Derek Acorah (1950– ) is one of Britain’s most famous contemporary Mediums. Derek Acorah is the psychic star of the international television program Most Haunted and the author of several books about his life with spirits. Acorah says that his message of Survival After Death consoles the bereaved and relieves their minds about the loss of loved ones. His critics contend, however, that Acorah uses mentalist techniques.
Born Derek Johnson on January 27, 1950, he was the youngest of three children. (Derek says that “Acorah” is a Dutch name affiliated with his father’s family.) The children and their mother lived with their maternal grandmother in the Bootle section of Liverpool, England, since their father was a merchant seaman and rarely in port. Acorah was a child when he had his first encounter with the dead. One day while running down the stairs of his grandmother’s three-story Victorian home, he encountered an older man who tousled his hair and spoke to the boy as if he knew him. When Acorah reported the incident to his mother and grandmother, his grandmother helped him identify the man as his late grandfather, Richard. His grandmother, a psychic, predicted that the boy was the “next one,” or the child selected to carry on the family’s gift.
But Acorah had other plans. His dream was to be a professional “footballer,” or soccer player, and for many years he played with the Wrexham Football Club, the Liverpool Football Club, and the Glentoran Football Club of Northern Ireland. He finished his soccer career playing for the USC Lion of the South in the Australian Football League. After returning to England, he and his first wife, Joan, divorced. They had one son, Carl.
Acorah’s return coincided with the discovery of his spirit guide, a 2,000-year-old Ethiopian warrior named Sam, and his decision to make Mediumship his life’s work. Through past-life regression, Acorah learned that Sam’s real name was Masumai, and he had tried to save Acorah from an attack by members of another Ethiopian tribe when the boy was nine, two millennia ago. The guide took the name Sam, which seemed more appropriate when he knew that Acorah would be a white man in a European country.
Once Acorah decided to share his psychic gift with the world, he began doing readings for friends, then expanded his audience to include small spiritualist congregations, radio appearances, large theatre/auditorium performances, and finally television. He remarried in the early 1990s, and his second wife, Gwen, took an active role in the expansion of Acorah’s work. His first TV experience was on Livetime from Granada Breeze network, followed by Predictions with Derek Acorah. Both shows were hits for Granada Breeze but were cancelled when Granada folded its Breeze subsidiary into the main broadcaster.
In July 2000, former child star Yvette Fielding, who had received credit for her work on Blue Peter and City Hospital, and her producer/husband Karl Beattie approached Acorah about doing a show in haunted locations around the United Kingdom. Besides Acorah, Fielding, and Beattie, the crew would include an astrologer, an anthropologist, a parapsychologist, and a medical doctor. Intrigued, Acorah agreed, and was the resident medium, leading his band of ghost hunters to haunted castles, ancient Tudor residences reputed to have hosted Henry VIII or his beheaded wife Anne Boleyn, and ruined monasteries. Acorah appeared on Most Haunted for six seasons. TV critics praised the show’s first three seasons for the use of spectacular editing and special effects. Medium Gordon Smith replaced Acorah in season seven.
Acorah’s other television ventures included one season of a play on the successful Antiques Road Show, called Antiques Ghost Show, which featured Acorah using Psychometry (the ability to divine information about a person by holding an object that person owned or used); Most Haunted Live, wherein the audience got to view the cast’s reactions to spooky goings-on in real time; and Celebrity Most Haunted, where Acorah and company visited haunted houses owned by famous people.
In addition to television, radio, and theatre appearances, Acorah has written four books: The Psychic World of Derek Acorah: Discover How to Develop Your Hidden Powers (2003); The Psychic Adventures of Derek Acorah (2004); Ghost Hunting with Derek Acorah (2005); and Most Haunted: The Official Behind-the-Scenes Guide with Yvette Fielding (also 2005).
In 2005, sceptical parapsychologist Ciaran O’Keeffe attempted to expose Acorah of inaccuracies and researching sites in advance. The British communications regulator Ofcam examined both Most Haunted and Most Haunted Live and concluded that the programs were not in violation of the Broadcasting Code because they were entertainment programs, not legitimate investigations into the paranormal. Acorah, whose reputation as a medium remained intact, stayed out of the debate.
- Acorah, Derek. Ghost Hunting with Derek Acorah. London: HarperElement, 2005.
- ———. The Psychic Adventures of Derek Acorah. London: HarperElement, 2004. BBC News.
- “Ghost Show Cleared of Deception.” Available online. URL: https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/ 4500322.stm. Downloaded February 19, 2006.
- James Randi Educational Foundation. “Derek Revealed— Again.” Swift, the online newsletter of the JREF, November 11, 2005. Available online. URL: https://www.randi.org/jr/ 200511/111105derek.html. Downloaded January 25, 2006.
- Roper, Matt. “Spooky Truth: TV’s Most Haunted Con Exposed TV.” Mirror.co.uk, October 28, 2005. Available online. URL: https://www.mirror.co.uk/printable_version.cfm?objectid= 16303507&siteid=94762. Downloaded November 16, 2005.
- Wood, Rick. “Most Haunted . . . Dead.” CSICOP: Committee for the Scientifi c Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Available online. URL: https://www.csicop.org/ specialarticles/mosthaunted.html. Downloaded January 25, 2006.