Teeming with busy, breathing individuals, the centre of Cardiff is known for its sense of life. So to attend a night there dedicated to the dead is an unusual experience.
But as I enter the Central Library for a mediumship night on Friday, the mood is far from ghoulish. The sold-out crowd of 150 buzzes with curiosity.
Martin Harrison and Moya O’ Dyer, mediums from the Academy of Psychic and Spiritual Studies in Swansea, make a light-hearted start. Moya gently warns people to turn off phones so she can hear from the dead, not Orange.
After some calming music, we dive in. Martin begins, and they take turns contacting Cardiff’s dead.
If spirits are real, they are a mixed bunch. Martin and Moya’s questions to the audience are varied: some are vague, and some frighteningly exact.
Moya provokes laughs by asking for someone with Williams as a surname, in the Welsh capital. And when Martin seeks people with relatives who fought in the World Wars, the spirits seem slightly clueless.
Some attempts are confusingly successful. Moya looks for someone with gall bladder issues, and finds the mother of a woman suffering from this.
Another woman has an emotional moment as Moya mentions her late mother, who used to warm up Lucozade for an ill relative and suffered Alzheimer’s disease in later years.
The crowd is puzzled when Martin claims to talk to a dead monk looking for someone there. It turns out he knows the tea lady.
The mediums console the bereaved, and amuse others. One woman seems surprised when a spirit advises her, via Martin, to change her diet to stop heart palpitations.
Michelle Jones, contacted about her daughter’s problems, says: ”I'm very interested because I think there's something there. I feel comforted.
“It was my grandmother I spoke to. I was looking for my mother but it was her tonight that came through. It still gives me pause to think.”
Martin explains his journey as a medium: “For me it was when I was a child. I used to see an Indian boy sitting on my bedroom window.
“With me it was just natural. I was very much aware of it in my life but it is only in the last few years that I have gone on to develop it within myself.
“But every one's got this gift. Some people are afraid of it and I think they are just afraid of the unknown.”
For many in the crowd, the journey to mediumship is still far off. But for some, their late friends and relatives seem closer than ever before. As I walk back into the city centre, Cathays is still lively, but seems fuller than before.