The term 'haunting' is generally applied to cases involving recurrent phenomena, of a supposedly paranormal nature, that are associated with particular places. Approaches to understanding hauntings can be divided into two categories: those that attempt to explain the manifestations 'naturalistically' (e.g. in terms of the misinterpretation of normal sounds or the effects of underground water), and those that employ concepts such as telepathy or the laying down of a 'psychic trace' in the haunted location. Some psi-based theories posit discarnate agency. 'Naturalistic' and psi-based theories are reviewed, and suggestions are made regarding possible directions for future research in this area.
Although many spontaneous cases of ESP, particularly precognition, occur during dreams, most experimental studies of dream ESP have focused on telepathy or clairvoyance. The aim of this exploratory study was to evaluate a methodology for testing for possible dream precognition and to find out whether consensus judging leads to better performance than individual judgements. During twelve trial nights, three participants (SS, CR, CS) slept at their respective homes and recorded their dream mentation. The following mornings, they viewed four pictures (one of which would be the target), judged their correspondence with their dreams and then ranked them in order. These individual rankings were then combined to form a group objective consensus judgement. The experimenter determined the identity of the target picture using a pseudo-random number generator. In terms of the number of correct judgements, the group and two of the individual participants scored less than the chance expectation which was contrary to our hypotheses; the other participant made four correct judgements which, although a non-significant deviation above chance expectation (p = 0.348), gives rise to a medium effect size (r = .43). These results do not provide much evidence for dream precognition nor any definite advantage of consensus over individual judging methods. Suggestions for improvements to the methodology are also discussed.
Eight ESP experiments were carried out to test the psychic claimant David Spark, between October 1998 and July 2000. DS's main claim was predicting the winners of horse races. Experiments 1 and 2 tested clairvoyance for hidden playing cards and words, but with only a small number of trials. Experiment 3 used a simple computer run 'horse race'. DS made his guesses from home. Experiments 5 to 8 took place in the laboratory and used a computer displayed 'horse race' with 10 coloured counters for 'horses'. DS made predictions in advance and, in later experiments, could bet with toy money on the 'horses'. None of these experiments independently produced a significant number of hits (i.e. the chosen horse won). Overall 210 trials were run in these five experiments, with 21 hits (exactly chance expectation). In one experiment DS correctly predicted the distribution of places but this was not replicated in a second attempt. In the experiments with toy money he did make a small profit. DS was interviewed after each of the later experiments. He was convinced that the results confirmed his psychic powers.
In April 1999 an 'anomalous' image of a male figure was captured by the CCTV system in the reception area of a Lancaster company. The two security guards on duty noticed the image on the television screen remained still for several minutes and were concerned for the man's health. Upon investigating, the guards found nobody in the reception area. The guards continued watching the image for several more minutes before the image 'disappeared'. This incident led the company's facilities administrator to contact the Society for Psychical Research in the belief that the image may have been a 'ghost'.
This paper outlines the investigation of this case undertaken by the authors on behalf of the Society. The focus of this investigation was upon examining the video tape displaying the image and exploring conventional (i.e., non-paranormal) explanations for the image's appearance.
This paper presents a classification system for anomalous phenomena that has the potential to improve the accessibility and usefulness of anomalous data. A definition of anomalous phenomena is developed to encompass those phenomena that significantly challenge our world view. This includes (but is wider than) the categories 'paranormal' and 'psi' phenomena.
The paper argues that spontaneous-type paranormal phenomena can be viewed as co-ordinated combinations of elemental anomalies of the sort typically investigated in laboratories. From this systems approach and the need to define anomalies without presuming explanatory models, a classification system is proposed that draws on parallels with the classification of diseases in medicine, where diseases are described in terms of symptoms, and grouped according to the bodily system that shows unusual attributes. (This analogy exploits only the way in which we classify diseases, and does not imply that anomalies may potentially be explained from a knowledge of disease mechanisms, nor that anomalies have somehow a negative connotation). It is shown how the disease/symptom analogy leads to a classification proposition whereby anomalies can be classified in terms of the mainstream theory they challenge. It is shown that to apply this principle a model of how orthodox theories combine to establish the scientific paradigm must be developed. It is shown how such a task can be accomplished, and example classifications using such a structured system are given.
Previous research suggests that paranormal beliefs may serve the basic human need for a sense of control over life events in a capricious and sometimes hostile world. This view might be taken to suggest that the paranormal believer tends to embrace essentially incompatible beliefs, namely, "Unpleasant things may happen to me" and "I have complete control over life events". On this basis the study examined the relationship between proneness to self-deception and the strength of the two facets of paranormal belief identified by Lange, Irwin, and Houran's (2000) two- factor model. Thirty Australian university students completed the Self- Deception Questionnaire and the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale. Proneness to self-deception was found to be a correlate of New Age Philosophy factor of paranormal belief (r = 0.447), but not of the factor Of Traditional Paranormal Beliefs (r = 0.078). Contrary to expectation, However, New Age Philosophy was associated with a lack of self-deception.
It is suggested that paranormal believers as a group are not especially prone to embrace incompatible beliefs, but that adherents of New Age Philosophy may be more analytical of the internal consistency of their worldview than are adherents of Traditional Paranormal Beliefs.Reference
Lange, R., Irwin, H. J., and Houran, J. (2000) Top-down purification of Tobacyk's Revised Paranormal Belief Scale. Personality and Individual Differences 29, 131-156.
The neurotransmitter Acethylcholine (ACh) plays a significant role in the neurobiology of REM sleep and of memory. Drugs that inhibit Acethylcholinesterase (AChE), the enzyme degrading ACh, increase ACh levels in the brain, facilitating REM sleep and memory. The author postulates that precognition, the anomalous transmission of information from the future, may also necessitate neurotransmission of ACh in the brain, particularly during precognitive dreaming, a paranormal phenomenon that makes itself spontaneously evident during REM sleep. To prove that hypothesis he has registered his own precognitive dreams during a period of time in which he ingested Rivastigmine, an AChE inhibitor. Two variables, the proportion of dreams recalled and the proportion of precognitive dreams, were measured during a baseline period of nine months and during an experimental period of two months. The 60 days of the experimental period were randomly assigned either to placebo or to Rivastigmine so that a double blind Placebo/Rivastigmine 30/30 days design was established. We found a non-significant trend of higher dream recall during the experimental period considered as a whole and compared with the baseline period, and a significant increase in precognitive dreaming during the experimental period as a whole compared with the baseline period. Within the experimental period the proportion of dreams recalled and of precognitive dreams did not significantly differ in Rivastigmine versus Placebo conditions.
Books written by members of the public about their own cases are often ignored by researchers, who fear that they may be fictional rather than factual. Yesterday's Children by Jenny Cockell relates a very unusual case of ostensible reincarnation. The purpose of this article is to confirm that interviews with the author and her principal witnesses lead to the conclusion that the case should be treated as a genuine research report.Reference
Cockell, Jenny (1993). Yesterday's Children. Piatkus.
Using data from 188 students at a German university, an attempt was made to find a positive correlation between two measures of belief in the paranormal and religiosity/spirituality. Each of the two paranormal belief measures correlated significantly with each other (r = 0.70) and with the religiosity variable (rs = 0.39 and 0.54, p < 0.001), the latter correlations indicating that, once again, believers in the paranormal are more likely to be religious/spiritually-minded.
In parapsychology there is a classic healing experiment in which seeds are stressed, then randomly assigned to either a healing or control group. Several of these studies have found that there is greater growth and healthier plants from the healed group. This basic laboratory experiment was taken out on a field trial at an organic farm. In this experiment the healthy organic seeds were not stressed beforehand, as we are looking here for greater health in the "enhanced" plants. This initial pilot study had three primary hypotheses: the "enhanced" seeds would have a greater rate of germination, greater growth and better health than the control. There were eight trials beginning in April, the final harvest being in December. The results do not favour the hypotheses of greater rate of germination and growth, but there is a measure of support for better health. There is a trend towards a significant effect here (F(3,24) = 3.13, p =0.044), with the "enhanced" group having the least fungal damage.
The study investigated the ability of three research mediums to obtain information regarding the deceased loved ones of five research "sitters" (subjects). The mediums were kept completely blind to the identity of the sitters. The mediums sat behind a floor to ceiling screen, with their backs to the screen facing video cameras. The mediums were not allowed to ask any questions, and the sitters never spoke. Transcripts were made from the recordings. The sitters scored all initials, names, historical facts, personal descriptions, and temperament descriptions (n=528 items for 15 readings) using a -3 (definite miss) to +3 (definite hit) rating scale. When the sitters rated their own readings, the average percentage of +3 scores was 40%. When the sitters rated the readings of the other sitters (control readings), the value was 25% (p<0.03). The findings appear to confirm the hypothesis that information and energy, and potentially consciousness itself, can continue after physical death.
Previous research into the psychology of paranormal belief has shown that people tend to interpret 'ambiguous' stimuli (i.e., stimuli that could be interpreted as paranormal or non-paranormal) in a way that is consistent with their a priori beliefs. This paper presents two experiments that examine whether this tendency may be best explained by either cognitive or motivational factors. In Experiment One, participants were asked to assess four fictional horoscopes. Two 'target' horoscopes were apparently based on their birth sign, whilst the other two 'control' horoscopes were apparently based on a different birth sign. As predicted, believers in astrology rated the 'target' horoscopes as significantly more accurate and less general than disbelievers. If this difference between believers and disbelievers were due to cognitive factors (e.g., believers being more adept than disbelievers in seeing correspondences between the horoscopes and their lives), one would expect believers to rate the 'control' horoscopes as significantly more accurate and less general than disbelievers. If the difference between believers and disbelievers were due to motivational factors (e.g., believers being more motivated to find correspondences because they want the horoscope to be accurate), one would expect believers to rate the 'control' horoscopes as no more accurate than disbelievers. Results supported the cognitive bias explanation. In Experiment Two, participants were asked to help assess the outcome of a fictional ESP experiment. Participants were asked to rate the similarity between some sketches apparently drawn by an individual attempting to divine a concealed picture and (i) the actual 'target' picture and (ii) a 'control' picture. As predicted, believers rated the 'target' picture as significantly more similar than disbelievers. Again, if cognitive factors caused this difference one would expect believers to rate the 'control' picture as significantly more similar than disbelievers. Again, results clearly supported this notion. The importance of these results for work in this area is discussed and future research suggested.
A significant barrier to extending research into the link between infrasound and apparitional experiences is the high cost of monitoring equipment. This paper is offered in response to requests from researchers looking for a method of measuring infrasound within a reasonable budget. It provides the construction details for a filter-set, which can be used in combination with a commercially available sound level meter. The latter is operated slightly outside its intended parameters to produce what is described as the equivalent of a litmus test for infrasound. Operating thus is clearly a risk and no absolute guarantee of success can be given. However, using this meter saves so much time and money that it was felt warranted. As part of the development process three units were built and four meters tested. Their performance compares very well with devices costing up to twenty times that invested and they are now entering use in the field. Some prior experience of electronic circuit construction is assumed.
Pursuing a suggestion that the acoustic intensity of paranormal noises occurring in poltergeist situations should be recorded and examined, a method of achieving this is proposed. Then, after a brief survey of reports, findings and conjectures regarding temporal anomalies observed in both spontaneous and sťance-induced rappings, a programme of research is suggested, whereby it should be possible to offer impeccable recordings of such sounds for attempts at replication by sceptics under controlled conditions.
Some nursing mothers claim that when they are away from their baby they often know when their baby needs them because their milk lets down. Some are convinced that this response is telepathic. In order to find out more about this phenomenon, 100 mothers who had recently had babies were surveyed and asked a series of questions about their experiences when breastfeeding. 62% had experienced milk let-down when away from their babies and 16% had noticed that this seemed to coincide with their baby needing them. Most of these women breastfed their babies for more than six months. In addition, 3 women said they had felt there was something wrong with their baby when they were away from home, and found that it was indeed in distress because of a fall or other accident, and 5 women commented that they often woke up shortly before their baby needed them in the night.
In February 1997 two Irish tourists allegedly witnessed a healing apparition of the Virgin Mary in a field near Mold, North Wales. Soon after, further apparitions and other phenomena began to be reported in the field and in the house of its owners. Since October 1998 a large number of unexplained stains and carvings of images and Welsh words, generally of a religious nature, have been discovered inside and outside the house. Welsh religious words were also found in emails sent from the house, in computer files and printed documents. Other phenomena have included noises, strange smells, temperature fluctuations, pools of water, electrical disturbances and object displacements. A number of photographs taken in and around the house also contained unexplained monk- like shapes and other seemingly anomalous images. An investigation of these various phenomena was undertaken. This focussed on surveying the stains and carvings, on an examination of the photographic anomalies, and on an attempt to record manifestations using time-lapse surveillance equipment. Results are described, strengths and weaknesses of the evidence discussed, and possible interpretations considered. Although there are some highly strange features in this case, it is not possible to conclude with certainty whether the phenomena indicate genuine paranormal activity, whether they are the result of an elaborate hoax, or whether there is a mixture of genuine and fabricated incidents.
The authors discuss their experiences of the apparent poltergeist-type manifestations at their home in North Wales and comment on the investigation into the case reported by Michael Daniels.
Spontaneous cases of ESP often seem to occur during dreams (Van de Castle, 1977). Experimental studies of dream ESP focusing on telepathy and clairvoyance have obtained some promising results (e.g., Sherwood, Dalton, Steinkamp, & Watt, 2000; Ullman & Krippner with Vaughan, 1989). Some such studies have used consensus-vote or pooled rating/ranking procedures in order to try to maximise ESP performance, and two recent dream clairvoyance studies found that participants scored marginally higher using consensus as opposed to individual target judging procedures (Dalton, Steinkamp & Sherwood, 1999; Sherwood et al., 2000). An attempted replication using a precognitive design by two of the current authors (Sherwood, Roe, Simmonds, & Biles, 2002) using static targets was unsuccessful. The current study was planned to overcome methodological weaknesses in that design. Using a clairvoyance design, 5 pilot and 31 experimental trials were conducted. The dependent variables were the correspondence rankings for the target-clip resulting from individual and group judgements. Predictor variables included whether the judgement was individual or group consensus, and target emotionality characteristics. Two of the three individual performances were better than chance expectation, but to a nonsignificant degree, and although the group consensus was superior to the performance of two individuals, it was not significantly better than chance expectation. Covariation of performance with target characteristics of enjoyability, affinity, emotionality and valence did not give rise to any clear pattern, although it is suggested that these findings may be best understood in terms of Palmer's (1975, unpub.) interaction model. There was no evidence here that the relationship between target emotionality and trial success found in previous research could be explained in terms of a selection bias.
1: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 25th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research, University of Cambridge, September 2001. We should like to thank the SPR Research Grants Committee for their kind support of this project.
One enduring problem in extrasensory perception (ESP) research lies in determining which aspects of a percipient's mentation might relate to the target, and which are not relevant. Perhaps this is a false dichotomy and ESP is instead "imagination that relates to the target", an extension of a continuous process wherein our internal state is perturbed by a multitude of external forces but one where we have been able to extract useful information from those perturbations. These perturbations will not be strong else they would be directly perceived, but instead enter into conscious awareness as subtle alterations to 'normal' thought processes. This may manifest as a sense of unease or awareness of difference, or, as occurs with weak or indirect sensory information, in a symbolic form. ESP can then be envisioned not as a single "sense" but instead as a symbolic unification of a stream of weak and indirect information from a variety of sources.
The Edgar Vandy case (JSPR 39, 691) published in 1957 has long been considered by proponents to be among the more impressive pieces of evidence for the survival of post-mortem intelligence. It relates to the supposedly paranormally inspired statements made about a brilliant young inventor, the circumstances of whose death by drowning aroused the doubts of his two brothers who sought the help of four mediums. Kenneth Oldfield, a professor of public administration in the University of Illinois, in an article in the Skeptical Inquirer (Nov/Dec 2001) argues that, where the statements were not wrong, the correct ones could all be explained as "cold readings", luck, preparatory research or common parlour tricks. The present article shows that this verdict is entirely inconsistent with the facts, and examines the methods employed by Professor Oldfield to arrive at his conclusion.