Anyone who claims to hear messages from the spirit world is laying themselves open to ridicule at the best and allegations of "charlatan" at the worst. But those drawn to spiritualism and psychic phenomena are convinced that there is life after death. HILARIE STELFOX talked to psychic practitioner Jane Oldfield

MANY years ago I interviewed an elderly woman who claimed to be a clairvoyant.

In conversation I told her that a close colleague was on the brink of emigrating to America and I had to get back to the office for her leaving party.

"Tell her not to go," the woman urged. "Something awful is going to happen."

This put me on the spot a bit, as I wasn't sure whether to mention this or not to my colleague. I was fairly sure that she'd laugh it off as the ramblings of a far-from wise old woman who should have known better.

And I didn't want to spoil her big day - she was going off to a new life with a new, American husband. In the end I did nothing.

Years later, with news that she was happily married with a daughter and a lucrative career I thought about the dire warnings of the clairvoyant and how much damage such people can do, particularly when working with the vulnerable.

This was my first experience of clairvoyance but since then I have interviewed several more psychic practitioners.

Most tell the same tale - a childhood spent hearing voices; an adolescence spent thinking they'd gone mad; and finally an adult acceptance that they were somehow in "tune" with the spirit world.

Jane Oldfield, 29, is typical. "As a child I had invisible friends and then through my teenage years I had strange dreams that came true. I tried to push it under the carpet and thought I was going a bit mad," she said.

It was when she began dabbling with tarot card readings that Jane became convinced she had some sort of psychic power. "Every time I did a reading for someone I was absolutely spot-on," she explained.

To explore her "powers" Jane began attending a psychic awareness class in Hipperholme and since that time has practised as a medium.

These days Jane does readings at parties and from the bar of The Room in Marsh, where she is to be found every Monday evening. Cross her palm with a £20 note and she'll give a reading (20% goes to the charity Breast Cancer Research because Jane's mum is a breast cancer survivor).

Jane, who works in sales for a Birkby company taking incentive schemes into businesses, says that everyone has a psychic link to the spirit world but most of us don't know how to harness or channel it.

And some who say they have psychic powers are not really tuning in.

"I'd say that 80% of them are just good psychologists and can read people," she says.

When I ask her about the spirit world she says she doesn't know all the answers, just what the spirits have told her.

Does everyone go to the spirit world? And isn't it a bit crowded there? She's not sure.

But she does know that once a soul has passed into the spirit world it attains an age at which it feels comfortable. Babies can grow up in the spirit world and reach adulthood.

Jane says that the spirits come to her when she concentrates - usually holding a piece of jewellery from the sitter.

"There is always a reason why somebody is sitting in front of me and wants a reading. They might want to know if they should break up with their boyfriend and it would be easy to take money off them and tell them what they want to hear.

"But, quite often, a reading is about getting someone to face up to their problems, perhaps problems that they find embarrassing and don't even want to own up to," she said.

Jane does not give readings of doom and gloom and says she tries to maintain a light-hearted atmosphere.

"I pass on what I get told but the spirits don't tell me awful things," she added.

A bright and confident young woman, Jane is utterly convinced that she is not suffering from some sort of mental abnormality, nor is she worried about what others think.

She even has her own on-line dream interpretation service (

Whether she is to be believed or not is open to debate. The truth is that we will probably never know the truth behind such claims.

I OFFERED Jane the opportunity to give me a reading - for which she held on to a bracelet that I bought last summer and wear a lot.

She told me that a female spirit came forward to tell me the following: I hate paperwork and must get on top of it (true)

My career is about to change. Someone, somewhere has seen my work and will be making me a job offer, with more money and better prospects (it's about time).

She could see books, so study may be involved in my future. Also, she felt, there was a Spanish connection. (I'm doing an A-level in Spanish)

The spirit was concerned about the state of our garden (so are we!)

My spiritual relative is on a photograph displayed somewhere in my house and gave me a two-tone bracelet (Can't think who that might be)

Last, but not least, I should use lavender oil on my pillow to aid a good night's sleep - I'm not a good sleeper (true).