In his 20-plus years as a psychic medium, Kelvin Cruickshank has had some extremely emotional experiences passing on messages from spirits to their loved ones.
But nothing surpasses the information he was able to give the family of missing Hamilton man Raymond "Curly" Stirling last month. Thanks to details he received "from the other side", Kelvin worked out on a map where he thought Curly's body was and forwarded what he knew to his family.
Using that information, Glenn found his dad.
"From what I understand, this is the first time in New Zealand that a medium has been able to help find a body," says Kelvin.
"I am just so pleased for Glenn, his wife Jo and the rest of the family that they know what happened to their dad and have been able to farewell him. It's been very emotional for everyone involved, but I am so glad I could do my bit."
The former Sensing Murder medium has been asked many times for help to find missing people, but while the information he provided had led to new leads in some cases, it hadn't resulted in anyone being located.
"Sometimes people in spirit don't want to be found. Other times, living people don't want to listen to what I say and the details I have passed on haven't been followed up, which is so frustrating. But this time, Curly really wanted to be found, and Glenn and Jo were open to what I had to say, and there was a good outcome to a terrible situation."
Due to stressful experiences in the past, Kelvin decided a while ago not to get involved in missing person cases. So when he was told shortly before one of his Soul Food shows in Hamilton last month that someone related to a missing person was in the audience, he decided to let them know he couldn't do anything.
"I went out and said I knew there was someone there who was missing a family member, but I was sorry, I couldn't help, I wasn't doing that sort of thing. And then Curly went and proved me wrong – he was standing there, in spirit, with me, telling me I was supposed to help his family."
His daughter-in-law Jo Stirling wasn't really into psychics, but had come to the show "in desperation".
Curly (84), who had mild dementia, had disappeared from his Hamilton home on January 15 and extensive searches, mostly focused on the nearby Waikato River, had failed to find any trace of him.
Kelvin says Curly and his wife Margaret, who had passed away three years earlier, both came to him in spirit during the show, and Curly said he was "not too far from home".
Afterwards, Kelvin met with Jo for a quick chat. "I couldn't tell her exactly where he was, but I did know that he was not where they had been looking. He was beside a trickle of water, but not in the river.
"I went home to the Bay of Islands the next day and I couldn't stop thinking about Curly," says dad-of-two Kelvin.
"That night, I couldn't sleep – it was Curly keeping me awake, standing by my bed. He wanted me to find him, so I got up early and I went on Google Maps, looking at the area around his home until I found what felt like a hot spot.
"I had Curly standing beside me going, 'That's it, that's it.'"
Kelvin marked two areas on a map and sent it to Jo, and at the next available opportunity, Glenn searched Tauhara Park, the area of dense bush Kelvin had pinpointed as being Curly's most likely location.
It is around 1.5km from Curly's home and in the opposite direction to the river. Searchers had been there, but not gone down into a steep gully. After combing the area for three hours, Glenn found Curly near a stream in the gully.
"When I got the phone call from Jo to say a body had been found, I burst into tears," Kelvin admits.
"I was happy for the family that they had his body back, but it was so sad they'd lost their dad."
Later, Kelvin drove to Hamilton to see Jo and Glenn.
"I just wanted to give them a hug. They are the most amazing couple and I really feel for them. I was so grateful to them for having faith in me."
He went with the Stirlings to the spot where dad-of-five Curly had been found, intending to say a karakia, or prayer. "But then I said to Glenn, 'Look, your dad is here and he is saying he is not into all of that, he's telling me not to bother doing it.' Glenn said that was exactly what his dad was like – he wouldn't have wanted me doing a prayer.
"While we were standing there, Curly also said, 'Where are my flowers, you tight buggers?' Glenn and Jo started laughing, then crying, when I told them that. In the car on the way to meet me, they had discussed stopping to get some flowers to put on the site but they didn't because they didn't want to be late."
Many people were surprised that Curly ended up in Tauhara Park because it was still quite a trek from his home. But Kelvin was able to fill the Stirlings in on what he believes happened.
"What he showed me was that he woke up early in the morning and because he had a bit of dementia, he'd got into the mindset that he was a young, fit fella again. He got up and made his bed with military precision, which was one of the things that confused his family – they couldn't work out how his bed had been made so perfectly because he didn't usually do it like that; his wife Margaret had always made the bed."
The military reference initially confused Jo, but she later found out that Curly had been in the territorials as a young man.
"So he reverted to being young and then he toddled off, leaving his walking stick behind, looking for the love of his life, his Margaret. He was confused and he got disoriented. He crossed the road – he wasn't seen because it was the crack of dawn – and he ended up walking quite a way and going down a walkway into the bush.
He could see some houses across the valley and he headed that way because he thought she was there. But sadly, he fell down a bank and passed away.
"It was a long way for him to go, but one thing I have learned as a medium is to expect the unexpected."
Kelvin has only recently returned to doing Soul Food shows around New Zealand after hurting his back in an accident last year. "I had been rebuilding my boat and I slipped and fell off it, and exploded the discs on my back, crushing my nervous system," he says. "It shut down all of one leg and part of the other, and it was starting to affect my organs. I needed surgery and was out of action for a few months."
He's slowly on the mend. He's got a new book, Reflections, out next month and is working on a two-day seminar. In the meantime, he's been fielding requests from people around the world – he's had calls from Canada, the US and the UK – who want his help locating missing loved ones after hearing about his success in finding Curly.
"If I am meant to help, I will," he says.
Kelvin adds that helping to find Curly is "huge for me. I have spent my life trying to help people and I often have had to defend myself and what I do to sceptics. Now I feel that I don't have to do that any more."
Jo says she is pleased Kelvin is getting the recognition he deserves.
"He is a truly gifted man and we are forever grateful for his guidance that enabled us to find Curly, but also for the support he has given Glenn, myself and our kids since."
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