Conference Abstracts 2008
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
held jointly with the
13th to 17th August, 2008
CONFERENCE PROGRAMME AND ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS
1. Introduction from SPR Programme Chair
2. The presentation and reception of anomalous phenomena in Britain prior to the emergence of psychical research
3. Mark Twain and 'mental telegraphy'
4. The 1935 Oslo International Parapsychology Congress and the telekinesis of Cleio
5. Paranormal belief and susceptibility to misconception of visual noise
Paul Rogers and Kimberley Prophet
6. Finding meaning in NDEs: an interpretive phenomenological analysis
David Wilde and Craig Murray
7. A conference attempt to win the National Lottery jackpot psychically
8. What might survive physical death?
9. The Whiteman-Stevenson correspondence on reincarnation
10. A Theory to die for!
11. A new survey of psychic experiences in Iceland
12. Spontaneous cases: an analysis of the Italian literature
Stefano Siccardi, Annlisa Bozzini, Massimo Biondi, Brunilde Cassoli and Cecilia Magnanensi
13. Broken threads in the fabric of reality
Mary Rose Barrington
14. In search of the universal character of micro-PK
15. The importance of subject feedback in ESP experiments
16. Rebel heart, bartered soul: the haunted life of Maud Gonne (1866-1953)
17. New light on the 'ghost-written' poems from Queen's House, Cambridgeshire
18. Have the lunatics taken over the (haunted) asylum?
Ann Winsper, Steve Parsons and Ciaran O'Keeffe
19. Was there something in the cellar?
Steven Parsons, Ann Winsper and Ciaran O'Keeffe
Introduction from SPR Programme Chair
Welcome to the 32nd International SPR Conference, which this year is being held jointly with the Parapsychological Association in Winchester. This is only our third joint meeting - the first was at Cambridge in 1982 (our centenary year) and the second was in Brighton in 1997 – so this is a rare opportunity to meet and interact with our colleagues from abroad (especially the USA). There are several rationales for a joint meeting: many delegates are members of both organizations and attend both conferences anyway, and there is also usually some overlap between the SPR and PA programmes in any year. However, joining forces does entail some challenges. In particular, the PA convention is usually a few weeks earlier than the SPR conference and it is one day longer, which explains the unusual timing of this year’s conference.
This booklet contains the abstracts of all the SPR papers to be presented. The abstracts are given in the order of presentation, with the time of each talk being indicated on the programme sheet. The authors’ addresses are not included, but the University Department where the work was carried out is indicated, if applicable. The SPR abstracts also appear in the PA Proceedings, which will be available to all delegates, although it does need to be purchased. Note that the PA papers (unlike the SPR ones) appear in full. SPR presenters who are aggrieved by this should take consolation in the fact that the PA papers have gone through a more rigorous refereeing process, which entails much more work for the PA presenters.
Although this year’s conference is more extended than usual, all the SPR talks are scheduled for Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, the traditional period of the SPR conference. Apart from a joint session on Sunday morning, the SPR and PA sessions are separate but we have tried to coordinate them to ensure the logical coherence of the overall programme. Of course, all SPR members are welcome - and indeed encouraged - to attend the entire conference, since one of the advantages of a longer meeting is that a broader range of topics can be covered. As usual, the sessions are organized by theme and we have tried to sequence them so that there is an interesting range of topics during each day. There is no thematic distinction between the SPR and PA sessions, except that all the experimental talks are in the latter.
The SPR usually reserves a number of slots for invited talks but this year we have happily allocated these to the PA. Roger Nelson will be giving his PA Presidential Address on Friday evening and there will an invited talk by Ed May on Saturday afternoon. However, the after-dinner speaker at the Saturday banquet, the distinguished psychologist Max Velmans, is a guest of both the PA and the SPR. Max is a founding member of the Consciousness and Experience Section of the British Psychological Society and his ideas have important implications for parapsychology.
In closing this Introduction, I would like to thank Peter Johnson who - besides being the overall SPR conference organizer - has collated these abstracts and put them into the required format. Thanks also to Richard Broughton, who was the PA organizer and coordinated with myself and Peter throughout. I am also of course very indebted to the other members of the SPR Programme Committee - Tony Cornell, Alan Gauld, Chris Roe and Donald West - for all their hard work in selecting the SPR presentations and, where appropriate, improving them. The competition was particularly intense this year, there being less time for SPR talks, so fewer submissions than usual could be accepted. I therefore hope that people whose papers were rejected will not feel too disappointed.
I would also like to thank Simon Sherwood, the Chairman of the PA programme committee. Our excellent working relationship has helped to ensure what we hope is an outstanding and coherent programme, combining the strengths of both our organizations. Simon had a much bigger task than me, since he had to oversee a more extensive refereeing process, but he always found time to coordinate with me and respond positively and diplomatically to all my programme suggestions. Finally I must, thank the SPR contributors themselves since, without them, there would only be half a conference!
The presentation and reception of anomalous phenomena inBritain prior to the emergence of psychical research
Koestler Parapsychology Unit, University of Edinburgh
This paper explores the discourse surrounding demonstrations of anomalous phenomena in nineteenth century Britain prior to the emergence of psychical research. It considers how such demonstrations were presented and received, and how they were discussed in relation to contemporary orthodox science. In doing so, it focuses in particular on two case studies: the demonstrations of ostensible clairvoyance by mesmeric performers such as W. J. Vernon; and William Crookes’ experiments with Daniel Dunglas Home. Whilst the latter is a well-known figure in the history of psychical research, the former has received little attention.
William John Vernon was a phrenologist and mesmerist who became one of the best known of early Victorian mesmeric performers. His many public lectures, which featured demonstrations of a variety of mesmeric phenomena, were both well attended and highly controversial. In 1844, his attempt to demonstrate insensibility to pain and phreno-mesmerism at the Greenwich Literary and Scientific Institute resulted in violent arguments and physical assault. His subsequent attempt to demonstrate eyeless vision, which was foiled by the introduction of a special mask by a physician, was discussed at the London Medical Society and debated in the Medical Times. His performances with Adolphe Didier, brother of Alexis, were reported favourably in sections of the press, and led to formal tests of Vernon’s subjects by John Forbes, editor of the British and Foreign Medical Review. These tests were described in several medical journals and later cited on a regular basis by critics of mesmerism. An examination of the arguments surrounding Vernon’s demonstrations illustrates how disputes over mesmeric phenomena established specific discursive themes that would be repeated in subsequent disputes about spiritualist and psychic phenomena.
First, exhibitors of mesmeric phenomena deployed the language of science, in particular in appealing to the primacy of facts over theory, in order to emphasise the need for further scientific investigation into what were unexplained anomalous phenomena. This, of course, was entirely in line with contemporary views of science. Second, such demonstrations were met with hostile criticism by those who, on the one hand, complained of public credulity over unexplained facts whilst, on the other hand, failing to provide adequate alternative explanations for these facts. This included appealing to the expertise of conjurors as a means of dismissing such phenomena without the need to provide an alternative explanation, yet (rather oddly) without referring to those conjuring performances that most resembled the phenomena in dispute. Third, both belief and disbelief in such phenomena were warranted in ways that have continued to be deployed since, including proponents’ use of avowals of prior scepticism and critics’ use of avowals of open-mindedness. Fourth, the debunking of such phenomena by orthodox scientists was used by debunkers as an opportunity to construct scientific expertise and authority not only over proponents of such phenomena but also over the general public. This included arguments over what amounted to proper scientific expertise in observation and appeals to certain scientific credentials. Meanwhile, proponents argued for their own competence in observation and also appealed to the scientific credentials of those proponents who had already established themselves within orthodox areas of science.
The paper shows how these discursive themes were prominent in the dispute surrounding Crookes’ well-known experiments with Home (and, indeed, have continued ever since), and briefly discusses the relevance of such recurrent themes to ongoing debates about beliefs relating to the paranormal and the scientific status of parapsychology.
Mark Twain and 'mental telegraphy'
The paper takes us through Mark Twain’s two articles on 'mental telegraphy’, his term for the assumed paranormal mental prompting that produces action at a distance that matches one that the other party was doing or was minded to make. The classic example is unanticipated letters that “cross”, particularly when they provide information requested (or vice versa). We are liable to attribute isolated incidents to mere co-incidence. Twain was persuaded that there had to be more to it than that; to the point that he wrote letters and on completion destroyed or did not post them, in anticipation that the mechanism would be operative, either by the impulse of his own composition, or that of his correspondent, and advised others, in crisis situations, to do the same. He thought that the same phenomenon, better known as Thought transference, underlay apparently normally unprompted scientific and engineering discoveries. He bases his case on anecdotes from his own everyday life, told with his trademark easy wit that graces his novels, that were apparently written up from records that he kept following a seminal experience in 1874/5.
'Mental telegraphy’ was written, bar a postscript, in May 1878, and hence covers some three and a half years of such incidents. It was intended for The North American Review, but the editor refused to publish it anonymously, and S. L. Clemens/Twain would not consent otherwise, “as it would be the surest thing to defeat my desire that the public should receive the thing seriously”.
He based his letter of application to Sir Wm Barrett of Oct 4 1884 to be made a member of the S.P.R on his interest in the phenomenon: “'Mental telegraphy... has been a very strong interest with me for the past nine or ten years. I have grown so accustomed to considering that all my powerful impulses come to me from somebody else, that I often feel like a mere amanuensis.. And I consider that when the other person does not supply me with the thoughts, he has supplied me with the impulse anyway.. Still may be I get even by unconsciously furnishing other people with impulses...” He was duly made a member (as, of course, S. L. Clemens), and eagerly anticipated his copy of the Proceedings until (I assume) his well known financial distress caused his membership to lapse in 1894.
The articles ('mental telegraphy’ and 'mental telegraphy again’) were, nevertheless, first published under the nom de plume Mark Twain, in Harper’s monthly magazine in December 1891, and September 1895, and can be downloaded from Cornell University’s Making of America website. The former is the more substantial. Twain later published it himself in ‘The £1,000,000 bank note and other new stories’ [Webster & co, 1893], and the latter is reproduced in facsimile in the Oxford Mark Twain volume of that name in 1996.
I hope that in the time available, as well as sampling his evidence, we might broaden matters, probably in discussion, as to whether a prima facie case has been made for such thought transference, and/or what could count as such, and how we might pick up, in the age of e-mail, where he left off.
The 1935 Oslo International Parapsychology Congress and the telekinesis of Cleio
Physics Department, Athens University, Panepistimiopolis, Zografos, Athens 15784, Greece
The present work draws upon the telekinetic phenomena connected with a 25 year old Greek lady, Cleio, who lived in Athens some seventy years ago. Angelos Tanagras (1877-1973) attended the 1935 International parapsychology congress in Oslo in his identity as the president of the Hellenic Society for ‘Psychophysiology’. He founded the Greek SPR in 1923 after resigning from his profession as the doctor of the Navy at the rank of Admiral. Tanagras met Cleio (a pseudonym he had given to her), the sister of a mathematician university professor, when she called to report poltergeist phenomena that occurred in their house. The phenomena had begun when Cleio suffered an emotional crisis after the simultaneous death of both her father & sister. Her family assumed that it was the spirits of the deceased relatives causing these unusual disturbing domestic incidents. Tanagras, however, realized that Cleio was directly responsible for the phenomena and gave her a nautical compass to attempt to influence telekinetically.
Cleio was soon able to move as well as stop the compass needle at will. As Tanagras was in favour of the scientific approaches to the study of psi phenomena, he arranged that professors at the physics laboratory of Athens University could test Cleio thoroughly. At the end of these tests the physics laboratory issued a certificate, endorsing the telekinetic abilities of Cleio. Tanagras was convinced that Cleio’s telekinetic abilities were genuine. He reports on these tests at the fifth international parapsychology congress that took place in Oslo and documents the whole meeting in his yet unpublished autobiography , which he forwarded in the early 70s to the Elliot Garrett Parapsychology Foundation Library, in New York, USA. Tanagras gave two talks at the Oslo congress; the first referred to the telekinesis of Cleio and the other to his theory of Psychobolie. According to his theory, the soul emanated a substance which impregnated objects and the minds of other people alike. It was, thus, influencing the physical state of objects and the mental state of people. The lady sensitives of Angelos Tanagras were trained to detect this ‘soul substance’ as repeated experiments evidenced. Tanagras filmed the telekinetic activity of Cleio with the compass needle and showed it at Oslo.
The inspiring soul behind the Oslo International Congress was Carl Christian Vett, from Denmark (1871-1956). Vett was a wealthy businessman who used his fortune to finance a series of five international parapsychology congresses. The first one took place in Copenhagen (1921), the next in Warsaw (1923), then in Paris (1927), Athens (1930) and finally in Oslo (1935). Vett was strongly criticized by some parapsychologists that his enthusiasm with the congresses was lacking the necessary scientific rigor regarding the content of the presented papers. That disagreement was the main source of a lot of conflict among the parapsychologists in the 1920’s .
On the first congress in Stockholm in 1921, there was great optimism among the participants regarding the progress in the field. Soon, however, the threat of a schism in the parapsychology world made its appearance. It had to do with the diverse views regarding what should be the subject of psychical research and the quality of work presented at the congresses. Carl Vett himself was accused to be quite naïve in loosely allowing the participation of everyone without strict discrimination .
It took five years after the 4th congress in Athens to announce the call for papers for the next parapsychology congress in Oslo . Tanagras trip from Athens to Oslo took the route: Athens-Belgrade-Vienna-Stockholm from where he went on a boat to Oslo. Tanagras hoped that his talk and film presentation of Cleio’s telekinesis would alert the scientific community to further independently investigate Cleio’s effect and explore the nature of psychic performance. At Oslo Tanagras met for the first time Dr. Gerda Walther, the secretary of von Schrenck-Notzing, the Munich psychiatrist and physician. Dr. Walther was going to play, some thirty years later, a very important role to the rescue of the Cleio film.
The Oslo congress was co-organized by the president of the Norwegian SPR, Professor Thorstein Wereide. The venue on the first day was the main Oslo University Hall. Wereide and Vett elected on that day Tanagras as the president of the Oslo congress. There were over seventy people attending it, representing all nations except Spain and Russia. It was the rule at these congresses that only the officially elected representatives of each country were allowed to present a paper. Some of the other parapsychologists presenting papers were Charles Richet from France, Ferdinando Cazzamalli from Italy, Carl Tenhaeff from Netherlands, Kenneth Richmond from England. Professor Carl Tenhaeff announced the opening of two chairs of psychical research, one at his University of Utrecht, the other one in Leyden and a third psychical research laboratory in Amsterdam under Professor Frans Roels.
There is some mystery surrounding the Cleio film and its four copies that Tanagras prepared one of which he showed at Oslo. In 1972 Benson Herbert published a very detailed analysis of the Cleio film  that he got from Dr. Walther who had rescued it from Tanagras with the help of a Greek acquaintance of hers. Some thirty three years later in Athens Tanagras last surviving sensitive, Mrs Eleni Kikidou, was contacted by a Greek ex-mentalist who claimed that Tanagras has given him the Cleio films before his death. Two 16mm film reels were then sent to Mrs Kikidou. On the metal frame of the one reel Tanagras had engraved the name Cleio in Greek. The film was, however, in a very bad state, broken discontinuously in many parts of various lengths, such that it was not possible to be reproduced by a suitable projector. Some surviving pieces, however, were showing Cleio performing telekinesis with the compass, exactly as Herbert had described it: filmed on a rooftop on a windy day. Kikidou was later informed that this was not the proper Cleio film sent to her and that the ex-mentalist was going to forward the proper one soon. All that took place some three years ago, but to this date no other of Tanagras films were forwarded, to the best of my knowledge.
According to Benson Herbert’s published description of the film, Tanagras is shown to first bring Cleio with suggestion into a trance state. The camera shows that there are no hidden devices attached above, below and from all sides of the folding table where the nautical compass is placed. The needle is shown first to react to a bar magnet. When Cleio first attempts to influence the compass with two hands linked together by the thumbs and with palms facing down, the needle shows no response. As the linked hands continue to swing around and above the compass, the needle starts to move, but only by a very small angle not necessarily following the direction of the hands. Soon that pattern of reaction changes and the needle turns by a small angle to follow Cleio’s hands.
Occasionally, the needle aligns opposite to the position of the hands. That is considered as evidence that Cleio does not have hidden magnets in her hands. The hands appear sometimes to repel and sometimes to attract the needle. There are even times where the needle moves although the hands are stationary above it. Eventually, there comes a time when the previously gentle swing of the needle becomes a violent oscillation at quite wide angles as the hands move anti-clockwise around the compass and the needle completes a full circle. After three such free revolutions of the needle the filmed telekinetic session ends .
Benson Herbert, in his publication of the detailed analysis of the film frames, agrees that Tanagras was not the kind of person who would have faked the filmed presentation and also that the frames themselves did not give any evidence that the movement of the compass needle was forged. As Cleio passed away at a young age there were no more testing opportunities for further scientific study of her effects. Her filmed telekinetic phenomena, however, have later inspired physiologist Dr. Leonid Vasiliev at Leningrad University to start Nina Kulagina on the telekinesis of small objects .
1. Angelos Tanagras’ unpublished autobiography, PF Library.
2. S. Lachapelle, Attempting science: The creation and early development of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris, 1919-1931, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 41(1), 1-24 (2005)
3. W.H. Salter, JSPR, 29, 50 (1935)
4. B. Herbert, the Psychokinesis of Cleio, part three: analysis of 16 mm Cleio film, Journal of Paraphysics (International): vol. 6 (2), p. 95 (1972).
5. M. Ebon, Psychic Warfare: Threat or Illusion? McGraw Hill (1983)
Paranormal belief and susceptibility to misperceptions of visual noise
Paul Rogers & Kimberly Prophet
School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire PR1 2HE
Previous studies suggest paranormal believers are especially prone to visual illusions (e.g. Blackmore & Moore, 1994) and to misperceiving randomness (e.g. Brugger, Landis & Regard, 1990). The present study builds upon these separate theories by examining the extent to which believers misperceive objects in random, dynamic visual ‘noise’. The impact a paranormal versus non-paranormal context has on these misperceptions was also investigated (cf. Lange & Houran, 2002). An opportunity sample of 120 university students (50% female; age range 18-55 years; M=22.9 years; SD=5.5 years) completed psychometrically sound measures of both paranormal belief (Tobyack, 1988) and visual imagery ability (Marks, 1973). Participants also read a brief vignette in which a hypothetical hospital is described as either a disused psychiatric unit which has featured on several paranormal TV shows (paranormal context) or as a modern cosmetic surgery which has won awards for its technical excellence (non-paranormal context). Having read one of the two vignettes participants then watched three short DVD clips in which artificial smoke gradually disperses to reveal either a woman, a lamp or a blank background (i.e. no object). These were presented in a counterbalanced order. Participants were then asked to report anything they saw in the smoke (visual noise) as soon as they saw it. Thus, the number of objects correctly identified (‘hits’) and speed of judgements served as two dependent measures.
Several predictions were made. First, paranormal believers were expected to score fewer visual hits than non-believers, especially given the blank/no object condition. Second, believers were also expected to make faster judgements regardless of their accuracy, again particularly when exposed to the blank/no object condition. In other words, believers were expected to falsely ‘see’ more non-existent objects, more quickly, than non-believers. Third, these biases were expected to be more pronounced when believers were presented with the paranormal context.
A 2 paranormal belief (believer vs. non-believer) x 2 context type (paranormal vs. non-paranormal) x 3 clip type (woman vs. lamp vs. blank) mixed Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) - controlling for respondents’ visual imagery ability – was performed, with preliminary results offering partial support for hypotheses. As expected, paranormal believers scored fewer visual hits and generally made quicker judgements than non-believers. In addition, participants exposed to the paranormal context scored fewer visual hits than given the non-paranormal context. Finally, (near) significant belief x context interactions were found for both accuracy and time scores. Subsequent post hoc comparisons confirmed (a) that believers exposed to the paranormal context scored fewer hits that believers exposed to the non-paranormal context and (b) that compared to non-believers, believers scored fewer hits and made quicker judgements when exposed to both context types. Findings are discussed in relation to paranormal believers’ susceptibility to misperceive, and seek meaning in, random visual noise. It is speculated that such biases may offer a partial explanation for at least some apparitional experiences (cf. Irwin & Watt, 2007). Methodological issues and ideas for future research are also considered.
3. Blackmore, S., & Moore, R. (1994). Seeing things: Visual Recognition and Belief in the Paranormal. European Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 91-103.
4. Brugger, P, Landis, T & Regard, M (1990). A Sheep-Goat Effect in Repetition Avoidance: Extra Sensory Perception as an Effect if Subjective Probability? British Journal of Psychology, 81, 455-468.
5. Irwin, H.J. & Watt, C., A. (2007). An introduction to parapsychology (5th ed.) Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
6. Lange, R. & Houran, J. (2002). The psychological reality of haunts and poltergeists: Part 1. The Skeptic, 15(3), Autumn 2002, 8-12.
7. Marks, D.F. (1973). Visual Imagery Differences in the Recall of Pictures. British Journal of Psychology, 64, 17-24
8. Tobacyk, J., J. (1988). A revised paranormal belief scale. Unpublished manuscript, Louisiana Technical University, Ruston, LA.
Finding meaning in Near-Death Experiences: an interpretative phenomenological analysis
D J Wilde & C D Murray
School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester
Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) have been reported by people who are verifiably near-death (e.g. after cardiac arrest) and people who perceive themselves to be near-death (e.g. during traumatic experiences) (Greyson, 2000). They have become a topic of increasing research interest over the last 35 years. The majority of this research has been nomothetic in nature. This approach has provided a wealth of data about how the average experient integrates their NDE, modifies their attitudes and values, and undergoes spiritual transformation and growth. However, it has been argued in psychology (e.g. De Waele, 1986; Flick, 2002) that the averaged data obtained from such studies relate only to the average person, if such a person exists. Also missing from this method is the power to specify any detail about the particular nuances of a person’s transformative processes. For example, when someone is said to have acquired a ‘greater interest in spiritual matters’ after an NDE, what exactly does that mean or entail for them?
Whilst quantitative research work has added substantially to our understanding of the NDE, there remains a need for a closer examination of the longitudinal after-effects experienced by people who have them, the nature of those after-effects, and the temporal, social and psychological factors that may impinge on the integration process, and in particular, the person’s sense of self or identity. The present research aimed to address these issues by taking a phenomenological, idiographic approach. To date there has been no in-depth examination of the lived experience of having an NDE and what meaning NDErs attribute to that experience.
In order to gain access and insight to the world of people who have had NDEs a qualitative methodology was adopted using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Sampling in IPA research is purposive; that is, it seeks the experiences and opinions of the most appropriate persons for the particular research issue being addressed. The intense analysis of individual accounts and the examination of shared meaning, along with any nuances in these meanings, are reflective of the idiographic characteristic of IPA which is generally characterized by small and homogeneous samples (Smith & Osborn, 2003). To meet these requirements, three women were recruited to take part in face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and subjected to IPA.
Three interconnected themes emerged when considering participants’ NDEs; 1) the NDE in a biographical context, 2) new understandings: the roots of development & growth, and 3) being and becoming: life after near-death.
The analysis showed that life for the experient post-NDE is socially, affectively and psychologically complex. Participant’s described a variety of attitudinal and behavioural changes since their NDE, as well as an array of barriers and facilitators to sharing the experience with others. The idiographic, phenomenological stance taken in this research was also instrumental in highlighting the subtle, yet powerful personal, social and spiritual mediating factors that influenced how the NDE was managed and integrated.
By examining the experience and meaning of the NDE, psychologists and health care professionals will be better equipped to understand their clients’ experiences and to help them with any potential personality transformations or psycho-spiritual crises that may arise after the event.
De Waele, J. P. (1986). Individual Psychology. In R. Harre & R. Lamb (Eds.), The Dictionary of Personality and Social Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell.
Flick, U. (2002). An Introduction to Qualitative Research (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Greyson, B. (2000). Near-Death Experiences. In E. Cardeña, S. J. Lynn & S. C. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence (pp. 315-352): American Psychological Association.
Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2003). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J. A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative Psychology. A Practical Guide to Research Methods (pp. 51-80). London: Sage.
A conference attempt to win the National Lottery jackpot psychically
This is a very short session involving a psychical experiment. Delegates will be asked to close their eyes and relax. Then after a short period of positive thinking they will be asked to psychically predict the winning numbers in Saturday’s National Lottery lotto draw. They should write down any numbers between one and forty-nine that come into their mind’s eye. Any total can be written and they may include repeated numbers. These numbers are then processed by a computer program which eliminates expected number bias and so produces a list of the numbers in order of popularity as chosen by the delegates. Tickets are then bought based on this list. About 50 one-pound tickets will be bought, dependent on the number of participants. It is free to take part, but any winnings will be shared amongst participants and the SPR. The experiment was first done at the 2001 SPR conference as part of Mick 0’Neill’s bi-weekly on-going Psychic Lottery Project. That no longer continues but the tradition of the SPR conference attempts continues.
Full instructions will be given before the experiment and an instruction sheet, along with slip to be filled in with the predictions, will be distributed.
The project was set up to try to find any correlations that suggest that lottery numbers could be predicted psychically. Then assuming that any such findings could be used to improve lottery chances, it was planned to try and win the lottery in that way.
The projectís overall aim is to find out whether and how it may be possible to use psi to predict lottery numbers. If it is, we plan to win the UK National Lottery twice!
The principal bases of the research are the work of Mark Zilberman (1995) and the PEAR precognitive Ganzfeld results (1989). Zilberman‘s research suggested that the number of people who win lottery prizes varies dependent on season, national events and most importantly, geomagnetic disturbance.
Other factors considered by the project are lunar variations and the finding by James Spottiswoode (1997) that during a Local Sidereal time (LST) window around 13h 30m LST a much higher rate of success was found in thousands of psychical trials. This result featured in the last SPR-PA joint conference as it had been published only a short while before that conference.
This is a free, easy and fun opportunity to test your psychic abilities with lottery prediction, help psychical research and possibly win a lot of money. Please take part.
1. Dunne B. J., Dobyns Y. H., Intner S. M. (1989). Precognitive Remote Perception III: Complete Binary Data Base with Analytical Refinements. Technical Note PEAR 89002, Princeton University.
2. Spottiswoode S J P, Apparent Association Between Effect Size in Free Response Anomalous Cognition Experiments and Local Sidereal Time. Journal of Scientific Exploration 1997 #2,109-122.
3. Zilberman M. S. (1995). Public Numerical Lotteries - An International Parapsychological Experiment Covering A Decade. JSPR, 60, 149-160
Thanks are due to the SPR for support grants amounting to £3,000 awarded to the ongoing part of the project. Without their help, non-academic research like this would usually be impossible.
What might survive physical death?
For many of those familiar with the extensive evidence published over the last century and a quarter, survival of physical death is viewed as at least a plausible working hypothesis. Rather less attention has been given to an associated question, namely what aspects of the individual’s consciousness and personality might survive death, and what might be the nature of the post-mortem experiences that await the survivor? Physical science has nothing to say on these questions, since death implies coming to an end in the space-time continuum that constitutes physical reality. We must therefore turn our attention to reports arising from direct human experiences. These experiences include deathbed visions (both of the dying and of those at the bedside), Near Death Experiences and Out of the Body Experiences, reports by mental and physical mediums (whether or not in trance), of contacts with the deceased, and reports of After Death Communications other than through mediums. Also of relevance are the mystical experiences and teachings that are a prominent feature of all the great psycho-spiritual traditions.
The proposed presentation will briefly survey samples of this evidence and draw attention to such elements as the consistency between many of the reports, the clear implication that memory, sensory awareness and personal characteristics and concerns endure at least for a time, the numerous reports of a past-life review and of periods of atonement or purgatory, the presence of some for of ‘body’ and of a recognisable quasi-physical environment, the possibility of reincarnation, the presence of Hades-like conditions, the emphasis upon the mental nature of the next world, and the concept of levels of development and of continuing spiritual progress.
The paper will conclude by stressing that the founders of the SPR were drawn to psychical research by their interest in survival and the aftermath of survival, and it is incumbent upon the Society to continue this interest. The emphasis of the last half-century upon scientific laboratory-based research, valuable and revealing as this research has undoubtedly been, should not divert us from this interest. It appears clear that it is a similar interest that draws the attention of the public to psychical research, and that those who know of the existence of the Society expect it to contribute towards the satisfaction of this interest, and to provide some of the information that may enable individuals draw their own conclusions on the important issues involved.
The Whiteman-Stevenson correspondence on reincarnation
A collection of archive material pertaining to the late Professor Michael Whiteman, polymath and honorary member of the SPR, has been sorted, packed and dispatched from his home in Cape Town to the Society by his daughter Sibyl. The material includes lecture notes given to various groups, diaries containing records of out-of-body and mystical experiences, studies of various kinds (e.g. of Freud, Jung, Plotinos, Swedenborg, classical Eastern texts), drafts of papers and book chapters, unpublished material, reviews, five DVD transfers of video recordings of interviews, and correspondence. Whiteman kept most letters written to him together with copies of his replies, providing an invaluable resource not only regarding Whiteman’s views but also the views of his correspondents. He did not have email access, so all the material is hand-written or in typescript. Among the 127 correspondents are Bastin, Blackmore, Beloff, Carr, Chari, Crookall, Ducasse, Dale, Ellison, Garrett, Green, Heisenberg, Hart, Heywood, Krippner, Lester Smith, Margenau, Morris, Neppe, Osis, Polkinghorne, H.H. Price, Rogo, Stevenson, Tehhaeff, Thouless, White, and Wolman.
After suitable cataloguing the material will join other SPR archive material held in the Cambridge University Library. I have a substantial amount of material sent by Whiteman to me over some forty years; that which is not duplicated in the material dispatched from Cape Town will join the archive.
This presentation will focus on the correspondence, giving special attention to exchanges with the late Professor Stevenson, since his views in particular are currently being explored. Agreement is shown on a multi-world conception; Stevenson (1986) became “more and more convinced that a further understanding of the existence of two spaces, or perhaps multiple spaces, is necessary for our understanding of the relationship between minds and brains and also for the solution of many problems in parapsychology.” Whiteman (1987) stated that “everything hinges for me on the admission of ‘other spaces’, which I classify along with other kinds of mental control by which one can become ‘open’ to them or ‘enter’ them. I was delighted to read that you are coming to a view of this kind.” But it seems that Whiteman was only partly correct in this assessment: Stevenson evidently had reservations about an individual being able consciously to enter nonphysical spaces, even though Whiteman believed that out-of-body experience is exactly this.
Given this agreement in multi-world thinking, there nevertheless remained a fundamental difference of opinion between Stevenson and Whiteman over processes involved in reincarnation. An understanding of personality structure, of exactly what it is that reincarnates or survives physical death, seemed crucial to Whiteman, who discerned that physical personality is composite, and that on dissolution after physical death only a fraction of one personality may carry memories into the composition of a new physical personality. What enters a new life may be the core of a past composite personality, or it may be less central, a co-mind. Memories brought in by co-minds he termed ‘loose reincarnation’ in contrast to ‘strict reincarnation’ in which the core of one personality re-enters physical life as the core of a new personality. Stevenson wrote in 1963, “So far as the empirical evidence available to me goes, the evidence seems rather to support the beads on a string idea of the theosophists.” He evidently saw an earthly personality to be a discrete unit, connected by a discrete link between one incarnation and the next. He did admit “that there are few cases which are not also open to the other idea of a partial incarnation of members of a group. The cases which, it seems to me, can only be explained by strict reincarnation are those in which birthmarks occur... In these birthmark and deformity cases, the link between one personality and another seems quite clear, assuming authenticity for the cases.” Whiteman replied that co-minds may constitute the personality of a neonate “almost entirely if the individual in charge is not fully awake, so to speak.” Then, “naturally one would expect traumatic events in the life of those co-minds to be manifested in the physical body of the baby.”
It seems that Stevenson found Whiteman’s account of the great complexities of personality structure and its vicissitudes after physical death to be simply unnecessary, not having had experience of such things; he must have felt he had enough complexity to deal with as it was. On the other hand Whiteman believed the complexities of personality structure to be of cardinal importance because it was a part of his direct experience. He also referred to the claimed direct experience of Swedenborg, also the early Buddhist and Upanishad texts (contra theosophists). The extent of personal experience governs almost completely one’s view of what counts as legitimate and useful knowledge, and where direct knowledge is lacking, the device often used is of setting up theoretical entities, which may help to focus thinking. Yet they tend to create a “cloak of ideas”, as Husserl put it in his phenomenology, which can compromise clear perception. Stevenson in his last work (2007) did sense a “need to imagine a vehicle for memories between lives”, and proposed the term ‘psychophore’ for this “intermediate vehicle”. This is in line with his ‘string of beads’ idea. Such imaginative theorising is widespread in parapsychology, and in science as a whole. Whiteman was acutely aware of this danger especially in dealing with nonphysical events, and did his best to adhere to phenomenological principles that require definition of terms to be conducted “ostensively in terms of actual observation”, not as hypothetical or imaginative entities.
While showing great cordiality, the available correspondence between Stevenson and Whiteman exposes fundamental differences in experience and approach. The minimal impact of Whiteman’s views on Stevenson’s final work on reincarnation need not then seem surprising.
A theory to die for!
James E. Beichler
P.O. Box 624, Belpre, Ohio 45714, U.S.A.
In the past several decades, rapid advances have been made in developing evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena. Of the various forms of the paranormal, evidence verifying some form of afterlife have been the most startling. From research on NDEs to mediums and on to reincarnation, it would seem that consciousness, at the very least, survives death of the human body. However, it is also quite evident that science, as it now defines itself, will never accept the paranormal and related phenomena, especially those phenomena that deal with the afterlife, no matter how much evidence is gathered and no matter how convincing that evidence is, because science has never developed the conceptual and intellectual tools to even discuss such possibilities. This seeming paradox, the fact that science seems happy with ignoring evidence for the possibility of the paranormal and an afterlife, is actually a historical artefact dating from the Scientific Revolution. It was once necessary to protect science from religion and the supernatural, but that necessity has long ago evaporated as science became more and more successful. In fact, science has finally reached a point in its own development, maturity and understanding of nature where it is ready to tackle the most difficult of the questions dealing with the paranormal world: the survival of consciousness. However, doing so would necessitate that science redefine itself and its scope and that would be truly revolutionary.
On the other hand, current events in science imply that a new scientific revolution in physics is about to occur. A comparison of scientific advances over the past few decades with scientific events in the last decades of the nineteenth century show a very large number of parallels, which seems to indicate a much broader scientific revolution in the making than one that just affects physics. This new revolution will be as much about mind and consciousness as it is about matter and physics. For example, the SPR, founded in 1881, was an integral part of the last pre-revolutionary period of science, while the PA, legitimized when it became a member of the AAAS in 1969, is an integral part of this new pre-revolutionary period. Both of these events offer evidence for the considerable scientific growth and interest in human consciousness that developed during the specific time periods before the last and the next revolutions. It is therefore safe to conclude that any new revolution will bring both a new theory of physical reality and a new theory of the consciousness that senses, interprets and interacts with physical reality. It is also logical to conclude that a new theory of consciousness that explains how consciousness and matter interact with each other at the most fundamental level of physical reality will lead to explanatory models of the paranormal as well as explain how consciousness survives death of the material body. This prediction does not represent an optimistic 'pipe dream', but a very real probability. In fact, such a theory has already been developed. It is based upon a five-dimensional Einstein-Kaluza model of the space-time continuum. Called the 'single field theory' or SOFT, it can easily account for many varieties of paranormal phenomena as well as the survival of consciousness. This particular theory may or may not prove completely valid, only time will tell, but whatever theory finally succeeds in bridging the gap between mind and matter, indications are that it will have many of the characteristics of SOFT. Whatever the case may be, a valid theory that combines physical reality and consciousness is truly a theory to die for!
A new survey of psychic experiences in Iceland
Faculty of Social Science, University of Iceland
In 1974 the author conducted in Iceland (Haraldsson, 1985) a large-scale (N = 902) representative survey of psychic and religious experiences, and beliefs in such pheomena and various aspects of Icelandic “folk-beliefs” some of which may stem from pre-Christian times . Among the findings was that 64% of the sample reported at least one of 12 different psychic experiences, 59% of the men and 70% of the women. Experiences of psychic dreams topped the list with 36% reporting them, and next came unexpectedly experiences of apparitions of the dead with 31%. Up to 17% reported experiences of the specific Icelandic phenomena, such as of elves (or hidden folks), “spelled spots” and “followers” (fylgjur). Some of these experiences can be found in some areas of Ireland and may hence be of Celtic origin. Iceland was settled primarely from Norway but a one-fourth to one-third of the settlers came from Ireland and Scotland.
Considerable changes have taken place in Icelandic society since 1974 (such as higher level of education), and it seemed time to replicate the 1974 survey and examine what differences might have taken place.
This time Haraldsson was joined by Terry Gunnell, a British born folklorist at the Univeristy of Iceland. In 1974 the 1132 strong sample was randomly obtained from the National Registry. The survey closed with the exceptionally high return rate of 80%, or 902 responses.
National surveys were rare in 1974 but common at the present time so the return rate was only 44%, returned questionnaires were 660. 36% of the males responded and 52% of the females. It is likely that those interested and believing in psychic pheomena are more likely to have answered than those who do not. The results may thus be somewhat higher than they would be in a more representative sample. It was hence decided to extend the sample in 2007. Each student in a class on folklore got 10 members of their family and friends of various ages to fill out the questionnaire. We obtained 366 further respondants, thus a total of 1026. Since substantially more women responded, this was corrected for by giving men and women equal weights in the final results. The difference in the reported experiences was only very slight to none between the two samples in this survey giving some support for the representativeness of the results.
Not much had changed from 1974. The figures tended to be slightly higher in the new survey, psychis dreams e, g, were now reported by 39% but by 36% in 1974. Waking ESP experiences (telepathy and clairvoyance) were reported by substantially more respondants than in 1974, namely 54%, and more reported having lived in a haunted house (35%) and having past-life memories, 10%. As before, women reported more experiences than men.
Percentage of respondents claiming various kind of psychic experiences in the surveys in 2006, 2007 and 1974:
2006 2007 1974
Waking ESP experience 54 55 27
Psychic dream 39 40 36
Apparition/encounterwith a deceased person 38 42 31
Lived in a haunted house 32 35 18
Experience of poltergeist 12 12 9
Out-of-body experience 19 23 8
Visual experience of a dead person 17 21 -
Experience of a deceased animal 9 11 -
Remember a past life 10 10 2
Specific Icelandic folk-beliefs:
Experience of “fylgja” 16 17 17
Seen elves or “hidden folks” 5 5 5
Experience of “spelled spots” 3 5 2
The results will also be viewed in the light of surveys conducted in other countries, in particular the Multinational Human Values Survey.
1. Erlendur Haraldsson (1985). Representative national surveys of psychic phenomena: Iceland, Great Britain, Sweden, USA and Gallup’s multinational survey. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 53, 145-158.
2. Erlendur Haraldsson & Joop M. Houtkooper (1991). Psychic Experiences in the Multinational Human Values Study. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. 85(2), 145-165.
Spontaneous cases: an analysis of the Italian literature
Stefano Siccardi, Annalisa Bozzini, Massimo Biondi, Brunilde Cassoli & Cecilia Magnanensi
It has sometimes been observed that the analysis of spontaneous cases (SCs) could help to design models for psi, define testable hypotheses and construct experiments to be conducted in the laboratory. Some work in this direction has been carried out by Schouten (1979, 1981a,b), who performed a phenomenological analysis of three famous collections of cases: the “Phantasms of the Living”, Louisa Rhine’s collection and the Sannwald collection. Moreover, he built statistical indicators based on this analysis. As another source of inspiration, we considered Persinger (1974), who used the cases of a popular American magazine to obtain statistical data.
In Italy we don’t have “ready-to-use” collections like those used by Schouten, so we decided to start from cases, regarding Italian people, that had been published in newspapers, magazines and books, collect their abstracts and prepare short sheets that would be suitable for statistical analysis. We found that Persinger’s format for data sheets was a good starting point, even if in a lot of cases we could not fill all items.
As our sources are not homogeneous, also the quality and richness of data differ greatly from one case to the other. We decided to discard only those that 1) contain so little data that almost all categories could not be scored or 2) could not be defined spontaneous but descriptions of some kind of experiment or 3) did not have any paranormal content in any agreed sense, however strange they could be as human experiences or 4) did not fall in one of a few phenomenological categories, namely: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychometry, crisis-related (especially death-related) apparitions and other events, PK, RSPK and hauntings.
Among the data we collected, we quote: the kind of phenomenon (dream, apparition, ..., raps, etc.), information about the time and the place of occurrences, characteristics of the subjects involved and their relationships, what were they doing before, during and after the paranormal episode, the kind of content of esp (private/family matters or public/social ones etc.)
Moreover we considered three more points that are less usual in this kind of analysis, in order to test some specific hypotheses that have been advanced in order to shed light on psi phenomena.
1) Experimental work is often carried out with unselected subjects, that is with people who didn’t have any specific paranormal experience before. On the contrary, some authors suggested that successful psi research should employ mainly gifted people; see e.g. Tart (2007) for a clear summary of this concept and its relationship with some open problems in psi research. We asked whether SCs could tell us anything about this point, so we noted how many people said that they never had any psi experience before and how many said it was just an example of a lot that had already occurred to them (so they could be considered “talented” in some psi tasks).
2) Sometimes it has been hypothesized that every psi cognitive experience could be explained in terms of precognition: if nothing else, precognition of the moment when the subject will know that his feelings were correct (e.g. O’Donnell 2007). So we kept track of some data about the confirmation to the subject: if it actually took place, how long after the psi episode, etc.
3) Sometimes it is theorised that psi could be an evolutionary advantage (e.g. in the famous PMIR theory). Although this is in general intended as an unconscious or subliminal mechanism that would direct attention toward useful things and away from harmful ones, we scored SCs according to the extent they were of some usefulness for people that experienced them, so to represent a direct advantage.
This first Italian inquiry on SCs is currently in progress. Some results of statistical analyses and comparisons with other collections, regarding ESP cases, will be presented during the SPR meeting, together with a preliminary discussion of the three new topics listed above.
1. McClenon J., Content analysis of an anomalous experience collection: evaluating evolutionary perspectives, JP vol. 66, pp. 291-316, (2002)
2. O’ Donnell, S, The Paranormal explained, (2007)
3. Persinger, M. A., The Paranormal – Part I, Patterns. New York (1974)
4. Rhine, L. E., Precognition and intervention, JP vol. 19, pp. 1-34, (1955)
5. Schouten S. A., Analysis of spontaneous cases as reported in Phantasms of the living, EJP vol. 2, pp.408-454, (1979)
6. Schouten S. A., Analysing spontaneous cases: a replication based on the Sannwald collection, EJP vol. 4, pp. 9-49, (1981a)
7. Schouten S. A., Analysing spontaneous cases: a replication based on the Rhine collection, EJP vol. 4, pp. 113-158, (1981b)
8. Steinkamp F., Acting on the future: a survey of precognitive experiences, JASPR vol. 94, pp. 37-59, (2000)
9. Tart, C. T., letter to the Editor of the Journal of the SPR, JSPR vol. 71, pp. 114-117, (2007)
Broken threads in the fabric of reality
Mary Rose Barrington
Some aspects of the paranormal might plausible one day be reconciled with a scientific model not vastly different from ideas currently received. But when it comes to the more extreme effects (such as materialisation) then any reconciliation seems improbable. So if such effects do not fit within a conceivable scientific model then perhaps it is the other way round, and the scientific model fits into a larger paranormal framework. What sort of cosmos could that be?
Richet, Nobel prize-winning physiologist, testifies to materialisation of limbs under his eyes and touch; this should surely be regarded as a reliable source data. Osty reports being scrutinised and even kissed by materialised heads. There are acceptable reports of even stranger manifestations, including phantom figures that walk and talk, making appropriate conversation. This is surely something that cannot happen in the world as it is generally believed to be.
However, these séance room phenomena are ephemeral; they can be thought of as composed of substances not known outside the private space in which they came and went.
A different sort phenomenon is the arrival of so-called apports. These are ordinary material objects that, once they have arrived, remain in existence. The evidence for apports is less copious, but not dismissible. Alfred Russel Wallace testifies to the unaccountable arrival of improbable snowballs and sunflowers dripping clods of earth. In our own time large sprays of flowers were often found in the hearth at the conclusion of séances at the Harrison home circle, though there was no way the door or window could have been opened during the sitting.
Related to séance room apports are the phenomena of jott, the difference being that articles disappear and re-appear, often in entirely the wrong place, in the ordinary course of life, and many people, including SPR members, testify to these incidents in circumstances that seem to exclude faulty memory or malobservation. But ontologically the article does not disappear; it seemingly goes out of existence at one location and comes back into existence at a different location. This is in some degree more radical than the materialisation of phantom figures, because we are talking about articles that belong in our everyday world, not ephemera.
We can of course dispose of the problems raised by disposing of the testimony; but this way one can eliminate all the evidence for the paranormal, just reserving a few effects that seem not too controversial. And yet it is more rational in principle to believe that sane and reasonable people are telling the truth about what they have witnessed than to assume that they are not.
The evidence points to is an idealist or monist world held in place by a network of minds supporting an orderly and co-ordinated system. But in the closed community of a séance room, events may respond locally to the will and imagination of people holding beliefs and expectations; and in ordinary life items can slip through the net (i.e. fail to be maintained in existence) through inattention or subconscious manipulation. These ideas will be put forward.
In search of the universal character of micro-psychokinesis
Athens University, Faculty of Physics, Solid State Physics Department
Panepistimiopolis, Zografos, 157 84 Athens Greece
The scientific investigation of natural phenomena constantly searches for universal patterns in their behaviour. The study of micro-psychokinesis (microPK) has engaged a good number of scientists for many years that have gathered a large number of data in order to establish it as a genuine natural phenomenon . In microPK, the frequency of outcomes of a random process is said to be consciously modulated by the state of the brain. Thus, the average of this random variable gets shifted beyond chance expectation in the desired direction, in coherence with the mental state. This implies that a microPK mechanism exists, one that obeys precise rules to which all past as well as future evidence must comply with. If this mechanism initiates a mean-shift in randomly varying quantities, as its definition dictates, its effect must be observable not only microscopically but also macroscopically. In other words, macro-PK or telekinesis must be also accounted for.
The scientific community considers that psi phenomena, such as microPK or telepathy, have no scientific grounds. These terms have recently attracted attention in the world of orthodox science, yet under a different context. It is now understood that telekinesis and telepathy may indeed be feasible in the foreseeable future, yet not through unknown and inexplicable forces, but through the application of the known laws of physics. Such applications, it is believed, would require the development of appropriate interface technologies to couple the brain activity of one person directly with its physical environment (psychokinesis-telekinesis), or with the brain activity of another person (telepathy) and such applications have already shown to be promising . Parapsychology, on the other hand, holds that there already exists plenty of evidence for remote interaction through the mind alone . That would require a clear-cut mechanism underway. The question is therefore, how does this universal microPK mechanism operate? Or, what is the set of rules that it obeys according to the current evidence?
The evidence in support of the traditional microPK definition has been summed up in a meta-analysis and graphically represented through the funnel plot [4, 5]. In the funnel plot the size of each study is drawn against the proportion of hits in it. In large databases, such as this one, the shape of the funnel plot is expected to look like an inverted funnel symmetrically centred about its peak. The position of its peak represents the effect’s true size. The funnel plot of micro-PK data is, however, not symmetric and most importantly its peak is not shifted from chance as expected, but centred at 50%.
There is also another controversial feature on this funnel plot, just as important as the lack of an overall mean shift: the funnel plot is strangely broadened in comparison with what it should be if its data points were independent from each other. What the expected breath of the funnel plot of independent data should be is statistically estimated by the so-called confidence intervals. For instance, the 95% confidence interval should envelope the 95% of the data points in this large database, yet it envelopes considerably less data points. That inconsistency alone suggests that the entire micro-PK database is biased by a yet unknown biasing mechanism. Can there be a universal process to account not only for this broadening of variance, but also for the other important characteristics of the entire microPK database, the absence of an overall mean shift in the proportion of hits and the substantial deviation from chance of some individual scores?
The answer is yes, if the microPK is as a Markovian memory process. In this way, microPK data across all studies can be combined as a pool of records generated by one and the same mechanism. The mechanism is termed ‘memory’ since each microPK outcome depends on the previous ones. This work describes this simple Markovian model that can exactly replicate the three basic features that generate the entire microPK database: (a) its absence of overall mean shift, (b) its systematic broadening of variance and the (c) possibility for individual scores to substantially deviate from chance.
The model considers that the probability for a hit or a miss in a microPK test depends on what the last outcome was. Thus, a test outcome is determined by four probabilities: p11 to yield another hit after a hit, p22 to yield a miss after a miss, p12 for a miss after a hit, etc. The entire microPK database could have been generated by the Markovian biasing mechanism in the following way:
(a) It biases binary states, successes & failures, equally by boosting up the degree by which they cluster naturally in a series of trials.
(b) It does not distinguish between binary states, even if the initial mental task is opting for successes.
(c) As the clustering is affecting both binary states equally, in the long run its result will be balanced yielding no overall mean shift.
(d) The peak of the associated funnel plot will be then properly positioned at 50%. That is, the microPK biasing mechanism will imitate a random process, as far as the statistical average of hits is concerned.
(e) The entire current microPK database with all its features can be replicated by approximate self-transition probabilities: p11=p22=0.88.
In a nutshell, if one micro-PK mechanism exists across all studies, the frequency of runs of two same binary outcomes must be approximately 88%. Admittedly, no such evidence is currently available, to the best of the author’s knowledge. Research into this direction would need to be carried out before it is concluded that there exists no universal micropsychokinesis mechanism.
1. H. Bösch, F. Steinkamp, E. Boller, Psychological Bulletin, 132, 497-523 (2006)
2. M. Kaku, Physics of the Impossible, Allen Lane, London: (2008)
3. See for instance the Proceedings of Parapsychological Association Convention, 2004
4. F. Pallikari, Proc. Parapsychological Association Convention, pp. 157-171 (2004)
5. F. Pallikari, AIP conference Proceedings Frontiers of Time, Retrocausation-Experiment and Theory, pp 316-326 (2006).
The importance of subject feedback in ESP experiments
The meta-analyses carried out on precognition experiments (e.g. Honorton and Ferrari, 1989) provide outstanding evidence for extrasensory contacts with the future. However, problems of repeatability have frequently been encountered in the individual experiments. This paper suggests that the problems may have been due to a fundamental misinterpretation of what the experiments were actually measuring.
In the early days of telepathy experiments, it was found that on removing the “sender”, no appreciable change was produced in the results. This led to the assumption that the extrasensory contacts were being made directly with the targets, and not with the sender. The same interpretation was applied to the precognition experiments, in which it was assumed that the contacts were being made directly with the targets generated in the future.
However, the idea of such a “clairvoyant” contact would seem illogical, because an inanimate target cannot collect and encode information about itself in a form that would be directly intelligible to the subject’s brain. However, if the subject is allowed to observe the target when it is generated in the future, then he (or she) does possess the information in a suitably encoded form. Thus, all that is required for the extrasensory contact is that the subject’s brain, in the present, communicates with itself, in the future.
This interpretation can easily be accommodated within the noncausal theories for ESP, which propose that influences (rather than signals) are propagated through space and time, thus overcoming the problem of “reverse causation” implied in precognition. For example, Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that if similar structures are created at different locations in space and time, the structures “resonate” with a tendency to replicate one another.
The principles can be applied to the neuronal spatiotemporal patterns that are activated in the brain. The subject activates alternative patterns in the present (i.e. at the moment of the trial) until one of them matches the pattern that he will later activate when he receives feedback of the target information. This enables a resonance to occur and the replication effect indicates that the pattern activated in the present is the one that corresponds to the target (Taylor, 2007).
The basic form of extrasensory contact would therefore be that of precognition of the subject’s own future knowledge of the target information. Telepathy would require a contact with the brain of the sender, and although this might be possible, such a contact would be far more difficult to obtain. The associations between the neuronal networks activated in the different brains are quite different from one another. A poorer matching and weaker resonance would be produced. This may explain why direct telepathic contacts between sender and subject are probably not being detected under normal laboratory conditions. What might have happened in these experiments is that on some occasions, the subjects later received feedback of the target information, and this would enable them to use precognition to obtain the information at the moment of the trial.
The implications of this proposal are that feedback of the target information may be have to be given to subjects in all ESP experiments, in order for significant results to be produced.
The question of feedback has often been ignored in the past. The reports on some well-known experiments do, however, specifically state that feedback was given, and the experiments produced positive results. Examples are to be found in the Maimonides dream laboratory experiments in telepathy (Ullman et al., 1989) and the automated ganzfeld experiments (Honorton et al., 1990). Subject feedback was also given in the remote viewing experiments carried out at the Stanford Research Institute, by later taking the subjects to the target locations. At the time, however, the significance in the results was attributed to “psi-training” (Targ and Puthoff, 1978).
In fact, the Honorton and Ferrari meta-analysis (1989) includes the study of a sub-set of experiments in which information is provided about the degree of feedback given to the subjects. The study shows that when no feedback is given, the significance of the results falls to chance-expectation.
However, in order to confirm these findings, further experiments are needed in which subject feedback is systematically controlled. If such confirmation is obtained, the “clairvoyant” interpretation can be eliminated, and ESP research will be simplified considerably. Furthermore, if improved repeatability can be achieved, this should contribute towards a better acceptance of ESP within mainstream science.
1. Honorton, C., Berger, R.E., Varvoglis, M.P., Quant, M., Derr, P., Schechter, E.I., & Ferrari, D.C. (1990). Psi communication in the ganzfeld: experiments with an automated testing system and a comparison with a meta-analysis of earlier studies. Journal of Parapsychology, 54, 99-139.
2. Honorton, C. & Ferrari, D.C. (1989). A meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments, 1935-1987. Journal of Parapsychology,53, 281-308.
3. Targ, R. & Puthoff, H. (1978). Mind-Reach. London: Paladin Granada.
4. Taylor, J. (2007). Memory and Precognition. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 21, 553-571, and Erratum (2008) 22, 141.
5. Ullman, M., Krippner, S., & Vaughan, A. (1989). Dream Telepathy. Jefferson, NC: McFarlane.
Rebel heart, bartered soul: the haunted life of Maud Gonne (1866-1953)
Wendy E Cousins
While Maud Gonne is best known for her political activities in the cause of Irish Independence and as the muse of W.B.Yeats, her history includes many of the common characteristics of what George P. Hansen (2001) refers to as the Trickster archetype, an abstract constellation of qualities, usually personified in the form of an individual or a group, including “disruption, loss of status, boundary crossing, deception, violation of sexual mores and supernatural manifestations” (p 29).
She was born in December 1866, reportedly at the exact moment of the winter solstice, not in Ireland as she later lead people to believe, but in England near the military post at Aldershot, the daughter of a British military officer. Her life was replete with such paradoxes. Lauded as the most beautiful woman in the world, she professed a horror of the act of physical love, yet practised sex magic. Raised to be a carefree society girl, she spent her life fighting on the side of Ireland’s poor and oppressed and served more than one term in prison. Hailed as the Irish Joan of Arc she conducted an affair with a Frenchman and secretly bore him two children, behaviour which would have been viewed as somewhat less than saintly by the aforementioned Irish oppressed (Ward, 1990; Greer, 1995).
Nevertheless W.B.Yeats, for a long time unaware of the maze-like intricacies of her private life, “thought her supernatural” and cast her in the title role of his 1902 play Cathleen Ní Houlihan in which she appeared as a symbolic representation of Ireland as a woman, first as an ancient crone but then miraculously transformed by the sacrifice of a young man into a young girl “with the walk of a queen”. One of her fellow actors noted that during rehearsals Maud conveyed a curious sense of presence and “became not only an actress but an incarnate responsibility” (Cousins & Cousins, 1952). She herself believed that Ireland's national soul, “may incarnate itself temporarily in individuals from any class, for the spirit blowest where it listeth” and her autobiography A Servant of the Queen begins with the story of her own encounter with the Goddess.
“I saw a tall, beautiful woman with dark hair blown on the wind and I knew it was Cathleen ní Houlihan. She was crossing the bog towards the hills, springing from stone to stone over the treacherous surface ... I heard a voice say: 'You are one of the little stones on which the feet of the Queen have rested on her way to Freedom. ' ” (Gonne MacBride, 1938: p9)
This sense of a supernatural guiding principle was to prove useful to Maud in her public life and political activities and is a recurring theme in her writing. She records that in 1897 in County Mayo she was considered the fulfillment of a prophecy that “a woman dressed in green would come and preach the revolt. After that men would rise and there would be fighting and many killed but that English would in the end be driven out”. Through the influence of this prophecy she was able to gather a mass meeting at which the people demanded and gained rights to higher wages and seed-potatoes, an action credited with stopping a famine. On another occasion while visiting prisoners with life sentences she correctly predicted when each one of them would be released, unaware of what she was saying but feeling that “something stronger” spoke through her. In France, following the advice of a fortune-teller she won a small fortune at a casino and donated the money towards the legal defense of political prisoners. Some years later she followed the same psychic’s advice to no avail, commenting “But I was merely playing for myself that time and I never have luck when I try to do anything for myself”. Encouraged by W.B. Yeats she was briefly a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn and with him participated in rituals involving astral travel and remote viewing, however her visionary capacity often disturbed her (Gonne MacBride, 1938).
On a personal level, the paranormal served less as an integrating principle and acted more as a disruptive force. Maud relates that from early childhood she had visions of a grey-draped lady who stood by her bed, looking on with sad eyes. This apparition tracked her across countries, was sometimes visible to others and was associated with physical phenomena, including poltergeist-type activity. Water bottles mysteriously broke, doors unlocked, things appeared and disappeared. She also reports that as a young woman, she made a pact with the devil, agreeing that if she could rule her own life, the devil could have her soul. Within weeks her father was dead and she records that she saw his funeral ten days previously in a dream. She found such events deeply troubling (Gonne MacBride, 1938; MacBride White & Jeffares, 1992).
Wooffitt (1992: p 29-30) asks the question “how do people describe their paranormal experiences and what objectives are such descriptions intended to achieve?” In her own written accounts Maud Gonne presents herself as experiencing the manifestations of supernatural agency, working for the good of Ireland as a nation but against her own personal interests. In this way she constructs a narrative which both punishes and redeems her transgressions against social norms and closely aligns herself with the Irish national myth of mysticism and tragedy.
1. Cousins, J. H. & Cousins, M.E. (1950) We Two Together. Madras: Ganesh.
2. Hansen, G.P. (2001) The Trickster and the Paranormal. USA: Xlibris Corporation.
3. Gonne MacBride, M. (1938) A Servant of the Queen. Buckinghamshire: Colin Smyth Ltd.
4. Greer, M.K. (1995) Women of the Golden Dawn; Rebels and Priestesses. Rochester Vermont: Park Street Press.
5. MacBride White, A. & Jeffares, A.N. (1992) The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1993-1938: Always Your Friend. London: Pimlico.
6. Ward, M. (1990) Maud Gonne A Biography. London: Harper Collins.
7. Wooffitt, R. (1992) The Organisation of Factual Discourse. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
New light on the “ghost-written” poems fromQueen’s House, Cambridgeshire.
Centre for Fundamental and Anomalies Research
Around Easter 1971, a significant poltergeist outbreak occurred in the home of the Manning family in Linton, Cambridgeshire. This included raps, smells, apparitions, object teleportations, writing appearing on the walls, and automatic writing by the young Matthew Manning. The writings on the walls amounted to more than 600 signatures and seven short literary passages. Several “identities” were apparently behind the manifestations, with the dominant “source” claiming to be “Robert Webbe”, apparently a reference to a previous owner of the house (Robert Webbe, Junior (1686-1736)).
The events were later documented by Matthew Manning in three popular books (1), and a 1994 Proceedings of the SPR (2). The SPR investigation was conducted by Vernon Harrison, an eminent expert on handwriting analysis. Harrison ascribed 85% of the signatures to “Robert Webbe” and none to Matthew Manning.
The seven literary passages varied in length from 5 to 26 words, and were all signed by “Robert Webbe”. Harrison could not trace the true origin of any of the passages (which he called “poetic aphorisms”), but considered six of them to be in the handwriting of “Robert Webbe” and one (the “Zeno script”) to be in a different one. The Zeno script also showed considerably worse spelling than the other scripts. Both Harrison (and Matthew Manning before him) thought it unlikely that “Robert Webbe” composed these passages.
The broad sentiment contained in the Zeno script was later (1998) traced by Pamela Huby to classical sources (3), but the form of expression was mismatched.
I have recently managed to identify the true authorship of all seven literary passages (including matching the forms). The new information independently supports, in several ways, the idea that the six “Webbe” scripts are related in a way that sets them apart from the Zeno script.
Firstly, the six “Webbe”scripts are all extracts from poems by five English authors who were all prominent poets, and who lived between 1618 and 1721 (4), i.e. in the period immediately prior to the death of Robert Webbe in 1736. Against this the Zeno script comes from a non-poetic work (an Italian Grammar), by an Italian author, not a poet, and dates from 1828, nearly a century after the death of Robert Webbe.
Secondly, the five English authors were all restoration-period Royalists (some with very close connections to the Monarchy), whereas the Italian author lived well after the Civil War.
Thirdly, the meanings of the “Webbe” scripts, when interpreted in the light of the poems they were taken from, is consistent with the attitude and situation of “Robert Webbe” as revealed through the automatic writings of Matthew Manning (5). Such a case cannot readily be made for the Zeno script.
As a further development, the new information about the excerpts’ contexts also suggests ways of interpreting them that were not available to Harrison (or Matthew Manning before him). These richer meanings not only add to the interest of the case but also reinforce the survivalist conclusions that Harrison came to in his overall assessment of the case.
Overall the new information supports Harrison’s conclusions, both in the attribution of the scripts and in the assessment of the nature of “Robert Webbe”. This not only raises the importance of this case as evidence relating to survival, but should also increases our esteem for Harrison as an investigator and handwriting analyst.
1. The Link (1974), In the Minds of Millions (1977), The Strangers (1978)
2. Harrison, V. (1994) ‘The Signatures on the Walls of Queen’s House, Lipton, Cambridgeshire.’ Proceedings of the SPR, 58(218).
3. Huby, P. ‘Zeno in the Manning Scripts’ Journal of the SPR, vol. 63(853) p 48.
4. Four of them are buried in Westminster Abbey. One was Poet Laureate, and one triggered the founding of the Royal Society.
5. This includes awareness (sometimes) of his post-mortem state. Harrison considered “Robert Webbe” to be a self-aware revived fragment of the historical Robert Webbe, and not a sub-personality of Matthew Manning.
Have the lunatics taken over the (haunted) asylum?
Ann R. Winsper 2 , Steven T. Parsons 1 & Dr. Ciarán J. O’Keeffe 3
1 Department of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
2 Department of Psychology, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK.
3 Université de Toulouse, France.
Investigation of spontaneous paranormal phenomena including ghosts, apparitions and poltergeists (paranormal investigating), has been undertaken since the late 19th century by private individuals and organisations. At various times throughout the past 120 years, the general public’s interest in the paranormal has waxed and waned. During the 1920’s and 30’s, Harry Price became a nationally recognised figure within the media as a “ghost hunter”. Later, in the 1960’s and 70’s, Peter Underwood and others continued to maintain and cultivate this public demand for ghost investigations.
In the 1990’s there was a large resurgence of interest in many aspects of paranormal and supernatural experiences, fuelled by media programs such as Strange But True. A defining factor in these programmes was the seriousness with which the subject was treated, and most programming at this time was fronted by respectable presenters (e.g., Michael Aspel). This coincided with the formation of a small but significant number of amateur paranormal investigation groups throughout the UK whose members wanted to experience for themselves a ghostly encounter.
In 2002 Living TV aired the first series of Most Haunted, which stated it was the first serious televised investigation of spontaneous cases. It has grown through 10 series to become a cult TV show with a large mass following and various spin-off or copycat paranormal shows. A quick scan of the internet reveals more than 500 websites and interactive forums dedicated to discussing the show and its claimed results. The influence of these types of shows on spontaneous case research is frightening.
In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of ordinary members of the public participating in vigils and other ghost hunting activities. For example, in 1995 there were less than 100 amateur paranormal investigation groups – in 2006 a count using the internet revealed this number to now be in excess of 1200 such groups in the UK alone. Additionally, a number of organisations have been established selling ghost hunting experiences to members of the public. The internet itself must share some of the blame in this explosion – where once one had to study and undertake many years of field investigation to become an “expert” in the field, nowadays with the advent of forums, chatrooms and Wikipedia, everyone has become an instant “expert”. At the same time, modern technology has permitted amateur ghost hunters to avail themselves of high tech video recording equipment capable of use in the dark and also more esoteric equipment such as EMF meters and digital thermometers are now readily and cheaply available. For these reasons, ghost hunting has now become, for the first time in over 100 years, a “mass participation hobby”. Within Para.Science (formed in 1995), the first two authors have noticed that within the last 4-5 years there has been an unprecedented reduction in the number of spontaneous cases that are reported to us, and furthermore there has been a significant loss of suitable locations in which to conduct spontaneous case investigations. From 1995-2001 we received around 2-3 requests per week for assistance from home owners and factory owners reporting paranormal activity. From 2002 onwards this number has fallen month on month until the present at which time we receive around 1-2 such requests per year. Locations reputed to be haunted which previously could be visited for perhaps a few pounds, are now routinely charging several hundred pounds for a single night visit and annually many more locations are trading on the flimsiest of claimed paranormal associations in order to cash in on this mass frenzy for ghost hunting.
In the current climate, what therefore is the future for serious spontaneous case investigation to continue? We have observed that the expectations of both client and investigator have changed dramatically in recent years. Clients now expect and are indeed disappointed, if an investigation does not immediately include the use of a medium or sensitive. Investigators, armed with the latest gadgets, now fully expect to capture “scientific evidence” of paranormal encounters. The use of equipment has become perhaps one of the most contentious issues within contemporary paranormal investigation, one example being the use of a basic EMF meter as a “ghost detector” and also, the advent of new paranormal phenomena such as the “orb”, which has only come about following the widespread introduction of digital still photography. Whilst both of the previous assumptions have been demonstrated on a number of occasions to be misguided (Persinger 2000, Para.Science 2004), the widespread dissemination of these ideas throughout both the amateur investigation groups and more generally, the public, continue unabated.
It would now appear that spontaneous case investigation undertaken in a scientific manner and with serious aims of trying to understand more about the mechanisms and processes by which such encounters may be generated, are at serious risk of being permanently and irrevocably undermined by this new wave of pseudoscientific, amateur thrill seekers whose primary intention might be more accurately described as wanting to spend a scary night in a spooky building. This trend, which shows no sign of abating, must be a serious concern to established organisations such as the SPR and serious researchers, who increasingly are finding that they are unable to find suitable cases for their research and study. Moreover, the ethical considerations and implications of this large number of amateur groups must be of great concern to those of us who are committed to undertaking genuine research. We have encountered several cases in recent years where the home owners claiming originally quite minor paranormal disturbances have, following a visit from the local ghostbusters, become greatly disturbed by the applied quasi-scientific and sometimes near occult practices employed by some. In one case in which all authors were directly involved, this ultimately led to both experiences requiring external professional counselling and a move of house following the many lurid and disturbing phantoms that they were told were infesting their property. Perhaps the time has come for those of us both in academic fields such as parapsychology and groups aimed at conducting serious spontaneous case investigation to unite and call for some form of regulation and the implementation of ethical and scientific considerations to this area of study. Despite all of the problems that currently exist, the field remains a worthy and worthwhile area of research that perhaps, if appropriate steps can be taken, could answer the many interesting questions relating to the productions of ghosts, apparitions, poltergeists and even survival of bodily death.
The authors will expand on these topics and discuss possible solutions to the problems facing spontaneous case research today.
1. Para.Science (2004). Orbs or a load of balls? http://www.parascience.org.uk/articles/orbs.htm (Retrieved on 15th April 2008)
2. Persinger, M.A., Tiller, S.G., Koren, S.A. (2000). Experimental simulation of a haunt experience and elicitation of paroxysmal electroencephalographic activity by transcerebral complex magnetic fields: Induction of a synthetic "ghost"? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 90, 659-674.
Was there something in the cellar?
Steven T. Parsons 1, Ann R. Winsper 2 & Dr. Ciarán J. O’Keeffe 3
1 Department of Psychology, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK.
2 Department of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK.
3 Université de Toulouse, France.
In recent years, infrasound (normally defined as acoustic energy with a frequency below that of normal human hearing i.e., 20Hz) has increasingly been suggested, although primarily anecdotally, as a causal factor in some reports of personal paranormal experiences. The seminal studies conducted by the late Vic Tandy at Coventry University (Tandy & Lawrence 1998; Tandy 2000), suggested that a frequency of around 19Hz may be a key frequency in the production of a range of physiological effects. These include eyeball oscillation which could lead to a smearing of vision which has been suggested as the cause of people experiencing apparitions.
In May 2006, the authors were invited to conduct large scale field experiments within Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh (Mary King’s Close forms part of Edinburgh’s Underground City and this well known tourist attraction has a documented record of alleged paranormal and supernatural incidents going back to the 16th Century). After consultation with Mary King’s Close, an experiment was devised that was to expose members of the public to a significant level (>55 dB(SPL)) of infrasound at a frequency of 19Hz. The experiment was designed as double blind with neither the experimenters nor the participants (and tour guides) knowing whether the infrasound was applied or not. Members of the public signed up for tours giving informed consent of their participation in an experiment. Participants were taken on a standard guided tour of the Close (groups of approx. 20), unaware of the presence or absence of applied infrasound. At the end of the tour, the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire about their experiences during the tour.
The infrasound was applied using the ARIA system (Acoustic Research Infrasound Array), designed specifically to generate large amplitudes of infrasound at required frequencies between 12 and 25Hz at Sound Pressure levels (SPL) of up to 100dB(SPL). ARIA was positioned out of sight of participants in an area of the Close not accessed during the public tours. Measurements of infrasound levels at significant locations within Mary King’s Close were measured prior to the participant’s admittance using ARID (Acoustic Research Infrasound Detector) and found to be within the range 50-80dB (SPL). Ambient infrasound i.e., the infrasound normally present within the Close, was also measured, and found to be less than 40dB(SPL) throughout the Close at peak frequencies of less than 12Hz. This was caused by a mixture of local environmental noise i.e., road traffic, and an air conditioning unit located at the bottom end of the Close which supplied warmed air to the City Chambers building directly above the Close.
A total of 439 questionnaires were analysed, with 249 people experiencing both ambient and generated infrasound, and 190 people experiencing only ambient infrasound. From the preliminary results of the experiment, it would appear that a significant number of people reported experiences, regardless of the infrasound state (approximately one third of participants in the “on” condition, and in the “off” condition). However, in the “off” condition, people were more likely to report a single experience during their tour, whereas when infrasound at 19Hz was applied, significantly more people (36% compared to 16%) reported multiple (up to 4) experiences.
Of those reporting experiences, these included feelings of being watched, discomfort, anxiety and nausea. Perhaps the most interesting result was that when the infrasound was applied, 20% of people on the tour reported a perceived rise in temperature as opposed to just 5% of people reporting a perceived temperature rise when only ambient infrasound was present. No participant reported a drop in temperature, a phenomenon commonly associated with apparent paranormal experiences. However, out of 249 participants who received the generated 19Hz infrasound, only one reported any form of visual experience. This would suggest to the authors that the supposition put forward by Tandy in his two papers that 19Hz is a significant factor in the production of visual disturbances leading to apparitional experiences, is questionable. However, it is apparent from the results that whilst infrasound at around 19Hz is unlikely to create the visual field disturbances and thus apparitional encounters suggested by Tandy, it remains one of several possible causal factors in the production of a range of psychophysical experiences that may lead to a number of people reporting haunting experiences. This large scale experiment forms part of a larger series of field measurements of infrasound, partially funded by a generous grant from the SPR.
Tandy, V. (2000). Something in the cellar. JSPR 64, 129-140.
Tandy, V. & Lawrence, T.R. (1998). The ghost in the machine. JSPR 62, 360-364.