Report on SPR Conference, September 2010
The SPR’s 2010 conference took place in the pleasant surroundings of Sheffield University’s recently-built Endcliffe Village. Programme chair Chris Roe welcomed delegates with some local ghost stories, and stressed the broad sweep of backgrounds and approaches of the speakers.
Although the great majority of the 21 papers presented came from speakers affiliated to UK universities, their range was impressive and demonstrated that current research in parapsychology is tackling both traditional and new areas of interest in creative ways.
The current mediumship scene was explored in papers by Hannah Gilbert, Elizabeth Roxburgh and Tamlyn Ryan, who respectively used a focus group, interviews leading to phenomenological analysis, and participation in an internet development circle in their investigations.
Staying with the theme of anomalous communications, Rachel Browning presented an overview of Electronic Voice Phenomena which had occurred during her circle’s séances at Furzey Hill, while Ann Winsper tackled the subject of EVPs in an academic context from the point of view of paranormal belief and response bias; her investigation led to the the intriguing possibility that moderate belief in the paranormal confers a cognitive advantage compared to non-believers.
Another traditional subject, that of photographic anomalies, which in these days of digital cameras often involve orbs, was examined by Steve Parsons. His presentation supported the contention that orbs were most likely to be dust particles close to the lens rather than paranormal in origin.
A question that is raised regularly, that of a special relationship between twins, was raised again by Adrian Parker and Göran Brusewitz, who reported a preliminary investigation into twins attending a ‘twin day’ in London in 2009. The investigation confirmed the hypothesis that exceptional experiences would be more frequent among identical than non-identical twins.
Near Death Experiences are an area which has been attracting an increasing volume of research and publicity. David Rousseau discussed their signficance for building a comprehensive model of mind-body relationship which he is developing.
Abstracts of conference papers can be found elsewhere on this website, but two important talks, not included in the abstracts, deserve a special mention. One was a tribute to the late Tony Cornell given by Bernard Carr, who covered not just Tony’s psychical research work but his varied and colourful life more generally. Even though time allowed only a few examples from Tony’s career as an investigator, it became clear that in many ways he was a pioneer whose contributions have been overlooked, and were worthy of fresh examination.
The other talk was was given by Erlendur Haraldsson before (instead of after!) dinner on Saturday, on the subject of the Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason and a fire which occurred in Copenhagen in 1905. This was communicated through Indridason during a sitting 1,300 miles away in Reykjavik. The ‘communicator’, Emil Jensen, had existed, and weighing up the various alternative explanations, Haraldsson felt that communication by the discarnate Jensen seemed the most likely.
We owe a vote of thanks to the organisers of this year’s Conference, in particular Chris Roe and Peter Johnson, for making this such an interesting and smooth-running occasion. And we are already looking forward to the next one!
By Tom Ruffles and Zofia Weaver. All photographs copyright of Tom Ruffles