MJ Dickson was four when she had her first experience with the paranormal.
"I clearly remember walking up to the bedroom door to ask my mum to put salt on my popcorn and when I looked into the room, I saw a man lying on the bed," says Dickson, 36, who lives in Warwickshire. "I turned to my mother to ask her who the man was, and she fainted. A couple minutes later, when she came around again, I clearly remember my mum saying ‘Oh no! Not you too!’
"My mother is a fourth generation psychic medium and that was the first moment she realised that her abilities had been passed down to me. The vision of the man on the bed was a warning that a family member (my uncle) had passed away at that very moment. Over the years, the paranormal encounters became more frequent, and I soon realised that this was very much a part of who I was, that I was different."
Far from being spooked by her other-worldly experiences, Dickson has turned her abilities into a successful career as a paranormal investigator and psychic medium. Her ghostbusting skills have been put to the test on a host of popular shows and documentaries including Paranormal Captured, and In Search Of the Paranormal.
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Some might cast doubt on whether the paranormal exists, but Dickson insists that she’s sceptical too – and that’s why she’s so trusted within the field. But one experience still haunts her.
"I am open-minded and rarely get scared, but one photograph still chills me to the bone. It was at Warwick Castle a few years ago and I was alone in one of the bedrooms taking photographs. Later, when I looked, there is clearly a full-figure behind me, yet the CCTV footage shows no one else in the room or corridor at the time."
Where possible, Dickson likes to "explain things through science".
"My dad was in the military, so he was a very rational man so while I take after my mum and can see and hear spirit.
"About 90% of the time, a haunting can be explained by science. For instance, too many plugs in an extension socket can cause a strong electromagnetic field of energy that makes people think they’re being watched, causes nausea and paranoia.
"Or certain low frequencies (infrasound) can cause the liquid in your eye to vibrate at such a high frequency which can cause an ‘apparition’ (the London Underground often has these, with rumbling trains). But another 10% of the time, I can’t explain it, and will investigate.
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"Sometimes when I’ve investigated a house, it might need a blessing to cleanse any negative entities, so I’ve worked with a lot of priests. I’d never charge money for this kind of investigation. I don’t like people living in fear and will help them however I can.
"On one occasion, a family called me to tell me that another family member, who had been a particularly nasty piece of work, had passed away. Since then, the family had been experiencing lots of pushing and shoving by a mysterious presence in the house. Not many ghosts are malevolent, and I always say that if you’re nasty while you’re alive, you’ll typically be the same when you’re dead."
Dickson has investigated hundreds of locations around the world and is recognised as one of the top female paranormal investigators worldwide with her company Sage Paranormal.
She teaches monthly online workshops, hosts a podcast and writes haunted history blogs. In 2016 she began hosting paranormal conventions bringing in speakers from around the world to lecture on various topics under the umbrella of all things strange.
In her latest show, In Search Of The Paranormal, Dickson and her team headed to one of the UK's most famous paranormal hotspots – Bodmin Jail, where they investigated everything from executions to the legend of the ‘Beast Of Bodmin’.
"The grim past of this terrifying location is very unsettling," says Dickson. "The moment the team began our investigation, we realised that our week in Bodmin Jail would be far more intense than we ever expected."