ANECDOTES FROM MY PAST
REFLECTIONS ON ALMOST 50 YEARS OF PUBLICITY
Next week it will be 47 years since The Link was first published and I’ve been reminiscing about those early years. I was young, quite naive and just 19-years-old, and nothing could have prepared me for the maelstrom into which I was unwittingly thrown.
Virtually overnight I found myself in almost every newspaper and magazine in this country and around the world - including Paris Match and Time magazine as well as the satirical magazine Private Eye - as tens of thousands of articles were written about me.
On one occasion in late 1974, two men were found rummaging through our waste bin outside. They were a couple of journalists hoping to find a new “exclusive” story whilst poring through our rubbish. I quickly learned that no area of my life was now sacrosanct and some red-top tabloids would stop at nothing in search of a story. It felt like a enormous invasion of privacy but was sadly par for the course once I became ‘public property’.
I was taken unawares by the level of aggressive scepticism towards me from some people. Larry Adler, the mouth organ player, wrote a vicious in a Sunday newspaper, tearing me apart - even though we’d never met and as far as I understood he had neither interest nor experience of psychic phenomena. I was at a loss to comprehend his motive. There were unrelenting attacks by magicians although I quickly realised that these were primarily for their own self-publicity. In retrospect I was incredibly lucky to have had the late Sir David Frost, with whom I did much television work, acting as a kind mentor. “Today’s newspapers carry tomorrow’s fish and chips”, he would tell me. “Don’t worry about anything they write.”
On one occasion I was driving around Hyde Park in London with my mother as a passenger. We were stuck in traffic and my window was wound down when a man on a bicycle pushed his head into the car and began shouting angry abuse at me. Such angry and vitriolic scepticism was not uncommon but I learned after that event to keep my car windows closed.
When you’re in the public eye you become accustomed to inaccurate reporting or false stories. The irony was not lost on me that whilst I was sometimes accused of fraud or lying, those same journalists had no compunction whatsoever in publishing deliberately false or misleading stories. This was decades before we had even heard the phrase “fake news”.
Ironically, one of false stories helped The Link to become a bestseller in America in 1975. I’d been zigzagging the country for three weeks, appearing on TV and radio shows and giving countless Press interviews. One night I’d flown late into a city only to find that my publishers had arranged yet another interview with a journalist whose articles were nationally syndicated. I always had to remain polite no matter how tired I might be.
The journalist asked if I had a girlfriend - a question nobody had previously asked. I replied, perfectly honestly, that I didn’t have time for one. A couple of days later I was mortified by the headline across United States newspapers that pronounced “Psychic Is Not Wasting His Energy On A Sex Life”. The accompanying article bore no relation whatsoever to that late night conversation with the journalist - but it gained huge attention and massively boosted my book sales.
Sometimes there were unexpected and amusing benefits to fame. I once visited a nightclub - probably the first and only time in my life - and the owner had understood that I was a “famous cyclist”! I couldn’t understand why there was a flow of free drinks all night - until I left and hadn’t the heart to put him right.
Fame is wonderful for opening doors to people you might otherwise never have had the privilege of meeting. I’ve had such enjoyment over the decades spending time with musicians whose albums I bought as a youngster, film stars who have told stories never to be repeated that made me hoot with laughter, leading scientists and doctors, deep-thinking visionary writers and novelists, and royalty.
Personally, I cannot imagine why anybody craves fame yet it is now something for which many youngsters seem prepared to sell their soul. It takes away infinitely more than it gives and the pressures are unbelievable. Whilst I never sought it out I sometimes feel fortunate to have survived it as the strain was often immense and unrelenting.
I’ve had an amazing journey through life and like to think that I’ve managed to mostly keep my feet on the ground and to retain some sense of humility. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way - as we all have - but there’s not much that I’d change.
AS MY FIRST BOOK ‘THE LINK’ IS SOON TO BE REPUBLISHED, IT BRINGS BACK MEMORIES
I’m currently working on a new edition of my book The Link, first published in 1974, which will be available in October. With completely new illustrations and photographs and some minor updates, it’s looking wonderful - and bringing back memories for me!
I’ll always remember being given a postal sack of letters that I received shortly after The Link was first published. I’d never seen so many letters and was completely overwhelmed by their sheer number. Amongst them was a rather expensive-looking envelope with lovely handwriting.
It was a charming letter from Lady Browning, also known as the novelist and playwright Daphne Du Maurier, whose books included Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, and The Birds. Her stories have been described as moody and resonant with overtones of the paranormal - hence her immediate interest in The Link. Rather kindly, she told me that I had “the X-factor” - a phrase I’d not heard of before.
In turn she introduced me to one of her Cornish neighbours, the writer Colin Wilson, who invited me to stay for a few days so as to get a break from the relentless media attention. We all wanted to have dinner together but Daphne was unable to join us as she had a house full of grandchildren when I visited. Colin and I shared a similar path of early success as his first book, The Outsider, was published in 1956 when he was just 24-years-old and he too had been subjected to enormous publicity. To this day it has never been out of print and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
He was a prolific writer and by the late 1960s had become increasingly interested in the metaphysical and paranormal, focusing on the cultivation of what he called “Faculty X”. He saw this as something that could lead to an increased sense of meaning, along with abilities such as telepathy and the awareness of energies.
I last saw Colin in 1995 when he was in the audience of the first Beyond Belief show that I co-hosted with Sir David Frost for ITV. He’d been invited by the production team who had no idea that we knew each other. After several years Beyond Belief was replaced on a Saturday night by The X-Factor - that very same phrase that Daphne Du Maurier had used in her letter to me 20 years previously! The irony of these “energetic connections” was not lost on me.
Sadly, Daphne Du Maurier, Colin Wilson, and Sir David Frost have all passed away but I cherish the memories of such wonderful friendships and associations.
FROM MY ARCHIVES: A TOUCHING STORY FROM A HEALING CIRCLE
During this lockdown I’ve been collating boxes full of archive material stretching back decades. I came across this lovely story from the 1990s, from a lady who had taken part in one of my healing circles:
“One year ago today I participated in your healing circle in Kensington. I remember you saying how much you’d welcome feedback and I have been meaning to write for some time.
“I had been trying to have a baby for five and a half years and had almost given up hope when a friend suggested I went to one of your circles.
“During the course of the hour we sat linked together, I had many thoughts. I worked quite hard at constructing positive mental images of people I knew who were ill but then an astonishingly clear picture of myself with a fully pregnant belly, and one even more clear of a wicker cot on which holly leaves were attached just spontaneously came to mind with no effort on my part.
“My husband is half Chinese but has little contact with his family on that side. I found myself conversing with his Grandfather who had long since died and saying how much I wanted to extend the ‘Lee’ family.
“After the session I went to buy bread in a department store. The cashier was Chinese. I signed a cheque with my married name ‘Lee’. He commented that it was his name too. When I said that mine was also from China, he held the queue up and wrote the Chinese characters on the back of the till receipt saying that the ‘Lee’s’ were a very big family.
“Two weeks later I was pregnant. I hardly dared to bring myself to write to you because I couldn’t believe my luck. On November 23rd, exactly nine months after that day in Kensington, our little girl was born. She is absolute heaven and I am totally convinced that this is as a result of your healing circle.
“For this gift I cannot possibly convey enough thanks. To my mind it is also an extraordinary string of events which can be added to what must be a vast collection of similar such anecdotes from people who have had the benefit of your healing.”
THE EVENING I WAS INVITED TO SPEAK IN THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
In 1997 I was invited to talk to the Parliamentary Group for Alternative and Complementary Medicine about healing. The group had been set up in order to try to give legal status to the various different complementary therapies.
Thanks in no small measure to the enthusiasm of David Tredinnick, MP, it had succeeded in getting such protection for acupuncture and osteopathy and was looking to extend it to include other complementary therapies, including healing.
My visit to the Houses of Parliament on 28 October was quite an experience. The committee room was completely packed with a wide cross-section of MPs who had never previously attended the group’s meetings. I was surprised at the high level of interest shown in healing.
After talking about my work I told them about the antagonism towards healing shown by the German authorities. Earlier that year I had been scheduled to do a healing demonstration in Berlin. Upon arrival at the airport I presented my passport which was promptly taken away whilst I was left waiting, without explanation, for a considerable time. I’d obviously been recognised by the advertising and posters for the event. I was eventually allowed entry but presumably only after the relevant authority had been alerted.
When I later reached the venue, I was met by police officers ready with a threat supported by the relevant documents: if I gave a healing demonstration, I would be arrested and the organiser would be fined the equivalent of £20,000. I had no doubt that they would keep their word and the event was cancelled at the last moment. It wasn’t the first time I had run into problems with the police preventing me from demonstrating healing in public in Germany.
In a letter of thanks David Tredinnick sent me a few days after my talk to the parliamentary group, he seemed to have taken my concern seriously:
“Your experiences in Germany gave a stark warning of the threat to healing in this country, which we must address in Parliament, perhaps at some stage in the near future. Certainly it is essential for us to be vigilant concerning all European legislation and Directives.”
It was later brought up in the House of Commons but was of less importance than other EU subjects being debated. The rest, as they say, is now history - although healing still lacks the same legal protection afforded to acupuncture and osteopathy.
THE DAY I HAD TO CHOOSE DIFFERENT MUSIC AT A HEALING CIRCLE ...
In rather strange ways my life has sometimes been entwined with Mike Oldfield’s music. We’re about the same age and come from not dissimilar backgrounds. Finally, in 1996 our paths crossed although the story had begun decades earlier with the release of the horror film ‘The Exorcist’ in 1973.
Some of the scenes in the film were disturbingly reminiscent of the poltergeist activity I’d endured in 1971, including an event when a bed in which a 12-year-old girl was lying began to shake and levitate violently. Mike’s debut album ‘Tubular Bells’ formed much of the soundtrack and launched his career. In the meantime, my first book ‘The Link’ was published in America and I spent three weeks promoting it with coast to coast press interviews.
Time and again I had to endure the sounds of ‘Tubular Bells’ as I made my way on set for another TV chat show. Every producer believed he was the first to have cleverly associated my story with that of ‘The Exorcist’ and thought it would be funny to play the theme tune as I appeared. I rapidly became irritated by it and was unable to ever listen to the album again.
Thankfully, Mike has been prolific over the years so I enjoyed his later work. In late 1994 he released ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’, a concept album based on Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel of the same title. Beautifully crafted it was chilled, restful and relaxing without being boring or lifeless, I listened to it over and over. I also used it during my healing sessions and found that children particularly loved it.
Becoming a little more adventurous, I would sometimes play it during healing circles as it often led participants on a very visual journey to inner and outer worlds.
I planned to use it during a healing circle in London in 1996 and before the event began, as I was meeting and greeting those who were joining me for the healing, Mike Oldfield walked in. For once I was pretty much dumbstruck! Knowing that he would probably not relax particularly well while listening to his own music during a 50-minute healing circle I had to make a last minute change and instead played the album ‘Mandala’ by Kitaro.
Afterwards Mike told me he loved the music - I never told him that my original choice was ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’. But we did have a laugh about my aversion to ‘Tubular Bells’!