“I can open and close sections of my brain at will”, explains a straight faced Derek Ogilvie. It is a conviction matched only by my scepticism.
Mr Ogilvie has intrigued me ever since I happened upon his television show, The Baby Mind Reader, a few years ago on Channel 5. Essentially Mr. Ogilvie claims that he can communicate with A) Babies B) The dead. As such people’s reaction to Derek is one of extremes, to some he is a godsend while to the majority of society he is a delusional crack pot.
Standing outside a generic West End pub Derek is dressed in casual jeans and a t-shirt and as our photographer decides on a suitable location for a quick shoot we chat about our jobs, student/supermarket for me, mind reading for him. We take our seats in the corner, far away from the Wedding reception that is being organised near the main door.
“I lived in Glasgow for many years during the 1990s and owned a few bars and a club”, begins a calm and mild mannered Derek. “However, I went Bankrupt in 2000 and within a few weeks I went from driving a Rolls-Royce to not being able to afford a bus.” A man who went bankrupt and then claims to be able to read minds? My sceptic sense is tingling.
“People are quick to say that a person who goes bankrupt and then becomes a successful psychic is using his claim as a way to make money yet I have only started to make money recently and I have been doing this for years. Furthermore, since the age of nine I knew I could speak to the spirit world so for me this was nothing new. But I also live in the real world and I know that the majority of people do not believe in people like me, they think that we are liars or delusional.”
It is obvious that Derek is no fool and the manner in which he speaks reflects a guarded mistrust – the understandable attitude of a man lampooned by many a media hack. As he explains how he came to terms with what he describes as his “ability to communicate with spirits and infants”, I realise that regardless of my beliefs, Derek appears to be utterly convinced of his.
“I realised I could communicate with small children in roughly 2002, though I did not think it was a big deal as I was learning and I did not fully understand the significance at the time. Then I started to think that I had lost the plot. Am I really getting this information from a child?”, continues Derek without a trace of sarcasm as his wide-eyed passion continues to duel with my disbelief. “Yet, as time went on I realised that I could use this ability to help families. If people do not believe in me I say look at the results and hopefully they will understand that I must come from some connection I have with a child or the relatives of the dead, how else would I know these things?”
As Derek speaks he sits back and sips his lemon tea and stares over to the wedding reception that is gradually filing into the cordoned off section of the pub. The fancy hats seem to mock the seriousness of Derek’s claim and I begin to conclude this may be the most bizarre morning of my adult life. “What is it like when you read the mind of a baby?” I ask.
“I fully believe that babies can read the minds of their parents and as I have said I can open and close sections of my brain at will”, replies Derek. “So I am able to enter what I describe as a dream state. I get pictures in my head and I see little movies, as if I am in the child’s head looking out through its eyes but I also get pains in my body. I combine theses sensations to build a picture of what is going on in the child’s mind.”
Perhaps he senses that I am not convinced but Derek is keen to stress that he has visited prominent American doctors and is in fact the proud owner of an extremely rare brain that has only been previously encountered in two elderly Buddhist Monks. Intrigued I ask him what the condition is called but he is unsure but assures me he will email me a full explanation – three weeks have passed; I am still waiting.
“Sometimes I do not get it right”, he concedes. “Sometimes I fail to communicate effectively to the parents and I do not always know what the child or the spirit is saying. However I do my best to give concrete readings that are unique and specific.” As a man who also claims to be able to liaise with ‘the spirit world’ I inquire how such a feat is possible and what such an ordeal feels like emotionally.
After a long pause he informs me that it requires a massive level of concentration. “It is hard to put that into words”, he says as he pauses again and rubs his face, clearly straining to convey this most uncommon of experiences. “This is a really hard question”, he continues. “You are totally at the mercy of the spirit so you have to depress your sensory perceptions and open up your sixth sense. They appear as spirits but I can only describe them as looking a bit like the cloaked creature from the movie Predator, though I can see what would have looked like in my head and understand their message.
The concept of a Predator-like spirit telling Derek intimate and sometimes disturbing secrets evokes the mental image of a self-righteous hybrid of Jeremy Kyle and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even more bizarrely, I am now aware that I think Derek is a genuinely nice guy; surely a psychic is only out to get your money? As I sit and digest my new found confusion Derek describes how his inability to come to terms with his homosexuality suppressed his psychic abilities for many years. “It was only once I was happy and comfortable with me that I was able to focus my energy to a level where I could perform successful readings.”
“I have also been doing really well in Holland”, he assures me. “My television show is becoming one of the most watched in the country but I have also been touring, my new show is due to be released soon on DVD and I am busy preparing for my new series”, continues Derek, “so I am very thankful to God for the success I have had”. Having done my research he is certainly something of a big deal to many of our Dutch cousins.
Still unconvinced of his claim and somewhat concerned that he may be indulging in the famous psychic practice of duping the emotionally vulnerable I begin to favour the simple solution. Perhaps when one is evaluating claims of psychic ability, or anything else that is virtually impossible to prove, it is best to leave the verdict up to those directly affected. As adults of sound mind his clients have willingly entered into an agreement with this man. The variables which see such an agreement enacted are as diverse as the problems Derek claims to have solved, yet these adults appear to leave in a happier state than when they arrived and as of yet no one has taken him to court.
Accordingly, I leave with a mixed taste in my mouth, a blend of the delicious full Scottish breakfast he so generously treated me to and a tangy flavour which disagrees with my sceptical pallet; what does Derek’s success say about society?