ESP Machines

I have a geek side, I love machinery, and I’ve been collecting pictures of ESP machines. The machine below was designed by Helmut Schmidt, a German physicist who worked at Boeing’s research laboratory, and later for J. B. Rhine.  From the caption that came with the photograph:

A recent development in the testing of precognition is the electronic machine shown.  It emphasizes elements of fun and challenge to prevent build-up of emotional blocking mechanisms in the subject.  The four lamps of different colors light up in different sequence: The subjects task is to predict which one will light next and push the corresponding button.  The machine uses single quantum processes which may form nature’s most elementary source of randomness.  And electronic counter that counts (at a rate of 10 to the 6th power per second) in the sequence 1,2,3,4  1…is stopped at the random time when an electron emitted by a radioactive source (strontium 90).

That is Helmut Schmidt in the photograph.

New Book by Artist Susan MacWilliam: Remote Viewing

I went to a presentation Susan MacWilliam gave for the Parapsychology Foundation and I was very impressed, I love her work.  I browsed her website one day and the work there was evocative, thoughtful and visually arresting.  From the press release about her new book:

“For over 10 years MacWilliam has been making video and installation works based on cases of the parapsychological, the paranormal and the perceptual.

“She has made works about a range of subjects and individuals including the materialisation medium Helen Duncan, the Belfast table tilting medium Kathleen Goligher and the Dermo Optical perception of Rosa Kuleshova …

“She has worked with such notorieties as Dr William G Roll, Dr Stanley Krippner, Rex Stanford and Madame Yvonne Duplessis. Since 2006 she has worked closely with the Parapsychology Foundation, New York and Eileen and Lisette Coly – daughter and granddaughter of the celebrated and influential Irish medium Eileen J Garrett.

“In 2008 Susan spent a month in Winnipeg where she researched the TG Hamilton Spirit Photograph Collection housed at the University of Manitoba Archives. Susan’s works provide a historical visual record and interpretation of particular cases within the history of parapsychology – her expansive body of work mediates between the worlds of art and psychical research.”

I’m jealous about the month she spent going through the  TG Hamilton Spirit Photograph Collection!

You can purchase her book from Black Dog Publishing or from Amazon.

UPDATE FROM THE PUBLISHER:  We’d be happy to offer your readers a 40% discount on all orders of the book – all they have to do is email or call +44 (0) 207-713-5097 quoting “Stacy Horn”.

Dr. Alan Gregg

Dr. Gregg was an interesting guy. For 20 years he was the chief of the medical sciences division of the Rockefeller Foundation and he retired as vice president of the foundation.

He was the guy who approved a grant for Alfred Kinsey, which helped him found the the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, and a few years later Gregg would approve a grant to Duke University for research in Parapsychology under the direction of J. B. Rhine.

He must have been a pretty courageous and independent thinker to be willing to fund such controversial research.  Dr. Warren Weaver was at the Rockefeller Foundation at the time and he supported the grant to the lab, but a Dr. Mark S. Morison did not (apparently quite strenuously).  

The Rockefeller Foundation terminated the Lab’s grant in 1954 alas, the same year they terminated their grant to Kinsey.

Gaither Pratt and Pigeon Homing

This picture makes me a little sad.  The Office of Naval Research had funded a project, headed by Gaither Pratt, to see if homing pigeons were using ESP to find their way.  In 1958 Rhine asked Gaither to give up his pigeon research. He felt the research was more biology than parapsychology, and he was likely correct. But Pratt loved his pigeon work. You could just tell from his letters that the work made him happy. But Gaither’s obedience was absolute, and so he arranged to have the Office of Naval Research grant transferred to the Duke Department of Zoology.

Gaither hadn’t yet been able to answer the question of how pigeons home (and as far as I can tell we still only have theories). And “once Gaither got into something he was like a bulldog and to take him off of something would have killed him,” Rhea White told me. “He was nothing if not thorough, and to leave something unfinished would have really upset him.” Plus, look at this picture. Doesn’t this look like wonderful, idyllic work? I’m not saying Rhine was wrong. I guess I’m just saying it’s too bad we can’t have it all.

Raymond Bayless and the Spook Light

Some stories are just more fun than others. I picked a few people who crossed paths with the scientists at the lab to write about, and one of them was an amateur researcher named Raymond Bayless.  (More below.)














I wrote about Raymond’s work recording what he believed were the voices of the dead and briefly mentioned a 25 page report he sent to Rhine about an Ozarks legend called the Spook Light (that report was ultimately published in Fate Magazine).

Briefly, the Spook Light is a golden-amber glowing light that has been appearing at the end of a lonely road near Joplin, Missouri for more than a century. From my book:

… the exact location has changed.  Throughout the years it’s been spotted on various stretches of road on the northern edge of the Ozarks, along the Missouri/Oklahoma state line.  The source of the light has never been found.  The Army Corps of Engineers looked into it during WWII and rather dryly concluded that the spook light was a “mysterious light of unknown origin.”  Most researchers ultimately decide that it’s just the reflection from headlights on a nearby highway.  But when Raymond wrote his report in 1963, he included evidence of sightings going back to at least the 1800’s, years before headlights and highways.  In Ozark Superstitions, author Vance Randolph also found people who saw the Spook Light “long before there was any such things as a motor car.”

Ever since I read Raymond’s report I’ve been dying to go there. One day Art Silverman, from NPR’s All Thing’s Considered, was in the area with Doualy Xaykaothao working on a story.  I said they had to look into the Spook Light, and they ended up doing a piece about it called Halloween in Missouri: The Devil’s Promenade!  There’s also a current picture of the light from NPR’s website (taken by James E. Smith) which I’m copying here, in order to do a little then and now thing.

The Spook Light then:

The Spook Light now:

I love that it’s still an unpaved, dirt road.

CIA and Parapsychology

In 1961, a purchase order came from the CIA for Betty Humphrey’s “Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology,” a set of ESP cards and record sheets, and the entire set of the Journal of Parapsychology (Betty Humphrey was one of the lab scientists).  According to this report, they contacted a parapsychology laboratory at Oxford the same year.

I didn’t write a lot about the CIA’s involvement with parapsychology, so much has been written about it already.  I was just struck by something as mundane as a purchase order coming from a place like the CIA for something as extraordinary as ESP cards. But I did find and write about an 1957 (!) CIA remote viewing experiment.

Parapsychology and Pop Culture

In 1965, two months after the Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University closed its doors, the Broadway play On A Clear Day You Can See Forever opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City. The play is about a woman with psychic abilities who learns through hypnosis that she has been reincarnated. Harvard graduate Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote the libretto and the lyrics, had been studying ESP for years. “The weight of evidence is that we all have a vast latent extrasensory perception,” he told a New York Times reporter.  (More below.)

I’ve never seen the play or the movie.  I’m guessing J. B. Rhine would not have approved.  That reminds me, the Rhine’s story begins at Harvard and Boston and I recently learned there’s been an ongoing study of ESP at Harvard for years.  I keep forgetting to call and learn more about the study.

The picture above is of Lerner escorting Jacqueline Kennedy (not yet married to Onassis) to the premiere.