Exploring the psychic world
with Hay House authors

Gordon Smith has demonstrated over the years his ability to understand and communicate with the spirit realm, and has often been asked, 'What are ghosts?' Below, he gives his account of what ghosts are, how you can be aware of their presence and what kinds of messages you can expect from the other side.

What are Ghosts?: Why They Come Back by Gordon Smith

Through My Eyes

People often ask me why a lot of the messages the Spirits choose to pass on are so personal, and sometimes full of trivial bits of information, when they could be giving us next week's lottery numbers or the answer to that old chestnut about the meaning of life instead. The fact is that the chief purpose of those conversations with the other side is to reassure us about life after death. They have to convince us that they are still conscious and not only that they still have memories full of the tiny details and secrets of our lives on earth together but also that they are aware of what is happening to us now.

To this end they offer up scraps of information about illnesses they know we've endured since their passing, or even the fact that we've changed the wallpaper in the bathroom. They can give us precise dates or addresses, or describe a scene from the previous day. Usually messages this intricate come via mediums, but there are many ways that the Spirits use to communicate, and they certainly don't need a medium to do it.

How can I tell if ghosts are around me?

I feel that everybody is clairvoyant and in theory open to word from Spirit. We've all got a sixth sense and should use it, although it might take a bit of development. If you are aware of Spirit they will be able to reach you directly as you are, without the middleman. You may choose to see a medium at some point, but don't think that they are your only chance to hear from a loved one.

I have always tried to explain to people that when a Spirit person comes close to us we experience a sense of something strange, a feeling which tells us that something different is happening around us. The feeling of a Spirit being close to us is different from anything our mind can create and the feeling leaves us in no doubt that what we have received has touched our very soul.

Spirits can use the full range of human senses to reach us – sight, smell, touch, sound, even the sensation of taste. Spirits make themselves known to us in our dreams too, and when we're daydreaming – those times when we're a little spaced-out and out of focus.

In that state of mind we make room for our Spirit friends to get near to us as we open up and allow them in. The barriers created by 'being logical' and analysing our thoughts are down, and we're receptive to their messages. The trouble is when we snap to and try to write off the experience as wishful thinking. 'Of course I dreamt about him,' we think. 'I miss him; but that can't mean that he was actually there.' We'd rather think our subconscious was playing tricks on us or even that we were hallucinating than believe that our loved ones have been close to us.

For some, the creeping idea that maybe that was a communiqué from the other side provokes them to take steps to finding a medium. Others get signs that repeat themselves many times and become more and more persistent. When they are impossible to ignore, the recipient is often quick to find a good Spiritualist church in order to find out what on earth the other side has to say to them so urgently.

One of the best things that can happen in a sitting is that the message that I pass on to the living relative explains another experience that they've already had, and therefore confirms that their loved one has been in touch with them from the other side. For example, I once gave a reading to a girl whose brother had passed into Spirit following a car crash when he was travelling in Australia.

Partway through the sitting he suddenly said, 'Tell her it was me who gave her the coins' – which of course made no sense to me whatsoever. The expression on his sister's face told me that – if you'll forgive the pun – the penny had dropped. She grinned broadly and we went on with the session as her brother gave her more and more evidence and messages.

Afterwards we chatted and she told me all about the coins. It turned out that since her brother's death she had been finding stashes of Australian coins everywhere – in her car, her house, in different handbags and coats. They were real enough, and she couldn't work out where they were coming from, as her brother was the only person she knew who'd been to Australia.

Her brother was letting her know that he was still around and he only needed me as a medium to corroborate that for her, as of course I had no idea about what had been going on. That instant when she realized that her brother had been hiding the coins for her also reconnected the pair because now the sister knew that the bond between them had not been broken. Accepting that the link between them was still open meant that she had not lost her brother at all.

This kind of benevolent 'magician's trick' of making little objects appear in unlikely places is by no means common. Instead it seems that most often the departed use their family's and friends' dreams to communicate with them. Sadly those left behind usually have these vivid dreams in the immediate aftermath of the death, and because they are beside themselves with grief they dismiss them out of hand.

I knew a lady called Margaret Alexander who had been recently widowed and repeatedly dreamed of her husband. He'd be younger, and he always took her dancing, quite as they had in the early days of their marriage. She always woke up the next day feeling elated or even with laughter on her lips, only to be hit with the cold, dawning realisation that the man she had loved for so long was not with her any more. She was extremely rational about this and tried to put it out of her mind, only for the dream to recur, and the cycle of joy and disappointment made her sadder still.

Eventually she attended a Spiritualist church and a medium gave her a message from her husband, who protested that he didn't like the fact that she was doubting these experiences when he had put so much energy into creating them. For him it was a time when they could be together, and he could bring a smile back to her face. When Margaret understood this she was transformed, and the knowledge that the dance was real helped to lift her out of deep sorrow.

Sometimes the meaning of a dream can be less clear and takes a bit of figuring out. At a public demonstration I gave in America I gave a woman a message about a dream she had had. Her father came through to say that he had appeared to her as fit as a flea and skipping around like a mad thing, and that she found this more than a little nutty, as you would. After looking nonplussed for a second she confirmed that it was true, she had had that dream, and now that she thought about it she supposed he'd been trying to remind her of the way he'd been before his final, debilitating illness.

She'd been upset because she thought the way he was acting meant he'd somehow lost his marbles in the Spirit world, so she had ruled the dreams out as a mere quirk of her imagination. Hearing the message from her father at the demonstration changed her mind and she saw it all in another light. When she was a child her dad would mess around and act goofy to make her and her sister laugh – something she'd long since forgotten. Now she knew that her father had only been doing what he always did to cheer her up – clowning around.

Those in the Spirit world frequently communicate with their loved ones in ways which can seem awfully vague, yet when the Spirit has a chance to use a medium to reach their relatives they can confirm the message. Nine times out of ten they time these 'visits' to happen when the person left behind is at a particularly low point in life. They will make every effort to come through and if their relatives dismiss one attempt, they'll try again or look for another way in.

Creating a certain characteristic aroma is one of the most evidential ways a Spirit can use to identify themselves. It takes a great effort by the Spirit person to rearrange the very molecules of air around their loved one and those who've experienced the phenomenon have described it to me as a very intense experience that couldn't possibly have been imagined by them.

I once gave a private sitting to a mother and daughter who had lost Joe, the father of the family. For months after his death they would both smell cigar smoke in their home, and sometimes the whiff of strong, fresh coffee. A coffee and a smoke had been Joe's favourite indulgences, and neither his widow nor his daughter had had them in the house since his passing.

I didn't know this or anything else about them when I began the session, and they cracked up when the first thing I said was that I was picking up the scent of cigars. Then the smell changed and I got coffee instead, and they laughed even harder. They knew for certain then that Joe was proving that he was still the man about the house, and it lifted their moods and reminded them of good times.

Naturally what people want most of all is to see an actual materialisation of the departed, or to hear their voice one more time. Both are high aims, and would cost a Spirit a great deal of effort to recreate. There have been cases of Spirits wholly or partially materialising, and they don't appear as shimmering visions or holograms but as fully three-dimensional beings. They're not lit up in some spooky kind of way but appear in the same light as their surroundings. The living person experiences them as being in the same physical room, not merely as mental images.

I'm not sure that this kind of miraculous occurrence is something to wish for, though. My friend, the great medium Albert Best once saw a vision of his wife and children who had all been killed years before in the Second World War, and when acquaintances remarked that surely that had been a wonderful thing he could only shake his head. To him their apparition had been so vivid that when it faded it felt as though he had lost them all over again – a devastating experience.

Allowing spirits into your life

You do need to be open-minded and receptive to let such messages come to you, but sometimes there is such a thing as trying too hard. When I was taking part in a development group at an early stage of my career there was a woman in the group who would see a small ball of light, just out of the corner of her eye every time she thought of her mother in the Spirit world. As soon as she turned her head to look at it head-on, it would vanish.

She complained to our mentor Mrs Primrose about how frustrating this was and Mrs P explained what was going on. She said that this was the mother's way of getting her daughter's attention and the chink of light would appear every time she queried whether her mum was still with her. When she strained round to see the manifestation it didn't disappear at all, but remained at the side of her vision, slightly out of focus.

There was no way of seeing it in full focus because it didn't exist there, so she would be no closer to sensing her mother's presence. Mrs Primrose advised her to relax and let the phenomenon be as it was – that was the only way she would learn to trust a message from the other world. If she constantly wanted it repeated and enlarged, she was only fuelling her own doubts and demanding more proof. This in turn closed down her awareness of her mother's presence and was making her gloomy as she thought she had lost her after all.

One of the hardest types of message to accept is what we call 'impressions' made by Spirit, which the receiver experiences as a strong urge to do something or an overwhelming sensation that the lost loved one is there with them – a sort of sudden emotional warmth and uplift. Because they are not visual or 'spelt out' by one of our senses but have to be felt instead, it can be hard to distinguish them.

As a medium I have had to learn to understand what are things impressed on my mind by a Spirit and what are merely my own thoughts and projections based on the desire to help people who are grieving. The best way to understand this is to guess what the purpose of the message was, as there is always a good reason that Spirits make the effort to cross the vale.

If it's something trivial like whether you should have a haircut or not, I doubt there's any Spirit involvement. The information you think you're being given by the departed should lie within the bounds of common sense and relate to truly important matters in your life. I'm not saying that Spirits don't impress thoughts on us just for the sake of it, but I'm dubious of a lot of the tales about a departed one hitching a lift on a loved one's life, as it were. It's more likely to be the overactive imagination of the living person.

It is true that our bond with departed loved ones is not broken, and that we can turn to them in times of trouble, but I get very uncomfortable when I hear about Spirits apparently dogging every step of their loved ones on earth. I get very sceptical. I once had a chat with an elderly gentleman who told me that although his wife had died over twenty years previously, she was with him constantly.

She told him what to wear and when to clean the house. She also gave him directions as he drove. I asked him if this Spirit satellite navigation always got him to his destination and he confided to me that actually, his dear departed wife had got it wrong recently, and sent him into a ditch on a dark night. He'd been pretty angry with her then, but had decided that she was teaching him a lesson because he hadn't listened earlier that day when she'd told him what to eat.

To me it was obvious 'she' wasn't a Spirit – Spirits seek to comfort and heal us, not boss us about and smack our wrists. This henpecking was self-inflicted as a way of papering over the great sadness he had felt, and still felt, at her death. There is a great difference between true Spirit intervention and the self-delusion that people create from loneliness or a severed emotional attachment, but it's rarely clear to the afflicted.

He was haunting himself, and I thought he could be happier if I brought a bit of common sense to the situation. This had to be delicately done, as clearly her 'voice' was a cornerstone of his life, though if 'she' kept giving duff directions like that he wasn't going to be around much longer!

I asked him to tell me when he first noticed the Spirit of his wife and he told me how at first he simply heard her voice talking to him just as she had done in life. Then she would come to him whenever he had to make the sort of decisions they had always discussed as a couple. He was still in the first few weeks of his grief and all he needed to do was talk to her and she'd respond in his head.

After this she began to take over his thinking and when he was alone she would sometimes even speak through him. I asked him if he had ever had an experience with his Spirit wife where he felt elated and lifted in a healing way and he told me he couldn't remember anything like that. Instead he said he had always felt exhausted after her visits. This told me the whole case was nothing to do with Spirit.

I also quickly worked out that he didn't want any explanation from me about the real situation and that whatever I suggested, his mind was made up. It was his darling wife who would not let him go and not the other way round. He had spent twenty years elaborately creating this scenario and there was nothing I could do to unravel it in the short space of time I had without sending him into shock at losing 'her' all over again. He needed counselling, but I doubted he'd ever seek it. He was certainly in his own realm of reality now.

Often people who get caught up in this kind of fantasy are merely afraid to let go in case they lose contact altogether, but that's not possible. Frequently they think that by clinging to their lost one they are preventing their progression in the Spirit world, but that's also impossible as I've made clear. Ironically, they are holding themselves back because their grief does not evolve and become easier to cope with, but has been swept under the carpet and denied instead.

Those in the Spirit world would never set out to cause such an imbalance in our minds, and would probably not manifest themselves if they believed doing so could lead their loved one into delusion. If a mind does not know itself, the Spirit cannot begin to get through to the person and transmit their true message of compassion or healing.

They are very sensitive to what we need and know when the time is right for their grieving relatives to feel their presence around them, and when it will only cause them more sorrow. There is a natural law in the Spirit world which often prevents them from coming back to us because it is understood on the other side that their doing so might hold us back instead of assisting us. It was unlikely that the wife of the gentleman with the 'Spirit' satellite navigation would actually visit him, as in his confusion he might have taken her arrival as confirmation that he'd been right to listen to the false voice for so long.

Word from Spirit should not become a crutch for those living in the world nor an oracle to be consulted every time we have difficulty making up our minds. That kind of notion would take away the true purpose of Spirit communication and devalue it for those who have already been given help.

Understanding synchronicity

It's common for Spirits to combine mental impressions with what I'd call 'synchronicity'. This is essentially a pattern of coincidences that seems too significant to be random and can take all manner of forms. Perhaps when you're having one of those sudden lows that seem to come out of nowhere and start missing your loved one intensely, you are aware that 'your' song will start playing on the radio, or a snatch of it will blast out of the window of a passing car.

A friend of mine who lost her mother missed her desperately and one day shortly after her death she was sitting alone in her living room weeping as she'd done many times in the last few weeks. Inwardly she was desperately begging her mum for a sign, when the phone rang and made her start. She picked it up but after a short chat the woman at the other end realized she'd got the wrong number and rang off. For no particular reason Jackie dialled 1471 to see who had called and realized with a shock that the woman had phoned her from her mother's old number.

It could be a freak coincidence or it could be synchronicity – just Jackie's ma's way of getting in touch. Jackie chose not to be hard on herself and pass it off as chance, but understood that her mum had been somehow tinkering with the switchboard from the other side. I think most of the letters I receive from readers are looking for confirmation that this type of phenomenon really is word from their loved ones – and I expect that there are as many ways of getting that hint across as there are Spirits.

Those who claim to have experienced such a happening want it to be their Spirit person more than anything and very often I would have to conclude that it could well be them. It is, however, a little unhealthy to believe that radio DJs pick out their play lists solely because they're influenced by Spirits on the other side or that every twinge in your ankle means that Aunt Doris is trying to tell you you'll fall over next week. It's more likely that you're wearing the wrong shoes, and then you probably will take a tumble.

There's another dimension to synchronicity, and that's that in my experience it is always exactly the right time for the best messages to come through to a loved one. By this I mean that the sitter must be in the right mental state to hear the message, and not too distraught to accept it straightforwardly. If we leave it to the Spirit to judge that the time is right for those words of comfort to come through, they tend to be more accurate and more healing. Getting the moment right involves a synchronisation of a whole chain of events that plays out either for the sitter or myself, or sometimes even for both of us and a bunch of other people too!

I always remember a lady called Jenny who had asked me if she could have a private sitting a few days after her father had passed over. I immediately felt that I had to say no – it wasn't that I was too busy or didn't want to help, but more as though I was getting a strong signal from Spirit that I shouldn't. A short time later Jenny appeared in my salon and asked me again. Once more I said no, as I didn't think the time was right. Nothing from Spirit was coming through, but I experienced instead the sensation that my mind was emptying, as though I couldn't think of anything at all just after she'd asked. I felt awful, but had to be honest as the sitting would have been a mere charade if nobody on the other side had anything to say.

About six months later I went on a cruise on the Mediterranean with my friend for a nice relaxing holiday. It was only our second night on board when I did a double take and all but rubbed my eyes – Jenny was standing next to me in her uniform. She was a stewardess on the boat. It was a new posting and she'd joined the ship only the previous day. We greeted each other and laughed about the coincidence, and went our separate ways.

The next day, however, I caught up with her on one of the decks and arranged for her to have a sitting when she was next off duty and I'd finished sunning myself. I no longer had that mental blank, and knew that her father wanted to come through, which he did almost as soon as we sat down for the session. He described lots of important things that had happened to his family since his death, which he could never have given as proof if we'd talked the first time Jenny came to see me.

He said that his wife had just come through an operation to remove her breast and the cancer that lay within. He told Jenny that he was standing beside his wife all through her operation and even gave her the exact name of the surgeon who had performed the procedure. The most important thing to my mind was that he said he would not have come through earlier as he could not tell Jenny anything positive and hopeful as he knew that his wife would have this diagnosis.

Now that she was recovering and Jenny was back at work he could comfort them and share with them the joy he wanted them to understand he was experiencing in Spirit now that he was free from all the physical pain he had endured when he was in his body. He ended by passing news to his daughter about her mother and a private little message that he said would give her hope for the rest of her life.

That was enough for Jenny and she didn't ask me for any more readings. When we bumped into each other on the ship we chatted and she told me she was completely convinced that her father had staged everything and when she'd called her mother she'd agreed that he was somehow behind everything. I told her that she was just one of many whose loved ones on the other side knew best when to deliver a message and that I couldn't force them to do it if they had other plans.

Only Spirits really know when the time is right and, indeed, if it will serve any purpose. By allowing myself to trust the Spirit I've been shown more times than not that when there is a message for someone, that message will reach them by hook or by crook. Sometimes the timing is dramatic in the extreme, and it can be life- saving. Albert Best had an astonishing story about this.

He'd been on a long trip to India and returned to his little flat in Glasgow two days later than expected – something had muddled up his travel arrangements. He'd only been home for a few minutes and hadn't even started to unpack when there was a knock on the door. He opened it to find a stranger standing outside. When Albert told me the story he said that one look in this man's eyes told him he desperately needed help, and so he didn't hesitate to invite him in and sit him down in the living room.

He sat down opposite him and tuned straightaway into the Spirit world, following a gut feeling that someone needed to reach him as soon as possible.

A woman came through and told Albert that she was the stranger's wife, gave him her name and the fact that she had recently gone over after a long battle with breast cancer. The stranger accepted this information and was eager to know what else Albert could relay. His wife, it seemed, was mainly concerned with his dire emotional state and she said that he was not coping with her death and their son was also in a bad way. After almost an hour of messages she asked Albert to tell the man that he must not take the tablets he had left on the bathroom shelf at home, at which the husband collapsed in tears, saying, 'It was her I heard! She knows! She really knows!'

When she had finished all she needed to say, Albert sat alone with the man for a long time and he told the medium how sick he had been with grief after his wife passed. He'd felt hollow, and not even the thought of his beloved son still living could haul him out of that misery. His doctor had sent him on a course of counselling, but that had had no effect. As a last resort he'd been to a Spiritualist church, hoping against hope that his wife would come through but nothing came of it.

He thought long and hard about his life and earlier on the day he went to see Albert he had sat in the bathroom counting out pills and resolving to take his own life. Out of the blue he heard his wife calling out 'No!' to him as loudly as though she was in the room with him. He was still reeling from the shock when the phone rang and he picked it up to hear a woman he'd met at the Spiritualist church informing him that the highly respected medium Albert Best had returned from a trip to India and that he should try to see him for a private sitting. I don't think she meant he should see him then and there, but the man was so distressed that that was exactly what he did – unknowingly timing his arrival perfectly.

He apologized to Albert for the intrusion but explained that he had made a pact with himself that if it really had been his wife calling out to him then she would be able to talk to him through the medium and prove that she was still alive in Spirit. If nothing came of his attempt to see Albert, then he would go straight home and take those piles of pills to end his suffering. Her voice had been so real to him that he was ready to bet his life on the message.

Albert wouldn't even have been in Glasgow had his return not been delayed – he was supposed to be visiting London but that trip was cancelled when he got back from India late. When Albert first told me the tale I only looked at how consummate his mediumship had been for the names and accurate details he had been able to obtain. Now I look at the work of Spirit in bringing it all about and how events were synchronized to bring this poor man a much-needed healing.

Albert and he became good friends and I later met the man, who has confirmed the story to me. His son also had sittings with Albert and was able to communicate with his mother from time to time. He and his father came to terms with the physical loss of a lady who loved them both so much, but spiritually they now knew in their hearts that she was always with them.

Sometimes the person on the receiving end of a synchronistic experience isn't even looking for a communication in the first place, which doesn't bother the Spirits a bit. In the time that I've been a medium I've always been aware that there are many people out there who, for whatever reason, do not wish to investigate the idea of life after death.

This is entirely their prerogative and I would never foist a reading on someone who really didn't want to hear it. There have only been a few occasions when an unsought message has come through for someone who happened to be in proximity to me at the time, but I always gave them the option of hearing the details or not. As it happens, on each of these occasions the recipient ended up being convinced of the continued existence of their loved one, and was grateful to have heard from them.

Once I took part in a radio interview in London, and when we were done one of the production team was given the task of walking me from the studio to my car. We'd just got into the lift when I heard the voice of a woman in the Spirit world telling me that she was happy. I looked at the young producer standing opposite me and wondered if I should say anything to her. The idea of dishing out this news made me very uncomfortable as I'd rather someone comes to me looking for help. She might be a bit freaked-out to be trapped in a lift with a weird medium telling her the dead wanted a word, too.

Looking for reassurance I sent out a thought to the Spirit person asking who she was and she swiftly replied that she was the woman's mother and her energy was so strong that I blurted out loud, 'Your mother is here and wants you to know she is happy.' The producer looked shocked, but couldn't fight her curiosity. She asked softly if there was anyone with her mother, and I heard a man's voice cut in and say he was her father. When I told the producer her hand shot to her mouth.

She asked only one more question – 'Do they know they have a grandson?' I never even had to relay that to the Spirits – it came right out of my mouth as though her father had spoken through me. 'Yes, we know you have a little boy.' With this the young woman shed a tear and her expression became ecstatic. As the lift door opened she hugged me and said she would never have believed such a thing was possible and that she hadn't thought of going to a medium.

I told her I wasn't in the habit of giving messages to people who don't ask for them but her parents had taken the chance and I followed the impression I got from them. I had to trust the Spirit world and they were, as always, right. She told me that when her son was born a few weeks after her father's death she had experienced a deep sadness that neither of her parents would ever know they had a grandson. The communication was brief, but it told her all she needed to know.

Sometimes synchronicity can be so fluky that it's almost comical and when you factor in more than one 'sensitive', the Spirit-driven plot can lead you on what feels like a wild goose chase, when you're least expecting it. I've written in my previous books about my friend Dronma who is a Tibetan Buddhist and a psychic artist. Synchronicity loves Dronma, and if she phones you up and asks you to follow her on some whim or another, you know something interesting is going to happen.

Recently I had a friend staying with me at my house near Loch Lomond. The scenery is stunning and the weather was holding up well for Scotland, so we thought we'd have a day out in the Trossachs, a national park full of beautiful lochs and glens. I still laugh about this, because I can't believe how hard the Spirits must have been working to bring everything about and get the timing spot-on.

So Dronma phoned from Stirling and said we should meet up and drive in convoy to a special place she felt the need to visit. Now Dronma might be a Buddhist, but she's not some demure, mousey person – she's very intuitive and active in her compassion. Everything gets done on the spur of the moment and I've learned to follow that. When we met up with her that day she announced, 'I'm going to take you to the Wish Tree.' I said, 'Oh, right. Where exactly are we going now?' and she told me to stop asking questions and just follow. So we set off behind her.

Nothing was straightforward about the drive, as it rarely is with Dronma. She had her two huge dogs hopping around in the back of the car making chaos, and she also smokes as she drives – it's the one thing she hasn't been able to renounce for her faith. Food, booze, material goods, yes; but fags, no. We'd gone a few miles when she suddenly stopped and hopped out of the car to rummage in the back. When I asked what was going on she said she thought the cigarette she'd chucked out the window had blown back into the car and might set the dogs on fire. It took a while to check that her fears were ungrounded and they weren't all going to go up in a puff of petrol and dog hair.

Then our little caravan started up again and on we went until we passed a garden centre, and Dronma took a swift right into the car park. 'I saw a dragon,' she said. 'Let's go in and have a look.' Right, I thought, we'll never get to the Wish Tree at this rate. After an hour or so of pottering around the garden statuary section we all piled back into the cars and carried on.

Eventually we arrived at a wood in Aberfoyle, parked the cars and climbed up a hill to a big gnarled oak tree covered in ribbons. People write their wishes on scraps of ribbon and tie them onto the tree, and apparently the fairies will then come and take them away and try to help. It's a very still, calm place with a lovely quiet energy.

We were taking in the atmosphere and admiring the tree when we heard someone approaching. It sounded like a family with children, and this is how spiritual we were feeling that day – we all groaned at the thought that the peace would be shattered! I suppose we still hadn't learned that 'spiritual' isn't necessarily about being terribly reverent and lighting candles and all that.

The family hoved into view, and turned out to be a grandmother and her two grandchildren. She came up to chat and said that she had brought the children to make a wish at the tree because their father had died. She'd told them that the tree was magical and their wishes might well come true.

When the kids had made their wishes they wandered over to where we stood chatting and the grandmother winked at me and said, 'You're magic, aren't you?' and I played along and said, 'Yes, I'm magic.' Then she asked Dronma in turn and Dronma assured the little boy and girl that she was magic too. The girl looked at me very spryly and said, 'Nanna, that's Gordon Smith, that man whose book you're reading.' And her nanna blinked at me and said, 'Oh, my God!'

The girl then asked me about her father and where he was, and I took off the little Mayan calendar I was wearing as a pendant and gave it to her. I told her, 'Whenever you want your daddy and don't feel close to him you should hold this, and then you'll feel him. You may not see or hear him but you'll know he's there.' Her grandmother thanked us and we carried on chatting. She then mentioned that after their father's death she had found some relief from her pain by going on a retreat to a Buddhist temple in the Scottish countryside. She raved about the amazing images painted in the temple and said she really wanted to meet the person who had created them because they had helped her so much, and I grinned and said, 'Well, here she is', as I knew the temple and that its wonderful paintings were the work of Dronma.

By now the synchronicities were piling up so fast there was nothing to do but laugh in astonishment, and we weren't a bit surprised by the time it turned out that the lady had been trying to get tickets to a book reading I was doing and hadn't been able to lay hands on them. We weren't surprised, because of course my visiting friend was my publisher, and she was able to arrange a place for the lady at the reading.

We finally parted ways, and as my party walked off down the hill there was a moment of perfect stillness when we heard the lady say to her grandchildren, 'I told you we'd find magic, and isn't that real magic?' and for a moment that was absolutely what it felt like. I thought, 'Yes, there really is magic, and you don't need to have an apparition or some sort of firework for it to happen.' I hope those kids do believe in magic now, and keep that part of their minds open as they grow. I can't imagine anything more healing for such young people who had suffered such losses so early.

Through My Eyes'What are ghosts?' is an edited extract from Gordon Smith’s
Through My Eyes
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  • Amazing stories from the spirit world
  • Practical advice from one of the UK's top psychic mediums
  • How to bring comfort to the bereaved
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