After meeting journalist Jeremy Evans at the North London Paranormal Investigations event at the Gatehouse in Highgate last October, I gave an interview for his new website ‘Paranormal Lives’ .
The website is a new venture, and has just had a major facelift – well worth a visit.
Here is part 1 of my interview, with part 2 to follow. Thanks to Jeremy Evans for allowing me to reproduce it here.
David Farrant is Co-Founder and President of the British Psychic and Occult Society.
He grew up in Highgate, North London, where he still lives, and quickly gained media attention due to his activities and writings.
In the first of a series of interviews, Jeremy Evans talks to David about the origins of his career.
Q: Could you tell me a bit about how you got into spiritualism and the paranormal?
Well, you know, it’s going to be a long story, so I’ll have to keep it really simple!
I got into it really because of my mother’s involvement. She used to attend a couple of spiritualist churches in North London: in Finchley and Kentish Town. I was greatly influenced by her. In contrast, my father was a businessman, a company director. He didn’t believe in things like that.
But she was very interested in the paranormal; in communicating with spirits, because that’s the whole purpose of spiritualism. She mixed with other people who were involved in it, people from the church. They used to go to each others’ houses for coffee or tea or wine or something like that. So the simple answer is because I came under my mother’s influence.
She died when I was thirteen years old. After that I still kept the interest. I left school at fifteen and I went to seek out friends that had known my mother. All were involved in the field, all interested in things like hypnosis, contacting spirits, unexplained phenomena, all things like that. And that’s gradually how I got the interest. It was there I picked it up and then I just developed it.
Q: When was your first real paranormal experience, your first piece of, as it were, evidence?
The evidence was always there. The house that I was born in, which is still there actually, was in Shepherds Hill in Highgate. It was a huge Victorian house – I mean huge, huge garden and everything. Some years later it came that, in the course of my investigations and developing, I learned about ley lines, and I think the house was situated on such a leyline. And that might be quite significant because a few strange things happened in that house. I don’t like the word ‘haunted’, but there was some presence in that house.
And I actually saw a figure – not that many times, but it had a very deep impression on me. It’s not the type of thing you forget. When you’re a young child – nine or ten – and you see something like that, you just remember it. It was so vivid, and actually so real.
I think I only saw that figure only about three times over the course of a few years. But I saw it distinctly and it would seem to materialise out of one of the walls, and then either disappear through the big bay windows or through another wall. Or sometimes it would walk round the corner where I couldn’t see it, but I always knew it was there. I just sensed it was still there. So I had no doubt from a very early age that there was something, if you like, beyond the material world.
And if I didn’t see that figure, I used to wake up in the early hours of the morning. I’d always be asleep and then suddenly I’d be wide awake. And I just instinctively knew it was present. And if I didn’t see it I would hear a strange voice coming out of the wall. It wasn’t my parents, it wasn’t the room next door, because they were in bed – the whole house was in blackness, in quietness. And there was this really strange, ethereal voice. I couldn’t understand the words, funnily enough; it wasn’t as if I used to get messages. I just heard something talking to me. So I was actually brought up in that atmosphere.
Q: So it wasn’t a question of whether you believed in these things, but of how much you wanted to pursue it?
Yes. I used to tell my mother about these experiences and she was very understanding. She put things differently to me. She told me not to be frightened of these things, that they can’t hurt you. She put it in a way that a young child would understand. She said it’s very rare that these entities can try and harm you, unless you go out of your way to try and call them, or pray to them like you pray to God. She calmed me down.
My father was actually completely the opposite. He wouldn’t accept that I’d actually seen anything; to him I was just having a bad dream. My mother would never talk to me in front of him about it, because his attitude would be “don’t encourage him”, “don’t talk about it”.
Her involvement in spiritualism used to cause a lot of conflict between them. She used to come back from meetings, sometimes very late at night, after having been to the church. So I grew up with that conflict. My father was a very good man, don’t get me wrong – but he wouldn’t accept anything like that.
I think it was just in his nature. I might be wrong but I think when he met my mother – she was a nurse, stationed in London – he was aware of her involvement. He didn’t want to interfere – if people wanted to believe in God he would accept that. He wasn’t an atheist, he was just indifferent. But that was in normal religion: when it overstepped the boundaries as far as he was concerned and went in to spiritualism, and actually involved gathering in churches and using mediums to try and contact spirits, he didn’t really approve of that. But I just felt drawn towards it.