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Derren cuts a medium down to size

Give a man enough rope and he'll hang himself. In Derren Brown Investigates, the stage illusionist handed Scouse medium Joe Power enough of it to suspend himself from the top of Liverpool Cathedral.

It had all started so well for Joe, who claims he's in touch with dead people.

Derren joined him as he headed to the home of a heavily made-up woman called Vonda, who'd paid about €60 for the privilege of having Joe contact the spirits swirling around her head like flies in a heatwave.

Joe got to work straight away, and you have to say even Derren -- who'd earlier checked to make sure Joe hadn't gathered any personal information about Vonda -- looked impressed. Was the number seven important? Yes, nodded Vonda. And two . . . two babies who went "to the spirit world?" (the word "dead" seems to be taboo among mediums) Vonda nodded again.

Joe felt something coming from a female. Something about pea-and-ham soup. Vonda gasped and her eyes widened. It was her mother! She was a terrible cook, but she tried, bless her.

Joe could feel someone else, too: a man, just passed on, 93 years of age. That was the clincher. "He was an elderly friend I used to buy eggs off!" gasped Vonda, her eyes filling with tears.

On to the set of Hollyoaks, where Derren, who doesn't believe in this psychic lark and things it's all a trick based on the kind of cold-reading he does in his own stage shows, had lined up a few cast members for Joe.

Joe spotted that Chris Fountain's aura was red -- "which normally concerns legal issues connected to a vehicle". Bingo! Chris had been given a parking ticket that very day.

Anthony Quinlan proved a little tricker. Were there two in the family? Er, no. Was there an incident involving a bike? Er, not sure. Moving swiftly on, Joe suddenly announced there was a woman standing behind Anthony's shoulder -- but, whoops, she was gone in an instant.

Derren decided to have a go at reading Claire Cooper. Had she had relationship problems lately? Yes. Had she been on holiday? Yes. In the Maldives? Yes! Did she have cats? Yes, yes! Pedigree cats, silvery? Yes, yes, oh, YES!

Cut to a shot of Joe's face, which looked as if it had been carved from the granite of the Royal Liver Building. Not to be outdone, Joe jumped back in, and asked Claire if she drives a Mini. She does.

Later, Derren's driver Lee, who'd also been read by Joe, said in passing that Claire had pulled up outside the studio in her Mini while he and Joe were having a chat.

Though stopping short of calling Joe a fraud, Derren reckoned he was practising classic cold-reading: throw out a few random names and numbers, and one or two of them is bound to stick. The willing audience, who desperately want to believe, will then fill in the gaps by letting their imaginations do the rest of the work.

The rope snapped tight around Joe's neck when he encountered a woman called Roz, who'd answered an advert from Derren requesting someone to submit themselves to Joe's uncanny powers. No matter what names, numbers, colours or shapes Joe tossed out, none of them hit the mark.

He was infuriated. "You told me a blatant lie," he parped at Derren. "You told me you had not been inside her house." A quick flashback to a couple of minutes early clearly showed Darren telling Joe he'd just been inside Roz's house.

When Derren brought up the matter of Claire's Mini, Joe stormed: "Now you're REALLY clutching at straws. I'm shocked you've stooped so low." Bizarrely, during their farewell, Joe told Derren, without irony: "Nice werkin' with ya." No, Joe, he was werkin' you -- like a muppet.

Still, at least Joe was being honest when he said he hadn't known any personal information about Vonda before they met. His sister did, though. As Derren later discovered, she's Vonda's next door neighbour.