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JSPR Abstracts 2012

January 2012

Recurrent Spontaneous Anomalous Physical Events Suggestive of Poltergeist Activity: Evidence for Discarnate Agency? Clinical, Evolutionary and Learning Perspectives

by Paul R. Burgess

Most modern poltergeist researchers believe that when poltergeist activity centres on a person, that person is the cause of the activity. To explain why the subjects of the activity almost always believe they are not the cause of the activity, modern researchers propose that the subjects have subconscious psychological conflicts or needs they are hesitant to express openly. Instead, the subject experiences a compulsion to generate poltergeist activity without any awareness that he or she is the actual cause; i.e. the subject is suffering from a type of conversion disorder. The author (PRB), a senior neurophysiologist, was the subject of poltergeist activity from spring 2005 until early 2008. Eight events occurred, culminating with the passage of a metal paper punch being used by PRB through a 104-?m sheet of paper and back again without any visible change in the paper, although the sheet below the unpunched sheet was punched. As is typical, PRB believes he did not cause any of these events. Since conversion symptoms are based on what a person knows, it is unlikely that PRB and other poltergeist subjects could use poltergeist activity as a conversion symptom since we don’ t know we can produce poltergeist activity. Moreover, since the living-agent hypothesis argues that poltergeist activity occurs because of a psychological adaptation, and there is no evidence that such adaptations are inherited, it is unlikely that poltergeist activity is an evolved human capability. Finally, the appearance of poltergeist activity without instruction or practice and the later disappearance of the activity differs dramatically from the known features of human skill acquisition and retention, further weakening the living-agent hypothesis. These clinical, evolutionary and learning issues  support the traditional view that the person around whom the activity is focused unknowingly facilitates events caused by a discarnate agent. 

The Orb Zone: Accounts of Experimentation Into the Natural Causes of ‘Orbs’

by Dave Wood

Previous research into ‘orb phenomena’ had been either theory-based or conducted without a systematic scientific methodology; the aim of this study was to provide evidence as to whether orbs are caused by non-paranormal factors. The paper presents the results of a set of experiments to examine whether the occurrence of orbs was associated with five factors: increased depth of field; camera flash operation; the distance between the flash and the lens; the use of digital cameras; and the effective megapixel count of a camera. Each experiment was conducted in a conditions-matched experimental (haunted) and control (non-haunted) environment. The Fisher Exact statistical test was applied to the data and results indicated that orb capture was not dependent on whether or not the location was ‘haunted’ or on the effective count of megapixels; however, increased depth of field, flash distance and use of digital cameras all significantly increased incidence of orb capture, and a trend was found between orb capture and use of flash, but this was not significant. The need for future research and explanation was highlighted, in particular the need for a dedicated website to present the evidence and theories in an accessible way, understandable by the public.

April 2012

Explorations of the Features of Out-of-Body Experiences: An Overview and Critique of the Work of Robert Crookall

by Carlos S. Alvarado

This paper overviews the work that geologist Robert Crookall published about out-of-body experiences (OBEs) during the 1960s and 1970s. Crookall presented hundreds of OBEs and analysed their features. His work was conducted to defend the existence of subtle bodies possessing different characteristics. Depending on the subtle body active in particular experiences, the OBE had specific characteristics. Furthermore, Crookall claimed to have identified basic recurrent features of the OBE, and he discussed factors that affected the content of OBEs such as the circumstances surrounding their occurrence. A critique of Crookall’s work is presented, considering definition problems, the low number of cases, and misclassification of experiences. Furthermore, analyses of new data are presented to test Crookall’s findings. While there is some support for some of Crookall’s findings, analyses concerning his basic OBE features and the differences between natural and enforced experiences are not upheld by the empirical evidence. Regardless of methodological problems, this is a reminder of Crookall’s forgotten work and a recognition of his efforts to document the variety and complexity of OBE features.

July 2012

Further Facets of Indridi Indridason’s Mediumship, Including ‘Transcendental’ Music, Direct Speech, Xenoglossy and Light Phenomena

by Erlendur Haraldsson

The Experimental Society kept a protocol of most séances with Indridi Indridason in the form of Minute Books. They had been lost for over half a century when two of them were rediscovered recently, along with additional pages. This paper describes some phenomena that were not dealt with in the 1989 SPR Proceedings by Gissurarson and Haraldsson, or that can be described more fully after examination of the Minute Books. An earlier paper (Haraldsson, 2011) dealt with one particular case in Indridason’s mediumship, namely the description of the fire in Copenhagen and the identity of the trance-personality Emil Jensen. The present paper reveals in greater detail how the séances were conducted and deals with the main trancepersonalities of Indridason’s mediumship, and the phenomena with which each of them was particularly involved. Particular attention is paid to reports of ‘transcendental’ music, foreign direct communicators, including voices of two professional singers (one male and one female) who sang loudly at the same time, and cases of xenoglossy and direct speech. This paper also reports on checks carried out into claimed memories, the reported ‘disappearance’ of the medium’s left arm, light phenomena, the appearance of Emil Jensen in a pillar of light, and the appearance of a monster-like animal. Contemporary criticism of Indridason’s mediumship is reviewed and conclusions drawn as to the relevance of his remarkable phenomena to the question of survival.

Infrasound and the Paranormal

by Steven T. Parsons

Infrasound has become established within paranormal research as a causal factor in the production of subjective experiences that may be interpreted by the percipient as having a paranormal origin. This paper introduces infrasound and describes the nature of sound and infrasound, its production and measurement and interactions with structures. Human hearing and the perception of low-frequency sounds and the psycho-physiological interactions between infrasound and human percipients are discussed. This paper will consider infrasound measuring techniques and choice of a suitable sound filter weighting scale, together with a description of equipment designed by the author to permit infrasound monitoring and measuring to be undertaken at selected locations throughout the UK and Eire. The historical links between low-frequency sound and infrasound and the development of the case for infrasound in the production of anomalous experiences are examined. Following the hypothesis that a frequency of close to 19Hz was key in the production of anomalous experiences (Tandy & Lawrence, 1998), the focus of parapsychology has been towards testing this hypothesis. Studies such as ‘The Haunt Project’ (French et al., 2009) and pilot studies by the author have focused on this range of infrasound frequencies. This paper will argue that the original hypothesis failed to understand fully the manner in which the frequencies of infrasound standing waves are determined and will examine critically the results of The Haunt Project, suggesting that the failure of the experimenters to understand all the problems of infrasound measurement and propagation may have led to an unreliable conclusion. Finally, the paper will discuss the question of an infrasound role in the production of anomalous experiences.

October 2012

Dissociation, Absorption, Fantasy Proneness and Sensation-Seeking in Psychic Claimants

by Alejandro Parra and Juan Carlos Argibay

Building on evidence to suggest that strong believers in and experients of paranormal phenomena tend to be fantasy-prone individuals, we hypothesized that individuals who claimed paranormal /anomalous abilities would also score higher on dissociation, absorption and sensation-seeking than individuals who did not claim paranormal /anomalous experiences. One hundred and thirty-two participants were recruited by media advertisements and a mailing list. The participants completed questionnaires and interviews during two-hour workshops organized free of charge at the Institute of Paranormal Psychology (IPP) in Buenos Aires. When comparing persons who claimed to be psychics and those who did not, the ‘psychic’ group (N = 40) had significantly higher scores on Dissociation, Absorption and Fantasy Proneness than did the ‘non-psychic’ group (N = 40), supporting our hypotheses: Dissociation (t [78] = 21.12, p ??0.01, d = 0.65), Absorption (t [78] = 17.81, p < 0.001, d = 1.09) and Fantasy Proneness (t [78] = 12.77, p ??0.01, d = 0.72). However, scores on the Sensation-Seeking scale were not significantly different; indeed, the non-psychic group scored slightly higher, contrary to our prediction. We also found some gender differences, with male psychics having significantly higher mean scores than female psychics on measures of Dissociation and Fantasy Proneness, and suggestively higher scores on Absorption and Sensation-Seeking. We suggest that these variables are taken into account when recruiting and screening participants for future studies of ESP.