A celebrity psychic who wants to get in touch with earthquake and Pike River coalmine victims from beyond the grave says she only wants to help families heal, despite criticism by sceptics.
Australian Sensing Murder psychic Deb Webber will hold a free "private reading" on Monday for families of those killed in the February 2011 quake and another for Pike River mine disaster families in Greymouth next month.
NZ Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said the sessions were "another sick example" of exploitation by the psychic industry, using vulnerable, grieving families as "a marketing drive" for free publicity.
"It's as bad as any of those shonky finance companies putting up free investment evenings - and it's about as useful," she said. "No doubt at some point she will also be selling her services, which are very highly priced."
Webber, who is on a "Hope and Heal" New Zealand tour, said she "can't understand" the criticism.
"People need healing; I never want to cause anyone more grief," she said.
Most of the Pike River victims' families would attend the Greymouth session, and about 35 people had confirmed in Christchurch.
Mark Maynard, whose wife, Kelly, was killed in the Pyne Gould Corporation building collapse last year, had tickets but would "decide on the day" whether he would go.
"It would be quite interesting to see what she says," he said. "When I replied, they asked me what my wife's name was. They could Google the name and everything would come up. They know before the start."
Others contacted by The Press had not heard about the meeting. Marie Malone-Foldesi, whose husband, Ian Foldesi, died on the Port Hills, was not aware of it but did not see the harm if it could bring solace.
"I think it's a case of each to their own," she said.
Murray Grant, whose wife, Jane, died in the Canterbury Television building collapse, said he had considered seeing a psychic, but it "depends on how it was done".
"I wouldn't go if it was in front of other people. It's a very personal thing," he said.
Pike River mine families spokesman Bernie Monk, who lost son Michael in the tragedy, said he had never been to a psychic but decided to attend Webb's session because he had "nothing to lose".
"My wife needs closure. Any closure for her, it is going to help our lives," he said.
Webber said those who attended were not guaranteed to get in contact with their loved ones.
She will also hold a free public meditation session and a sold-out public show that seats 150 and costs $70 a head in Christchurch tomorrow.
Webber said those who considered her work a money-making venture should "look at my bank account". "I'm actually skint," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News