Testing Groups for ESP

The scientists at the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory pretty much tested every group they could think of for ESP.  The picture below is from a series they did testing blind children.  The caption reads:  The subject is trying to match sealed ESP cards to key cards with raised symbols.  Rhine’s conclusions from his book Frontier Science of the Mind:

“Groups of blind children have yielded results that compared with those of seeing children of the same age … while no group of any size has been found completely devoid of capacity to demonstrate ESP, at the same time no subdivision of the human species has been found to stand out in any really distinctive way as either possessing superior psi powers or superior control over them.”


Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses

“I have seen such a world where forms and half-made shapes moved and struggled,” Eileen Garrett wrote about the paranormal.

I always loved Eileen Garrett’s descriptions of her abilities, and what it was like for her. The following quote in particular caught my eye because of all that I’ve read recently about the illusion of time:

“I conceive of yesterday, today, and tomorrow as a single curve … time loses reality and the past and present and future are present in one instant … ”

Helix Press has reissued Allan Angoff’s biography, Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses, which I used in my research.

This following quote of hers is interesting because she seems to accept elements from both parapsychological and mainstream ideas about mind:

“If mind exists, (and I believe it to be universal) the shock of separation from the brain must of necessity at such planned deductions, and one can only, within a new ‘vessel’ experience something akin to a dreaming remembrance of things past. … How much is remembered in the new state of consciousness … does the dragon fly remember his form as the chrysalis of yesterday?”

Presentation Rescheduled!

My book presentation that was originally scheduled for this Sunday, June 28, had to be rescheduled for Sunday, September 27, due to an emergency re-wiring of the theatre where the presentation will take place.

I hope people can make the new date!

Once again, please call 646-373-6868 for more info or go here to sign up.

That gives me the rest of the summer to add slides, and figure out more stories to include.

Notice from Yale University

I plan to write a post about the Parapsychology Laboratory Records at the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, and the fact that there is still so much there that is untapped. I couldn’t read it all, and of the hundreds of pages of notes I made to myself about things to follow-up, I couldn’t come close to looking into them all.

For instance, I made a note about a letter J. B. Rhine wrote to J. R. Angell, the president of Yale University. Rhine wrote that he was making a “tentative inquiry” about their Institute of Human Relations and the possibility of working together.  Angell wrote back that “Your extraordinary experimental observations have already attracted our attention and interest.”  And he said he was forwarding Rhine’s letter to the director of the Institute.

Yale physicist Dr. Henry Margenau (pictured above) wrote that effects they were studying were not brain waves or a new energy, and that they needed to strike out and find a new mode of explanation.  “Science cannot close its eye to those things that are not directly perceptible.”

I can’t tell you how many times I read letters to Rhine from scientists I never heard of, only to google them and learn that they had won a Nobel Prize, etc.  There was a lot of hostility in response to their experiments, but there was also a lot of interest.

Witch Bottle

I came across this short article in British Archeology.  The piece is titled, The Bizarrest Bottle Ever Found.  I love stuff like this.  What is in there?? From the article:

“Witch bottles were commonly buried to ward off spells. Some 200 have been found in Britain, most of them glazed jars made in the late 16th or 17th centuries. Not one, however, was still sealed when it came to be analysed. Until now.

“We report the discovery and analysis of a witch bottle from Greenwich that had its contacts intact – and its cork in. Inside were bent nails and pins, a nail-pierced leather “heart”, finger nail clippings, navel fluff, hair, human urine and brimstone. Analysis of the urine indicated a smoker, and the state of the nail clippings a person of some social standing.”

Okay, ew.  But not too ew.

Another Ghost Story That Didn’t Make the Book

I came across a few letters in the Duke Parapsychology Lab archives about a haunting in Virginia at a place called the Oakland Farm School. The letters were dated 1964 and they written to Gaither Pratt (a scientists at the lab) from Margaret Shepherd, who had founded the school on her family’s farm.

I looked into the story a little and for various reasons decided not to include it. The Parapsychology Lab didn’t investigate the case and although Gaither Pratt did later, when he was at the University of Virginia, he didn’t seem to think it was a strong case.

It’s not that Gaither doubted any of the accounts of what had happened there, but there was little he could do after the fact. He visited the farm once with parapsychologist Bill Roll, who was looking into the disturbances on behalf of the Psychical Research Foundation.  Bill Roll had British psychic Douglas Johnson with him. Among other things, Johnson said he could hear a woman sobbing, and when he looked out a window he said he saw men going below ground, where there used to be an icehouse they later learned, and when the men came back up they were carrying a coffin.  Johnson also kept getting the name Lily, which was the name of the grandmother who had given the Shepherds the farm.  From Gaither’s point of view there was no way of knowing if Johnson had gotten his information from the dead or the minds of the living via ESP.

There’s a small write-up of the haunting in a book Gaither wrote with Naomi Hintze called The Psychic Realm.  In many ways it sounds like a classic haunting: the distant sounds of music and a party were heard on several occasions (The Shining!) and foot steps, often heard walking down empty hallways and up to doors in the middle of night. In Unbelievable, I talk about how the lab discovered that ghosts, (or whatever is responsible for the phenomena) are seen more than heard, and this seems to be true here, although a few times when there was no one there to have made them foot prints were found in traces of pollen or plaster dust.

What stood out for me was Margaret Shepherd’s description of a photograph of a dead child that she found hanging on a wall when she was visiting the farm for the first time, after her husband’s grandmother had given it to them as a wedding present.  It was in a room on the first floor that had the “seldom-used look of an old-fashioned parlor.”

“Over the mantel, black braided hair made a frame around the picture of a dead child, a little girl about six or seven. The young face with its closed eyes was lovely.  The dark hair was long and flowing, as if it had been carefully brushed.”

“Someone told me that the child had died of diphtheria in this house.  I knew that in those days it was not unusual for families to have made photographs of children in death, since often they had no other likenesses of them.  That picture fascinated me.  How much they must have loved her!  I had a strong sense of identity with that little girl.  For a long time afterward I dreamed of her.”

I would have been the same.  And had I decided to fully research this story I would have begun with that photograph.  Where was it now?  Who was that little girl exactly?  Ha. Okay, now I want to research this story!

Although Gaither was not keen about the case, he did say that he felt ghosts were more common than we ordinarily suppose.  “As a scientist, I want to know, if it is possible to find out, what it all means.  What is the reality back of these experiences and of the thousands of others of a similar kind?”

He says that he shares Dr. Eisenbud’s opinion, which was quoted at the beginning of the piece.

“I am inclined to believe that they [ghosts] occur more frequently than is generally allowed, and are simply kept in the family closet, which, in our culture, is by all odds the safest place for aberrant creatures of this sort.”

The picture above is not the photograph Margaret described.  It’s from Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America, a book of photographs from Dr Stanley B. Burns, who has been collecting these kinds of photographs for years. The second photograph is of Margaret Shepherd and I got it from the website for Oakland School, which is still in operation today.

My June 28 Presentation

Okay, I’m plugging my own event. It’s on June 28, at 3:00 pm and I’ll be giving a presentation about my book and the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory at:

Polaris North Theatre
245 West 29th St, 4th Floor
$15 in advance.
$20 at the door.

Please call 646-373-6868 for more info or go here.

If you went to my book event at the Open Center, this one is going to be very similar. It will be somewhat more in depth, but if you went to that one, don’t go to this one. It will feel too much the same, I think.

But if you didn’t go, by all means you should go to this one if you’re into this subject! I worked hard on the presentation, pulling out some of the best stories and pictures I have, and I found out things even the people who worked there didn’t know.

(That’s me at the Open Center in the picture above.)