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Dr Soal: A Psychic Enigma

We are happy to report that Dr Soal: A Psychic Enigma by Prof. Donald J. West and Betty Markwick has now been published in the Proceedings of the SPR (Vol 60 Part 224). Members of the SPR can download the Proceedings from our website, but must log in first. Below are three quotes from the introduction:

The chief British exponent of experimental ESP using gifted subjects was Samuel George Soal (1889–1975), a lecturer in Mathematics at London University’s Queen Mary College. In the time left over from heavy college duties, he worked ceaselessly on psychical research projects. He appeared the embodiment of a respectable, cautious, scientific investigator, dismissive of the credulous, critical of shoddy work and doubtful of spiritualistic beliefs. His experiments provided the most impressive evidence for genuine telepathic powers ever produced in the UK. (p. 1)

Soal’s success aroused suspicion and after his death his work was discredited by a devastating critique in the Society’s Proceedings by the statistician Betty Markwick (1978). She re-examined the score sheets from card guessing telepathy experiments with the star subject Basil Shackleton, which Soal had carried out in the 1940s. She found evidence that he had surreptitiously introduced figures into the target sequences to match the corresponding guesses. (p. 2)

Questions remain. Was Soal a self-deluded peddler of superstition or was he just a cynical manufacturer of fake claims, motivated perhaps by desire for public recognition, or was he trying (as Markwick herself speculated) to convince others of phenomena that he truly believed were occurring? (p. 2)