If I had been in possession of any psychic powers, there is no way I would have agreed to cover an event with a spiritual medium on the day the England cricket team are playing in the World Cup final.

But because of a lack of those abilities(or the ability to look at a calendar), I find myself driving to The Mile Oak Inn, Brighton, around the same time England and New Zealand are heading towards a Super Over.
I assume with such a major sporting event in progress, the start of the evening with clairvoyant medium Karen Hillier will be delayed until the result is confirmed. This is a pub that takes its sport seriously, after all.
I could not be more wrong. The bar's function room is packed, theatre-style. With the show about to begin, I apologetically take one of the few free seats at the back.
Karen gets things under way by asking guests to bring personal items to the front such as photographs or jewellery. I assume this is to help the connection to the spirit world, but sceptically, I also wonder if this isn't just giving the psychic clues to feed off.
As she starts to ask questions of the audience, related to messages coming through to her, loud voices disturb the quiet atmosphere — it's the adjoining bar and it sounds very much like England have won the World Cup.
Tales of the unexpected
Feeling more relaxed and inwardly elated, I go with the show as the sports fans quieten down and the two-and-a-half-hour psychic night takes several unexpected turns.
Karen's technique is to stand up and relay the messages she receives to the crowd. For example, she asks if lemon drizzle cake means anything to someone or if anyone is connected to a person called Pat. With such vague terms it is little surprise audience members stand up, take the microphone and see where the conversation goes.
But things evolve and get weirdly specific. Karen tells one person to follow her dream to teach — you get the impression she'll be enrolling to do just that as soon as possible. Another receives a tender message from a loved one who has taken their own life.
Perhaps most bizarrely Karen says she is receiving a message from a young person, taken too soon. Friends in the audience
recognise who it is. Karen described how he is larking about, wearing a crown. Why would he do that, she asks? The friends, clearly shocked, reveal how his surname relates to royalty.
The rest of the audience clap to maintain positive energy when the stories unfold.
Over the course of the evening 15 to 20 people, roughly one-third of those in attendance, receive a message of some kind.
I'm intrigued and open-minded but the cynic in me wants to know how she knows this stuff. Is she great at reading people? How much can you find out on social media these days? Are people planted in the audience? But why go to so much trouble for a night's work? Are the audience vulnerable and just wanting to hear what they are being told? As I scribble my thoughts down Karen speaks to the room.
"Is anybody here from Crowborough?"
Oh no. I know for sure at least one person is: me. I find myself with a microphone in my hand talking in front of a room full of people with a psychic medium who may or may not be having a chin-wag with my dear, departed grandad.

karenhillier

Medium Karen Hillier

Messages from beyond
There are things she knows about me that could be in the public domain, others that don't quite add up but also specifics I just can't fathom at all — stuff about my mum and her sister, my children and messages my grandad apparently wants to pass on.
She warns me about a yacht trip. I've never been on a yacht and have no plans to do so but I know for sure if someone offers me this opportunity any time soon, I will be politely declining.
The experience is both disconcerting and reassuring and when I sit back down, I'm not entirely sure what just happened.
More people have similar experiences to me before Karen brings things to a close at around 9.30pm. The event has been emotional, revealing and sees the audience leave home feeling they got great value for the tenner they spent on a ticket.
Afterwards, I catch up with Lorraine Hocking, manager at the wet-led Mile Oak Inn, who sat in the audience throughout.
She's a believer in what Karen does and in the nights themselves. "We have been doing these for two or three years now and they always sell out," she says. "It's a mixture of Karen's Facebook followers and the pub's customers, so we are getting new people through the doors."
Both Karen and the pub sell tickets and share the revenue between them. In addition, the pub makes money on drinks, with the bar open throughout and many people coming in early for a pre-show sharpener and staying afterwards for more.
Lorraine continues: "If pubs are thinking of doing it, just give it a go. Karen brings so many people into the pub and it is a really good night."

Bad experiences
Karen, who has been doing similar shows across the country for more than 20 years, says not all of her experiences have been as positive as at The Mile Oak Inn.
"At first [pubs] were not something I wanted to do," she says. "They could be rowdy and I would not be taken seriously. I was mocked quite a lot, but I kept going. Now it sells out in an hour and it just works.
"Some pubs are good environments for it and others are not," she continues. "Here is normally quiet, so it's good. You need a room that can be closed off and seat a certain number of people.
"I like going to pubs because you get a new audience and meet new people."
And if you host a medium night at your own pub, you can never be sure who you will meet either.

 

lorrainehocking

Licensee Lorraine Hocking

How to host a medium night in your pub

 

Get the room right
You need an appropriate space for a private event that ideally will not be disturbed by the rest of the pub.

Have tissues at the ready
Things can get emotional, so be prepared.

Bring a friend
Encourage guests to come in couples or groups for emotional support.

Go steady on the spirits
Serving food and drink is fine but try to ensure the audience does not get too rowdy or interrupt the show.

Make some noise
Karen and Lorraine work together, so the show is promoted on both of their social channels plus the A-board outside the pub.