Ted Serios

I don’t really know a lot about Ted Serios. He was said to be able make images appear on Polaroid film by using his mind. He called them “thoughtographs.” Gaither Pratt, a scientist formerly associated with the Duke Parapsychology Lab, tried to replicate the phenomenon under controlled conditions at the University of Virginia, but ultimately was unable to do so (Exploratory Investigations of the Psychic Ted Serios, 1967).

Serios had to get a little drunk in order to function and it was funny to read Gaither write about something like this in a sober, serious and professional manner. “A session would begin with Ted imbibing a portion of alcohol in the form of a beer or dry martinis until he felt he was ready to begin ‘shooting’ … Sessions usually continued until about fifty or more trials had been made. A session ended when we felt that Ted was too intoxicated to continue …”

Serios and Pratt couldn’t be more different but they liked each other. Ian Stevenson, the co-author of the paper, described Serios as “the most lovable subject with whom we had ever worked …” and when Gaither died, “Ted wrote me a touching letter about him.” I’d love to see this letter.

There’s a wonderful video of an experiment with Ted Serios on YouTube.  The picture is a screen grab from this video.  For more information, Michael Prescott has an informative post here.

Td Serios

64 thoughts on “Ted Serios

  1. It seemed to me that you cited that study as positive proof of Ted Serios’s genuine paranormal abilities, and I’m saying that an inconclusive study is just what it claims to be: inconclusive. It didn’t preclude fraud either.

    Watch the video again.

  2. The video is not the best case scenario. Why don’t you look at those?

    If you can’t explain the best controlled conditions, then you haven’t accounted for the phenomenon.

    It’s a very common tactic of skeptics to ignore the best evidence. It’s not how mainstream science is done. But then CSICOP isn’t primarily run by scientists. And before you jump into your “who are CSICOP?” mode, look up the names of the primary critics of Serios and how they are connected to this organization.

  3. Hahaha, yeah — okay. Video shot at point-blank range isn’t the best case scenario as compared to what? Anecdotal accounts of poorly documented conditions during so-called experiments undertaken by self-admitted credulous researchers? That’s absurd.

    So Ted Serios shown clearly on film using optical tricks as described by others is worthless as evidence of fraud?

    Please watch the video again and describe what you’re seeing, specifically here. Don’t just say it’s a blurry old video done under no controls. Just describe what you’re seeing Serios do in the video.

    I assume people should have just accepted, for example, Blondlot’s “best evidence” for the existence of N-Rays? How about Hieronymus’s “eloptic radiation”? That must exist, too; he was even awarded a patent for a machine to detect it.

    I know exactly who CSICOP are, as I ignorantly impugned anyone even remotely associated with that organization for most of my life, just as you’re doing now. I’m not a member of CSI, but even if I were, would that make me incapable of seeing proof that sits before me without being suspect of taking part in some sinister agenda? I’m capable of making decisions for myself, and that’s what I’m asking you to do. Watch the video again.

  4. The video, as evidence of Ted Serios’s fakery, is right there to be seen. I don’t have this alleged “best controlled evidence” at my disposal. Where is it? Does it explain away what I’m seeing in the video evidence?

  5. When I look at the video, it doesn’t seem out of line that someone capable of creating images on Polaroid film can create images on video/film and other media as well. I get enough anomalous stuff on pictures I take and on pictures taken of me by other people with various cameras that I’m used to weird stuff showing up on images. I thought what the Serios video showed was an anomalous image in the process of being produced anomalously. You have interpreted it differently. And given the poor quality of the film, it is open to interpretation. So there isn’t much point in using it as evidence. It isn’t the smoking gun you want it to be.

    So what is left to consider is the best controlled evidence collected by Eisenbud and witnessed by others. You keep suggesting that this well documented work only counts as anecdotal. I disagree with your appraisal.

    I’m sure you will get all excited and go on about how credulous the “believers” can be. I have no idea what turned you into a skeptic, if you really had an epiphany or are just claiming to have had one for the sake of showing off how superior your intellect must be compared to the believers of woo now that you have accepted the dogma of organised skepticism. Maybe “god” didn’t treat you well and you became an atheist.

    I was raised without much in the way of religion. I have a formal education in science. I still have trouble wrapping my head around the concept of god and have often questioned the credibility of scientists who seemed too religious for my comfort zone. But I also know that there are lots of things we don’t know in regards to how the universe works. The possibility that we are more than just a meat suit doesn’t fly in the face of science, it just means we have a lot left to understand.

    I think the only thing that ever convinces someone of psi is a personal experience of psi. Once you have such an experience and crossed that bridge, you do see the world differently. I know that many skeptics think it makes you see things that aren’t there. You are entitled to your opinion. But it would be intellectually dishonest of me to ignore the data, ignore what I’ve seen with mine own eyes and to then pretend that anomalous things don’t happen.

    It comes down to which evidence you choose to believe. I think the primary researcher in the Serios case is credible. You prefer to follow the opinions of individuals who didn’t work with Serios directly and who had an axe to grind in terms of promoting a particular dogma.

  6. When the primary researcher (and his chosen witnesses) has proven to be unreliable and protective of the subject, the veracity of his data and conclusions come into question.

    The problem is that, when combined with the dissenting witness accounts and their explanations (the one’s you discard because they don’t confirm your bias), the video footage in question [b]is[/b] a [i]smoking gun[/i]. You just refuse to see the smoke for what it is and choose to see a phantasm; a ghost from the barrel of the “gismo” — endowed with substance by proclamation and willful delusion.

    It’s sad that you view anyone who chooses to promulgate true curiosity and pursuit of the truth as “having an ax to grind”, as opposed to holding the promoters of fantastic claims to a higher standard of evidence.

    Jule Eisenbud controlled access to Ted Serios, which severely limited the probability that Ted would be caught faking his claimed paranormal ability. If you can’t extract that from the historical record, then you’re either not looking in the right place, or you’re not seeing it because you don’t want to see it.

    I’ve been where you are, and I don’t expect you to believe me, but that way of thinking took me to the absolute lowest points of my mental and emotional life. But we were at an impasse here even before we started, and as a good friend of mine recently said regarding this subject: “There’s nothing more annoying than an ex-smoker.” So I’ll leave it here. Not to get the last word, but because I don’t want to be annoying.

    I hope you eventually see the smoke.

  7. People who promote science don’t tend to belong to groups like CSICOPS. That organization doesn’t promote original research into important questions like “what is consciousness”. You say you value true curiosity and investigation, but then you align yourself with people who organize against such goals.

    You haven’t provided any evidence that Eisenbud and all of the other witnesses were unreliable. It might be your opinion, but your opinion isn’t evidence.

    As far as being protective of a research participant, I think researchers have certain responsibilities to those they study. I’ve participated in research, and I’ve asked that my identity be protected. I think that’s pretty standard for anyone participating in mainstream neuroscience research, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some skeptic saw my anonymity as “gate-keeping” on the part of the researchers I’ve worked with.

    I can say that I’ve seen both sides of things, just has you claim you do. I finally followed to evidence rather than ignoring it. I know what I’ve observed in my own case. That’s the thing about personal experience. I know I wasn’t cheating. I know what happened firsthand. To end up with your worldview I would have to ignore the evidence. Not evidence of some historical case in which the primary investigator is dead and I don’t have access to the primary data. I’m talking about my own first hand experience. To go back to a materialist worldview would be intellectually dishonest.

  8. Is this Ravazzolo character the same one arrested twice in Tijuana for Child Pornorgraphy? Just keyword search

  9. Philip A, Centaur ,

    “really good friend” ? youre the most destructive friend one could hope to have.

  10. what i was getting at with my earlier post, that was removed, is that even Eisenbud himself spoke of the “experimenter effect” and struggled with the veracity of his findings. a different word for confirmation bias, but especially in the context of Psy research there is no way of knowing if the experimenter is effecting the result as well. ex smokers are indeed the worst, but maybe for different reasons than on the face.

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