Wikipedia’s Anti-Psi Mafia & the Revenge of the Damned

 

Most of the online population window-shops Wikipedia for their information, but if you happen to be interested in psi (or any anomalous phenomena), its accounting of facts and history can be outrageously biased or even revisionist. The entries would be laughable if their writers weren’t so blatantly dishonest.

Anyone who’s spent time researching psi on Wikipedia can discern in seconds the editors’ predilection in favor of any debunking explanation. Look up pretty much any paranormal subject and you’ll find the same pattern: an insultingly cursory outline of the anomaly, followed by sometimes ludicrous explanations that demonstrate the editor(s) did virtually no work in investigating the original reports and probably nutshelled what little information is presented only from books written by pseudoskeptics—who themselves have cherry-picked aspects of the cases to bolster their perspective.

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The trashing of a particular phenomenon or the character assassination of a psi-talented individual very often revolves around a core of “celebrity” debunkers associated with the Committee for Skeptical Investigation (CSI)[1] such as Joe Nickell, Martin Gardner, Susan Blackmore, Elizabeth Loftus, James Alcock, and Paul Kurtz. When an appeal to authority is needed, there will often be offered a quote from superstars Carl Sagan (despite Sagan’s professed openness to investigating telepathy and reincarnation), Michael Shermer, Alcock, or the “Amazing” Randi to snark upon the poor, “deluded,” and long-dead psi researchers of yestercentury and today.

Of these debunking sources, only a few are genuine scientists—and even a fewer number than that are still active in CSI. Bill Nye isn’t a scientist. The Amusing Randi isn’t a scientist. In fact, in the group’s early years, a number of credentialed scientist members bailed on the organization because of its dogmatic, anti-scientific attitude.[2]

Meanwhile, the number of academically credentialed paranormal investigators increases by the day.

In addressing the thousands of psi studies and the meta-analyses of these studies, the writer-editors invoke “methodological faults” quite often—conveniently footnoted to articles by Joe Nickell, Martin Gardner, James Alcock, or even the non-scientist Randi. How wide-ranging in sources! As psi investigator Craig Weiler points out:

“Since alternative sciences are mostly shut out from mainstream consideration, the evidence isn’t examined closely in many mainstream scientific discussions.  In other words, there are very, very few solid scientific sources for skeptics to work with. There are no sources that sufficiently support statements about parapsychology or many other frontier science such as ‘this is pseudoscience’ ‘rejected by the scientific community’ or ‘negatively impacts the public understanding of science.’  No one has ever gone to the trouble to try to prove these things scientifically.  And it’s very doubtful that it’s even possible.

So skeptics have to resort a lot of the time to sources that are created ‘in house’ so to speak.  These come in the form of skeptics being interviewed, skeptical articles, newsletters, blogs by notable skeptics, etc.  This is especially true on Wikipedia when it comes to psychics.  It is very tough to make the case that any of them are frauds or deluded without resorting to opinion or (the failure of James Randi Foundation’s) Million Dollar Challenge. (To award a psychic for genuine psi abilities). Mainstream sources generally stay away from landing on one side or the other of this debate because of either liability issues or fear of losing audience by being too skeptical.

This is undoubtedly why the Guerrilla Skeptics work so closely with CSI and JREF.  Without the sourcing from these two reactionary organizations or their fellows and other skeptical organizations, many of their assertions would be just about impossible to make.”

Further, the rebuttals to the debunkers’ criticisms by the original psi investigators (the latter whom have often clearly enumerated the mistakes, mischaracterizations, or outright falsehoods made by these pseudo-skeptics) are never mentioned in the Wikipedia entries.

The use of this small core debunking crowd as final authorities is akin to having the Wikipedia entries for Impressionist movement and artists referencing a core of ten or so Impressionist-hating critics, when there in fact have been thousands of art critics.

Again, the references and “further reading” sections at the articles’ ends rarely contain the primary references/reports on the phenomena or the work of paranormal researchers. It’s inevitably debunking books or articles you’ll find…Almost as if they want to short-circuit your interest; as if they don’t want you to do independent research and make up your own mind.

Thus, Rule 1: Try to avoid reference primary sources, that is, the lengthy investigations by the persons who initially researched and often witnessed the anomalous activity. Always reference only the debunking material, or the opinion of some member of CSI. You’ll know this is so if the book referenced is published by Prometheus Books, the house organ of CSI.[3] 

I don’t have any problem with giving non-paranormal explanations the primary place in an article—if those explanations were honest and credible in their mechanical-physical specifics—but Wikipedia entries don’t exhibit this equality, because the debunkers’ explanations usually don’t.

That’s because there is a “mafia” of pseudoskeptics controlling the editing process of Wikipedia entries on anything paranormal. CSI and Guerrilla Skeptics have pages devoted to how one should debunk anything they deem “non-science,” both in real life and in online contexts.[4]

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First, the “RationalWiki” (the pseudoskeptic’s safe space) entry covering the Society for Psychical Research is a shambles. The Guerilla Skeptics unfairly downplays the first generation of SPR. Richard Hodgson, Edmund Gurney, Henry and Nora Sidgwick, Frank Podmore, and (on the American side) William James all busted dozens upon dozens of fraudulent mediums. Hodgson exposed Theosophy founder Madame Blavatsky of several types of imposture in 1885. Podmore worked on collating the accounts contained in Hodgson and Myers’s massive Phantasms of the Living (1886) yet himself remained unconvinced of mediumship and postmortem survival (he concluded telepathy was probably responsible for mediums’ “hits”). But Podmore didn’t stop trying to find the evidence. William James revealed many spiritualist seances as conjuring feats (which alienated the original Spiritualist contingent within the ASPR into rejecting that organization, ironically, as a bunch of debunkers). The wiki entry doesn’t mention the SPR’s in-depth and failed attempts to disprove the mediumship of Leonora Piper.

Yet the Guerillas reveal little to none of these facts in their trite account—because these Victorian searchers professed and applied what the mafia don’t practice: a skeptical yet open-minded commitment to discovering the truth. Truth cannot be absolutely settled in science—that is what makes it unique in human intellectual history. As William James said, “Science means, first of all, a certain dispassionate method. To suppose that it means a certain set of results that one should pin one’s faith upon and hug forever is sadly to mistake its genius and degrade the scientific body to the status of a cult.”

This is the deeper truth about the role of science the Guerilla Skeptics cannot bear to face, but was foundational to the SPR pioneers, because the latter were philosophers and philologists and lawyers unburdened with a worship of a materialism that can be as corrosively dogmatic as Baptist literalism.

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Next, take the subject of poltergeists. The Wiki mafia editors are very selective as to which cases to debunk by granting them a dedicated page. The Amityville, Enfield, and Borley Rectory cases get the longest Wiki pages by far—and they were deemed fraudulent by investigators from the Society for Psychical Research as well as the committed debunkers.[5]

The Wiki entry for the well-documented 1967 Rosenheim poltergeist is a particularly decrepit specimen of attempted ledgermain. There are no mentions of the 1967 Tropication Arts poltergeist in Miami (exhaustively investigated as it occurred by William Roll and J.G. Pratt), the Stratford, Connecticut poltergeist of 1850 (witnessed by thousands of persons over seven months, detailed in diary form by Rev. Eliakim Phelps, owner of the house, and investigated by skeptical scientists, journalists, and clergy who came away convinced the phenomenon was paranormal), or the Sauchie, Scotland poltergeist of 1960 (investigated by A.R. Owen and witnessed by a clergyman, three medical doctors, and a teacher). These three cases are conspicuous absences in the Wiki data, due either to their impeccable documentation or, relatedly, the fact that no close to credible debunking explanations exist by the “experts.”

Rule 2: Always highly emphasize the crudely-produced frauds, then tar the entire phenomenon with these selected instances—and try not to use the debunking work of genuine skeptics who busted the frauds, such as SPR investigators Frank Podmore, Henry Sidgwick, William James, Nora Sidgwick, Alan Gauld, Richard Hodgson, or E. J. Dingwall. Mentioning their work only gives them respectability, and no dispassionate psi investigator should ever be tolerated in a Wikipedia article on the subject.

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The 1967 Zeitoun, Egypt Marian apparition entry is apparently a fluke in that the descriptive entry about it is surprisingly longer and more detailed than the “mass hysteria” explanation made by the skeptics further down the page (meaning: we have no idea how so many people could see and even photographed repeatedly an identical apparition, therefore here’s an unproved accounting for it)…

Which brings us to the core of their mindset: they often suggest “natural” explanations that beggar belief in their convoluted chutzpah.

According to these “rational” authorities, multiple witnesses to apparitions like Zeitoun can be primed to suffer simultaneous and identical hallucinations of Mother Mary, levitating bedsheets, candlesticks, and even phantom people, the lack of scientific/psychological evidence for “group hallucinations” be damned…The mafia would prefer us to believe women mediums merely fake trances during which they surreptitiously manipulate unseen but necessarily present concealed ropes that can pull 50-pound bureaus a foot and a half across the floor and back again in seconds…And did you know that 10-year-olds can easily fool professional magicians and a dozen trained observers during a poltergeist outbreak? And that these kids obviously place dozens of stones into their houses’ walls to disgorge themselves by means of invisible networks of threads (that are never found)—and then float across rooms and land with no contact sound?

These are remarkable feats for untrained, pre-adolescent conjurers—many of whom had never actually seen a stage magic act in their life.

Rule 3: Use anything within the realms of standard, cause-and-effect Newtonian physics, psychology, cognitive science, or sociology, even if unproven, obsolete, or just plain pseudoscience (like “mass hysteria”), to explain away the phenomenon in an ad hoc manner.

We’ll take a look at mediums. The Wiki editors’ bias is most easily demonstrated by the amount of page space given over to the rationalizations which always outweigh the compressed anecdotes on the mediums’ feats (the latter which, a curious individual’s further scrutiny will find, are told through often highly detailed accounts that what was experienced clearly violates physics as we know it).

Again, the entries for individual mediums such as Leonora Piper all consist of very short summaries (or outright omission) of the prodigious examples of their talents and the laborious screening-out processes for fraud undertaken by investigators. The debunking explanations amount to a hand-wave mention of “conjuring tricks” and one of two instances of witnessed fraud meant to negate the psi they exhibited.

A jury would inevitably find the grounds of these debunkings as weak hearsay compared to the oft-mountains of evidence in favor of the abilities’ existence. Thus

Rule 4: Always refer to case studies as sets of anecdotes or anecdotal. This is supposed to insulate them entirely from consideration as evidence, and it applies doubly to case studies of the careers of individual psychics or trance mediums; in this case, one can then proceed to Wikifraud! them further and attack the person as a charlatan. As in Rule 2, if one instance of anything ambiguously fraudulent is found in a medium’s career—in other words, an anecdote of fraud—raise this one anecdote to the status of unimpeachable truth and tar the person’s entire career with fraud, despite any contrary evidence from investigators and reliable witnesses. This is an example of the double-standard fallacy many pseudoskeptics use. Fraud discovered=true fact; Psi demonstration that is far beyond what chance would predict= “non-evidential.”

SHORT CUTS:

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Lourdes: In 1858, 14 year-old Bernadette Soubirous spoke with a “white lady” at an ancient grotto in southern France. The apparition told her to dig in the ground near the cave and Bernadette did, causing a spring to appear whose waters have become a potable shrine to millions. Both the Vatican and independent medical authorities have verified 69 medically inexplicable healings.

The Wiki response: the placebo effect, natch…But have the debunkers any clue how an idea or a suggestion in the mind can induce the near-instantaneous healing of fractured bones, cancer-eaten tissue, or blindness (all medically documented)? Nope. No one does. Move along. It seems the editor stopped short. The less said about this one the better.

Fátima & Medjugorje: Well, there are no Guerilla Skeptic interpolations in the Fatima entry at all—no section on possible alternate explanations, nothing but a sentence offering possible retinal effects due to looking at the sky near the sun, natural meteorological optical effects, or the suggestibility of the huge (30-50,000) crowd during the “Miracle of the Sun” on October 13, 1917. Apparently, even a Guerilla Skeptic doesn’t (or rather, isn’t allowed to) mess with canonical Catholic beliefs.

The papal blessing on Fatiman Lucia Santos as a saint and the authentication of the mass visions probably explains the different treatment the mafia offers in the Medjugorje entry (and the fact that it occurred 51 years closer to the present, 1971, when we should know better about these things, right?) The Medjugorje visions were never given Roman official seal of authenticity, nor were the young women involved ever canonized. Open season, then! In the skeptic section, there are two references by Joe Nickell, one to a CSI’s Skeptical Inquirer magazine article, and a skeptical weighing-in by Pope Francis.

The difference in treatment between the Fatima and Medjugorje events is striking. One wonders if the mafia would have been given a hands-off if the Bosnian events had been recognized as genuine and the primary “seers” beatified or even canonized.

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Padre Pio: Like Saint Lucia Santos, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina has been canonized, so there’s minimal interference by the mafia. As far as the accounts of his stigmata go: The skeptic attempt to use an ad hoc that Pio bought carbolic acid to fake the wounds is immediately countered by the admission that Pio and his monastery brother Paolino purchased the chemical to sterilize needles for Spanish Flu immunizations. No evidence at all is offered that the stigmata could have been caused by the acid.

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Geraldine Cummins: The entry on automatic writing medium Geraldine Cummins actually quotes psychical researcher Harry Price, of all people, as debunking her voluminous writings as “products of her subconscious.” Now go over to Wikipedia’s Harry Price page to see how his character and career fare as a whole in the mafia’s eyes; they do not note the many times he credulously boosted his star psychics. The man was very protective of his test subjects. Using Price’s opinion of Cummins in the entry is blatant cherry-picking, in other words. Cummins herself is on record as being skeptical of her own channeling’s sources, which is in fact mentioned in passing in the “reception” entry. Then go to other sources on Harry Price’s career as a psi researcher and you’ll find a firm believer in the anomalous abilities, but only when it suited him. He was, if nothing else, a promoter for the abilities of Harry Price.

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Gladys Osborne Leonard: The Gladys Osborne Leonard entry goes into no detail whatsoever about the many spontaneous “hits” the trance medium Leonard/her control “Feda” made that neither Leonard nor her sitters could possibly have known—because they were proxy sitters two (or sometimes three) times removed from the actual questioner.[7] How could Leonard have known who the real sitters’ identities were asking the questions? It would seem impossible, yet Feda was accurate in names, times, descriptions, and life-events of these thrice-removed sitters more than half the time. If fraud is ruled out (and on testimony of the SPR investigators, who had Leonard trailed by detectives, she was of impeccable character vouched for by all her friends) the only alternative for the mafia is telepathy or even super-psi—but they can never use those explanations, of course…So the mafia cites only attempts at explanation from skeptics wielding the usual techniques (fishing, cold reading, fraud). Explaining away Feda as a second personality of Leonard’s, as some of the referenced skeptics do, explains nothing, for this second personality apparently was either telepathically gifted or in fact a disincarnate intelligence.

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Eileen Garrett: Trance medium Eileen Garrett was more curious about and flummoxed by the source of her abilities than perhaps any other medium, and tried for decades to understand it, enlisting psychologists, psychiatrists, and scientists. Of all people, the wiki entry on her clairvoyance uses the opinion of parapsychology’s worst fraud-perpetrator Samuel Soal to dismiss her ability to replicate J.B. Rhine’s experimental successes with him, Soal. Thus—

Rule 2b: anyone’s opinion is apparently permitted, as long as it debunks with extreme prejudice, and

Rule 2c: researchers who believe(d) in the existence one type of paranormal phenomena are occasionally 100% okay to use as sources of authority as long as they are debunking another paranormal phenomenon.

In the Garrett wiki writer’s case this is ironic, in that Soal was known to be deeply envious of Rhine’s experimental work and, when could not replicate Rhine’s famous telepathy studies, Soal produced them fraudulently by altering score cards.

In 1930, Garrett was “spontaneously contacted” by the consciousness of Herbert Irwin, captain of the R101 airship that had crashed two days before, killing Irwin and 47 others.

CSI house organ Prometheus Books’ two authors John Booth and Melvin Harris both get ample quotes from their books explaining the results of her R101 sittings by not explaining them at all as fraudulent, trivial, non-evidential. No rebuttals by direct witnesses or other parapsychologists are permitted; the “final word” by Booth and Harris is she was a fraud.

DEEP DIVES:

I’m going to take four examples of Wikipedia’s blindered approach and look at them in-depth.

Stefan Ossowiecki

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Polish industrialist and remote-viewer/psychometrist Stefan Ossowiecki was nationally famous in Europe for his ability to not only read multiply-sealed letters but often tell the investigator what occurred while the letter was written (the writer’s gender, age, appearance, health condition, describe the room or house where it was composed, etc.) His “hits” at reading the contents of envelopes far outweighed his misses, and there is no way short of hot reading (extensive detective work done on the target material beforehand) that he could have known about the writers’ lives—but in many cases neither Ossowiecki nor even the investigator knew they would be performing an experiment on the spur-of-the-moment.

Many times, someone Ossowiecki did not know (a Parisian, say) who had written a letter that was given to someone else and then given at the last moment to the investigator to test him. How could he possibly have known what was written (or drawn) in the letter? He would then not only describe what was written or drawn inside, but spontaneously describe the writer. Furthermore, he several times told the investigator personal details about the writer and the people through whom the letter passed to his hand, who he also didn’t personally know, or even had an idea existed.

This led researchers Charles Richet, Gustav Geley, and Eugene Osty to conclude Ossowiecki was a not only a superpsi-level clairvoyant (remote viewer) but an astounding psychometrist: by touching the envelopes, he could see into the past and somehow watch the person write the note/drawing, and sense the scene.

For this one, the Wiki editors roll out psychologist C.E.M. Hansel for the inevitable “conjuring trick” claim with no further elaboration, then hit us with this: “Psychologist E. F. O’Doherty wrote that the clairvoyance experiments with Ossowiecki were not scientific.”[8] This is a strictly true criticism; but still, triple-blinded tests of the man’s ability while he is being closely watched by the experimenters for fraud (dozens upon dozens of times) makes for compelling anecdotes that he possessed an extraordinary talent.

The editors’ omission of the preparations the investigators made to test Ossowiecki is a refusal to wrestle with the details, as is usual. It serves to demonstrate their bedrock faiththat there is literally no possible test debunkers would call scientific with regard to psi abilities. Which is exactly their intended program: it doesn’t exist, simply because it can’t, therefore there is no way to test it.

Leonora Piper

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In the first stub, we have Mrs. Piper characterized as a cold reader, a fisher for information, and muscle reader. None of the authors cited for these statements sat with Leonora for a reading, nor did they interview any of the persons who did; it appears they simply came to the subject with these explanations based upon the SPR reports. With complete disingenuousness, it ignores the fact that A/SPR members William James, Richard Hodgson, Frederic Myers, James Hyslop, and Oliver Lodge conducted strenuous measures against cold reading, hot reading, and muscle reading. These trained philosophers and scientists weren’t stupid and gullible as the pseudoskeptics would like you to think. Richard Hodgson was so flummoxed by her abilities that he hired private detectives to secretly trail Mrs. Piper and her family for several months, watching them for meetings with “cut-outs” between their friends and the SPR who might be feeding her any information. They turned up absolutely no evidence of fraud, which impressed Hodgson and the other investigators. Over the years Hodgson continued to periodically monitor as closely as he could Piper’s social activities but again came up with no evidence at all for hot reading. They even paid for she and her daughters to travel to England for strenuous examination by the British SPR and use dozens of random strangers as sitters, where there was no possibility of her gaining a hot reading.

These facts go conveniently unmentioned anywhere in the article.

While it is true that Mrs. Piper often had the sitters hold her hands or place their hands against her forehead, which could open her to charges of muscle reading in gauging how close her answers were, the quality of double or triple-blinded information she on occasion gave—ostensibly evidential of either spirit communication or omniclairvoyance (superpsi)—would lead one to think that even if she did use muscle reading, it was irrelevant to her results, because the information would have to have been conveyed via unconscious telepathy by the sitters themselves to Mrs. Piper; even the sitters were often unaware of the information she provided, which was found later by them to be true.

This is a possibility the Wiki editors never consider. And she did fish, but the sitters were for the most part told to remain silent and poker-faced as her controls sought for names, dates, or concepts.

The biography section says she “made a fortune” from her readings. It doesn’t make clear that this money was paid to her by the SPR to keep her exclusively their subject, with an investigator and stenographer/note-taker present at every sitting. She was essentially a salaried test subject for some 15 years.

Two examples of Piper’s sittings amongst many serve to demonstrate what sort of inexplicable talent they found themselves compelled to explain:

For a period of several years, Mrs. Piper’s main “spirit control” was the coarse-speaking French physician “Phinuit.” A man named John Hart had a sitting with Leonora which was suddenly interrupted by the “spirit” of George Pellew, (GP), who was a recently deceased friend of Hodgson and Hart both whom Piper did not know about. GP successfully spelled out his name for the two surprised men (Hodgson sat in on the sessions most of the time). Pellew, speaking through Phinuit, described a specific pair of shoes he was wearing that had been originally given to Hart by Pellew’s parents (a true past event). This of course would count towards nothing but possible telepathy. GP then asked Hart to get in touch with Pellew’s friends Jim and Mary Howard to have a sitting with Mrs. Piper, and described a specific conversation on metaphysics he once had with the Howards’ 15 year-old daughter Katharine—another event that turned out to have occurred (but neither Hodgson nor Hart knew about at the time). GP mentioned a specific book he had failed to finish reading when he died which Hodgson knew to be true.

The Howards then came in for a sitting (pseudonymously, at Hodgson’s ever-skeptical insistence). This time GP communicated directly, bypassing Phinuit. GP corrected Jim Howard’s wayward assertion that a mutual friend (Rogers) was writing a novel by telling him that Rogers was actually working on a memorial to him, GP. This was correct. GP described Rogers’s deceased daughter as being nearby (that is, “on the other side”) as she still fretted over her condition during her final days, in which she had to be fed with a tube. GP then mentioned “Berwick” and “Orenberg,” more friends of the Howards.

Mrs. Piper knew of none of these persons, and all the information and connections given were true.

At their next sitting the Howards brought their daughter Katharine. GP joked about her terrible violin playing, to which Mrs. Howard took offense but Katharine later clarified was a running joke between she and GP—his spirit was apparently attempting to establish bona fides with the teenager. Mrs. Piper passed out of trance then back in as Phinuit returned and carried on a conversation in French with Katharine, which the girl knew fluently from living in France. Mrs. Piper consciously knew no French.

The GP control apparently exhibited either remote viewing or “retroactive” telepathy on one occasion. With the Howards at home, Hodgson asked GP to visit their house and give a report on what he perceived. Mrs. Howard was seen writing letters to GP’s mother and someone named Tyson. GP also perceived her holding one of his own books as she wondered if his spirit were around her at that moment. When Hodgson checked with Mrs. Howard he discovered that the events as seen were true but had occurred on the previous day. Hodgson conjectured that Mrs. Piper was either retroactively remote viewed the past, or had telepathically accessed Mrs. Howard’s mind in real time as she thought of the previous day’s activities. Either way, this is a possible astounding feat of superpsi.[9]

Next, Sir Oliver Lodge wanted to eliminate the possibility of telepathy in Piper’s sittings. So he in effect double-blinded himself by means of an object gotten from an elderly uncle he with whom he was not close. It was a gold watch owned originally by the uncle’s twin brother, who had died decades ago. Lodge handed it to Mrs. Piper, whose control immediately declared it was once owned by the physicist’s uncle. The control, Phinuit, said that this uncle was very fond of another uncle whose name was Robert—another hit; it was true, the living uncle’s name was Robert. Her voice then changed from Phinuit’s to the dead twin, who called himself Jerry (third hit).

Lodge then asked for something only Jerry and Robert would know between them. Phinuit spoke of the two nearly drowning in a dangerous creek while young, killing a cat in “Smith’s field” with a rifle, and that Jerry treasured a “skin” that he’d found.
Robert, it turned out, still possessed his brother’s beloved snakeskin, and they did swim in a perilous creek.

This wasn’t enough for Lodge, so he wrote to his younger uncle asking for any memories involving a creek and a cat in the twins’ youth. The third uncle recalled it all: the dangerous creek and the poor cat they shot in the field. They were so mortified of their behavior they’d all kept it secret, but it became public in the small community, to their shame.

Despite the true statements around the pocket watch—handed to Piper with no contextual information at all about it—Lodge still insisted on sending detectives to the town where his three uncles grew up to find out if recent enquiries had been made about the family. The detectives reported back: no, and not even any evidence that the shameful activities of the brothers long ago had been documented in public records in any way.[10]

These are two examples of Piper’s mediumship, and there several more of equal power, which we need not go into—and the Guerilla Skeptics would really prefer you didn’t. You might catch curiosity that there’s something to these strange things.

The Wiki entry on Piper emphasizes repeatedly the disagreements between members of the A/SPR over the nature of her talent, as if their clashes in toto negate her authenticity, when in fact James, Hyslop, and even skeptic Frank Podmore simply favored a belief that it was due to telepathy. Even this professional consensus on a paranormal explanation is a no-no that the Wikivigilantes cannot dare mention.

Out of thousands of quotes that could’ve be chosen to characterize the ever-cautious Hodgson’s strenuous work with Piper, we are offered Morton Prince’s observation that her mediumship “wrecked his mind” after Hodgson began to favor the spirit hypothesis over telepathy. In the editors’ selective reading, Frank Podmore is said to have concluded that “Hyslop’s séance sittings with Piper ‘do not obviously call for any supernormal explanation’ and ‘I cannot point to a single instance in which a precise and unambiguous piece of information has been furnished of a kind which could not have proceeded from the medium’s own mind, working upon the materials provided and the hints let drop by the sitter.’”[11]

Podmore’s is an incredibly poor assessment of the evidence, as the Howards and Lodge episodes above reveal; both sittings exhibited precise and unambiguous pieces of information that could not have proceeded only from Mrs. Piper’s mind. According to Ghost Hunters author Deborah Blum, Podmore concluded that “…Leonora Piper was a woman with some telepathic skills and an excellent memory for facts shared casually by her sitters. He had no proof of the latter…but her overall record, although impressive, failed to convince…Perhaps this was too cynical, Podmore allowed: ‘The accurate appreciation of evidence of this kind is almost an impossible task,’ (Podmore) wrote in his book Modern Spiritualism. ‘Mrs. Piper would be a much more convincing apparition if she could have come to us out of the blue, instead of trailing behind her a nebulous ancestry of magnetic somnambules, witchridden children, and ecstatic nuns.’[12] (emphasis added)

To be clear: There was no proof at all for her possessing “an excellent memory for facts shared by her sitters” that in turn fooled investigators. This says it all as far as using Podmore as a credible source on Leonora Piper. Again, the writer-editors make no mention of his ambivalent conclusion on telepathy. And his lumping her together with the hundreds of fraudulent “show mediums” is insulting.

After a cherry-picked tally of her failures and sprinklings of dismissive evaluations in her bio and career, were given a lengthy “skeptical reception” section. As if it were needed.

Few of her many hundreds of hits are mentioned. When Piper accurately described the recently deceased daughter of a Reverend Sutton to he and his wife during an 1893 sitting, then gave her cause of death, her nickname and the nicknames of the girl’s brother and sister, “John G. Taylor suggested that the information Piper gave could naturally be explained if she had read an obituary notice in the local newspaper. Taylor also suggested Piper may have picked up clues from the sitters about the girl’s nickname.” (emphasis added)

Read that closely again. There is no proof here, just “what ifs,” nor any evidence of how Piper could have gleaned clues from the grieving Suttons to declare specific information.

Her miss rate was openly acknowledged by James, Hodgson, Hyslop, and others as a problem. The nuanced (yet unfalsifiable) explanation for this is that a person in trance would have difficulty gaining any instantly coherent information from a “widened” or “higher” source while in an unconscious state. As Piper’s own controls explained the problem, the deceased individual to whom the sitter wishes to speak sometimes has to have their own control “on the other side,” and it becomes extremely difficult to convey information across three barriers to the living.

This gross equivocation, even if it were entirely false, still doesn’t explain her consistent hit rate. Podmore and James tended to believe Mrs. Piper had very strong secondary personalities, but as James and Myers would point out, these personalities, emanations of the Subliminal Self as Myers called it, can do impossible things.

DANIEL DUNGLAS HOME

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Home gets much Wiki debunkery upside his head simply because his feats were witnessed by many hundreds of people, including scientists, skeptics, and heads of state and, it’s been claimed, that “every attempt to bust him as a fraud failed.” No soup for you.

Quote from the page:

Gordon Stein has noted that “While the statement that Home was never caught in fraud has been made many times, it simply is not true… It is simply that Home was never publicly exposed in fraud. Privately, he was caught in fraud several times. In addition, there are natural explanations both possible and likely for each of his phenomena.”

Does the page give specific examples of Home being busted by any individuals? Nope. Here, writer Michael Prescott goes into James Randi’s attempted dismissal of Home with regard to Sir William Crookes’s thorough investigations of the medium, and Randi’s devious (yes, devious) “revisions”:

https://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2015/10/blast-from-the-past-under-the-table.html

The Wikibunkers explain away the most spectacular Home levitation, wherein he allegedly floated out a three-story window and back in another, as their wide brush to tar his other levitations.

And their story goes like this: the feat was done in near-darkness, and Home could have been standing on those four-inch ledges outside the window…Therefore he did stand on those ledges. Nothing more to it! Here’s another gem:

“Science historian Sherrie Lynne Lyons has stated that a possible explanation for Home’s alleged levitation phenomena was revealed in the twentieth century by Clarence E. Willard (1882–1962). Willard revealed his technique in 1958 to members of the Society of American Magicians. He demonstrated how he could add two inches to his height by stretching. According to Lyons “it is quite likely that [Home] used a similar technique to the one that Willard used decades later.”

Two inches? One problem with that: Home was witnessed levitating three to five feet off the ground during his trips, by at least a dozen people.

And again: “Historian Simon During has suggested the levitation of Home was a magic trick, influenced by Robert-Houdin.”

Do they take the time going into During’s specific details (if he even had them) of exactly how this was accomplished by Home or Robert-Houdin?

Nope. Didn’t think he would. It’s a trade secret. And Houdini never replicated any of Home’s feats.

INDRIDI INDRIDASON

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So weak. Perhaps the lamest debunking attempt of all Wikiskeptic antics.

Prior to Indridason, a “simple farm boy,” there were no spiritualists let alone physical mediums in Iceland.[13] The 22-year-old happened to be asked to sit in on a séance in early 1905 and immediately produced tremors and rattling in the table before which they sat. It is noted that Indridi had never before seen a conjuring act, which were extremely rare in the country.[14]

The first psychical research society in Iceland was set up in 1905 to study Indridason and kept him on retainer, much like the SPR paid Leonora Piper as a subject for 17 years. Most of his manifestations occurred while he was in a trance. They included multiple direct voices, wind gusts, instrument playing, the levitation of objects and the medium himself, light phenomena of various types, materialization, rappings, and, most bizarrely, the dematerialization of his arm. These events were witnessed at times by upwards of 80 persons in the “experimental house” space, specially constructed by the psychical society, in which he lived from 1906 to 1909.[15] In this space, Indridason was usually held by investigators or strapped down in a chair that sat behind a wire mesh-barrier that could be examined for signs of tampering during his sessions. Some of these manifestations took place in plain light.

Indridason’s primary control, at first, was his paternal grand-uncle Konrad Gislason. While in trance he was repeatedly tested with needle pokes to no reaction, as if in a depicted hypnotic state. In November 1905, four persons testified that tables levitated as high as 7 feet several times during Indridi’s trance. All attempts to pull them down failed. It also occurred spontaneously while he was in a full waking state. A seance on November 24, 1905 was interrupted at roughly 9pm by a personality named “Emil Jensen,” a manufacturer, who spoke of a fire burning at that moment in a Copenhagen factory. It was brought under control within an hour. Three accounts of this particular séance were written down, one of them immediate, but many more people were present.[16]

The next issues of the leading Danish newspaper Politiken were delivered to the island four weeks later, at Christmas, 1905, and “Jensen’s” declarations had been true: a large fire at a lamp and chandelier factory in Copenhagen had occurred on the late night of November 24. Of the four fires that had occurred in Copenhagen within a month’s period, this was the only to befall a factory. There were no telephones or even telegraph service between Iceland and Denmark. In 2009, researcher Erlendur Haraldsson searched Copenhagen’s city records and found a manufacturer and coffee merchant Thomas Emil Jensen who had lived two doors down from the burnt lamp factory and had died at 50 in 1898; on further research it was discovered that the man had lived his entire life within two blocks of the site of the fire.[17]

In December 1907 to early 1908, an interloping spirit named Jon Einarsson caused very destructive poltergeist activity while Indridi was both in and out of trance, but was pacified somehow by a group of “ministering” spirits who insulated Indridi from Jon’s anger by anointing the medium’s forehead. Afterward Jon became a primary control. Two other “spirits” controlled Indridason: a Spanish-French opera diva (possibly Maria Felicia Malibran) who often sang from within the room, and a Norwegian doctor who later was tentatively identified as leprosy expert Daniel Cornelius Danielssen.

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In late 1908, Dr. Gudmundur Hannesson became involved. Hannesson was a professor of medicine at the University of Iceland, an anthropologist, a Reykjavik city councilman, an honorary member of the Icelandic and Danish Association of Physicians, and served as President of the University of Iceland for two terms. This was no woo-woo guy and he was determined to debunk Indridi’s exhibitions, which were causing uproars in the press (Indridason had become the most famous person in Iceland).

Hannesson witnessed the near full array of Indridason’s talents—apart from levitation, which occurred a few times but in darkness. To confound the possibility of Indridi or an accomplice moving objects outside the mesh barrier, he placed newfangled glow-in-the-dark tape on the musical instruments and objects about the room. He saw a zither fly about high as the ceiling and dart at incredible speeds as it played snatches of tunes whose acoustics followed the location of the instrument at every second. He heard two disembodied voices, an accomplished female singer and a low male voice sing a duet in harmony, separated in space by eight to ten feet from one another in the hall with only five people (and no women) present at the seance. Many separate voices had been already witnessed in the surrounding space of the hall by hundreds of seance-goers over the years. With this personal witness Hannesson completely ruled out ventriloquism, which was a consistent charge leveled against the medium by skeptics (nearly all of whom had never attended one of Indridi’s seances).

While the Wiki summary of his career is unusually detailed and even-handed, all of the further “rational criticism” is just opinions at second and third hand and beyond, mostly from the contemporary Icelandic press (who were incredibly hostile towards him for religious reasons) with not a single eyewitness account in the lot. The remainder are tired pseudoskeptical takes on what possibly could have accounted for the events: the usual ventriloquism, conjuring tricks, confidence schemes amongst his assistants. This is simply disingenuous, for the firsthand witnesses and Indridi’s assistants were of high standing. A quote by an Antonio da Silva Mello claims the sittings weren’t scientific. For this, as mentioned above, Indridason was the first trance medium in Iceland’s history; the country had no formal parapsychology labs, nor were they aware of the SPR’s protocols for testing mediums.

In any case, Dr. Hannesson’s strict settings for testing Indridason were very close to those used by the SPR: Indridi was physically restrained and isolated by thick mesh netting from the areas where the majority of the PK activity took place. The experimental house was thoroughly examined three times before each seance and one successful seance took place at Dr. Hannesson’s own house in a room he chose at the last moment.

EPISTEMOLOGY

The psi of the laboratory and psi of the medium are obviously of different character. Lab telepathy has been shown to exist but is weak-to-moderate in effect…But quantifying the likelihood of someone like Mrs Piper correctly guessing thousands of items about the sitters present before her, or about the proxy sitters substituting for them, and evidential facts about the deceased surely beats the lab numbers by several orders of magnitude beyond chance.

In short, telepathy, superpsi, and survival communication are three entirely different things, although the mechanism by which they utilize the brain may be similar or even the same, as elusive as it presently is.

By the 1930s, the mass medium of information delivery for psi studies largely changed from individual cases like Piper to laboratory reports—and that wasn’t enough for the mainstream scientists to pick up the ball. Even design protocols for psi experiments that would garner little to no criticism if new dharma drugs were their subject are claimed by pseudoskeptics to be compromised by “file drawer problems,” “selective reporting,” and “confirmation biases.”

These are bullshit wavings-away of evidence. Facts are adduced indirectly in science all the time, and their existence is assumed to hold until more firm evidence backs up the experimental assays. And this is certainly the case with forms of psi. It has been indirectly proven; that is, what is displayed in thousands of lab experiments, after all confounding factors are eliminated, calls for the most parsimonious explanation: that a form of anomalous cognition that bypasses the physical senses exists. This may be called evidence type 2.

Debunkers ask for direct evidence (evidence type 1, as is displayed by a physics or chemistry experiment) and think poorly of non-supportive indirect evidence (evidence 2). I suppose the only acceptable direct evidence is…well, as I’ve pointed out above, the pseudoskeptics have consistently moved the goalpost for at least a century and a half, so I suppose we can’t expect there can’t be any in the near future.

The Wikipedia entry on telepathy leads off with this:

“There is no convincing evidence that telepathy exists, and the topic is generally considered by the scientific community to be pseudoscience.” (emphasis added).

The first clause is patently false, and the second is true—yet who are these outlier members of the scientific community mentioned who don’t consider it pseudoscience? Is even one of them given an airing in the piece on why or how they consider it possible? No.

Then there’s this curious statement: “Psychical researcher Eric Dingwall criticized SPR founding members Frederic W. H. Myers and William F. Barrett for trying to ‘prove’ telepathy rather than objectively analyze whether or not it existed.”

Now, doesn’t the phrase “trying to ‘prove’ telepathy” semantically equate with demonstrating it exists? How can “objective analysis” occur without given instances showing strong correlation or uncorrelation between the states and contents of two minds?

And the insistence on objective analysis is disingenuous. The onus is on the stub writer to outline what would constitute such analysis; no doubt some form of instrumentation would be involved, and not the exacting psychological experimental conditions used by J.B. Rhine, Helmut Schmidt, Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne, and Daryl Bem.

The “Scientific Reception” subheading kicks off with there is “no scientific evidence that it exists,” without elaboration. Does this mean there have never been results in any methodologically solid telepathy experiment that are statistically beyond chance? This raises the nagging question: roughly (or exactly) how many demonstrations of beyond-chance anomalous cognition would it take for the scientific community to recognize telepathy as real? Just as the soundness of a theory depends on the non-falsification of projected effects of that theory, to my knowledge no scientist has come forward to explain what exactly the conditions for accepting telepathy as real would be.

Anyway, here’s part of the first footnote supporting this blanket statement:

“One reason for this difference between the scientist and the non-scientist is that the former relies on his own experiences and anecdotal reports of psi phenomena, whereas the scientist at least officially requires replicable results from well controlled experiments to believe in such phenomena—results which according to the prevailing view among scientists, do not exist.”

Apart from there being some error in the quote’s construction (former should read latter), it nicely smooths over all the complexities and problems that real telepathy investigators have encountered in the lab.

For one, it’s extremely rare that telepathy can be induced on demand in lab settings. But apparently on demand is a part of the debunkers’ definition, and this shows ignorance of what has been observed of the phenomenon. Their conception, apparently, is a garbled fantasy version of telepathy that has been internalized and projected from fictional depictions.

Two, it’s been found that a researcher’s lack of attention while setting up a comfortable lab situation, and even the experiment design, can actually inhibit demonstrations of telepathy.

Three, in many instances, apparent telepathy has strongly occurred during life-threatening situations in which the purported “sender” is in physical or extreme emotional trouble and the “receiver” in a relaxed or abstracted state of mind. Interestingly, experiments that have simulated threats to the “sending” party have shown results.[18]

Four, results beyond chance have been demonstrated in the lab in experiments whose design and assays are beyond reproach.

The “thought reading” section in the telepathy wiki is completely irrelevant. It’s composed of two examples, and both are claimed to be the result of readings of ideomotor bodily cues by stage magicians. “Cold” and “hot” readings have nothing to do with real, spontaneous telepathy, as anyone who has steeped themselves in the 150-years of psychic literature can tell you…Again, like depictions in paranormal fiction, the wiki writer-editors’ conception of telepathy is entirely modeled on images that merely ape the real thing, in this case what stage magicians can do, and it is apparent the wiki writers either have no familiarity with the real-world conditions under which it occurs. Either that, or they are being disingenuous or dishonest.

Debunkers and skeptics alike are ever-ready to point out the “file drawer effect” when evaluating the results of psi experiments, but a better example of it contra telepathy can’t be found than the contents of the “case studies” section: this stub is itself victim of file drawer effect. It’s risible: Four instances of admitted frauds, two instances of discovered fraud, three examples of tests with “negative results,” and explanations such as hyperaesthesia (acute hearing on the part of the “receiver”) and coincidence to explain the rest. Louisa and J.B. Rhine’s many thousands of trial runs with Zener cards showing above-chance levels are waved away as the result of “sensory leakage,” meaning conscious or unconscious fraud.[19] The academically published experiments of the SRI remote viewers 1974-1996, Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne at Princeton, Helmut Schmidt, Dean Radin, and Daryl Bem—all which showed positive results—are not mentioned in the wiki. Nor are these researchers’ rebuttals to the “explanations.”

The Ganzfeld section actually contains a detailed description of only one side of the debate between Charles Honorton and debunker Ray Hyman to determine whether telepathy was shown during a series of tests; of course, it is Hyman’s attempts to debunk the meta-analyses conducted by the both of them that is highlighted. Honorton’s rebuttals are nowhere to be found. Suitably unmentioned is the fact that Hyman and Honorton jointly wrote a statement after years of sparring that conceded that, even were their file drawer effects and some of the studies were ruled out, the results in favor of telepathic demonstration were still above chance and there was no credible alterative explanation. Here’s an excerpt from that statement on the Psi Encyclopedia website:

 ‘There is an overall significant effect that cannot be reasonably explained by selective reporting or multiple analysis. We continue to differ over the degree to which the effect constitutes evidence for psi, but we agree the final version awaits the outcome of future experiments conducted by a broader range of investigators and according to more stringent standards.’

We may conduct further psi trials and gather more experimental material supporting the previous conclusions that telepathy, remote viewing, precognition, and retrocognition exist. The pseudoskeptic asserts these phenomena are impossible; the other side maintains not only that they are possible but do happen.

Both views depend upon axioms what is possible and probable about the world—but one advocate’s position is open-descriptive (the “believers,” neutrals, and true skeptics), and the others’ is closed-prescriptive (the debunkers’). This means the former’s views are open to be refuted by evidence, the latter’s impossible to be refuted due to a priori assumptions about the world.

The axioms of cause and effect are at the heart of the dispute. Here is psi researcher Mary Barrington’s precis of how a believer might characterize a reality in which the anomalous occurs:

The one overriding law that unifies is normal and paranormal under one system is the law of probability.

Probability is the default mode of the observable cosmos.

What is the relationship between information (something anomalous, say) and its

probability?

Mechanistic sequentiality, the default mode, is the usual way in which successive events unfold, indeed, so usual as to seem universal and inevitable. But it is not either. It is just very, very probable, almost certain—almost.

So while sequential causality is nearly universal, it is not inevitable because while a law of nature (probability) is absolute, a directive (sequential causality) can be overridden. If the basic law is probability, then while most events will be highly probable—normal—a few will be highly improbable, and the more improbable the event, the less rigorous will be its relationship with causality. A manifestly paranormal event is one that occurs at this extreme end of the probability curve, a curve that drops from a very high point close to certainty and plunges down to trail off in a very long tail.[20] (emphasis added)

When one considers that the quantum world as we currently understand it operates entirely by probability, why is so difficult to conceive that the macroscopic world may operate using the same default mode and its occasional outlier, as she suggests? For debunkers, this may is a never.

The information collected through public surveys or questionnaires/solicitations, such as that of the SPR, Alister Hardy’s studies on spiritual experiences, Kenneth Ring’s studies of Near-Death Experiences, is usually quite voluminous. The original SPR’s investigations resulted in two massive books of anecdotes and analysis. Its members were able to contact the persons they solicited in public queries and verify the details of their paranormal accounts, as well as gather character references on the witnesses.

The sheer number of these accounts cannot be dismissed. There is always the temptation to ascribe to them the neuropathological turn or some other variants of explaining-away by means of physicalism: hallucinations, seizures, temporal lobe transients, etc. But contemporary narratives of NDEs or encounters with deceased relatives and “spirits” and “aliens” tally with sociologist James McClenon’s studies of the concrete and universal yet extraordinary experiences of people that he ties to the origins of religions.[21] Thus does physicalism belittle and seek to erase some of the most meaningful human experiences.

Tens of millions of firsthand accounts of extraordinary spiritual phenomena cannot simply be brushed aside. It’s no secret that editor-fact wars have been going on for years in hundreds of Wikipedia entries since its inception. Some involve famous persons (George W. Bush) and some less so famous (Rupert Sheldrake).[22] There are only a handful of Internet articles criticizing the Guerrilla Skeptics’ takeover of the “paranormal” subject entries, and one book by Craig Weiler, so I’ve joined a small chorus.

But the fact that, like clockwork, founder Jimmy Wales begs for dollars on every Wikipedia page to keep it going despite solvency can only be a good thing. Personally, I would contribute to keep Wikipedia going—but only if there were a way of sending a direct email to a complaints department about its one-sided treatment of psi topics and addressing their toleration of a small group taking over the discourse of an entire subject. But of course there is no Wikipedia complaints department, because it’s a deliberate anarchive. Consider this blog posting my rebuttal, and some words towards addressing Wikipedia’s absence of integrity.

—————————

[1] Until 2006, it was called CSICOP, Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

[2] CSI doesn’t do scientific experiments debunking paranormal phenomena—because in their early years they tried and failed. Back in 1975, a group of CSI debunkers attempted to provide an “objective way for unambiguous corroboration or disconfirmation” of a study showing an unusually high number of exceptional European athletes had been born during the planet Mars’s rising or transiting (the “Mars effect”). The effect itself had been noted by a pair of French skeptics trying to disprove astrological influence. The French study had shown that 22% of these athletes had been born during these periods when a 17% chance rate should be expected. The sample size was 2,088, so the odds against this being chance were millions to one. CSI challenged the French duo to do a control experiment: find an additional data pool of random people and determine if they had been born during the same short periods, expecting the random non-athlete group to be distributed at the same 22%. Two years later (!) CSI released their analysis of the report. The results weren’t as predicted; the non-athletes were born 17% of the time during those intervals, as chance predicts. Instead of accepting a possible Mars effect, the debunkers instead chose to criticize the original French study by breaking down the raw data into categories and eliminating sets of athletes (female athletes, by geographical locales, etc.) to dilute the numbers and lower the 22% figure.

CSI astronomer Dennis Rawlins resigned the organization in protest of the disingenuous methodology. He revealed in 1981 that when the analysis of the new data went south, CSI founder Kurtz, statistician Paul Zelin, and astronomer George Abell stonewalled (hence the publication delay from receiving the data from the new challenge) and decided to try to dilute the original French statistics instead. Rawlins’s appeals and alerts to his fellow debunkers such as Randi, Gardner, and Philip Klass fell on deaf ears; they had no interest in supporting the truth. An independent investigation found that Rawlins’s belief in the French team’s sound method and analysis of the original data, the new data, and their conclusion, were all justified. A group of genuinely skeptical scientists within CSI resigned as a result of the attempted fudging—and coverup. In short, CSI demonstrated it was no good at disinterested science, and consequently swore off formally investigating any paranormal claims to this day. See Carter, Chris. Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics, Inner Traditions, 2012, pgs. 28-37.

[3] Here’s an article demonstrating a variation of this practice of circular source attribution (the Wikipedia problem of ‘citogenesis’) but in the context of pharma claims that utilize corporate-sponsored studies that in turn cite Wikipedia for supporting evidence.

[4] Hint: If one needs instruction in how to debunk something (since you’ve become a cub atheist or newly minted woo-killer) maybe you’ve already got a problem with understanding logic and critical thinking/rhetorical skills and need to take a step back from your new obsession…Why do both debunkers and open-minded persons like myself get so angry at each other? I admit that my blood pressure jumps whenever I encounter an evidence-free yet arrogant dismissal of any “paranormal” event by some message board junior master of the universe who’s just discovered atheism and SCIENCEã. Some of us “psi defenders” are just as emotionally volatile as religious fundamentalists when it comes these matters. An impassive, intelligent observer might think that both camps are defending unfalsifiable theses—and this may be true, not just because we weren’t present to witness these things firsthand, but because metaphysical positions are involved in how we characterize these events, whether we want to admit it or not. Most debunkers, however, think metaphysics is bunk to begin with, and will deny that they operate from any fundamental “axioms” other than those the hard sciences such as “normal physics” provide.

[5] The tiresome CSICOP stage magician Joe Nickell, who inevitably gets more citations in the Enfield Wiki entry than anyone else, “examined the reports” and concluded the girls in the case must have been using ventriloquism. He offers no evidence for this assertion.

[6] See their book Poltergeists, White Crow Books, 2018, pgs. 330-37.

[7] See Heywood, Rosalind. The Sixth Sense, Chatto and Windus Ltd., 1959, pgs. 112-127; Beloff, John. Parapsychology: A Concise History, pgs. 120-24; Haynes, Renee. The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History, McDonald & Co. Ltd., 1982, pgs. 83-88; Carter, Chris. Science and the Afterlife Experience, Inner Traditions, 2012, pgs. 145-50, 151-53, 166-69, 177-78, 183-85.

[8] What personal psychology leads one to become a stage magician in the first place? There are many within the field of pseudoskeptics, and this has held from the 19th century beginnings of psychical research. But prevarication can work both ways: misdirection can be used upon the skeptic and “believer” alike. The psychological tactic behind debunking is similar to a stage trick, and simple: generally, one should direct the reader’s attention to the frauds or “rationally amenable” fraudulent techniques that have been used in different instances than that which is the subject of the article, and apply them as the only possible explanation. Direct the reader’s attention away from their immediate experience that something anomalous may have happened. This skews the mind’s repertoire of activities from the holistically perceptive right hemisphere to the “part-focused,” linear, and logic-oriented left. See Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, Yale University Press, 2012, pgs.

[9] Tymn, Michael. Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, White Crow Books, 2013. 65-71.

[10] Blum, Deborah. Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, The Penguin Press, 2006. Pgs. 165-67; Tymn (2013), pgs. 41-44.

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonora_Piper

[12] Blum, 2006. pg 311.

[13] Haraldsson, Erlendur and Gissurarson, Loftur R., Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, White Crow Books, 2015, pgs. 2, 7-9.

[14] Ibid, pg. 8.

[15] Ibid, pgs. 3, 12, 22.

[16] Ibid, pgs. 29-34.

[17] Ibid, pgs. 32-46.

[18] See the works of Guy Lyon Playfair: Twin Telepathy; If this Be Magic; and The Indefinite Boundary.  

[19] The linked wiki entry on “sensory leakage” helpfully informs us, “Due to the methodological problems, parapsychologists no longer utilize card-guessing studies.” It doesn’t follow up with any kind of description of what replaced the Zener cards, such as the autoganzfeld test with randomized images generated by computer, and the fact that the senders and receivers may be in soundproofed rooms or even a thousand miles away from each other and still often show statistically significant results.

[20] Barrington, Mary Rose. JOTT: when things disappear…and come back or relocate–and why it really happens, Anomalist Books, 2018.

[21] McClenon, James. Wondrous Events: Foundations of Religious Belief, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994; Wondrous Healing: Shamanism, Human Evolution, and the Origin of Religion, Northern Illinois University Press, 2001; The Entity Letters: A Sociologist on the Trail of a Supernatural Mystery, Anomalist Books, 2018.

[22] See this also on the Guerilla Skeptics’ attack on Sheldrake.

Old Wine in New Skins Part 1: Timed Cultural Interventions & Jacques Vallee’s Paraspiritual Control System

Psi phenomena are problematic precisely because they involve events in the real world and thus become candidates for a physical explanation, yet at the same time they are critically bound up with certain states of mind. Thus they cross the dividing line between objectivity and subjectivity which normal mental phenomena do not.

–John Beloff

One can study UFO reports and abduction tales for decades and remain more or less convinced these are physical beings from elsewhere who must possess advanced technology that is indistinguishable, to us, from magic.

But what kind of magic? Of the ritual…or of the stage?

As Jacques Vallee and John Keel long ago pointed out,[1] retaining an “ET spaceship” framework as a UFO report investigator requires one to ignore much potentially relevant information from witnesses that enters the realm of high strangeness: instances of telepathic messages, psychokinesis, apparitions, and coincidences that verge on synchronicity. In other words, the sort of “magic” materialist science denies exists.

If you embark on comparative historical research into fairy and djinn stories, poltergeist accounts, ceremonial magic, mediumship, NDEs, OBEs, shamanism, and world mythology, the UFO material tends to either assume a wider context of shared meanings or shrink in its uniqueness…You might realize you’ve been fixated on one narrow band in a spectrum of very similarly-structured experiences involving altered modes of consciousness that, ostensibly, are as old as humanity itself.

After such a study course, at least for me, the belief in technological ETs succumbed to attrition in the face of this historical evidence; the hardware proponents lost the argument. I became interested in exploring the raw experiences of otherworldly encounters (as far as that’s possible). What, prior to that, was a side-interest (the occult/folklore in general) to an interest in ufology has become my central focus. The two are intertwined in astonishing ways.

Foxsisters

Curious Timings?
In 1848, the Fox family are plagued by a poltergeist in their house in Hydesville, New York. By using raps on the wall or clapping, sisters Margaretta, 15, and Katie, 12, learn to communicate with the “spirit” in a manner that primitively mimics the dot-dash of the telegraph.

After causing a sensation throughout upstate New York, the two children are separated but the poltergeist activity follows both girls. The news spreads and within four years hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are attempting seances with the same results. Some persons attending séances claim the rappings follow them home upon return to their houses; sometimes a person even merely reading about them or deciding to attend a séance causes the activity to arise in their surroundings.[2]

The Shaker winds

Shaker member Miranda Barber’s apocalyptic vision, as seen in trance

But before the (in)famous Fox sisters’ experiences, the Shaker communities from New York to Kentucky had experienced many interactions with the spirit world. The “Era of Manifestations” that began in 1837 didn’t directly involve poltergeist-like rappings, but rather trance-states (lasting sometimes up to 9 hours) in which Shakers’ founder Mother Ann Lee, “angels,” “ladies in white,” spirits of the dead, and unclassifiable entities visited congregants, mostly young people, in visions. These episodes showed all the signs of what would come to be called out-of-body experiences and “astral travel.” Glossolalia, epileptoid fits, spontaneous unconscious preaching, and hallucinated music were exhibited during these attacks; during many trips, “movements” were learned, then mimicked by bystanders, then taught as divine motions that would become incorporated into the Shakers’ ritual dances.[3] Often, the entranced claimed to visit rooms in which conferences were held with the passed-on Shaker leaders and congregants, who admonished them to repent further and reform themselves; in one of these accounts, 14-year old Ann Goff witnessed “indescribable” chairs and a huge book upon a table as the Shaker elders, dressed in white robes with crowns, exhorted her to pass on a message to the community to curb their worldly behaviors.

Messages from beyond that demand behavioral change and redemption—which are so prevalent in “ET entity”-inspired communications regarding our treatment of the ecosphere—have always been a part of trance communications.

By 1841, the Shakers’ trance-entities included the spirits of Indigenous peoples, “antediluvian giants,” and ineffable apparitions. By 1842, so many outsiders were visiting the spectacles that the community leaders ceased holding open meetings.[4]

—–

So by 1860 Spiritualism has exploded into a fragmented but huge quasi-religion that expands upon, mutates, or even excludes Christianity as the truth; the message of most spirits are ecumenical or Universalist in content. Those with genuine talent at mediumship become superstars over the next five decades: Andrew Jackson Davis, Stainton Moses, Daniel Dunglas Home, Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard, and Eusapia Palladino. While most of the “controls” used by the American mediums are the famous dead like George Washington or Beethoven, others are claimed to be spirit-guides, angels, or even extraterrestrials, who explain the workings of the physical and aetheric universes.

AndrewJackDavis

Two years after the Shaker experiences and four years before the Fox sisters’ fame, Andrew Jackson Davis engaged spontaneous trance using Mesmeric techniques. Considered mentally challenged as a child, by 1845 Davis was successfully diagnosing medical problems by clairvoyance, just as several of Franz Mesmer’s subjects were able to do sixty years earlier.[5] In a trance vision Davis signed a document offered by “an old Quaker man,” then Galen and Swedenborg appeared and taught him. After having a vision of “Galen’s staff” he diagnosed people while magnetized. At 19, he dictated The Divine Revelation, a massive work on metaphysics. [6] This same type of edificatory channeling occurred in many dozens of subjects under Mesmeric trance in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and especially Germany, from 1810-1850.[7] Documented, veridical displays of clairvoyance and telepathy were regularly demonstrated by Mesmerized persons as well.[8]

But Davis’s trance led to more: his dictated speeches produce a huge 1847 book, The Principles of Nature. At one point he speaks of the inhabitants of the planets in our solar system, singling out Saturn as the home of advanced beings.[9] He also apparently prophesied the coming Spiritualist tsunami of 1848 onward:

Davis paved the way from modern American spiritualism in four ways. He accustomed a wide public to the idea that a clairvoyant somnabule might engage not just in medical diagnosis and traveling clairvoyance, but in the transmission of social, religious, and cosmological teachings; he propounded neo-Swedenborgian doctrines about the future state and the spirit spheres and about the features and inhabitants of the planets; he propagated the view that some new and stirring revelation was about to rock mankind; and he implied that this revelation would involve a bursting of the barriers that separate our world from the spiritual one.(emphasis added)[10]

As Alan Gauld notes above, the claims were very similar to those of Emanuel Swedenborg (1758).

Swedenborg, Davis, John Newbrough (in OASPHE, 1882), and Helene Smith (1897) were the only well-known mediums who spoke at length about physical or spiritual beings from other worlds during the Spiritualist period.

KardecSpirits

In France, education reformer Hippolyte Ravail becomes fascinated with mediumship. He establishes general rules for distinguishing true clairvoyance from impostures, draws up a list of literally a thousand questions, puts them to his best mediums, and publishes a book of the answers in 1857 under the pseudonym Allan Kardec, founding the religion that will eventually be called Spiritism.

In 1905, author Sara Weiss publishes the “scientific romance” (as science fiction was then known) Journeys to the Planet Mars, or, Our mission to Ento (Mars): being a record of visits made to Ento (Mars) by Sara Weiss, Psychic, under the guidance of a spirit band, for the purpose of conveying to the Entoans a knowledge of the continuity of life. Despite its genre association with science fiction, Weiss is a medium and claims the book is one of genuine contact with extraterrestrials. It is a channeled work, complete with phonetic dictionary of Entoan.

By 1890, with the onslaught of ET-inspired messages that would come 60 years hence, much more should have been said about visitors from other planets by the many mediums or channelers of the Spiritualist period–one would think!

Arnold

Pilot Kenneth Arnold with a depiction of the UFOs he’d seen near Mount Rainier, Washington, 1947

Then…
Exactly 99 years after the Fox/Hydesville events, 1947: UFOs begin to show up in our skies (and backyards and seas).

Investigator Meade Layne claims in 1952 that these are interdimensional ships and their “aetherial pilots” can be contacted through trance mediums.[11] From 1948 onwards, dozens of individuals like George Adamski and George van Tassel claim friendship with “Space Brothers,” whose advice to humanity differs little from Kardec’s spirit-channeled philosophies of 1857-1868…

Shorn of the preposterous Theosophical history lessons Guy and Edna Ballard provide, virtually the same Spiritist advice is presented by their I AM cult, which begins in 1930 when Guy encounters the “immortal ascended master” Count St. Germain on Mount Shasta, California, then a group of “Venusians.”

A Paraspiritual Control System?

Culturally, the Spiritualist phenomenon of 1848 may be considered the right cure at the right time. Some strains of it were the first modern split-off from all religious hierarchies, favoring a direct-experience approach to the divine. The spirits on the Other Side would teach humanity, even if the truths they offered were old wine in new skins.

When Spiritualism broke upon the world, Darwin had yet a decade to publish his evolutionary theory, but the impact of mechanistic science was everywhere felt in America, the UK, and Europe. Machines were inspiring wonder and contempt alike. Helped by the new mass media, beliefs in a clockwork universe needing no creator deity were gaining adherents in the academies and inundating popular consciousness.

Scientific discoveries were undermining the religious faith of millions. The geological work of James Hutton and Charles Lyell suggested the earth was much older than the 6,000 years the Bible taught, further eroding Judeo-Christian faith. Electricity became a dominating metaphor for life, for vigor, for magic like mesmerism—and humanity would harness it for health and longevity.

Then, just at the tipping point in mass consciousness towards a de-enchanted universe, along came inspiring messages from one’s departed relatives in seances, psychokinetic magic in table-tilting and ectoplasm, prophesies and promises.

A great emotional need for certainty and meaning in the continuity of spiritual life was filled by the Fox sisters’ fame and the widespread folk adoption of seances.

So, what parallel happened socially and culturally in the decade just before the UFO craze began? Well, as many have pointed out, it might have had something to do with the terror and despair over 20 million deaths in a World War whose final punctuation marks were the bombing of two cities with a superweapon that could instantly turn human beings into dissipated energy. By 1947, the US Navy had tested the survivors of those two cities and discovered the lingering damage that the Bomb infected in those exposed to it, and by 1950 the US was engaged in a game of mine’s-bigger-than-yours with the Soviets over these evil weapons.

A part of humanity definitely wanted new saviors—preferably of a non-human, more evolved kind.

This was just what was needed in the popular imagination, especially the fact that the Space Brothers and many of the reported “ufonauts” preached against nuclear weapons.

Curiously, by the mid-1990s, UFOs were no longer putting on dramatic close encounters of the first, second, and third kind “performances” as they had since 1947…No more reported up-close (-500 feet) sightings of structured craft, no more UFOs buzzing cars and stopped their engines, no more observed sky-to-ground landings and weird pilots zapping and burning witnesses with beams of light…

By the 1990s, night-time bedroom abductions largely seemed to have become the method of Otherworldly interaction…It is possible that enough of the populace had come to believe in extraterrestrials visiting the Earth that a hundredth-monkey effect had taken place: the ETs no longer manifested geologist-biologist-like behavior, that is, space-suited beings taking soil samples and zapping witnesses with those damned “flashlights.” Such trappings were of the Space Age 1960s-70s, in line with expectations of ET space explorers…Interestingly, once the international treaties banning the testing of nuclear weapons were instituted by the 1990s, the aliens’ message had dropped the explicit nuke warning and they began preaching about the environmental degradation of the earth.

Again, it is a message that meets a popular psychological need, and tracks with cultural change.

There is a parallel to this change of manifestation within the Spiritualist movement: By the 1910-1920s, Spiritualism as a world religious movement had run its course (except in Brazil, where the Kardec Spiritist church is still popular). By the 1930s, reports of the most spectacular physical effects that can occur during séances had declined. It was as if the contacted spirits were no longer compelled to tilt tables and raise ectoplasmic spooks as they did in the 19th century; it was as if a certain number of people believing in them had reached a critical mass—so these supernatural displays were no longer necessary.[12]

Many Mesmerized persons from 1780-1850 produced astonishing, well-documented examples of “traveling clairvoyance” (remote viewing), telepathy, distant healing, and diagnosis.

The same decline effect can be said for the population frequency of extraordinary individuals such as Friedrike Hauffe, brothers Adolphe and Alexi Didier, and many of the reported “somnambules” associated with Mesmerism and “phreno-mesmerism.” That is to say, the number of mesmerized individuals prone to demonstrating spectacular feats of psi declined as Spiritualism ascended, then new spirit-virtuosos appeared within a few decades using self-entrancement methods without the Mesmeric trappings.

As Spiritualism became a worldwide craze, the core ideas of Mesmerism passed from the scene by 1850, but hypnotic states continued to be explored by laypersons and the early psychologists. For the next five decades, psi feats seemed to limit themselves to individuals “in the Spirit,” those suffering extreme conversion disorders, “hysteria,” dissociation, or those under hypnotic trance, as evidenced by the research of physicians Jean-Martin Charcot, Charles Richet, psychologist William James, and philologist Frederic Myers.

As noted above, the spirit-mediums of the late 19th century needed no Mesmerist nor hypnotist to entrance them; they could induct themselves, perhaps through self-suggestion, to speak via the denizens of the Other Side. The most famous extemporaneous acts of remote viewing and telepathy in which the offered information could be verified were thoroughly checked out by Society for Psychical Research (SPR) members such as Richard Hodgson and Frank Podmore, both who started out as hardcore skeptics yet eventually became convinced of the human personality’s survival after death and the existence of telepathy, respectively.[13]

From 1884 to the 1920s, the SPR and its American counterpart preserved, annotated, and analyzed much anecdotal and experimental evidence for apparitions, telepathy, bilocation, and psychokinesis. By the 1920s, they had published many volumes of this evidence on mediums and psi phenomena.[14]

By the time the Spiritualist craze had apparently met its need and served its purpose, Upton Sinclair published a book on telepathy in 1930 called Mental Radio. The title says it all: Technology has increasingly become the lens through which we analogize psi phenomenon and prescribes the preferred method of verifying its existence: a machine…In other words, if it doesn’t show up on the scientists’ screen, or needle, or graph, it doesn’t exist.

And thus what we think of as reality constricts a little more.

It was also in 1930 that psi effects first came under strict scientific scrutiny in the laboratory experiments of J.B. and Louisa Rhine, eventually followed in the next decades by Charles Honorton, Hans Bender, Helmut Schmidt, Charles Tart, Robert Jahn, Brenda Dunne, Russell TargHal Puthoff, Dean Radin, and Daryl Bem who indisputably proved the existence of psi.

Through tight experiments that probed dice-throwing influence (psychokinesis/PK), random number generator control (PK), autoganzfeld (telepathy), and remote viewing (“traveling clairvoyance”), these researchers demonstrated cumulative average statistical results against chance for these phenomena by factors of hundreds of billions to one—to any reasonable person willing to examine their experiments.[15]

Case studies of extraordinarily talented mediums like D.D. Home or Leonora Piper became very rare. Where they did pop up in the 1920s onward (like “PK-boy” Rudi Schneider, “poltergeist girl” Eleonora Zugun, or remote viewer extraordinaire Stefan Ossowiecki), the ratio of skeptical greyfaces ready to declare “bullshit!” to the open-minded investigator was probably a hundred to one…so you tabulate the odds of “standard science” studying anything further in those fights.

But by 1950, say, mediums who communicated with the dead had mostly gone shut up to the cultural attic.[16] Why? Had the spirits on the other side abandoned this world? Mediums still practiced but it took the new, very “physical” flying saucer to re-fit the metaphysical messages of the seance room, and since these were ostensibly independently existing beings, anyone could potentially see and interact with a UFO.

At least this is how the main narrative at first seemed.

Seance

Ships are meant to float and move upon the waters; they are animated by the living force that animates all things here, and if we wish to move them over the water we have but to focus our thoughts in that direction…Our host handles his craft skillfully, and increasing and diminishing its speed he could create, by the different degree of movement of the water, the most striking alternations of color and a musical sound, the brilliant scintillations of the sea showing how alive it was. It responded to the boat’s every movement as though they were in complete unison—as indeed they were.

-medium Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, from 1914.[17]

Change “ship” to “spacecraft” and “water” to “atmosphere” or “space” in this declaration and it could read as part of a UFO contactee’s narrative, or even part of an alien abduction account.

So what is this all about? Spirits and aliens are the same?

Not exactly, but close. The same, but different.

Jacques Vallee’s conditioning-stimulus “scheduled reinforcement” process hypothesis provides a framework for understanding the changing face of the Otherworldly:[18] we get accustomed to one mask that appears to undermine our general orientation to reality; a numerical tipping point of humans come to believe in the phenomenon; then it changes its form, but ever reminds us of its presence—and symbolizes a further mystery we shall perhaps never explain but are goaded into coming to terms with.

Vallee points out that the UFO experiences (as much as we can be said to know them) cannot be separated from the media filters through which they pass, much like the signal-noise model of information he studied in his career as a computer scientist. Distortion of the actual phenomenon is inevitable for the human mind; these deformations are culturally shaped, and in turn feed back into society and help shape further instances of the phenomenon, whether it is conceived as entirely “physical” or “psychological” in origin. The distortion is always present, and the one definite factor certain to be in play.

The phenomenon itself is not directly observable, but its effects certainly are—specifically on cultural concepts of the “Other/Alien/ET,” by either creating new religious beliefs or altering existing ones. Both the phenomenon itself and the resultant forms created by the media feedback fulfil societal needs (and can also thus be manipulated by cult leaders or governmental agents).[19]

Vallee has many times pointed out the self-negating nature of UFO contactee’s claims, the always-ambiguous authenticity of landing traces, or the obvious fact that there has been a vast zoo of differing ET-entity appearances whose behaviors are many times in conflict with one another. Parasychologist John Beloff addressed this very problem of intractability (and perhaps absurdity, as Vallee so often puts it) when analyzing the history of parapsychological research:

One truth about psi phenomena which every parapsychologist learns the hard way is that they are not just elusive, in the sense of being difficult to pin down, they are, or at any rate they seem to be, actively evasive. One well-known contemporary experimentalist (William Braude) has spoken of the “self-obscuring” aspect of psi…By the 1940s mediumistic séances were “old hat” and the new respectable and sanitized parapsychology that J.B. Rhine had introduce at Duke University was all set to take the academic world by storm. But Rhine’s new science soon ran up against the same obstacle that had beset traditional psychical research—the evasiveness of the phenomena. The “new era” which Pawlovsky thought so imminent is still pending. Time and again since then it has looked as if parapsychology was poised to sweep away all the familiar doubts and objections, overcome all prejudice and opposition and take its rightful place in the spectrum of human knowledge but so far this aspiration remains still-born… What is it that makes psi so evasive? One possible answer lies in the fact that, more perhaps than any other psychological phenomenon, psi appears to be extremely sensitive to situational factors. It is more than just a question of the subject being in the right frame of mind. The whole cultural milieu in which the subject operates might influence decisively what is or is not possible for the subject to achieve.[20](emphasis added)

Beloff’s is the tack Vallee has often taken with regard to UFO interactions and their aftermath: the systems of cultural information (scientific, religious, social, material) plays a determining and invisible part in what is regarded as an anomalous message that transgresses the norms of that matrix. Incorporating the raw message, which to the contactee is entirely subjective or even spiritual, into the existing matrix is impossible without diluting/translating it—but this drawback is only possible through the current epistemology (and something we will address in the latter part of this essay). Beloff continues with a metaphor that parallels Vallee’s idea of the control system operating as a thermostat that is seeking equilibrium with itself by altering human behavior and conceptions of reality:

Let us, then, think of nature as one vast immune system. Paranormal phenomena, on this metaphor, correspond to infections comparable to the intrusion of viruses or bacilli into a healthy body. A new paranormal phenomenon for which there was no precedent, say table levitation or metal bending, would correspond to a powerful infection of this kind. The immune system of nature would go in to action with the result that such phenomena would thereafter be eliminated. But nature would still be helpless in the face of a new infection, and so a constant search for novelty would become the sine qua non of successful attempts to demonstrate whatever lies outside the normal course of nature or violates the laws of physics. Pursuing this metaphor, we may say that another method that would allow us to get away with the paranormal would be to introduce it in very dilute doses. In that case, the immune system of nature need never be activated just as in our own immune system very minor infections, as occurred with the vaccine, need not elicit any symptoms. This, indeed, seems to be the logic of much in current experimental parapsychology, such as attempts to bias the output of a random event generator. The drawback of that strategy, however, is the difficulty of a rousing any interest in such marginal results among those who are not professional parapsychologists.[21] (emphasis added)

The same of course applies to the subject of the ufologist: how can one gain the interest of mainstream scientists to study what amounts to an entirely unpredictable apparitional event?

Tulpa

The Hermetic Take on Guides from the Other Side

As Havan Blomqvist and others have noted,[22] Theosophists always claimed to have knowledge of—or even direct contact with—the Great Mahatmas of the Himalayas and other diversely named yet similar “ascended brotherhoods” (the Yucatan, the Great White Lodge, the Ellora, etc.) that are said to intervene in human affairs at times to guide our evolution. This claim is very similar to Beloff’s and Vallee’s control-system idea.

Hermetic scholar Jocelyn Godwin discusses the hidden hand of these spirit intelligences at work in the phenomena of Mesmerism, Spiritualism, and Theosophy, who also, by extension, continue to influence our culture through the UFO Space Brother.[23] This myth posits that these beings—or spirits—are said to take whatever form is needed and communicate cosmic truths via both traditional mediums and anomalous experiences. One can attempt contact with them through conventional methods such as meditation or entrancement, but as Vallee might argue the mode of contact for the technological West is now one of disruption of our materialist worldview via what appear to be technological marvels that defy physics and almost all known science—UFOs and how they alter our worldviews.

Contact with Other intelligences was once an accepted part of the natural order of social life via shamanistic practices before totalistic systems such as the monotheistic religions, science, and their resulting social pressures reframed and marginalized those worldviews and techniques. Now, contact is mediated through several layers. One cannot call upon aliens (Steven Greer’s claims notwithstanding) in the way séances once called upon the passed-on.

Or can we?

Betty Andreasson-Luca’s depictions of her experiences

As we’ve noted, by 1995, alien abductions had overwhelmingly become the media focus of the contact experience; abduction-related books outnumbered in both publishing and sale numbers all other aspects of the UFO phenomena.[24] Seeming genetic experiments upon percipients replaced space exploration hardware as the dominant narrative of these books.

In many abductions, the person undergoes a bedroom visitation by greys or other beings and is taken through the house walls into a circular room; many times, a UFO is not even seen, but only inferred by means of previous experiences, or the accounts of other experiencers.

The Others’ scientist-like activities tracked with advances in reproductive technology, yet the frequency of this particularly medical manifestation has apparently dwindled in public reports over the past decade.[25]

Contact has become entirely a matter of myths that use our technological metaphors of “upgraded DNA” and “psychic downloads” of information—what was once called spiritual evolution and “reading the Akashic record” in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

After studying the history of paranormal events, many investigators have noted that many persons who experience alien abductions also experience poltergeist-like elements in their lives.

In poltergeist events:

–there is usually a single focus person.

–the experiences often follow this individual around from location to location.

–a sense of a conscious, often malicious presence in a room is experienced prior to “main event” (it may produce bangings, flying objects, etc.)

–apparitions may be seen that are generally human-like in form.

–physical marks are left on the body and environment, i.e, presences that pinch, prick, or scratch the individuals. Fingerprints, “claw marks,” and scrape marks are sometimes seen in dust, furniture, clothes, or bed dressings, during the poltergeist attack.

–electrical interference occurs; lights, televisions, or radios will turn themselves on/off, lightbulbs burst, flicker, or strobe.

–levitation of objects (and, rarely, even persons) occurs.

–balls of light, often blue, are seen; blue flashes and “cold breezes” accompany some mediums’ trance states, such as Stella Cranshaw’s, that were accompanied by poltergeist-like physical effects, studied by the SPR in 1923-26.[26]

–hazes, often blue in color, are seen.
–objects may disappear (sometimes from locked or hidden places) and reappear in the open or in incongruous places (teleportation).

–objects, most often stones, seem to materialize or pass through solid objects such as walls. Often they are found to be warm or hot to the touch.

–“teleported” or “apported” objects (such as stones, cups, plates, etc.) are seen to make all sorts of impossible maneuvers mid-flight as they fall, such as zig-zags, parabolas, leaf-like motions, corkscrewing, hovering in mid-air—much in the manner many UFOs are observed to move in the sky.

–buzzing, crackling, or bell-like sounds may be heard; sometimes incomprehensible speech, groans, or screams.

–rarely, and perhaps circumstantially, animals have been found mutilated in surgically precise manners during poltergeist manifestations, suggesting a tentative connection to the link between UAP activity and animal, especially bovine, mutilations.

These poltergeist-specific phenomena parallel only some of the superficial features of abductions and UFO sightings…Nevertheless, these parallels are clear.

There is usually no “story” to a poltergeist infestation (a contrary view by sociologist Eric Ouellet can be found here).[27]

Abductions, on the other hand, involve a distinctive narrative that over time can acquire a deep meaning to both experiencer and their auditor(s) alike.

The important point is that both poltergeists and abductions involve escalations of the paranormal activity. In the poltergeist the intensification occurs in a short period of time, months at the most, while for the abductee it occurs over years, decades, or a lifetime. The latter seems to wane with the experiencer’s age.

Following Alan Gauld’s and A.D. Cornell’s criteria of comparison,[28] hauntings may contain some or even all of the poltergeist elements listed above, but they are location-specific, not person-centered.

Seeing apparitions is rare in poltergeist episodes, so there are general boundaries between hauntings and poltergeists. Yet alien abductions also unequivocally contain apparitional/haunting-like elements. In both:

–the entities/apparitions appear either suddenly or gradually materialize into sensible form from a haze or light; often the percipient feels the Others’ presence before sensibly interacting with them.

 — buzzing, crackling, bell-like, or humming/vibrating sounds may be heard at the outset of an abduction (this has occurred in a small minority of apparition appearances); conversely, a total dampening of sound often precedes or accompanies the apparition/alien.

–a sense of unreality precedes and accompanies the apparition; in abductions or UFO entity sightings, this depersonalization or derealization has been noted in many dozens of cases.

–a change in ambient temperature is very often noted.

–paralysis of the percipient is sometimes experienced in apparitional sightings, especially crisis apparitions wherein the “hallucinated” person has just died or is near death; in abductions, the experiencer almost universally finds themselves paralyzed while in bed.

–apparitions appear fully clothed, and sometimes with accompanying accessories (canes, sticks, bags, even horses, etc.); Otherworldly beings are almost always clothed and carry devices (“boxes,” “guns,” “wands,” etc.).

–apparitions, whether of the living or those near death, may appear imbedded within hallucinatory scenes that are veridical, that is, they are later verified as the actual surroundings of the “sender” at the time of the percipient’s experience; similarly, abduction experiencers report holographic or televisual scenes that float as if being emitted from disembodied screens, or are immersive, augmented-reality-like programs. (Sometimes these screens’ appearance precedes the abduction, and in some reports incongruous beings or people, like figures of Jesus or a similar protective deity, have been reported to show up in the midst of an abduction).

–a message is often transmitted from the apparition, aurally or telepathically.

–conversations with apparitions can either be aural or telepathic, but mostly the latter.

–many times, UFOs or apparitions are seen by only a few persons present in a group setting of potential percipients; in UFO sightings (and even abductions), sometimes only the abductee(s) in the group see(s) the UFO (and may subsequently undergo an abduction experience). There are many cases of apparitions that appear to one or two people within a group of more potential percipients.

With their massive study Phantasms of the Living (1886), SPR investigators Edmund Gurney and Frederic Myers came to speculate that apparitions (especially of the crisis-type that occur within 24 hours of the “ghost’s” death) were the result of a telepathic transmission from the “crisis agent” to the friend/acquaintance percipient (and even multiple percipients).

Mathematician and physicist G.N.M Tyrrell further developed a hypothesis that involved the conception of an idea-pattern[29] that is projected from the agent that may affect one or more targeted persons in a drama.[30]

Tyrrell’s idea of the apparitional drama is based upon studies of hallucination and a crucial distinction he makes between the sense-data perceived by the brain and the physical objects that may cause the sense-data. In his scheme, physical objects may or may not produce sense-data, despite their being within one’s sensory field.

Tyrrell’s conception is meant to be a general philosophical basis for the astonishing examples of hallucination of which the human mind is capable, as Oliver Sacks describes in his book on the subject.

For Tyrrell, our subjective experiences are simply the sense-data that appear in the mind, regardless of whether they are physically caused by objects in the outer world or not. On his definition, dreams, hypnagogic imagery, daydreams, and hallucinations are all sub-groupings of possible sense-data.

These seemingly disparate mental states may or may not help the successful management of meeting life’s needs; the focused “center” that primarily assists in self-preservation we call the ego is, for Tyrrell (and Myers) at once more akin to a stream with multiple subconscious ideas and affects active within it at all times.

An apparition for Tyrrell is a construction of sense-data co-created by sender (agent) and the percipient(s). It may behave in every way like a physical object, interact with the environment, even be touched, but is not physically present. Any interaction between the apparition and its environment that may leave a physical trace Tyrrell tentatively puts down to possible psychokinesis on the part of the percipient.

During events in which the apparition appears solid, elements of the percipient’s environment must be hallucinated as well—in this case, it is called a “negative hallucination” and plays a crucial part in the perceived apparition (this accounts for how an apparition can block out the space/objects behind it to conform to the percipient’s three-dimensional space).

Tyrrell’s idea was further developed by parapsychologist Celia Green into the concept of a metachoric hallucination,[31] in which the percipient’s mind might generate the whole of one’s surroundings—sense-data that overwrite the direct perception of the environment, attitudes, and even actions while perceiving the apparition. According to Green, it is conceivable the percipient is simply still lying down, still in a chair, or even standing, mildly entranced, while unconsciously producing the entire experience. Essentially, it is as if one suddenly enters a waking dream state.

This peculiar state can make the sense-data amenable to drastic alteration by a force other than the percipient’s conscious ego.

The force that shapes these alterations, which may be conjectured to also be the force behind UFOs, some human apparitions, images of the passed-on, otherworldly beings, has not yet been specified—for our present stage of science lacks a developed vocabulary of “topological” concepts to bridge and map the mental, physical, and third space in which such events may be said to occur (which has been given countless names over the centuries, from Plato’s realm of Forms to Myers’s “metetherial field” to the Imaginal world of Sufi mystics).

Apparition experiences may seem random, although 90% of the time the apparition’s identity is not unknown to the witness (and the connection to a crisis for the sender-agent has been noted). Poltergeist victims may seem random as well, but psychological explanations have been put forward regarding unconscious and overwhelming psychological stress on the victims, especially for pubescent children and teenagers, as the source of the psychokinetic events in as many as half of the solid cases.

In both cases, for the witnesses/victims, neither willpower nor choice is apparently involved. What, then, if anything, may be conjectured to connect these two manifestations?

There happens to be a class of person that bridges the two manifestations: the physical medium.

Discounting the many hundreds of frauds that have been uncovered by investigators, there remain four compelling individuals whose careers attest to the concept of “controllable PK”: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), Indridi Indridason (1883-1912), Rudi Schneider (1908-1957), and Nina Kulagina (1926-1990). Please see my essay on Wikipedia’s attempted debunking of Home and Indridason for in-depth narratives of their talents. 

Home’s performances were witnessed by thousands of persons, including eminent scientists and heads of state across Europe. He was never caught in fraud and his physical phenomena never seriously debunked. Indridason unfortunately died at 28 after six years of strenuous and spiritually taxing physical mediumship. His seances were witnessed by a few hundred persons, the core of these being a small investigative society specially set up to study him.[32] Both Home and Indridason produced spectacular light manifestations; poltergeist-like rappings, poundings, flying objects; full and partial bodily materializations of spirits who interacted with the present séance sitters; wind gusts in closed rooms, some lasting as long as 20 seconds; physical contact by invisible hands; and, most spectacularly, full bodily levitation (in both cases their bodies rose above six feet into the air before witnesses)…Home and Indridason claimed the “possessing” spirits were wholly responsible for the observed phenomena, using the men’s material-bodily energies to produce the psychokinetic displays. Physical and mental exhaustion resulted after these long seances in which they produced a spectrum of the activities.

Rudi Schneider was examined and tested by under some of the strictest controls imaginable (total physical restraint in many cases) and still he produced PK effects around him.[33] In several instances, infrared beams were used to detect any attempt at his releasing himself from the restraints and moving objects in the lab. However, the beams were broken while he was still trussed up and at the same time his “control spirit” announced its projection of PK energy to move the target object.

At the more extreme ends of pseudoskepticism, debunkers put forth mass hallucination by the witnesses as an explanation, or some kind of “group hypnosis” on the mediums’ part. Such waving away the problem is almost as supernatural an explanation as purported spirit manifestation.

If we grant that people with these talents exist, can exhibit and, to a degree, control psychokinetic manifestations (whether by subconscious energies or “spirits”), what is the likelihood that certain persons exist (and always have existed) who can create, say, lightforms that are actually a type of “Imaginary thought-form”?

And what if these psychically-produced forms can exhibit an independence of their creators?

Anne Whitley

From 1987-1991, Anne Strieber had been helping her husband Whitley read through the thousands of letters he’d received after the publication of his bestsellers Communion and Transformation. They found that many people were mentioning encountering “aliens” during Near Death Experiences, or images of their passed-on loved ones during abductions. Anne said to him, “this is about the dead”—giving her husband a founding revelation as to the meaning of his strange experiences.[34]

Eventually Strieber remembered seeing a childhood friend who had passed on during his first recalled abduction experience in 1986, and, although he has never considered himself a medium as such, has had extended interactions with the passed-on and “ghost-like persons”[35] for over 40 years.

From 1989-90 onward he looked at the Visitors (as he has always called them) as some sort of communication conduit to our own evolution. This has become a common idea in the experiencer and channeling communities, and was accepted dogma to Theosophists and contactees such as Guy Ballard and George King.[36]

In Part 2 of this essay, we will examine how technology has now become an dominant metaphor for the transmission of messages and humanity itself.

—————————-

[1] See Vallee’s Passport to Magonia and other works, and Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse.

[2] For even one of these reports to be taken as the truth, we have to conjecture that a very strong form of mental suggestion was at work at the least. Fair enough. But if multiple good witnesses were present at such a display, what are we to make of the physical manifestations?

[3] This “vocabulary of divine movement” is, strangely enough, echoed in the series The OA, in which the protagonists’ magic motions are learned during near-death experiences.

[4] See The Shaker Experience in America by Stephen J. Stein, Yale University Press, 1992, pgs. 165-200.

[5] Gauld, Alan. A History of Hypnotism, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 41-49, 53-57, 62-64, 79, 103, 107, 143-44, 165, 252-53.

[6] See Brown, Slater. The Heyday of Spiritualism, Pocket Books, 1972, pgs. 84-110.

[7] Gauld, pgs. 141-155.

[8]Ibid, pgs. 85-86, 103, 137-38, 146-9, 151-53, 182, 234-39.  

[9] Saturnine spirits or “gods” figure as the focus of many religions, like the Nommo, teachers of the Dogon of Mali. In their case, the Dogon claimed the Nommo are now in “hibernation” in a vehicle or moon around Saturn but originally came from Sirius.

[10] Gauld, 1995, pg. 191.

[11] UFO researchers who believe that physical ET craft are visiting earth are mostly astronomers, engineers, physicists, etc.—those who adhere to the materialist mindset. They predictably scoffed at Layne’s explanation for the ET interlopers. Most of our religious and physicalist-oriented society ridiculed both camps of ET believers. A hierarchy of the damned (as Charles Fort might have put it) came into being regarding the origin of UFOs, and in the 1950s, the lowest in the food chain was the quasi-Theosophist channeler of ET wisdom.

[12] This has a parallel in general psi studies, called the decline effect, which occurs to individuals who may initially score high against chance in tests, then eventually revert back to the average. The decline in spectacular séance phenomena, at least as recorded by parapsychological associations, seems to be a collective manifestation of this same statistical effect, and plays into Vallee’s idea of an intermittent schedule reinforcement.

[13] Excluding today’s popular spirit channels such as John Edwards (who never submit to SPR-like experimental strictures), where are such persons who, were they test subjects, would by all accounts easily challenge the physicalist paradigm? One could make the case that Edgar Cayce, Stefan Ossowiecki, Uri Gellar, Ted Owens, Ingo Swann, Hella Hamid, Joseph McMoneagle, or the talented SRI remote viewers have been our contemporary equivalents, but none except Cayce (and sometimes Gellar) required a trance. Most achieved their psi-conducive states either consciously, that is willfully, or through self-suggested mild trance. In the 1970s-1990s the US military and intelligence agencies secretly entered the psi research field via the Stanford Research Institute/NASA/CIA remote viewing programs and the DIA’s Project Stargate (of which McMoneagle was the central psychic). This originated partly in reaction to similar Soviet programs at the time—a clandestine “psychic arms race,” as SRI coordinator Russell Targ put it. I’d submit these projects are still ongoing, and thus the most talented individuals have been sought and vacuumed up (perhaps even on a worldwide scale) by these secret programs for the intelligence/military agencies’ exclusive use, probably for significant remuneration as “contractors.”

[14] For anyone inclined with an open mind to read through this voluminous case-study research and analysis, it is pretty clear that the strict materialist model of reality must be bullshit.

[15] Carter, Chris. Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics, Inner Traditions, 2012, pgs. 63-65, 70-71, 76-77, 82-104.

[16] Seances were old hat and wouldn’t make good television. Is this transformation to invisibility just an artifact of how radically media changed forms? An “information glut,” although of a slower pace, existed before the internet threw everything at us at once; thousands of magazines competed for attention, mass market paperbacks made home libraries cheaper, and television flooded the living room with visions of what life was supposed to be like. Invisible though were its electromagnetic means, radio and TV mass media were compelled by market forces to focus on the tangibles of the world: war, politics, economics, scandals, social movements, etc.  Combined with the unspoken embargo on promoting religious views, the media offered no outlet to the “alternative altars” of countercultural spirituality that nevertheless existed (and flourished in some places).

[17] Anthony Borgia, Life in the World Unseen, Corgi Books/Transworld Publications, 1970

[18] Vallee, Jacques. Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact, Anomalist Books, 2008, pgs. 271-281; The Invisible College, Anomalist Books, 2014, pgs. 194-206.

[19] See Vallee’s Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults. Also Diana Walsh Pasulka’s American Cosmic and M.J. Banias’s UFO People. 

[20] Beloff, John. Parapsychology: A Concise History, pgs. 231-32.

[21] Ibid, pg. 233.

[22] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-esoteric-intervention-theory-updated.html

[23] https://ufoarchives.blogspot.com/2016/04/paranormal-phenomena-and-academic.html

[24] The Gods Have Landed, State University of New York Press, 1995, James R. Lewis, ed.; from the essay “Religious Dimensions of the UFO Abductee Experience” by John Witmore, pg. 66.

[25] Although there continue to be self-published abduction memoirs, by the millennium the mainstream publishing industry had moved on. Another reason for this may be that since roughly the year 2000, abduction experiencers have shunned reporting the experiences to scientists or psychologists or therapists and turned instead to the communities of other experiencers on the internet.

[26] See Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting, Putnam, 1982, pgs. 278-79, and the case of Icelandic mediumIndridi Indridason.

[27] That is, unless some “deceased person” is found to be associated with the site or attached to the focus person, or a crime against the focus person is revealed by subsequent/concurrent therapeutic procedures with the focus. One theory holds that a discharge of repressed psychic energy through therapeutic abreaction often causes the poltergeist activity to cease. But it does cease, unlike those abduction experiencers who report the events continuing for years or even decades.

[28] Gauld, Alan and Cornell, A.D. Poltergeists, White Crow Books, 2018, pgs. 176-180, 188-89, 202-207, 283-84.

[29] Tyrrell, G.N.M. Apparitions, Collier Books, 1963, pgs. 110-114.

[30] Tyrrell, (1963) pgs. 102-127, 131-34.

[31] Green, Celia, and McCreery, Charles, Apparitions, Hamilton Press, 1975; Green and McCreery, Lucid Dreaming, Routledge, 1994; UFOs: The Final Answer? Ufology for the 21St Century, Barclay, David and therese Marie, eds., Blandford Press, 1993, pgs. 130-153.

[32] See Haraldsson, Erlendur and Gissurarsson, Loftur R. Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, White Crow Books, 2015, for a full account of Indridi’s short but astounding career.

[33] Schneider

[34] Strieber, Whitley and Kripal, Jeffrey J. The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin, 2016, pgs. 37, 53, 82.

[35] See Strieber’s book The Key, in which, while on a book tour in 1998, he had a late-night visit from an anonymous man who communicated to him revelations, not unlike a spirit-guide or Carl Jung’s daemon Philemon.

[36] We might examine the overlap between poltergeist/hauntings and fairy/djinn encounters (the evidence for which there is plenty), but that would involve a monumental cross-cultural comparison. All we can say is that the maturation of scientific classification systems from the 18th to 20th centuries allowed distinctions to be made between apparitions, hauntings, fairy/djinn encounters, and the poltergeist. And for the past 70 years we have had UFOs and “alien beings” to add to the unexplained. The folk division between the fairy-daemon and the dead was always indistinct, from antiquity to the beginning of the 20th century. (See the works of Katherine Briggs, Thomas Keightley, Reverend Robert Kirk, and W.Y. Evans-Wentz). Fairies’ status as the “dead awaiting salvation” (as one fairy in an encounter tale openly admits) caused the Protestant elite no small manner of discomfort, because it paralleled the Catholic belief in Purgatory. The middle ground between binarities must be excluded, in religion as well as science. Let’s just say that what always distinguished human ghosts from the Good People was the fairies’ interests in partying and dancing, staying aloof from humans who disrespected them, and kidnapping people to marry or—especially—have sex with them to hybridize a new kind of being, one perhaps closer to full corporeality.