Seances, trances and channelling the dead may be a fun way for some of us to celebrate Halloween. But for Gordon Ellison, it's all in a night's work. Gordon's a friend of mine, as average as they come. He's married, a dad and has a day job with the government.
He's also a psychic medium.
That's right. In Hollywood parlance, he sees dead people.
We met seven or eight years ago, when I was a reporter at our local newspaper and had been assigned the annual Halloween feature.
Gordon and I first met during a bizarre phone conversation which involved a young girl with a ponytail, a tall ginger man and a horse, a white house with a tree in front and a whole lot of confusion on my end. It was brought to us by the letters M and B.
It's too long a tale to tell, but suffice it to say, it was strange enough to pique my interest in doing the story.
In a break with conventional protocol, he came to my home for our interview and within a moment of stepping inside, promptly declared me the girl in the ponytail. Then he told me the ginger man with the horse was somewhere in my house.
Having someone inform you that you bear a striking resemblance to a spirit, and that there are dead people hanging about you and your family in your home is a disconcerting experience, to say the least.
Then again, to say Gordon's a fascinating guy would be an understatement, too.
He's seen spirits walking among us since he was a child. His gift, as he describes it, was amplified following a near-death experience when he was 26, the year, he says, when the spirits who had talked to him since childhood advised him he would die.
In the 20 or so years since, Gordon's learned a lot about human nature and himself from the spirits he sees and hears. They're as much a part of him as his blue eyes, black hair and Aboriginal heritage.
A couple of nights before All Hallow's Eve we sat down over tea to chat about living his life among the dead, what it's like to see what others don't and how to avoid being cheated by charlatans.
He totally gets why skeptics would say he's full of crap -- that dead people are dead and there is no afterlife. He's something of a skeptic himself. "But it's not my job to convince people what I see or hear is real. It's my job to be as truthful as possible."
Is it strange to have random spirits just pop up alongside you and send messages for people?
"I see a woman and then her dead mother appears and starts talking to me and sending a message," he says. "How am I going to go and tell her something like that?"
"Psychics just want to be psychics," he says. "This is not a business of fame. You can't see the dollar signs in this business. It can't be for money. If you want to hurt people, if you want to take away their heart or put fear in them, you do it for the money."
Are spirits everywhere?
"Yeah. You want to see spirits? Forget the graveyard. Go to the mall at Christmastime. They're everywhere. They like being around other people. "
If they're everywhere, do you get messages from them every day, for random strangers?
"(The way Theresa Caputo gives messages to everyone she meets on Long Island Medium) gives the impression that they're always there, waiting for you at the corner," he says. "They're not."
Can a psychic still be scared?
"Absolutely." On the weekend before Halloween, Gordon held a two-night session at one of Canada's most haunted locations, Bertie Hall in Fort Erie, Ontario. In its nearly 200-year history, it has been a grand manor, a safehouse along the Underground Railway and, most recently, a museum filled with ornate (and somewhat creepy) doll houses.
A number of bizarre things happened that night that left Gordon, his wife, and the people participating in the paranormal investigation and séance, shaking.
Is everyone psychic?
"Everyone has some psychic ability. It's a matter of knowing whether they are awake (receptive to their abilities) or asleep and want to develop it."
What's the deal with kids and the dead?
"Kids are very prone to still being awakened," he says. "It makes sense, because kids are looking for a place to fit, and to understand someone is out there."
So, if you're psychic, why can't you pick the lottery numbers?
"It's not about hidden money or jewellery or lottery numbers. There is no 'wow' factor in this. It's about 'aha moments.'"
He offers this advice to people who want to see a medium:
- If someone has passed, wait at least six months before going to a psychic or a medium.
- You wouldn't hire a contractor without references. If you want to see a psychic, ask friends who have been about their experience.
- Go open-minded, without expectations. Sometimes, your mom doesn't want to talk to you from beyond. Or she's there, but your great-uncle chimes in as the family spokesman.
- Keep in mind a psychic is human. They are not gurus.
- If you're not comfortable when you're there, get up and leave.
- Don't believe everything you hear. Take it with a grain of salt. If you're looking to be convinced, go someplace else.
Check out Gordon at his website.