Thursday night and almost every seat in the Alban Arena is taken.
It might sound unusual, given that it’s mid-week, but that’s the draw Sally Morgan, psychic to the stars, appears to have on the general public.
The television personality, medium and author rolled into St Albans as part of her UK-wide tour “Psychic Sally on the Road”, promising to deliver personal messages from the other side.
She’d be acting, she said, as a “118 service” between the living and deceased.
But is it all a load of crystal balls?
In recent months the name Sally Morgan has become synonymous with one word. Earpiece.
Claims circulated in national newspapers that Sally was indeed hearing voices, not from the spirit world, rather she was being fed information by her entourage behind the scenes.
Despite strong denials to the contrary – “her headset is a one-way device”, sceptics remain doubtful of her abilities.
But with sold-out dates, this view isn’t shared by her die-hard fans, who have shelled out £24.50 each (not including booking fees), hoping that the 60-year-old will have a message from a deceased loved one.
Proceedings started with a video showing Sally in action at previous performances. Cutaways are made to past audience members astounded by the psychic’s talents.
When a noticeably slimmed-down Sally does appear on stage, the weight of expectation hangs heavy in the air.
“Irene” she says. “Does the name Irene mean anything to anyone?”
Silence. Until one woman in the audience recalls an Eileen.
A camera zooms in on said spectator’s face, and she’s projected on-screen for everyone to see.
Irene is forgotten and momentarily Eileen appears to do the trick. That is until Sally warns to look out for Ron.
Who’s Ron? Well apparently he’s the audience member’s uncle.
The show continues in a similar vein, Sally throwing out names or pieces of information and spectators come forward hoping a message will be communicated.
The vision of a child bouncing past, which from Sally’s hand movements you would assume is a toddler, suddenly becomes an 11 year-old boy who died in a car accident.
And that barely scratches the surface, for as the show continues, proceedings take a sinister turn.
Grieving women who have lost children and babies to fire, cot death, miscarriage and much more all stand, when Sally proffers the smallest nugget of information that could relate to them.
You can’t help but feel uneasy, not at people’s loss, but this overriding impression that their desperation is being exploited.
Some would argue that what Sally is doing is cathartic; she’s using her “gift” to provide solace for those grieving.
Yet, she is making money off the back of people’s sorrow. It’s not just the tour, there are books, a subscription-only newsletter, a television show, there’s even a psychic hotline – all of which were advertised on the night.
Prior to the performance, audience members were able to leave messages and photos of deceased loved ones in the lobby. Sally would pick items at random and relay responses from the other side.
Of the bundle I saw, only one photo and message were selected – disappointing for those who had hoped to be picked, particularly as the photos wouldn’t be returned.
And what of the chosen two? Well, the information relayed was at best vague.
This ambiguity was a recurring theme, not much of what was said was actually correct. Instead it seemed to be the ramblings of a woman shouting out a series of common names. Doesn’t everyone know someone called John Francis? Or John and Francis? Or John, or Francis?
But that’s not to say that occasionally Sally didn’t strike lucky.
She was able to tell one woman about a secret nickname and was able to recall the names of an uncle, former boyfriend and employer of another audience member.
To this, Sally herself seemed amazed, exclaiming: “See, where is a journalist when you need them?
“They’re never in the audience when it goes right.”
Says it all really, doesn’t it.