JOTT. When Things Disappear... and Come Back or Relocate – and Why It Really Happens, by Mary Rose Barrington

Reviewed by Robert Charman

The author is a retired lawyer who, as a distinguished SPR Council member with a lifelong interest in psychical research, has applied her legal mind to investigating claims of objects that have disappeared and returned, or not returned, or have appeared for the first time, for which there appears to be no normal explanation such as memory lapse, absent mindedness, inadequate searching, third party trickery, deliberate deception, and so on. For such a claim to be accepted there has to be sufficient explanation of the circumstances, including neutral observers where possible, to eliminate overlooked error. In everyday life such baffling experiences for which there seems to be no rational explanation tend to be dismissed in equally baffled exasperation as Just One of Those Things, hence being named by the author as jotts. An article that behaves as a jott in the sense of undergoing an unwitnessed displacement has, she says, occasioned a ‘spatial discontinuity’ in the normal continuity of space and time. Such an occurrence is denied as impossible according to our cause and effect understanding and experience of the world in which solid objects remain where they are, what they are, and as they are, unless acted upon by an external physical force.

Barrington has over 180 cases of jott on file, grouped by similarity of occurrence into six categories as in Walkabout – article disappears from A to reappear at B; Turn-up – a known article from an originally uncertain position just appears somewhere else; Come-back – article disappears from its usual place and returns there again: Flyaway – article permanently disappears without trace; Windfall – article from an unknown origin (someone else’s flyaway?) is found where it could not have been present before being found, and Trade-in - a personally known article disappears and is replaced by a similar article of unknown origin. There is also the oddjott, which is so ‘impossible’ an occurrence that the mind just boggles. Those who report the occurrence of jotts are termed as jottlers.

Barrington presents 74 detailed cases of jott and here are seven examples:

A woman had left her gold locket and chain on her desk overnight, but when she went to pick it up next morning it had disappeared and despite carrying out a thorough search it remained disappeared. Some three years later ‘my son took his washing out of the machine and, lo and behold, the locket and chain was on top of his clothes’ (walkabout).

A woman, who took her favourite hairbrush with her on a three week holiday with her brother to Kenya, is unable to find it when packing her single suitcase for her return to the UK in January, 1976. She also searched her brother’s suitcase as well. One day in September, nine months later, she walks into her bedroom to see it lying on the floor (walkabout).

On January 12, 2006, a departing visitor returned to say she had just found a delicate white gold necklace with a diamond studded pendant stretched out horizontally across the front path by the gate which did not belong to her hosts. The next day, their chiropodist, who had visited a week earlier, called again and they told her the story. She said that she wished she could find her necklace that she had taken off, fastened, and placed on the arm of her sofa one late evening, on either the 3rd or 4th January, which had disappeared when she went to pick it up. To their mutual amazement, this was the same necklace, yet during the 8/9 days in between these two dates many visitors as well as the owners had walked up and down that same path where it would have been in plain view (walkabout).

Late one evening Mrs P was tidying the kitchen while her husband was taking the dogs for a walk. She took the square, orange, washing up basin out of the sink and put it on the work-top. After she had finished other chores she turned to put it back into the sink, but it had disappeared. On his return they both searched the kitchen for it without success and she went to bed feeling, as she said ‘a wee bit scared’. Unable to find it she bought a new, red basin. A week later she decided to use her rarely used pressure cooker which was in a rarely opened ground level cupboard blocked by the leg of the kitchen table. She moved the table, got the pressure cooker out and there behind it, wedged so tightly into the back space that they had difficulty in getting it out, was the orange basin, still containing some dirty water and a teaspoon (walkabout).

Mrs L was in the kitchen with her mother and K, her very young daughter who was in her low chair resting on the floor. She took off her four finger rings and placed them on the worktop as usual before donning rubber gloves to wash up. After an hour, during which both she and her mother had often bent down to talk to her daughter, she went to put her rings back on but could find only find three, the missing one being a gold, single stone, dress ring. They searched the kitchen without success until her mother, who had seen the four rings on the worktop, suddenly saw a glint and said ‘Is that it by K’s chair?’ It was an unrecognised gold ring with a setting for three stones that were all missing. Despite further searches they never found her ring and had no explanation for the stoneless gold ring (trade-in).

RB, who was an artist, was teaching a student some still life painting techniques when he dropped his eleven inch long, one inch wide, No. 2, long handle Delta brush, which he heard as it hit the floor. At the time they were painting in a large, empty, room with a brown linoleum floor containing just a stool and easel and brilliantly lit by the sun. He immediately bent down to pick it up but couldn’t find it despite the fact that it could not have rolled far. They searched the room but it was never seen again (flyaway).

A woman decided to have a shower, went into the bathroom, shut and locked the door, hung her bath robe on the door hook as she always did, had her shower and went to take her bath robe off the hook, but it was not there. She eventually found it lying at the foot of the stairs (oddjott).

If you believe that all the participants, mainly of middle age and not noted for practical jokes, together with the author have, in their simple minded credulity, somehow missed a normal explanation (which you can’t think of either but you are sure that there must be one) then there is no point in reading further. If you are willing to suspend disbelief and accept that what is claimed to have occurred has occurred as claimed, then you will be interested to read the author’s theory as to why instances of jott can happen. She first makes the point that the term ‘anecdote’ is equated with ‘unreliable’ in scientific estimation when what is actually meant by ‘anecdotal’ reportage is eye witness testimony concerning a particular event, or series of events. History is built on the reliability of eye witness testimony of single events as contained in historical records, and much scientific research starts from an anecdotal observation. The only difference between scientific experiments and one-off observations is that scientists make repeated anecdotal observations on those things in the universe that, by their very nature, are repeatable in controlled circumstances. But each experiment in itself is reported as a one-off set of anecdotal observation which are trusted by those who were not there as correct observations. She points out that whereas scientists can hope to gain respect and glory from their peer-reviewed anecdotal observations, those who report the occurrence of jotts are more likely to be met by polite disbelief at best and ridicule at worst, so you can be sure that they have exhausted every relevant avenue of inquiry before being brave enough to say that a jott has occurred. Many people probably keep quiet as they don’t wish to look foolish, dismissing the uncomfortable experience as just-one-of-those-things, so the actual incidence of jott is probably very much higher than its reportage.

In an extended chapter four The Context Barrington places the occurrence of jott within the context of repeated observations by many people, including skilled investigators, of paranormal physical phenomena as in poltergeist stone throwing, raps, bumps and bangs, movement of objects, table turning, electrical interference, and so on, which should not have occurred in an orderly, cause and effect universe, but did, and does, occur. Paranormal physical phenomena during seances and instances of jott are paranormal in the sense of being acausal in incidence. If it can be shown to be causal, then it is not paranormal. The same principle of acausality applies to spontaneous telepathy, clairvoyance, presentiment, precognition, healers and healing including healing bodily conditions through hypnosis. The findings of supportive laboratory research into telepathy, presentiment of an experience to come, and psychokinesis is also reviewed.

Barrington presents her theory as to why jott can occur in chapter five Psi Reality – A Framework for JOTT. The principle of probability of occurrence is built into the universe with the most likely occurrences having an almost infinite probability of occurring that we term cause and effect, but the improbable often occurs as well like outliers in a probability Bell curve. Paranormal events are so improbable as to seem impossible by any causal explanation, but they do occur, and the one consistent feature they all seem to share is that they occur only in association with the human mind, whether operating at a subconscious or conscious level. This being so, Barrington feels that a human mind-acting-on-matter relationship must exist. Dualism offers no answer as it cannot explain how matterless mind can affect matter. Barrington proposes a form of monism in which the universe is composed of one indivisible stuff that she calls mindstuff that, as I understand her argument, can exist in two states – what we term as a ‘matter state’ consisting of particles, atoms, molecules etc. existing in a state of actuality when we observe them as solid substances, and a ‘mind state’ of mental actuality with thoughts, feelings and desires that does the observing. The author feels that the existence of the principle of universal probability and a causal directional outcome implies a lawmaker, as in an all-embracing Cosmic Mind that has no beginning or ending. She suggests that within the Cosmic Mind is a hierarchy of minds, including our own, that exist in some degree of autonomous dissociation from what she has termed as ‘our Maker’ being the creational aspect of the Cosmic Mind. This creational entity telepathically guides our understanding of everyday reality and allows us to be telepathically connected mind to mind. Jotts and the whole range of paranormal activity occurs when our minds, as one aspect of mindstuff, interferes with the causality of matter as the other aspect of mindstuff in an often unpredictable way. Jotts happen when, at some unconscious level, mental activity as in, perhaps, emotional tension causes an object to de-materialise in an unobserved instant of spatial discontinuity and re-materialise as an unobserved re-materialisation until unexpectedly noticed, either where it was originally, or elsewhere, sometimes as a flyaway unrecognised by the baffled recipient.

Personally, I don’t think we need the speculative concepts of a Cosmic Mind or creative Maker. My first question would be whether they are made of mindstuff or some other stuff. I think the clue for the occurrence of jott and the rest of paranormal physical activity may lie in Barrington’s concept of mindstuff in which an individual ‘mind state’ can sometimes act, often unpredictably, upon some aspect of the surrounding ‘matter state’ momentarily disrupting its causal predictability of spatial continuity. Paranormal physical phenomena can then be considered as a momentary aberration of mental affect, hence its unpredictability, which, for 99.9% of the time, interacts in a lawfully causal manner with the receptive ‘matter state’ of the brain and then the body. A lot of serious thought and much fascinating information has gone into the 190 pages of this book (referenced and indexed) - I strongly recommend it.

Robert A. Charman can be reached at email: