The Observatory, Brooklyn, NY

I went out to the Gowanus section of Brooklyn to a place called the Observatory to hear author and researcher George Hansen talk about parapsychology. I should have given a lecture here about Unbelievable! Everyone who runs the Observatory has an interest in the macabre. From their website:

“…the space seeks to present programming inspired by the 18th century notion of “rational amusement” and is especially interested in topics residing at the interstices of art and science, history and curiosity, magic and nature.”

Coming up in July are a bunch of events “surveying the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture curated by Observatory’s Morbid Anatomy,” and a “Wearable Taxidermy Workshop by Beth Beverly, Rogue Taxidermist.”

To get to the space you need to pass by the South Brooklyn Casket Company …

South Brooklyn Casket Company

… a few blocks later you go around a corner and through this beautiful alley.

Entrance to the Observatory, Gowanus, Brooklyn

This is George Hansen, who gave a marvelously entertaining and informative lecture. George is the author of the book, The Trickster and the Paranormal. George also very graciously mentioned Unbelievable, so thank you very much George!

From beyond the grave: the legal regulation of mediumship

Thank you, Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., for drawing attention to this International Journal of Law in Context article by Steve Greenfield, Guy Osborn, and Stephanie Roberts.

From the abstract:

“In recent years there has been an increased interest in mediumship. This has been part of a broader fascination with paranormal issues that has been fostered by new modes of dissemination and communication. This article focuses upon attempts made by the criminal law to regulate mediums, and, in particular, the disjunction between the ‘genuine medium’ and the ‘vulnerable consumer’. It charts historical approaches of the law and provides a critique of the current legal landscape, including the new regulatory framework under the Unfair Commercial Practice Regulations 2008, and the possibility of an action under the Fraud Act 2006. It concludes that the law has continually struggled to adequately deal with this phenomenon, and that the current regime is likely to prove similarly ineffective given the fundamental conceptual legal problem of proving what may be un-provable.”

The pictures below are from The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult. The first one was taken by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, “The medium Stanislawa P. in her tightly stitched and sealed costume, June 13, 1913.” This was to prevent possible fraud.

The medium Stanislawa P.

This one was taken by Henri Mathouillot, “The medium Mme Receveur levitating a table, October 24, 1935.” Mathouillot was an engineer, and he’s measuring how high the table was raised.

The medium Mme Receveur

Witnesses to the Unsolved

Another intriguing book, which has recently come out in a paperback edition. Witnesses to the Unsolved: Prominent Psychic Detectives and Mediums Explore Our Most Haunting Mysteries.

This is particularly interesting because the author, Edward Olshaker, focuses on a group of comparatively modern cases. From the publisher’s website (Anomalist Books):

—Martin Luther King, Jr., whose assassination is still an open case after a Memphis trial and a federal investigation reached opposite conclusions in 1999 and 2000.
—Vincent Foster, the White House deputy counsel found shot to death in 1993. Three-quarters of Americans polled in 2000 did not believe the official ruling of suicide.
—Kurt Cobain, the voice of his generation whose death by shotgun triggered scores of “copycat suicides” worldwide, even though America’s leading forensic pathologist maintains that the rock icon, with triple the lethal dose of heroin in his body, could not have shot himself.

“Well-written…could be profitably read by skeptics and believers alike.”
—Fortean Times.

“… a glowing tribute to creative, investigative journalism. The evidence presented could open new ‘cold case’ investigations.” —The Mindquest Review.

I wasn’t aware, for instance, that the trial for the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the federal investigation reached opposite conclusions. Also, these are not the only cases covered in the book. For more information and links to where you can buy it are here.

First Sight by James C. Carpenter

I was very excited to see that Jim Carpenter has come out with a book about ESP. He was one of the scientists I interviewed for my book. Even more exciting was the fact that the Library Journal said the following in their review:

“Recommended for serious readers interested in a scientific theory for parapsychological phenomena that is supported by case studies.”

It’s exciting because the review is objective instead of condescending. Carpenter’s book has garnered a lot of great reviews, but I’m picking this one because the author was in the news so much last year because of his own ESP experiments.

“First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life is written from James Carpenter’s unique dual perspective as both a respected research scientist and a practicing psychotherapist. It is an exciting and elegantly written book that simultaneously makes a major theoretical contribution to the science of psychic functioning while providing an accurate, non-technical overview of the field accessible to the interested general reader.” — Daryl J. Bem, professor emeritus of psychology, Cornell University

Carpenter has set up a website for his new book here. And you can pick up a copy of first sight here.

Science and Psychic Phenomena: the Fall of the House of Skeptics

I recently learned that a book I recommend highly, Parapsychology and the Skeptics, has been re-released under the name Science and Psychic Phenomena: the Fall of the House of Skeptics. The author emailed me that “Most of the book is the same, but a few sections have been rewritten for greater clarity and there is also some new material scattered throughout the book.”

From my review on Amazon: I recently finished a book about parapsychology myself, and I had planned to have a chapter at the end, addressing the fact the the results of the experiments I had written about were never generally accepted (at least not publicly). I quickly realized that the subject was a book in itself, and not a chapter. There isn’t one reason, there are many reasons, and a lot of misinformation and rumor that has been repeated decade after decade that needed to be dispelled.

I read this book and was so happy because now I no longer had to figure out how to accomplish that, Chris Carter already has. He has done an excellent job of addressing every rumor and mistaken assumption one by one and making it accessible to the non-scientist. It’s an interesting subject. As a non-scientist, and someone looking from the outside in, I had always assumed scientists were so rational. But of course they’re human, aren’t they? Carter’s book is must read. Especially for open-minded scientists.


I only just heard about this book Fringe-ology a few minutes ago, but the first review by David Pitt at Booklist is promising!

“In the spectrum of paranormal literature, with rigid skepticism at one end and jaw-dropping gullibility at the other, this book occupies a space squarely in the middle. Volk explores the way paranormal phenomena have been reported, investigated, and categorized. He includes numerous personal accounts, including one from his own life, but isn’t really focused on personal stories or even whether paranormal phenomena exist. He is interested in the interpretation of the word paranormal—the meanings attached to it and the way perception of the word colors how we view the world. Arguing that paranormal phenomena, genuine or not, should be openly discussed and analyzed, he proposes adopting a what-if attitude. For example, if some ghost sightings can’t be explained away as products of a person’s imagination, what does this say about the natural world? He points out perceptively that “what is seen today as wacky often leads to tomorrow’s progress,” citing the importance of the study of alchemy to the science of chemistry, A sharply written, intelligently argued book that should appeal equally to believers and skeptics.”

The author is a longtime reporter out of Philadelphia, and his website is here. Oh, and I see he’s doing a reading in New York, on July 13, 7 pm, at Barnes and Noble, the one at 97 Warren Street. Good luck, Steve! Your book sounds great!

New Book from Chris Carter

I am very excited to learn that Chris Carter’s new book, Science and the Near-Death Experience is out!! He did such a great job with his previous book, Parapsychology and the Skeptics. From his website:

“Using evidence from scientific studies, quantum mechanics, and consciousness research, Carter reveals how consciousness does not depend on the brain and may, in fact, survive the death of our bodies. Examining ancient and modern accounts of NDEs from around the world, including China, India, and tribal societies such as the Native American and the Maori, he explains how NDEs provide evidence of consciousness surviving the death of our bodies. He looks at the many psychological and physiological explanations for NDEs raised by skeptics–such as stress, birth memories, or oxygen starvation–and clearly shows why each of them fails to truly explain the NDE. Exploring the similarities between NDEs and visions experienced during actual death and the intersection of physics and consciousness, Carter uncovers the truth about mind, matter, and life after death.”

You can learn more about Carter’s new book and read an excerpt here.