Spiritual medium

Born: January 27, 1950;

Died: January 3, 2020.

DEREK Acorah, who has died aged 69, was an English psychic medium and celebrity who gained great public recognition for his role in the programme Most Haunted, the first six series of which he appeared in between 2001 and 2006.

Presented by Yvette Fielding, Most Haunted aired on Living TV and featured a team of paranormal and scientific professionals investigating a different, reputedly haunted, site each week. The show became cult prime-time viewing for those with a belief in the paranormal and casual viewers alike, and Acorah became a household name for both his down-to-earth Lancastrian manner and his impressive commitment to his business.

There were many within and outside of the medium community who doubted the truth of what Acorah did – for a lot of people, their attempted debunking of him was part of the fun of watching Most Haunted – but there’s no doubt that he was a magnetic presence as a performer; a 2004 award from the Variety Club of Great Britain stood as evidence for this.

Alongside his ‘spirit guide’ Sam, Acorah was famous among viewers of Most Haunted for his dramatic incidents of apparent possession amid historic and reputedly haunted locations in the dead of night, while Fielding accompanied him and a studio team attempted to explain what was going on. He was, described one director of the show quoted in a 2006 Guardian profile, “the money” of the show in its early days, and something of a heartthrob to many viewers.

Yet when he left the series in 2005, it was under a cloud, as allegations spread that he had communed with historic figures using fake names passed to him by mischievous crew members. (Ofcom, the television regulator, said the broadcasting code had not been breached by “fraudulently contrived” events).

His success continued with Derek Acorah’s Quest for Guy Fawkes and the Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns series, also on Living TV, and with a zeitgeist-grabbing cameo in the 2006 Doctor Who episode ‘Army of Ghosts’. He created a series under his own name for Sky Real Lives in 2009 and was a principal on the paranormal investigation show The Past Hunters on Fox’s YourTV in 2015.

Outside of psychic television, he became a mainstay of light entertainment shows; he appeared in pantomime and was fourth-placed in Celebrity Big Brother in 2017.

Derek Acorah was born Derek Francis Jason Johnson in Bootle, Lancashire in 1950, and he said he first became aware of mediumship when he was six years old, when he told his grandmother – a medium of 50 years – that he had seen a strange man in the house; she identified the man as Acorah’s grandfather, who had died two years before he was born.

Acorah’s first career had been as a professional footballer, a path which he had dreamed of as a child, and which he pursued from the point at which Wrexham FC signed him as an apprentice of 13. At 15 he was signed as a schoolboy by Bill Shankly’s famous Liverpool side, although despite making it into the reserves, he never played for the first team.

Acorah published a number of books connected to his series and activities, and continued to tour his live show. He died of a sudden illness which was later revealed to be sepsis, and is survived by his wife, Gwen, and a son from an earlier marriage.