When Kelvin Cruickshank was a toddler he thought it was normal to see dead people. He thought everyone was aware of the “other” people who hung around, and at first it didn’t bother him. But then, when he was about four, he started seeing dozens of dead Maori warriors outside the family home in the Waikato countryside – the scene of fierce battles in the New Zealand wars.
“They looked scary, and they’d stand outside my bedroom window talking to me in Maori and terrifying the living daylights out of me,” says Kelvin. He later started to feel uncomfortable about what he could sense when he realised other people weren’t seeing the same things.
Today, Kelvin (41) is one of New Zealand’s best-known psychic mediums. He says that he feels privileged to be able to communicate with people in the afterlife, and to use his ability to bring comfort to those left behind. But it took until he was in his late twenties for him to accept his unusual skill as a gift and not be spooked by it.
“I went through some pretty terrible times, including having a breakdown, because everywhere I went I could see and hear dead people, and I thought I was some kind of weirdo,” says Kelvin, who has appeared on the TV show Sensing Murder.
He reckons he’s not alone, that lots of other people have some degree of ability to sense spirits but many of them don’t do anything about it because it scares them, or because they worry other people will think they have lost the plot.
He also believes that anyone can learn to communicate with their loved ones who’ve passed over. Because he gets asked so often how others can do what he does, he holds workshops and retreats, and of the four books he has written, two – Finding The Path and Bridging the Gap – are specifically intended to help people make spiritual connections.
“I know that thanks to prayer and meditation – and discipline – people can make themselves more open to spirit. Then they don’t need mediums like me to provide them with a bridge to the afterlife.”
Another subject he is often asked about is how to deal with children who appear to have “the gift”. Kelvin, whose own children Javan (18) and Jade (2) have both inherited his abilities, believes kids are born being able to see spirits because they are “pure souls”, but most of them lose it as they get older.
“When you’re really small you’ve got no preconceptions and you’re much more open to picking up on energy from spirit. That changes for a lot of people as they get older and are told there is no such thing as being able to sense people who have died. They’re not so open to it, and that means it is harder for them to make that connection.”
Children who chat away to imaginary friends or reckon that they are visited by their deceased grandparents may well have no more than a lively imagination, but they could also be sensing spirit, says Kelvin.
“The key thing for parents is to be supportive and to remember that it can be scary for their child – I know having all these dead people turning up was terrifying for me. Reassure them that they are not going nuts, but they have this ability that not everyone understands. Be accepting without making a fuss.”
IS YOUR CHILD SEEING SPIRITS?
Here's Kelvin's advice on how to help them:
- Don’t tell them they’re being silly, or making it up. Just because you can’t see what they can doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
- Reassure them the spirit is not there to hurt them. Grandpa loved them when he was alive, and still loves them now he’s on the other side.
- Don’t pressure them to use their ability – for example, by asking for a message from Grandma.
- If you need some guidance, spiritual churches can put you in touch with someone who can help out.