightings – haunted pubs, abandoned buildings, old prisons and hospitals – during tours, Hazel and her team use cameras, microphones, Ouija boards and divining rods to locate paranormal activity. On sleepover hunts, customers can stay overnight in the haunted hotspots from around £60 per person.
‘Our basic hunts start from £20 for exploring some huge tunnels in Kidderminster,’ she says, ‘but our weekend breaks in York, Derbyshire and Lancashire cost £289 and they’re incredibly popular. We also host events in Europe in places such as Dracula’s Castle and Hoia Baciu Forest in Romania, which costs approximately £779 for three nights.’
All Haunted Happenings hunts have a ‘safe room’ with lights for any guests who get too terrified, but as you’d expect from a seasoned ghost hunter, Hazel is not easily spooked. ‘Three years ago I was setting up cameras with a colleague at 30 East Drive in Pontefract, which is considered a very haunted house, when we both witnessed a chair moving independently across the floor. I wasn’t scared, just fascinated. I’m one of those people who can leave a haunting, go home and ten minutes later be stacking the dishwasher as if nothing has happened.’