'Are you coming to a lecture?' an inquisitive young man dressed in Georgian clothes asked in his most refined English accent. 'Yes' I replied, stirring the delightful gin cocktail that had been delivered to me just minutes before. He looked at me through his spectacles and left, not before letting out a witty laugh. Later on, after listening to this fascinating talk on paranormal activity and the human mind, I realised Fear and Loathing was not a lecture, but a rather a friendly conversation.
The chemistry between Wiseman and Dyson (which was almost palpable) made the talk enjoyable.
This event is set in an exquisite Georgian house with beautiful furniture, mirrors and chimneys, and fantastic actors (like the one above) who help to get us in the right mood for an unlikely talk. All of us armed with fabulous gin and cucumber juice cocktails, we were introduced to a charismatic and eclectic duo. On one hand there was Richard Wiseman, a paranormal psychologist ('Yes, I study ghosts for a living' he confessed during his introduction), and on the other Jeremy Dyson, a comedian, screenwriter and on this occasion, the author of The Haunted Book, the raison d'etre of this dynamic presentation.
The conversation ensued from the question 'Who here has ever seen a ghost?' In the audience, a young lady retold the story of her encounter with a female presence in her house. She was not terrified, but confused. From here, Wiseman and Dyson took the chance to unfold the various explanations for our ghostly encounters from their point of view; that is, from the eye of a sceptic.
They quoted psychological theories, experiments, showed us ghost photos, ghost cams, and all sorts trickery to bring reason to our paranormal narratives. Certainly the refreshing thing about this talk was that it appealed to the curiosity of the average person (ie, those of us who enjoy a good horror story) and, to keep things interesting, the speakers gave it a scientific and intellectual dimension.
The discussion expanded in all sorts of directions with the help of the audience and Wisemen’s particularly interesting stories on his paranormal investigations around the UK were fascinating to hear. Perhaps a more decisive conclusion on the topic would've been appreciated. At times the speakers’ humorous interjections left us wanting a deeper insight on the scientific side of the topic. However, the chemistry between Wiseman and Dyson (which was almost palpable) made the talk enjoyable all the same.
In the end the event succeeded in creating interesting discussions and bringing reflection, something ideal when you find yourself in such an unconventional venue, with such a peculiar bar, and an eccentric choice of cocktails to keep the conversation going. We are, after all, in the most haunted city in the UK according to Wiseman himself.