More than half of Britons believe in psychic powers such as mind-reading and premonitions, a survey suggests.
Of 1,006 adults polled for Readers Digest Magazine, 43% reported reading others’ thoughts or having theirs read.
More than half had had a dream or premonition of an event before it happened and 26% said they had sensed when a loved-one was ill or in trouble.
A fifth said they had seen a ghost and 29% believed near-death experiences were evidence there was an afterlife.
Of those questioned, 43% claimed to have tapped into other people’s thoughts or to have had their own minds read by someone else.
More than two-thirds said they could sense when someone was looking at them and 62% could tell who was ringing before they picked up the phone.
More than 10% thought they could influence machinery or electronic equipment using their minds.
One in 10 said something bad had happened to another person after they had wished for it to happen.
Women were more likely to believe in the paranormal than men, though 53% of males said they sometimes knew who was ringing before picking up the phone and 45% had experienced dream or premonition before an event.
Despite the high numbers who said they had experienced such phenomena, only 9% described themselves as psychic.
Simon Bacon, lecturer at London’s College of Psychic Studies and a practising medium, said: “When you say psychic, many people have an image of an old woman in a gown with a crystal ball. They don’t associate themselves with that.”
Older people were more likely to believe in the paranormal, with 74% of 55 to 64 year olds saying they thought psychic powers were possible, compared with 52% of 18 to 24 year olds.
Padraig Reidy, deputy editor the New Humanist magazine, published by the Rationalist Association, said the idea that people could possess psychic powers was “rubbish”.
He said: “Most people encounter mediums and psychics and so on at fairgrounds and while it stays as entertainment it is fine but when people start ruling their lives by it is quite another thing.”
He told BBC News belief in many types of psychic powers stemmed from a desire for control.
He said: “The implication is that we hope that there is some influence we can tap into. It’s kicking against the randomness of things.”
He said it was easy to look back on an event with hindsight and say, ‘I knew that was going to happen’.
He added: “Sometimes people who say, ‘I knew something bad would happen’ are just inveterate worriers anyway and they are pleased to have finally been proved right.”
A Church of England spokesman said it was not the type of subject the Church could comment on.
May 26, 2006