April 21, 2006

TV seance claims to have reached John Lennon

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A controversial television seance
airing on Monday will claim it has reached the spirit of John
Lennon, but viewers will have to pay $9.95 to find out what the
peace-loving Beatle has to say.

The special, being carried on pay-TV service In Demand, was
organized by the producers of a 2003 attempt to channel the
late Princess Diana. That show failed to find Diana and
received reviews that could have sunk the Titanic but it is
estimated to have grossed close to $8 million.

Sight unseen, the Lennon effort has been attacked by the
late Beatle's friends and fans as a tasteless effort to profit
from his assassination 25 years ago. But producers say they are
hoping to lure an audience that now loves such prime-time
network TV shows as "Ghost Whisperer" and "Medium."

The program features what is described as an Electronic
Voice Phenomenon, or EVP, that a psychic on the show claims is
the disembodied voice of Lennon speaking at a seance in one of
his favorite New York restaurants, La Fortuna.

EVP is based on a belief that spirit voices communicate
through radio and TV broadcast signals.

On the television show, filming at La Fortuna suddenly
stops and a narrator says something odd has happened. They then
claim that a mysterious voice can be heard on the voice feed of
one of the psychics.

The producers then call in "EVP specialist" Sandra Belanger
to examine the voice and she proclaims it the real deal.

"That's very consistent with a Class A EVP," she said,
regarding the level and clarity of the voice. She also says the
voice sounds like how Lennon would have talked.

Reuters was given a preview of the program, "The Spirit of
John Lennon," on condition that it not reveal what the "voice"
said during the taped seance.

Producer Paul Sharratt, who heads Starcast Productions and
who calls himself a skeptic, said hearing the voice has made
him a believer.

"The Spirit of John Lennon" is being done without the
knowledge or consent of Lennon's estate or his widow Yoko Ono,
who declined comment. Her longtime friend and spokesman Elliot
Mintz has called the entire exercise "tacky, exploitative and
far removed" from the icon's way of life.

"A pay-per-view seance was never his style," said Mintz.