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Derek Acorah Croydon
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Derek Acorah

First reading given at Fairfield Hall, Croydon. 14 th April 2005

I was asked to attend the above evening by journalist Charles Nevin who was writing an article for The Guardian which has now been published. See here.

My role was to give my opinion and an analysis of Derek’s performance. What follows below is one such analysis. It is not untypical of the other readings given that evening.

I have found that for those who believe post-mortem communication is possible the dissection of what was actually said will make little or no difference to their belief, a belief that I suggest is born out of hope (or fear) rather than real evidence. On the other hand those who do not believe probably think I’m stating the obvious.

Mediums are currently riding on a wave of popularity similar to that experienced in the latter half of the 19 th Century, and as far as my own opinion goes they are just as fake now as they were then. I was recently told about one high profile medium whose house is apparently wired with hidden cameras and microphones. Now I can’t prove it (otherwise I would happily publish their name) but members of the public, as well as those in the media would do well to guard against such high tech chicanery.

For those who can’t afford such devices cold reading, despite its exposure, is still well up to the task of fooling enough people to enable many mediums to make a nice living. I once heard Doris Stokes quote that, “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” and of course you don’t have to, you just have “to fool some of the people some of the time.”

I want to make one last point, and it’s a point I make often. I accept that many psychics and mediums honestly believe they can do this and to that extent they are ‘genuine’. There are others who are well aware that they are faking it. Whilst it is difficult to tell them apart (and my default position is to assume they are sincere) it makes little difference to the reading. You are not talking to your dead relative. It is an illusion.

Prove you are a genuine medium and I’ll give you £5,000. Better yet James Randi will give you $1 million.

Update: see addendum
 

 

General comments
Before reading the script it will be useful to mention a few things here. The script was very hard to write. My punctuation may be way off as I was more than a little confused by what was being said. Derek uses the English language in such a strange way that some sentences make virtually no sense at all. It’s almost like an early attempt by a programmer to produce artificial intelligence.

Facts provided by Derek Acorah about the deceased woman who came through.

  • Her name was Mrs Curtis.
  • She was around 5’ 4” and not heavily built.
  • She had an unspecified but large number of children and 2 miscarriages.
  • There was some unspecified connection with the names ‘Linda’ and ‘Reg’
  • She wasn’t very well off but didn’t mind as long as her children were well cared for.
  • She had some kind of “health condition”.
  • When she died she had some kind of ‘fit’ and after going to hospital went into a coma for a number of days before dying.

Comments about those ‘facts’

  • Although we are provided with her surname, everything else about the woman is a little vague. A first name and possibly a maiden name would have made identification much easier.
  • She was average height and build for a woman.
  • She had a large family but strangely she couldn’t be exact about how many children she had actually given birth to. Neither could she provide us with their names (unless Linda and Reg were 2 of them).
  • We don’t know what she died of just that she had some kind of fit (seizure) and then slipped into a ‘coma’. The term coma simply means unconsciousness although the word usually implies it’s for a lengthy period.
  • ‘The Family History Project’ (see here) says of the name ‘Curtis’,
    “According to Guppy’s essential Homes of Family Names in Great Britain the name is best represented of the south and east of England, and is found most frequently in Buckinghamshire, then Nottinghamshire.” My emphasis.
  • We do not know how old she was, when she died, where she lived, what she did for a living, the name of her husband, sisters, brothers or anything else of real interest. It is surely surprising that having breached the veil between life and death all we get is the vaguest of descriptions.

The subsequent identifying of the audience member

  • The ‘Mrs Curtis’ identified by the woman in the audience had not given birth to a large number of children. For all we know she had no children at all and yet Derek had said, “I feel like this like… great warmth of a woman who’s brought children to the earth. Um she’s smiling at me so she must be agreeing.”
  • She herself came from a family with “a number of children”. So what?
  • This Mrs Curtis was also unconscious before she died. Not an unusual scenario I imagine.
  • Her first name was ‘ Lynn ’ and this was deemed to be the same as the ‘Linda’ Derek mentioned. Derek actually said, “I’ve just got this feeling would a Linda be out here, the connection out here with Linda?” Mrs Curtis didn’t seem to know here own name.
  • Alas poor Reg was forgotten.
  • We know nothing of this woman’s age, build, circumstances and/or cause of death.
  • It appears the only connection was the name, and Curtis is not that uncommon.
  • The woman in the audience was not even a relative and seemed uncertain that she would actually meet up with the family.
  • Once Derek had managed to find someone the rest was pretty standard cold reading and the entire message somewhat pointless.`

Transcript with my own commentary.

Here again in the complete transcript with my own observations and comments in blue. When Derek talks to his spirit guide ‘Sam’ I’ve identified this in red.

“Okay, I’ve become, just a couple of seconds ago, aware as Sam quietly said to me, a lovely lady wanted to step forward, I’m aware of her energy here with me. Um, I feel… that Sam’s also giving me a few <indistinct> maybe she’s finding it difficult to converse directly with me."

Due to the somewhat confusing use of language it’s difficult to know what is actually taking place at this point. “I’m aware of her energy here with me” could mean almost anything. Can he see her? Hear her? Yet he says she is ‘lovely’ and she wanted to ‘step forward’. Is he actually describing a scene or just being allegorical? The fact that it is so unclear is useful should any medium be asked to explain what is actually happening .

“I will describe her first to you through um, <indistinct> the warmth that’s coming from her is that I feel this lovely lady please, I feel it would have been… she would have been the mother of a lot of children in her physical life.”

Derek is still making things obscure. He offers to describe her, and goes on to do so, but he says something about “warmth” and uses phrases like “I feel” which are somewhat meaningless. If I were describing someone to the police I wouldn’t say, “I feel…” and I wouldn’t mention things like ‘warmth’. Also “A lot of children” How many? Why not ask her – or Sam?

“When I say a lot I mean more than the average, probably 5, 6 maybe 7, maybe a little bit more because I feel like this like… great warmth of a woman who’s brought children to the earth.”

Children to the earth” very poetic. She gave birth to children, most mother’s do. I still fail to see why, having given a precise surname, she cannot be exact about how many children she had.

“Um she’s smiling at me so she must be agreeing.”

So Derek can actually see her.

“Um, I also feel with her that she had um, a condition, a health condition, um that was there for a number of years she battled on.”

She can’t say what it was? Cancer? Heart disease? Kidney disease?

“She’s a real battler and I don’t feel, she won’t mind me saying this, and it’s not the way she’s dressed what I’m seeing her in, but I just feel this about her as if she didn’t have whereas material things are concerned such as, you know, a great deal of wealth or anything like that didn’t matter to her as long as her kids were fed and you know clothed that. She’s a real star, a real angel [indistinct – speaking to Sam, ‘Ok thank you’]. She’s talking about [‘What?’]. She’s giving the name, or is talking about Linda, um, but she’s Mrs Curtis.”

I would infer from this that ‘Linda’ and ‘Mrs Curtis’ are two different people.

“So I’ve got a lady here with me, a Mrs Curtis. She stands about 5 feet 4, 5 feet… She’s looking at me as if to say, “I’m taller”, but 5 feet 4 to 5 feet 5 and she’s not a heavy set built lady. I would put, you know describe, describe, small middle and large and she’s basically going from small to the middle okay?”

I suggest that we can assume Derek can actually see the woman and how she’s dressed. Why then there should be any problem in communicating clearly is difficult to understand. She could surely be holding up a sign saying, “My name is Lynn Curtis and I came from a large family. My husband was Reg who was the local rag and bone man in Croydon in 1967.”

“I feel she suffered a um, it wasn’t a coma but she went into a, she had, some kind of fit. [‘What’s she had Sam? Okay’]. And when she was whisked to hospital she then slipped into this sleep like coma and I think she was like that for maybe, in our time, days and then she, and then she just slipped over.”

Hardly an adequate description of cause of death. As mentioned a ‘coma’ is simply unconsciousness. Was she like this on a life support machine for weeks? Which hospital was she whisked to?

“So I feel her family here to the earth would be very aware of what I’ve just described. Um, with Mrs Curtis I’ve just got this feeling would or Linda be out here the connection out here with Linda. [‘Yes okay’].

She’s also telling me talking about [who? Reg? What is Reg to her?] Reg is family okay. So I don’t know if Reg is out there as well. But there’s a connection with Linda and Reg.”

Having two names obviously increases the possibility of finding a match. Strangely we have no first name for Mrs Curtis and no surname for Linda and Reg.

“But she… before anyone answers please… <indistinct> Mrs Curtis [um, What? When? Oh.] and something else I’m being told. This lovely lady although she had a number of children she lost 2 pregnancies so she would even have more children had those 2 come to the earth as well. So there could have possibly been 9 children that would have been, um bless her, linked to this lady.”

Clearly Mrs Curtis was a very busy woman. I doubt that anyone could disprove that there were two miscarriages. We don’t know if these pregnancies went full term and resulted in still births or whether she lost them early in pregnancy. But interestingly we get to the point where salt of the earth Mrs Curtis had an enormous number of children only for this fact to be abandoned later in favour of her coming from a family “with a number of children”. Derek now tries to locate the audience member.

"I don’t know where we are [where do I go Sam? Where? To the top?] Okay sorry for pointing. Sam’s telling me to go up (points to back of audience to his left) okay? I don’t, I don’t want to do what I did last night, get meself knackered running up to you okay? And I don’t want to pounce on you okay? And I don’t want to sweat, I want to try and stay dry okay. Now please who understands the description, the lovely name, how she passed and all the links that I’ve given out? (still pointing back, left). Up the top there.”

Silence.

Not altogether a surprising silence as unless someone actually knew a deceased Mrs Curtis who had around 7 children and a Linda or Reg they aren’t going to stick their hand up. The rest of the information is too fuzzy to be useful.

At this point Derek turns to the camera man and says, “Can you get me a cup of tea mate for us”

(audience laughter)

“[Ok,yeah] Sam says I’ve given enough. [What do I do?]”

Sam's patience is obviously running a bit thin and so Derek gets down from the stage and runs to the back.

Audience applauds plucky Derek. A good idea to defuse a potentially tense moment with a little humour.

“Right who in this area please, understands, the lovely spirit lady Mrs Curtis that’s here with me? If she’s not a mother or a grandmother to you but you’re aware of her please, let me explain the sequence of events that takes place. Invariably once she’s said what she wants to say, ‘cause she’s not gonna budge, she came here for a purpose. However it doesn’t mean to say that would be just her. Maybe close family members to the person who would receive could be in the queue just after her. That’s the way things happen back there.”

I’m not sure I can even translate this into English.

Someone appears to respond but doesn’t have the microphone yet.

“Okay firstly please are you aware of a lady please? (jokingly) Why come here..”

Drags the woman assistant holding with microphone by linking her arm. Derek’s actions seem to suggest she wouldn’t make it under her own steam.

Woman in audience (now with microphone): “My father-in-law’s name is Reg and he came from a big family. He had 7 or 8, maybe 9 or 10…”

D.A.: “A couple of children lost also?”

Woman: “I believe so.”

Sounds promising.

D.A.: “And also please the name Mrs Curtis?”

Woman: “I don’t know about Mrs Curtis.”

Bugger. Still I think Derek could have salvaged this if he wanted to but it would have been hard work putting together a credible link.

D.A.: “Alright but let me say to you please, can I say of a lady also please if you don’t know, a description. I know what she, how she passed but are you not aware of this?”

What?

Woman: “Not really.”

D.A.: “This might not be you love okay, okay.

More generally to the immediate audience Derek continues.

“I’m still staying up here because the person is here. Sam’s telling me, you’re here. Most important before anything else is the name Mrs Curtis. That’s before anything else.”

Basically all he wants is a Mrs Curtis, the only essential requirement being that she is dead.

D.A.: “Okay are you aware of Mrs Curtis?”

Someone else has tentatively responded (no microphone again but Derek has an exploratory chat). Derek can be heard to say, “Right well she give ‘ Lynn’ didn’t she?”

D.A.: to audience generally, “We try, we just don’t give it off to anyone. We stick until we find the person <indistinct>.”

D.A.: to woman: “Now thank you for speaking to me okay.”

2nd Woman: “Okay.”

D.A.: “And I might be able to go back to that stage in a minute once we’re, if the energy builds for me. Can I say to you please as you’ve just mentioned, the person you’ve mentioned Lynn Curtis but you didn’t understand the children.”

“…didn’t understand the children”, could mean anything. The woman may have said before being handed the microphone that the Mrs Curtis she knew never had children at all.

2nd Woman: “That’s what confused me.”

D.A.: “Also please would you understand about how Mrs Curtis passed, did she… as I described earlier on the stage, or Lynn Curtis to you?”

2nd Woman: “The Mrs Curtis I knew did slip into a coma.”

D.A.: “Yes, okay now I know that this, she was giving me the condition… would you be aware then… it could be me that’s getting this wrong in the interpretation. Would Mrs Curtis, to your knowledge, be one of a number of children herself?”

2nd Woman: “Yes she was.”

Derek returns to the stage.

Bingo. We have a match - but only just. A Mrs Curtis who was unconscious before dying. Can anyone really claim this is enough to be sure we are talking about the same person. I honestly believe it isn’t. Apparently Mrs Curtis may well have been childless but had lots of brothers and sisters. Oh no we don’t just pick anyone you know.

D.A.: “[ Okay, alright. Okay Sam] And I can tell you Mrs Curtis, just as I was coming up here, I can hear her going , 'Yes, yes, yes'.”

Derek can actually hear Mrs Curtis then. This makes the mix up even more confusing. I still can’t understand why Sam, or Mrs Curtis, can’t give the name or exact location of the person she is trying to contact. If she is now confirming that this is the correct person she must have known this all along. This is confirmed later when Mrs Curtis admits she has been snooping on the woman’s family.

D.A. continues: “Um Can I say to you please, the reason why she’s come here is because knowing, okay, might not be a family member close but she understood that someone’s connected or knows the family. There’s a likelihood okay. You say no if that’s not so. But there’s the likelihood that you would cross the path or see that family that she comes from?”

Translated I understand this to mean that Mrs Curtis has turned up realising that she might not get an actual family member and instead has selected someone who might come into contact with the Curtis family. This means Derek can’t really give a personal message to the woman directly as she, like Derek, is to act as an intermediary. Therefore we now arrive at the situation where Mrs Curtis is talking to Sam, Sam is talking to Derek, Derek is talking to an unnamed member of the audience who will in turn speak to an unidentified member of the Curtis family. Good grief!

2nd Woman: “In the future maybe.”

Doesn’t sound certain and as we learn later she never meets them.

D.A.: “Okay, well, whatever.”

This actually sounds quite comical when you hear it. It's like Derek just wants to get on now and not go down any more blind alleys.

“Can I say to you please she’s making me aware she’s showing me healing colours and what that means is that’s only 1 of 2 things. That around the links with the family she’s concerned, this lovely spirit lady, she’s concerned, that someone is not just out of sorts, not just out of colour, but is hurting and is a condition that is I feel either been treated or there’s treatment to come. Now it’s only 1 of 2. It’s either happening around you, which I doubt, but I feel more, I want to say that the family she comes from. Now would you unders…, sorry for going on about this but, there’s not a health condition linked very close to you… at this moment?”

I haven’t counted but there are two things Derek says a lot. One is, “Can I say to you please” which is pretty much superfluous and the other is “Okay”. These can both be quite useful as they turn virtually everything into a question, although it isn’t always clear what the question is.

It seems at this point Sam and/or Mrs Curtis has stopped speaking and are instead resorting to showing symbolic, and unspecified, “healing colours”. Irritatingly they leave Derek to guess what they are on about. Derek routinely chats to Sam as if he is a normal person standing next to him and yet when he isn’t sure what direction to take he resorts to symbols and seems to expect the woman to help interpret Sam’s actual intent.

2nd Woman: “Yes there is. I suffer from chronic depression.”

D.A.: “You do?”

Derek hadn’t really counted on this and sounds a little surprised. The problem is meant to be with the Curtis family otherwise why would a complete stranger come through and not one of the woman’s own relatives?

2nd Woman: “Yes.”

D.A.: “Okay well I’m going to say to you please she’s a very kindred lady. She hasn’t come basically over your depression. She come over a more, I feel someone has got a condition that she feared might not be corrected or cured.

Again a strange choice of phrase, “a kindred lady”. The language once again becomes even vaguer with terms like, “I feel… someone… a condition”. We are now seeing the way a medium has to fish around for information. If Derek is being told this information by Sam he doesn’t need to stop and check his progress every step of the way with the woman.

2nd Woman: “Yeah.”

Why did she respond in the affirmative?

D.A.: “Okay. And Sam’s just told me here please that she’s also aware that this person’s told, like the doctor, we can treat but we can’t promise cure. And that’s not for you okay?

2nd Woman: “Okay.”

Obviously as this information is for a family who isn’t there Derek can pretty much say what he likes without much fear of contradiction.

D.A.: “I want you to watch please because I feel she’s going to, in some manner, okay? Get you, make sure there’s gonna be a connection for you linked with this family okay?

2nd Woman: “Yes.”

D.A. “And maybe, I’m being told your role is to say that she’s been visiting, she has been around this family member and, what can I say other than she’s been asking for what healing can be given to the family member. Okay?”

2nd Woman: “Yes okay.”

This poor woman is now burdened with the task of finding the Curtises and telling them a ‘Mrs Curtis’ spoke through Acorah at a Croydon theatre and wants them to know one of them has an incurable illness. The mind boggles to think how they might react. Of course if they react angrily Derek won’t get any comeback.

D.A.: (somewhat suddenly) “Oh I got to say, […link, is it? Yeah, okay] who is John?”

How he has the brass neck to ask this I have no idea. Apart from the ludicrous scenario of asking a direct question about an obviously common name he is using a technique so utterly obvious that it’s almost a caricature.

2nd Woman: (Shrugs)

D.A.: “John?”

2nd Woman: “Don’t know anyone off hand.”

D.A.: “Not in spirit, physical John. She’s mentioned the name John and laughing.”

2nd Woman: “Oh, um, sorry. My brother’s middle name’s John.”

Phew! She finally found a John but it’s hardly impressive. If her brother usually identified himself by his middle name it would have been obvious but he clearly doesn’t. However Derek readily accepts this as the correct person. No further description such as a surname (or even his first name) is offered.

Derek has simply thrown out a name without giving any context whatsoever. All he is doing is asking if she knows anyone called John and you don’t need to be psychic to do that.

D.A.: “Can I say to you please, just recently, um <indistinct> not that John’s crazy, forgive me for saying that, but did he do crazy things, John?”

Now we are blatantly asking questions without giving any reason for doing so.

Derek can now select a suitable response regardless of what she says. Supposing she replied that he never does crazy things? All he needs to say is, “Well I’m being told he should be. He’s too serious they’re saying. He needs to lighten up.”

2nd Woman: “Yeah, he’s a likeable rogue.”

D.A.: “Well she’s been looking in and she’s going like this, ‘tutting’. Talk about John. Now I’ve got to find out what she’s looked at, what’s she seen. [Okay, He’s not in trouble okay. Will the good lady get to know about this? Is she meant to get to know about it? We’re not telling tales? Okay I’ll tell her] John, it appears, why she’s come in visitation I don’t know. But she’s noticed John hiding a package. (pauses) And I’ve just asked what it is and she said ‘money’. Now.”

This is somewhat bizarre even by spiritualist standards. We are now being asked to accept that Mrs Curtis has been monitoring the movements of this woman’s brother. Mrs Curtis was therefore obviously aware of the woman’s family and one wonders why she didn’t mention this when Derek was trying so hard to find the right person in the audience. She knew ‘John’ was her brother but doesn’t actually know her name, otherwise she would have surely mentioned it.

We also get this rather dodgy situation of her brother hiding a package of money.

2nd Woman: “That wouldn’t surprise me.”

D.A.: “She’s just told Sam only 3 days ago. Now”

2nd Woman: “That wouldn’t surprise me.”

D.A.: “Now you’re going to hear news about this okay.”

But fortunately Derek will have long since disappeared by then.

2nd Woman: “Okay.”

D.A.: “Now he’s not going to get into trouble with any authorities or anything like that. Okay?”

Why not? It all sounds highly suspicious.

2nd Woman: “Okay.”

D.A.: “…John on me back. (audience laughter). But she’s saying… I feel there’s going to be a celebration but he’s hidden this package of money. It’s not been got from any ill deed or anything like that. But there will be a party. He’ll be throwing a party, everyone will gather. Will you watch out for this?”

“There’s a celebration coming up soon” is a standard line for mediums. No hint as to what the celebration might be or exactly how soon, the dead prefer to be vague. However it still seems unclear why her brother would hide a package of money for this purpose. A debit or credit card would be easier. I do accept that it is within the realms of possibility – but it’s near the outer limits.

2nd Woman: “Yes. Will do.”

D.A.: [Thank you. Yeah. Yeah.] She’s also, while she’s here please [they said what? Do I do that? Has she asked me to heal her? Okay thank you]

Derek now comes up to the lady and carries out some form of spiritual healing and talks to her quietly. Then returns to the stage.

A nonsensical side show with Derek making mystical movements around the woman’s head. If she is on medication one wonders if she will stop taking it as a result? Derek knows nothing about this woman’s condition or why she has it. I hope she has the sense to see it for what it is – nonsense.

D.A.: “[She wants it to stop there? Okay] I know you said earlier ‘cause Sam’s repeating that to me. You know in the future you will see the links with her family, it will be a lot sooner than the future. Believe me okay?”

Sooner than the future?

2nd Woman: “Yes.”

D.A.: “Will do.”

D.A.: “But I do know because it has been pointed out to me that the person who’s ill, whose treatment cannot change things. She I believe, in the coming months, before the year’s through will be receiving and helping that person on the journey to the higher side of life. To a new life. So you’ll realise how important it is if you would be that angel of light and mercy for that family, okay? Alright?"

Yes of course all she has to do is tell them one of them is about to die. Even if this were true perhaps the person in question hasn’t told the family.

Logically, from Mrs Curtis’s viewpoint this is no big deal anyway. Dying isn’t anything to be concerned about at all so what’s the necessity of sending this woman off to warn them?

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised whether she’s been, as she’s grounded herself coming to the atmosphere and stayed here ‘specially around the family. That family members have been receiving, getting a lot of things happening in their respective homes in the sense of phenomena okay? Things happening and saying, “What’s causing this?” and it her concern for this family okay? So please accept that love okay, and thank you because you’ve well pleased her, okay.”

Bless you. Ladies and gentlemen, for the lovely lady.”

Applause.

This is taken from the The Guardian article by Charles Nevin ;

A few weeks later, I spoke to the audience member. She couldn't find the Curtis family, with whom she'd lost touch, but she did feel better herself. And her brother had been given a package that week, a birthday present from his grandson. She said she thought there was something in the healing, but she wasn't so sure about the rest of it.

So she never found the Curtis family to give them the exciting news that one of them was about to die and ‘John’ wasn’t hiding a package of cash after all. He did get a present on his birthday though. Mrs Curtis needn’t have bothered coming through really. Sam really must do somthing about these time wasters.

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Addendum,

As you may have read in various Commentary postings Most Haunted/Antix Productions used an entirely fictitious history for Barnes Hospital in Cheadle. Also during various episodes Derek Acorah portrays himself as being possessed by various dead spirits. Some of these appear to be people who actually lived.

What right does Acorah have to trample on the memories of people who once lived? None at all, so please consider the following as pay back time….

Sam (Masuami?)
Although there are no historical records about Sam I have uncovered previously unknown facts using a Ouija board which led to Sam's temporary possession of my body.

It seems Sam was cast out from his village after he repeatedly exposed himself to local women. This was the last straw and followed a reign of terror perpetrated on the rest of his village. Tribal elders had often expressed concern about Sam’s rather unnatural relationship with the tribe’s sheep but this was never proven as none of the sheep dared to bleat out.

He was implicated in the brutal murder a local chief by boiling him alive in oil and then chopping up the remains and serving them to his cat. He also ran the local brothel and developed a range of hallucinogenic drugs from a cactus which he sold to the village children.

All this paled into insignificance compared to his appalling record as a healer and medium. Although he claimed to heal people, for a price, they died anyway. However using his talents as a medium he claimed that after they had “passed over” they got in touch to say how pleased they were with him and that they would like to leave all their worldly belongings (including sheep) to him.

After his expulsion from the village he spent the rest of his life wandering from place to place until he met an unfortunate end involving an unusually angry sheep that had apparently taken an excessive amount of a cactus based narcotic. All that was found was one of his partially eaten sandals.

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