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Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The mesmeric literature has various accounts of “travelling clairvoyance.” These were instances in which a mesmerized individual was “sent” to a distant location and asked to describe his or her surroundings. The person in question did not always described feelings of leaving the body or of travelling, but generally there was awareness of being in a different location.

William Gregory

William Gregory

Here I present an excerpt about the topic written by physician William Gregory (1802-1858), who taught chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. This appeared in Gregory’s book Letters to a Candid Inquirer, on Animal Magnetism (1851). It reads as follows:

Gregory Letters Magnetism

“. . . The sleeper, at the request of the operator, and frequently of his own accord,  visits distant places and countries, and describes them, as well as the persons in them. This may, as I have already said, be done, in some cases, by sympathy, but there are many cases in which ordinary sympathy will not explain it.”

“Thus, the clairvoyant will often see and describe accurately, as is subsequently ascertained, places, objects, and people, totally unknown to the operator, or to any one present; and he will likewise, in describing such as are known to the operator, notice details and changes which could not be known to him.”

“The clairvoyant appears, as it were, mentally to go to the place named. He often finds himself, first, in no place, but floating, as it were, on air, or in space, and in a very short time exclaims, “Now, I am there.” The place named is the first, as a general rule, that presents itself to him. But whether it be so, or whether he see, first, some other place, a certain internal feeling tells him when he is right. If it be a distant town, and no house be specified to him, he will either see a general panoramic view of it, as from a neighboring hill, or from a height in the air, and describe this as he would a map or bird’s-eye view, or he will find himself in some street, place, square, or promenade, which, although not specified to him, is at once recognised from his account of it. He sees and describes the trees, roads, streets, houses, churches, fountains, and walks, and the people moving in them, and his expressions of delight and surprise are unceasing. If sent thither, to use his almost invariable phrase, a second or a third time, the sleeper will see the same objects, but remarks the change on the living part of the picture.”

“For example, Mr. D., a clairvoyant, magnetised by myself, when in an early and imperfect stage of lucidity, was asked by me to go to Aix-la-Chapelle, he never having left Scotland. He agreed, and after a very short, apparently an aerial voyage, said he was there. He was in a beautiful walk, bordered with trees, saw green turf, and the walk stretched on both sides, till lost, at either end, by a turning, not sharp, but gradual. This was evidently the boulevard. Another time, I specified the Friedrich Wilhelmsplatz, where he saw houses on one side, and at both ends, [p. 124] some much higher than others, the place itself of irregular oblong form, wider at one end than the other, and partly shrouded in a mist, of which he long complained; on the other side a long building, not a house. In the middle, a road, with small trees, having no branches till the stem rose rather higher than a man, and then a number, but the top obscured by mist. Another time, he saw the door of Nuellen’s Hotel, large enough, he thought, to allow a carriage to enter, but not more, if that; people were going in and out; and a man stood at the door, with a white neckcloth and vest, and no hat; as he thought, a waiter. In the saloon, he saw tables, all brown, no one there. Another time, some tables were white, and people sat at them eating, while others moved about. According to the hours of experiment, he was most likely right both times, although their dinner hour differs so much from ours. One day, I sent him to Cologne. There he noticed, from a bird’s-eye position, a large building, seen rather misty, but much higher than the houses. He got into a street near it, and described its long pointed windows, showing with his fingers their form, and its buttresses, which he described, but could not name. In the street, he saw people, indistinctly, moving; but he saw, pretty clearly, one “old boy,” as he called him, fat and comfortable, standing in his shop-door, and idling. He had no hat, and wore an apron. Mr. D. was much surprised, without any question being asked, at the fact that about half of the men he saw, both in Aix and Cologne, wore beards, and he described different fashions of beards and moustaches. One time, when I sent him to Bonn, he gave a beautiful account of the view from the hills to the west of it, of the town, arid the Rhine, stretching out and winding through the plain, with the rising grounds on the other side, such as the Ennertz. But it was remarkable that he stoutly maintained, that the hill on which he stood was to the east of the town, the town to the east of the Rhine, between the hill and the river, and the Rhine running towards the south; whereas I knew every one of these directions to be reversed.”

“The same subject has often spontaneously visited other places, unknown to me, but has given such minute and graphic accounts of the localities, the people, houses, dress, occupations, and topography of these places, that I should [p. 125] recognise them at once, were I to see them . . . .”

“It often happens, that a clairvoyant, who can see and describe very well all that is in the same room, or the next room, or even in the same house, cannot thus travel to a distance, without passing into a new stage. This generally occurs spontaneously, but may sometimes be effected by passes, or by the will of the operator.”

“The new or travelling stage, in such cases, is marked by peculiar characters. Thus, in one very fine case, which I had the opportunity of studying, the clairvoyante, in her first lucid state, could tell all that passed behind her, or in the next room, and could, by contact, perceive, and accurately describe, the state of body of other persons. She could hear, and she very readily answered, every question put to her by any one present, but could not go to a distant place. Yet, as I saw, she would often spontaneously pass from that state or stage into another, in which she was deaf to all sounds, even to the voice of her magnetiser, unless he spoke with his mouth touching the tips of the fingers of her right hand. Any one else might also converse with her in this way, but when first addressed, she invariably started. And now, not only could she go to a distance, and see very plainly what passed, but she was already in some distant place, and much occupied with it. She called this going away, or, when it was done by her magnetiser, being taken away, and when tired, would ask him to bring her back, which he did by some trifling manipulations. She then remembered (in her first state, to which she came back,) what she had seen on her travels [p. 126] . . . .”

“[Gregory described further observations with Mr. D.]. One day, while observing the town above mentioned, and describing it spontaneously, as I always encouraged him to do, he became suddenly silent, and after a short time told me, that he was travelling through air or space, to a great distance. I soon discovered that he had spontaneously passed into a higher stage . . . . As soon as he had come to the end of his journey, he began to describe a beautiful garden, with avenues of fine trees, of which he drew a plan. It was near a town, in which he could see no spires. At the end of one principal avenue was a round pond, or fountain, enclosed in stone and gravel, with two jets of water, and close to this fountain or pond stood an elderly man, in what, from the description, seemed to be the ancient Greek dress, the head bare, long beard, flowing white robes, and bare feet in sandals. He was surrounded by about a dozen younger men, most of whom had black beards, and wore, the same dress as their master. He seemed to be occupied in teaching them, and after a time, the lecture or conversation being finished, they all left the fountain, by twos and threes, and slowly walked along the avenues. Looking down these avenues, Mr. D. saw glimpses of the neighboring hills, and of the town, which lay nearer to the garden than the hills, although still at some distance. This singular vision also recurred spontaneously two or three times; that is, Mr. D. saw the gardens and the localities, but not again the group at the fountain, although other persons were seen enjoying the walks, and on one occasion two ladies were noticed, whose dress seemed also to be ancient Greek. But what particularly struck me was, that this vision only occurred in a peculiar state, of which the consciousness was quite distinct, not only from his ordinary consciousness . . . . This peculiar, third consciousness was interpolated, and he always slept out his full time, as previously fixed, in the more common magnetic state, while the time spent in this new state was added. On returning, which he always did of himself, to his first magnetic state, he had not the slightest recollection of the new vision, nor did he ever remember [p. 322] it, except when he came into the new state. It certainly seems probable that, in that new state, he was transported to distant times and past events.”

“Another time he spontaneously passed into a similar state, but which I think had a fourth consciousness of its own, divided from all the others. He told me one day that he was travelling through the air or through space, as before, but all at once began to appear uneasy and alarmed, and told me he had fallen into the water, and would be drowned, if I did not help him. I commanded him to get out of the water, and after much actual exertion and alarm, he said he had got to the bank. He then said he had fallen into a river in Caffraria, at the place where a friend of his was born. But what was very remarkable was, that he spoke of the river, the fields, farm-houses, people, animals, and woods, as if perfectly familiar to him, and told me he had spent many years as a boy in that country, whereas he has never been out of Scotland. Moreover, he insisted he was not asleep, but wide awake, and although his eyes were closed, said they were open, and complained that I was making a fool of him, when I said he was asleep. He was somewhat puzzled to explain how I, whom he knew to be in Edinburgh, could be conversing with him in Caffraria, as he declared he was; and he was still more puzzled when I asked him, how he had gone to that country, for he admitted he had never been on board a ship. But still he maintained that he was in Caffraria, and had long lived there, and that he knew every man and every animal at the farm he described. It was evident that he had heard of Caffraria from his friend; but as he described all that he saw, precisely as a man would do who was looking at the place and the people, and as he maintained that all were familiar to him, I could hardly avoid supposing, that, his mind having been interested in what he had heard, he had, in some of his previous sleeps visited Caffraria by clairvoyance, without telling me of it at the time; for it often happened, that he would sleep for an hour or half an hour without speaking; that when he had spontaneously passed into that state on this occasion, he not only saw, but recognised as well known, and as seen in previous portions of that peculiar consciousness, the localities, persons, &c. whom he described. Certainly his descriptions were such as to convey to me the [p. 323] impression that he actually saw these things as they exist. On two other occasions, he spontaneously got into the same state, and always then spoke as he had done the first time; but he retained not a trace of recollection of this South African vision in any other state but that one. Nay, when I asked him about Caffraria in his ordinary magnetic sleep, he seemed not to understand me, and thought I was making fun of him when I asked whether he had ever been in Africa.”

“In these three distinct kinds of vision, that of R., that of the Greek garden and philosopher, and that of Caffraria, it is hardly possible to verify the visions; but when I reflect, that Mr. D. was able, in a certain state, to see and describe accurately towns, such as Aix and Cologne, countries, and persons, at a great distance, and quite unknown to him, I am disposed to think that in these visions also he saw the real places actually before him. It would have been most interesting to have studied more minutely the powers exhibited, or which might have been developed, in this very interesting case; but, as I have mentioned, Mr. D., whose extreme susceptibility at that time may have depended on the very unsatisfactory state of his health, was taken ill, and confined to bed with an affection of the chest, for five or six weeks; and when he had recovered, I found that his general health was far better than when he was first magnetised, but his extreme susceptibility was gone. I can still magnetise him, although with far more difficulty; and since his recovery, I have only once been able to get him to see the town formerly described, and R. . . . .” [p. 324].

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Writing in the Dictionnaire Universel des Connaissances in 1859 French popularizer of science Louis Figuier referred to: “Strange phenomena that occupy much of the public, as well as the savants” (L. Figuier, Tables tournantes. In B. Luna (Ed.), Dictionnaire Universel des Connaissances Humaines, Volume 7. Paris: Magiaty, 1859, p. 289) This was a reference to the incredible popularity of table turning in France. In fact, table phenomena (turning and levitation manifestations) have been of great importance in the history of the study of physical mediumship.

Louis Figuier

Louis Figuier

In a recent article, Juan Gimeno presents observations of table phenomena conducted in Argentina (Shortage of Rabbits or Insufficient Traps? Table-Turning and the Discovery of a Presumably PK-Gifted Person in Argentina. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2015, 29, 585-600).

Juan Gimeno

Juan Gimeno


“The formation and development of a sitter-group in Buenos Aires is described. Fifteen weekly meetings were conducted, between April and July 2013, attended by 5 to 9 people each. Ostensible movements of a table were reported. One ostensibly psychokinetically gifted member was identified, named Ariel. He had witnessed RSPK at home, when age 11. After identifying him, another 10 meetings were conducted with only this gentleman present (and observers). In these meetings he made a table raise a leg at will, even with additional weight added to the table. All the meetings were conducted with normal illumination, most of them recorded in video. It was impossible to reproduce most of the table movements by normal means. He was not able to achieve the total levitation of the table, nor any movements without hand contact. Gifted people with remarkable psi abilities are scarce, and in the field of physical phenomena objective investigations of macro-PK seem to be stagnant, or at least without the possibility of publishing encouraging results. The results obtained in our studies are promising, nevertheless we plan to conduct further experiments focusing on controlled conditions and in good light conditions.”

The author stated in his conclusion: “This is only a preliminary report. We still have to analyze in detail the records we obtained. During the 25 meetings, more than 25 hours of good quality video recordings were obtained, as were audio recordings of all of them and some photographs. The methodical and meticulous revision of these documents might give suggestive evidence about the behavior of PK . . . The organizers have decided to complement each other by following two strategies, both generously supported by Ariel: Juan Corbetta is conducting a qualitative investigation, making an ethnography of the table turning groups, focused on the ritual aspect, in order to establish the reach of these practices and its influence on the beliefs of the attendees. In my case, I gathered a new group at the Instituto de Psicología Paranormal of Buenos Aires . . . We plan to organize a long-term investigation and reliably document the phenomena, and perhaps replicate some macro PK experiments conducted in the past, adding new strategies, methods, and instruments to elucidate the causes and the variables associated with the phenomena.”

We are looking forward to future reports from Gimeno.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

In 2000 I reported the following case of out-of-body experience. This happened to a 32 year old Scottish woman who was running to train to compete in a marathon:

“After running approximately 12–13 miles … I started to feel as if I wasn’t looking through my eyes but from somewhere else … I felt as if something was leaving my body, and although I was still running along looking at the scenery, I was looking at myself running as well. My ‘soul’ or whatever, was floating somewhere above my body high enough up to see the tops of the trees and the small hills” (Alvarado, C.S. (2000). Out-of-body experiences. In E. Cardeña, S.J. Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of Anomalous experience, 183–218. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2000, p. 184).

Varieties of anomalous experience

I just published a paper discussing similar cases in which the OBE took place while the person was walking, talking or engaged in some other physical activity: “Out-of-Body Experiences During Physical Activity: Report of Four New Cases” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2016, 80, 1-12).

Here is the abstract:

“The occurrence of out-of-body experiences (OBEs) is generally associated with states in which the person is inactive. This includes states of unconsciousness, relaxation, or sitting or lying down. Although most cases conform to this pattern, a minority take place while the individual is engaged in physical activity such as talking, driving vehicles, walking, and playing musical instruments. In addition to summarizing previously published cases of this sort, four new cases are presented. The cases are discussed in light of previous reports. Such OBEs are similar to automatic behaviours encountered in daily life and in dissociative states. It is suggested that future studies might focus on the features, psychology, and physiology of OBEs that occur under conditions of physical activity.”

In the introduction I put the topic in historical perspective:

“OBEs have also been associated by many writers with relaxed, death-like conditions, or passive circumstances in which the experiencer was lying down and physically inactive . . . William Stainton Moses wrote that the experience happened when the persons in question were ‘employed in some occupation compatible with quietness and passivity, e.g., reading, meditating, or quiet conversation’. . . Several other nineteenth-century writers referred to this topic.


William Stainton Moses

“Occultist Gérard Encausse (1890 . . .) mentioned that when the astral body leaves the physical body the latter stays motionless . . . The well-known French spiritist writer Gabriel Delanne stated in his book L’Ame est Immortelle [1899] that for the soul to separate from the physical body it was necessary that the latter ‘was immersed in sleep or that the links to which it is ordinarily attached are eased by strong emotion or disease’. . .”

Delanne Ame

Interestingly, case collection and survey studies show that “inactive states or low-level physical activities are more frequent in OBEs than states involving more physical activity.” In addition “the association of OBEs to inactive periods of the physical body has been reinforced by the popularity of near-death experiences . . . , a phenomenon that has the OBE as one of its main components . . . It may be speculated that such research has unintentionally promoted the view that when someone feels they are always out of their body they are unconscious and, consequently, inactive.”

I presented in a table 22 previously published cases of this sort published in places such Muldoon and Carrington’s The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951) and Celia Green’s Out-of-the-Body Experiences (1968). But I suspect more have been published. These involved, among others, physical activities such as talking, driving a vehicle, and walking. I wrote about one of the cases reported by Celia Green: “Riding a bicycle. Physical body continued riding. When bicycle stopped came to him/ herself.”

Muldoon Carrington Phenomena Astral Projection 2

Green OBE

One of the four new cases presented was reported by a 63 year old English housewife who said that she was once walking “when suddenly I felt a buzzing in my head, then a sudden forceful rush of wind, which came from my entire body. I heard what seemed to be something unwinding. Then I found myself above the wire over the hedge looking down. At first I wondered who that person was below me, I quickly realized I was actually looking down at myself!”

I concluded:

“Similar to other cases summarized in Table 1, and like reports of some dissociative experiences . . . , the actions the experiencers were performing in the cases presented here may be considered to be repetitive or even automatic . . . At this point one can only speculate about the significance of these observations . . . As mentioned before, while the OBE (and altered states of consciousness in general) may happen during physical activity, cases are less frequently reported during these states, and in one study it was found that cases taking place in inactive states had more features that the cases reported in active conditions . . . This suggests that inactivity facilitates the process that produces OBEs, which is consistent with age-old ideas of the importance of stillness in the production of some altered states of consciousness. Such observations are also consistent with observed positive relations between cognitive activity such as imagery and inactive physical conditions . . .”

“If one assumes that the OBE is related to the individual’s cognitive resources . . . , one may hypothesize that the more frequent relaxed conditions provide better ‘access’ for the utilization of the cognitive resources to create and maintain an experience than conditions of physical activity. Of course, both extremes may produce the same result, just as altered states of consciousness can both be produced by physical activity (such as running) or by relaxation (such as that produced by meditation). As argued by Tart in States of Consciousness (1975), there are many ways by which our cognitive system may disrupt the conditions that maintain our so-called ‘normal’ state of consciousness. But some ways may be more efficient than others in creating this disruption.”

Tart States of Consciousness

“However, perhaps cognitive processes are not the whole story. It is interesting to notice that those writers whom I have cited before that supported a projection view of the OBE saw the inactivity of the body as an aspect of the phenomenon . . .”

“More recently OBEs have been conceptualized as disturbances in proprioceptive and vestibular processes . . . Such processes may be favoured by low physical activity; something that deserves more exploration.”

“At this point all of these ideas, while interesting, are too general and vague to be taken as serious explanations of the topic in question. Regardless of their validity, or capacity to generate research, we need to be aware that we still do not understand the OBE. It is not clear how the OBE is actually produced and even less what factors determine the specific features of the experience . . .”

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Jack Hunter published an article about anthropology and parapsychology. The title is “‘Between Realness and Unrealness’: Anthropology, Parapsychology and the Ontology of Non-Ordinary Realities” (Diskus: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, 2015, 17, 4-20). Here is the abstract:

Jack Hunter

Jack Hunter

“This article presents an overview of the fields of transpersonal anthropology, the anthropology of consciousness and, the most recent development in this lineage, paranthropology. After outlining the contributions of these fields to the development of a new approach to the investigation of so-called non-ordinary realities Hunter highlights the need for ethnographers to participate in the transpersonal practices and experiences. With link to the work of Fiona Bowie and Edith Turner, Hunter argues that one must learn to ‘see as the Native sees’ in order to truly grasp the experiential foundations of religious and spiritual belief, and escape from the hegemonic dismissal of alternative ontologies.”

The author concluded:

“Rather than bracketing out questions of ontology for fear that they might lead to truths . . . that cannot, by their very nature, fit into the established order of Western academia’s dominant ontology, I suggest that we essentially open the flood gates of ontological possibilities. This places all ontologies on an equal footing, so that while ontological bracketing protects and reinforces the mainstream ‘consensus reality,’ what we might call ontological flooding destabilises it, and opens it up to questioning, exploration and expansion – in essence such an approach places different ontological systems on an equally questionable footing.”

“Ontological flooding does not at all mean that we have to be any less critical in our approach . . . The main difference is that we do not begin our investigation from the position of certainty that ‘our ontology’ is the only one that can really be taken seriously. Everything is equally possible, everything is equally questionable, and nothing is certain. This is just one of the positions from which the newly emerging field of paranthropology begins its explorations of the paranormal in the cross-cultural context . . .”

“What I am advocating, then, is a return to this kind of scientific wonder in the social sciences, to questioning and exploring possibilities in the study of non-ordinary realities, and for questioning the assumptions that underly the dominant approaches in the study of religion. This is an escape from the hegemonic strictures of a single ontological perspective that excludes what it does not ‘believe in,’ and is much more than a simple return to relativism. It demands a much greater openness, and an appreciation of ‘ontological realities’ rather than purely ‘social realities.’ I am not advocating that we necessarily ‘believe’ our informants, or that we naively accept their version of reality as ‘true,’ rather I am suggesting that we attempt to embrace a perspective that is equally critical of all explanatory frameworks . . .”

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Following previous writers defending the existence of a spiritual principle through accounts of apparitions and other phenomena, social reformer Robert Dale Owen explored similar grounds in his book Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (1860). For the purposes of these comments I will focus on a chapter of the book devoted to apparitions of the living in which the author presented several cases originally reported to him.

Robert Dale Owen

Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877)

Owen Footfalls

Owen started his discussion with a case of an apparition seen six weeks before the death of the appearer (pp. 327-328). This was followed by cases such as the following. A woman referred to as Mrs. E. was dying at a place distant from her residence, unaware her little daughter had died at home. A Miss. H., who was visiting the family and who had a history of seeing apparitions, entered the room where the body of the little girl was lying in a coffin. She saw the little girl’s mother in the room. As Owen wrote:

“Standing within three or four feet of the figure for several minutes, she assured herself of its identity. It did not speak, but, raising one arm, it first pointed to the body of the infant, and then signed upward …This was a few minutes after four o’clock in the afternoon … Next day she received … a letter [from the lady’s husband] informing her that his wife had died the preceding day … at half past four. And when, a few days later, that gentleman himself arrived, he stated that Mrs. E’s mind had evidently wandered before her death; for, but a little time previous to that event, seeming to revive as from a swoon, she had asked her husband ‘why he had not told her that her baby was in heaven.’ When he replied evasively, still wishing to conceal from her the fact of her child’s death … she said to him, ‘It is useless to deny it …; for I have just been home, and have seen her in her little coffin …’ ” (pp. 343-344).

From this case, Owen went on to discuss what he called the “visionary excursion.” This was an experience taking place in 1857 in which a woman woke from sleep to find herself “as if standing by the bedside and looking upon her own body …” (p. 345). During the experience she traveled and visited a friend, who later verified she had seen the experiencer and had conversed with her. Owen was told of the vision by the experiencer, and later talked with the person who perceived her. In his view, this phenomenon suggested that her physical body “parted with what we may call a spiritual portion of itself; … which portion, moving off without the usual means of locomotion, might make itself perceptible, at a certain distance, to another person” (pp. 347-348).

Owen Visionary Excursion

 This idea seemed to Owen to account for other cases of apparitions of the living he presented in the chapter. He also seemed to include within this explanation cases of recurrent apparitions taking place around an individual who had no awareness of the phenomenon. This was the case of Emélie Sagée, a French teacher whose double was repeatedly seen by her students, sometimes collectively (pp. 348-357). This remarkable, but evidentially weak case, and with no evidence that the teacher felt she had left her body, has been cited repeatedly by many authors both in the old, and modern literatures. In Owen’s description of some interesting incidents:

“One day the governess was giving a lesson to a class of thirteen …and was demonstrating, with eagerness, some proposition, to illustrate which she had occasion to write with chalk on a blackboard. While she was doing so, and the young ladies were looking at her, … they suddenly saw two Mademoiselle Sagées, the one by the side of the other. They were exactly alike; and they used the same gestures, that the real person held a bit of chalk in her hand, and did actually write, while the double had no chalk, and only imitated the motion …Sometimes, at dinner, the double appeared standing behind the teacher’s chair and imitating her her motions as she ate, — only that its hands held no knife and fork, and that there was no appearance of food … All the pupils and the servants waiting on the table witnessed this” (pp. 349-350).

Owen Sagee

Owen commented that while some cases of apparitions of the living coincided with death, others did not. In fact he pointed out that some cases (such as Sagée’s) did not seem to involve any special state or condition. Owen believed that the cases he presented showed that the spiritual body “may, during life, occasionally detach itself, to some extent or other and for a time, from the material flesh and blood which for a few years it pervades in intimate association; and if death be but the issuing forth of the spiritual body from its temporary associate; then, at the moment of its exit, it is that spirit body which through life may have been occasionally and partially detached from the natural body, and which at last is thus entirely and forever divorced from it, that passes into another state of existence (pp. 360-361).

Taken from my paper The spirit in out-of-body experiences: Historical and conceptual notes. In B. Batey (Ed.), Spirituality, Science and the Paranormal (pp. 3-19). Bloomfield, CT: Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, 2009.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

In Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena (New York: B. W. Dodge, 1909) psychical researcher Hereward Carrington (1880-1958) presented an overview of the career of Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, who lived between 1854 and 1918. In addition to providing us with one of the best general sources of information about this medium up to 1908, the book is still important today for several reasons.

Eusapia Palladino title page

Carrington included: (1) a summary of particular incidents of Palladino’s mediumship of relevance to the history of psychical research; (2) biographical material about the medium; (3) examples of the phenomena reported around her; (4) an overview of seances with Palladino up to 1908; (5) a report of his sittings with the medium in 1908; (6) an overview of attempts to explain physical phenomena through conventional processes; (7) a review of explanations of Palladino’s phenomena through various unorthodox concepts of force (including the author’s speculations); and (8) arguments defending the reality of the medium’s phenomena. In addition, the book has other valuable lessons for us today that I will comment on later.


Hereward Carrington (1880-1958)

Although Palladino produced mental phenomena, she was mainly a physical medium. In addition to a variety of movements of objects, such as table levitations, and to the materializations of limbs, the phenomena reported to take place in her presence included temperature changes, sounds, direct writing, imprints on plaster, and luminous manifestations. Although these phenomena are rare today, they were once widely discussed in the literature of Spiritualism and psychical research.

Eusapia Palladino levitation Flammarion

Table Levitation, with Camille Flammarion, ca 1897

Eusapia Palladino Milan 2

Table Levitation, Milan, 1893

Eusapia Palladino Moulds Hands Face

Moulds of Hands and Faces

Morselli Palladino materialization sketch

Drawing of Materialized Figure, from Enrico Morselli’s Psicologia e “Spiritismo” (1908)

Palladino was brought to the attention of the world beyond small spiritistic circles in 1891 when Cesare Lombroso sat with her and became convinced of the genuineness of her phenomena. Soon after, in 1892, the medium was investigated in Milan by a variety of researchers, producing a report that circulated through Europe and in the United States. The report included a description of the use of instruments to measure the forces applied to the table and changes of weight of the medium (Aksakof et al. Rapport de la Commission Réunie a Milan pour l’Étude des Phénomènes Psychiques. Annales des Sciences Psychiques 1893, 3, 39–64).

Eusapia Palladino Milan First Page ASP 1893

This was followed by many investigations that made Palladino well-known in psychical research. Some of them were those discussed in such works as Albert de Rochas’ L’Extériorisation de la Motricité (Paris: Chamuel, 1896), Jules Courtier’s “Rapport sur les Séances d’Eusapia Palladino a l’Institut Général Psychologique” (Bulletin de l’Institut Général Psychologique, 1908, 8, 407–546), and Enrico Morselli’s Psicologia e “Spiritismo”(Turin: Bocca, 1908, Vol. 1: click here, Vol. 2: click here), among many other sources.

De Rochas Exteriorisation Motricite 1896

Courtier Report

Morselli Psicologia

Barzini Nel Mondo Eusapia Paladino

Although Palladino persuaded many of the reality of her phenomena, she was caught in fraud on several occasions. Still, Palladino’s mediumship, Carrington argued in his book, was very important. He wrote:

“Eusapia Palladino holds almost a unique place in the history of spiritualism, and for several reasons. The chief reason is this: That in her may now be said to culminate and focus the whole evidential case for the physical phenomena of spiritualism. If it could be shown that—in spite of all these years of work, in spite of the elaborate precautions taken, in spite of the testimony of the numerous scientific men who have carefully investigated her, and brought in favorable reports—her performances were fraudulent throughout, and that nothing but fraud entered into the production of these phenomena—then the whole case for the physical phenomena would be ruined—utterly, irretrievably ruined. . . . If, on the other hand, it becomes evident that fraud will not cover all the facts, and that genuine phenomena do occur in her presence—phenomena as yet inexplicable by science—then it will be proportionately more probable that many of the historic cases were genuine also. . . .” (p. 4)

The section of the book reporting Carrington’s seances with this medium referred to seances held with his colleagues Everard Feilding and W. W. Baggally. They were all commissioned by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to study the medium. Extracts of the report published by the SPR (Feilding, E., Baggally, W.W., Carrington, H. Report on a Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1909, 23, 309-569) appear in Chapter 4. To assess the importance of these seances for Carrington, and to understand why he included them in his book, we need to see the issue in its historical context.

Feilding Baggally Carrington PSPR 1909

Eusapia Palladino 1908 Naples Seances

Palladino, 1908 Naples

Palladino was at Cambridge in 1895 and had seances with SPR members. Their report was negative, concluding that the phenomena were fraudulent and that the SPR would not have anything further to do with the medium (Sidgwick H. Eusapia Palladino. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 1895, 7,148–159).

Some criticized this conclusion, as can be seen in a classic paper generally neglected in the  English-language literature authored by Julian Ochorowicz (La Question de la Fraude dans les Expériences avec Eusapia Palladino. Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 1896, 6, 79–123). Because of the accumulation of independent positive testimony in favor of the medium in later years, and the good impression Carrington and Feilding had in preliminary seances with her, the SPR decided to sponsor another investigation. As Carrington had stated in a previous book, he was skeptical of Palladino’s phenomena. He summarized his view in the work commented on here:

Ochorowicz Question de la Fraude ASP 1896

“As for myself, I can but say that, during ten years continued investigations of the physical phenomena of spiritualism, during which period I have sat many score, if not hundreds of times, with mediums, and traveled many hundreds of miles in order to see genuine physical phenomena, if such existed—I had invariably been disappointed, and until I had attended my first seance with Eusapia, had never seen one single manifestation of the physical order which I could consider genuine. On the contrary, I had always detected fraud, and, being an amateur conjurer myself, was enabled in nearly every instance to detect the modus operandi of the trick, usually the first time I saw it. In my Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism [1907] I devoted more than three hundred pages to the psychology of deception, and to a detailed exposure of the tricks and devices of fraudulent mediumship” (p. 154).

Carrington Physical Phenomena Spiritualism Cover

The report of the 1908 sittings at Naples was unique in the Palladino literature for several reasons. First, it was more detailed than previous reports, consisting of stenographic notes dictated by the researchers. Second, the report included descriptions of control at the same time that the phenomena were described. Third, Feilding, Baggally, and Carrington were all highly experienced in the investigation of mediums and the tricks many of them employed.

Carrington not only became convinced, but he became the champion defender of the medium, as seen in the book commented on here and in several other publications. But his conversion took place gradually. He wrote: “Seance after seance, we remained doubtful, until the sixth, when we felt that we had become finally and irrevocably convinced. The facts had at last found lodgment in our minds, and we felt that our observations had not been mistaken” (p. 323). This is a reminder of the way many psychical researchers have become convinced of the existence of mediumistic phenomena, a process that involves a measure of familiarity with unusual phenomena achieved through repeated exposure to them, combined with personal involvement with the precautions taken to control the medium. Such observations should be of interest to current researchers of dramatic physical phenomena.

Carrington Eusapia McClure's

Eusapia Palladino: The despair of science. McClure’s Magazine 33, 660-675.

Carrington Personal Experiences

Referring to further studies with the medium, Carrington wrote:

“It is earnestly hoped that sufficient money and sufficient interest will soon be raised in this country to bring Eusapia to America, and to study her by means of a long series of experiments; and, when once the facts have been established (as I feel certain they would be), to begin a scientific investigation . . . of the medium and her phenomena. Certain it is that the present state of things is a disgrace to science—particularly in a country which boasts of its wealth, its progress, and its openmindedness!” (pp. 336-337).

Carrington brought the medium to New York, where many seances were held between November 1909 and June 1910. Although there were phenomena that could not be easily explained, as argued by Carrington throughout his career, and as seen in his book The American Seances with Eusapia Palladino (New York: Garrett Publications, 1954), the New York séances were disastrous for the reputation of the medium. Unfortunately, rather than helping to get Palladino’s phenomena accepted or better understood, the New York seances were not systematically conducted and ended up creating a media circus. The seances generally did not reach the stage of scientific investigations referred to by Carrington. Many of the sitters were inexperienced sitters and journalists who were more interested in reporting to the public than in understanding the phenomena. To this day the seances remain a good example of the need to separate systematic research from media-laden environments. Furthermore, a factor contributing to the controversies was that Carrington was believed by some to have had financial interests in the venture and was publicly perceived as the medium’s “manager.”

In the book discussed here, Carrington also reviewed various explanations offered to explain the medium’s phenomena. Among the conventional ones, he mentioned hallucination and fraud. Carrington did not believe hallucination explained anything, pointing to the instrumental recording of some of the phenomena. In addition to photographs of the manifestations, particularly table movements, Carrington wrote: “Additional evidence is furnished by those cases in which records of the phenomena have been obtained by instrumental means. The actual occurrence of a phenomenon has been proved, e.g., by means of revolving cylinders, electrical apparatus, and other devices which have checked the progress of the phenomena by purely automatic means” (pp. 243-244).

Fontenay Fraud

Fraud and the hypothesis of hallucination in the study of the phenomena produced by Eusapia Paladino. Annals of Psychical Science, 7, 181–191

Fraud, Carrington stated, was a more serious objection, and one he had documented through personal experience with Palladino. But he refused to accept the idea that her case had to be rejected on the basis of some instances of trickery. A good part of the phenomena, he stated, simply could not be explained by the simple tricks the medium was well-known to perform. He assured his readers: “In our own seances I am absolutely certain that fraud was not and could not have been employed in the vast majority of cases. Not only did we feel the hands controlled by us, not only did we encircle them with our hands, trace the arm to the body, and ascertain from the relative position of the thumb and fingers which hand we were holding, but we could frequently see, as well as feel, the medium’s hands resting in ours upon the table or stretched before us perfectly visible” (pp. 246-247).

Furthermore, Carrington pointed out that there were many instances in the seance records in which movement of objects and other phenomena took place at a distance and out of reach of the medium. There were also particularly impressive incidents under conditions that Carrington considered to be fraud-proof. The following, from his seances with Feilding and Baggally was an example:

“During the ninth seance, the small stool which we had placed just outside the cabinet, about three feet distant from the medium, came out of its own accord and moved up to within a foot of her. Eusapia waved one of her hands, still controlled by ours, above the stool, and it moved in various directions, corresponding to the movements of her hand. She then approached her hand to the stool and a complete levitation resulted. One of us then passed his hands between the stool and the medium’s body, and along the carpet, showing that no thread, hair, string, or other attachment was possible. We picked up the stool and examined it, replacing it on the ground. We did not allow Eusapia to touch the stool with hand or foot, after it had been placed on the floor, but held her hand in ours about three feet above the stool, and held her leg by knee and ankle on the side nearest the stool. There was a brightly illuminated patch of carpet of about eighteen inches between the small stool and her skirt. In spite of these precautions, however, the stool immediately began its movements, and rose into the air several times under the hands of one of the investigators and without being touched in any way by Eusapia” (pp. 259-260).  Eusapia Palladino side dress

Carrington then went on to summarize the ideas of those who postulated forces coming out of the medium’s body. In fact, and as I have argued elsewhere (Alvarado, C.S. Gifted Subjects’ Contributions to Psychical Research: The Case of Eusapia Palladino. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 1993, 59, 269–292), Palladino’s mediumship provided a context for, one may say an opportunity for, many of her researchers to develop ideas of this sort using a concept that preceded her mediumship.

Writing in a previous book,  Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition (New York: Rebman, 1908), Carrington stated his belief that the human body was ruled by a vital force independent of metabolic processes and that this force was the real principle behind life in the organism. To explain Palladino’s phenomena, Carrington postulated that this vital principle, a connecting link between mind and matter, and usually at work only inside the body, could exteriorize on rare conditions and produce physical phenomena. Carrington postulated phenomena that were not particularly intelligent—referred to by him as “class one” phenomena—could be under the control of the subconscious mind of the medium. But there was a second class of phenomena that seemed to express intelligence.

Carrington Vitality

Carrington wrote in the book reviewed here:

“This same vital energy, which is controlled by the medium’s own mentality, when producing the phenomena of class one, is utilized by the manifesting intelligence in very much the same manner (when the medium is in trance) in producing the manifestations and phenomena of class two. We might conceive that this vital energy is utilized by the manifesting intelligence, who imbibes and clothes himself with it, as it were—creating a sort of temporary fluidic body through which it can manifest—can come in contact with the material world, move material objects, be seen, felt, and even photographed. . . . The vitality would act as a sort of sheath or cloak, a semi-material substance through and by means of which a spirit can manifest to us here, and initiate the varied phenomena witnessed at Eusapia’s séances” (p. 300).

Such a concept, Carrington recognized, without presenting examples, was not completely novel. In fact, Carrington’s idea of a vital principle capable of being used by spirits was similar, to give one example among many, to the concept of the perispirit discussed by French spiritists such as  Allan Kardec and Gabriel Delanne.

Delanne Evolution Animique In another chapter, Carrington focused on psychological and psychophysiological aspects of the medium. Among the points he raised was the importance of keeping the medium in a good mood so as to obtain phenomena. Carrington wrote that the medium hiccupped going into trance. Furthermore: “She also sighs, groans, and seems to be extremely uncomfortable, until the phenomena are well under way; and especially during the production of any larger phenomena she cries, ‘Oh, dear! Oh, dear!’ and groans repeatedly. When she passes into trance, however, this suffering is lost. . . . The lesser phenomena are, apparently, nearly always remembered—the more remarkable ones are forgotten” (pp. 319-320).

The chapter also included speculations about the causes of the medium’s fraudulent performances. In Carrington’s view, fraud could be conscious, caused by “her love of mischief” (p. 327). But Carrington believed that most of the fraud was unconscious, taking place during trance: “There is a strong impulse to produce phenomena, and, if she is not restrained, she will endeavor to produce them in a perfectly normal manner. But if she is restrained, genuine phenomena will result—as we repeatedly ascertained” (p. 328). Carrington’s writing, together with those of others such as the above-mentioned article by Ochorowicz, reminds us that Palladino’s mediumship contributed to the development of the concept of unconscious fraud in mediums.

Carrington ended his book by restating his belief in the reality of the phenomena and hoping that further investigations would make the world see Palladino “not as a vulgar impostor, but as a rarely gifted individual, possessing powers worthy of the deepest study and respect; as a delicate and sensitive piece of organic machinery, which should be guarded and cared for with the utmost kindness and consideration” (p. 338).

Carrington’s wish has not been fulfilled, as is clear from many later writings about the medium. Not everyone sees Palladino today positively, even within parapsychology. But perhaps we may learn from Carrington’s experiences. Even if physical mediumship is not a main line of research in current parapsychology, and if concepts of force such as Carrington’s are not widely accepted by researchers, some of the points made by him in the book are still valuable today. Among them I will mention the value of having knowledge of trickery, something that is clear in Carrington’s discussion of his own seances. Unfortunately, there are examples of researchers coming from old to more recent times who, without any particular expertise in the detection of trickery, have presumed that they are capable of conducting research on macro-PK phenomena solely because they have been trained in an academic discipline. Although this may not be a problem in some cases, Carrington’s book reminds us of the importance of researchers having the proper qualifications to conduct credible and well-controlled research with physical phenomena.

Carrington’s work is also a reminder of important but often forgotten aspects of past theory, and of the difficulties of achieving personal and collective conviction in the study of phenomena that, even within parapsychology, are very controversial.

Eusapia Palladino Courtier 2

A slightly different version of these comments appeared in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (2010, 24, 126-133).

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Dr. Caroline Watt, who was interviewed here before, has just published Parapsychology: A Beginner’s Guide.  The book, published by Oneworld, is part of their Beginner’s Guides which, according to the publisher,  “combine an original, inventive, and engaging approach with expert analysis on subjects ranging from art and history to religion and politics, and everything in-between.” So Parapsychology is one of many other books in the collection about topics such as ancient philosophy, the brain, climate change, evolution, feminism, Homer, nutrition, and World War II.

Caroline Watt 2

Dr. Caroline Watt

Watt Parapsychology

Here is the table of contents:

1 Introduction: The Roots of Parapsychology

Section 1: Testing Psychic Claimants

2 Macro-PK

3 Psychic Reading, Remote Viewing, and Telepathic Animals:

ESP Outside the Lab

4 Mediumship and Survival

Section 2: Anomalous Experiences

5 Out-of-Body Experiences

6 Near-Death Experiences

7 Hauntings and Apparitions

8 The Psychology of Psychic Experiences

Section 3: Laboratory Research

9 Telepathy and Clairvoyance in the Laboratory

10 Precognition in the Laboratory

11 Mental Influence in the Laboratory: Physical and Biological

12 Conclusion: Parapsychology’s Value

Appendix: How to Test for ESP and PK Ability

Further reading



Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The introduction looks at how the roots of modern-day parapsychology can be traced back to the early days of psychical research and psychology. There are then three main sections. The first is about research testing psychic claimants (for instance, metal-benders and psychic readers). The second is about anomalous experiences (such as OBEs, hauntings and apparitions). These two topics teach us a lot about how to test controversial claims, and about mechanisms of sensation and perception. Having considered the evidential limitations of real-world psychic experiences and claimed abilities, the third section moves to laboratory research (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, micro-PK, and DMILS), where I suggest the strongest evidence for psi may be found. The concluding chapter considers parapsychology’s value. To maximise readability, the book has no footnotes or detailed referencing. However, there is an appendix that provides materials and instruction on how to test one’s own psychic abilities, suggestions for further reading, and an index.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

I joined Professor Robert Morris  as a research associate at Edinburgh University’s Koestler Parapsychology Unit in 1986. The KPU is based within the university’s department of psychology. So for 3 decades now I have been conducting and publishing research into the psychology and parapsychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences, as well as teaching undergraduate psychology students about this subject. Also in 2008 I designed and launched an online parapsychology course designed for the general public that still runs successfully twice per year. I particularly enjoy engaging with the public about parapsychology.

What motivated you to write this book?

As you might imagine, the KPU attracts quite a bit of public attention, and of course parapsychology is a controversial and often misunderstood area of research. So I have always considered an important part of my role to be communicating with the wider public about the science of the paranormal. Previously I co-authored An Introduction to Parapsychology (5th edition) with Harvey Irwin. However that is quite a densely referenced book, designed more as a textbook for scholars of the field. I felt there was a need for a more accessible but similarly even-handed treatment of the subject, that would serve as a general introduction, and Parapsychology: A Beginner’s Guide seeks to fulfil this purpose.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

The Beginner’s Guide series (published by Oneworld) covers many different topics, and I believe that it is helpful for parapsychology to be represented in this list of topics. When someone picks up the Beginner’s Guide to Archaeology, or Lacan, or Volcanoes, they will see Parapsychology listed amongst the other titles. This may bring the field to a wider audience. I also hope that my depiction of parapsychology will demonstrate that the study of paranormal claims drives forward methodological and conceptual advances that reach far beyond parapsychology. Regarding this aim, I am thrilled that the book has been favourably endorsed by the distinguished behavioural researcher, Professor Robert Rosenthal, who of course stated that the ganzfeld debate benefitted science in general as well as parapsychology. Finally, I hope to dismiss any unfair preconceptions that the field is pseudo-scientific, and open minds to the idea that this is a valuable and exciting area of enquiry.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Foundation has released information about their second Book Expo (the first was held on November 14, 2015; click here).

PF logo 2

Here are the details.

* * *

Course Description

The live sessions of the PF Book Expo 2016 will take place on the afternoons of Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 and Sunday, April 24th, 2016. Five authors will talk about their recent books, including the content, the goals, why they got involved in the process, what they learned along the way, and more, followed by a question and answer session involving the registrants. Two of the books are aimed at serious researchers in and students of parapsychology and anomalistic psychology who are interested in the methodology, theory and the various phenomena under study. Two bridge the gap between the interests of serious researchers and field investigators and the intelligent general reader. The fifth book is one that would be called a popular book, but as a very high quality representative of that genre, is written clearly and flows from the investigative point of view of a well-trained and open-minded journalist.

Guest lecturers at the Parapsychology Foundation Book Expo 2016 will be:

  • Dr. Jim Carpenter is a board certified clinical psychologist who formerly taught at the University of North Carolina and who remains in private practice. He received the 2012 Charles Honorton Integrative Contributions Award from the Parapsychological Association for his work over the years in the field and on his innovative First Sight theory and is a past-President of that same organization. Carpenter will talk about his recent book First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life;
Jim Carpenter 2

Dr. James C. Carpenter

  • Dr. Zofia Weaver is a linguist who is a past editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the co-author (with Mary Rose Barrington and Dr. Ian Stevenson) of A World in a Grain of Sand: The Clairvoyance of Stefan Ossowiecki published in 2005. She will talk about her book, Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship;
Zofia Weaver

Dr. Zofia Weaver

Patricia Pearson 3

Patricia Pearson

  • Dr. Stephen E. Braude, an emeritus Professor of Philosophy from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, past-President of the Parapsychological Association, author of six previous books, and the editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, will discuss his most recent book, Crimes of Reason: On Mind, Nature and the Paranormal; and
Steve Braude 4

Dr. Stephen E. Braude

  • Callum E. Cooper, a doctoral student and instructor at the University of Northampton, co-author of two previous books, a recipient of both the Alex B. Tanous Scholarship Award from the Alex Tanous Foundation for Scientific Research, and the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship from the Parapsychology Foundation, will cover his recent book, Telephone Calls from the Dead that provides a new case collection of after death communication experiences.
Callum Cooper

Callum E. Cooper

The course is aimed at people interested in scientific parapsychology, in its theory, and phenomena, in mediumship and the experiences that both the dying and bereaved people encounter. You don’t need any particular level of education to enjoy the Expo, just curiosity about the topics.

The Parapsychology Foundation Book Expo series is the only place on the internet where you can get a “meet the author” experience for recommended academic and popular books on the topics of scientific parapsychology. So if you’re a student hoping to do research, a new researcher with an interest in the theory and the problems in persuading your colleagues, a field investigator interested in the phenomena of mediumship, death-bed experiences or after death communications, then the PF Book Expo 2016 is for you.

Each individual will have a PowerPoint that will be uploaded as a tutorial in WizIQ. Each live lecture will also be recorded and besides being available on WizIQ, will be edited and uploaded to the PF’s YouTube Channel.

By attending you will meet the authors of books we think are among the best published in recent years on their topics.

While the course doesn’t prepare registrants for any certification or exams, if you’re seriously interested in these topics, the PF Book Expo 2016 will point you towards some really good books that can help you in your quest to learn more!

And the PF?

The Parapsychology Foundation, located in New York City, is a not for profit organization that is celebrating its 65th year in operation this year, 2016. For the last 65 years the PF has provided a worldwide forum supporting the scientific exploration of psychic phenomena. The PF also maintains the Eileen J. Garrett Research Library in Greenport on Long Island. The PF’s online events on WizIQ, which include conferences like this one and the PF Forum: Advances in UK Parapsychology which was offered last May, are designed to further the education of individuals who are working in or interested in learning more about the scientific side of the field.

Lisette Coly, who will guide the proceedings on April 23rd and 24th, is the President of the Parapsychology Foundation, daughter of the previous President, Mrs. Eileen Coly, and granddaughter of PF Founder Irish American intellectual, entrepeneur, author and medium, Eileen J. Garrett. Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado and Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone, who will co-moderate the day’s events, are not only Research Fellows of the Parapsychology Foundation, but both two-time past Presidents of the Parapsychological Association, the international society for scientists and scholars who investigate what seem to be psychic phenomena from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

To register (free):

Course Schedule:

April 23

2:15-3:00pm Eastern time Opening

3:00-4:00pm Eastern time Jim Carpenter: First Sight

Carpenter First Sight

4:00-5:00pm Eastern time Zofia Weaver: Other Realities

Weaver Other Realities Kluski 2

5:00-6:00pm Eastern time Patricia Pearson: Opening Heaven’s Door

Pearson Opening Heaven's Door

6:00 Closing

April 24

1:15-1:30pm Eastern time Opening

1:45-2:30pm Eastern time Steve Braude: Crimes of Reason

Braude Crimes of Reason

3:00-4:00pm Eastern time Cal Cooper: Telephone Calls from the Dead

Cooper Telephone Calls

4:00pm Eastern time Closing

PF Book Logo Expo 2016

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I just published an article about aspects of the work of French psychical researcher Albert de Rochas. Its title is  “On Psychic Forces and Doubles: The Case of Albert de Rochas” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2016, 30, 63–84; available on request

Albert de Rochas 2

Albert de Rochas (1837-1914)

De Rochas, a neo-mesmerist, is known for various publications, among them the books: Les Forces Non Définies: Recherches Historiques et Expérimentales (1887), Les États Profonds de l’Hypnose (1892), L’Extériorisation de la Sensibilité: Étude Expérimentale et Historique (1895), and L’Extériorisation de la Motricité: Recueil d’Expériences et d’Observations (1896).

de Rochas Les Forces

De Rochas Exteriorisation Sensibilite.jpg

De Rochas Exteriorisation Motricite

Here is the abstract:

“In Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries’ psychical research literature, there were many speculations to explain physical mediumship consisting of the projection of nervous and vital forces from the body. The purpose of this paper is to present an example of these ideas and a translation of part of an article published by Albert de Rochas in 1897 in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques. The article was devoted to seances with Eusapia Palladino, and de Rochas suggested the projection of forces to explain telekinesis and materializations, a concept also involving the idea of a fluidic double. The ideas are presented in the context of previous speculations, and of the life and work of its author. The point of this article is not to defend or criticize the validity of the concept, but to contribute to the history of these ideas by rescuing de Rochas from oblivion, which in turn also shows French contributions to Nineteenth-Century psychical research.”

Eusapia Palladino side dress

Eusapia Palladino

I wrote in the paper: “The purpose of this paper is to present a translation of an account of one of these ideas, postulated by Albert de Rochas in the late Nineteenth Century, which was actually a late formulation of concepts of emanations from the body to account for physical phenomena, and part of the neo-mesmeric movement that continued the old mesmeric tradition . . . De Rochas was one of several French neo-mesmerists who continued writing about magnetism during the late Nineteenth Century and later, among them Émile Boirac . . . , Hippolyte Baraduc  . . . , Alexandre Baréty . . . ,  and Hector Durville . . .”

Barety Magnetisme Animal

Durville Traite Experimental Magnetisme

“The translation and presentation of an Excerpt from one of de Rochas’ articles is of interest today for various reasons. First, it is a reminder of a conceptual tradition of vital, psychic, and nervous forces . . . that, while still present today, are not considered by many current workers in parapsychology who emphasize ideas of nonphysicality . . . Second, it is an opportunity to present to modern readers, many of whom presumably are unacquainted with the topic, a fragment of French psychical research theorization from the Nineteenth Century. Third, I briefly present an overview of the work of de Rochas, a figure who is not frequently discussed today.”

de Rochas Experiences ASP 1897

Excerpt taken from this article about medium Eusapia Palladino: de Rochas, A. (1897). Les expériences de Choisy-Yvrec (près Bordeaux) du 2 au 14 octobre 1896 (Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 7, 6–28).


I concluded: “De Rochas’ ideas . . . have been forgotten by many, but they received some attention in his day. They were an extension of earlier concepts derived from the writings of the mesmerists, Reichenbach, and many others interested in various forms of psychic phenomena, such as mediumship. This was the case for both ideas of an exteriorized force and a fluidic double, which for de Rochas, and others, were not different concepts.”

Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach

Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach

“These ideas influenced later writers about subtle bodies, among them Delanne . . . , Durville . . ., and Lefranc . . . Ideas of forces (without emphasis on a double) to explain physical mediumship also continued after de Rochas’ 1897 paper. In Germany, Schrenck-Notzing . . . wrote under the assumption of such concepts, as did Sudre . . . in France, and Carrington . . . in the United States. Several others continued this tradition, and some of them, like de Rochas, presented their ideas as explanations of Palladino’s mediumship . . .”

Gabriel Delanne

Gabriel Delanne


Albert von Schrenck-Notzing

The ideas of de Rochas may seem to some parapsychologists of little relevance today. “My interest, however, has not been in the validity of de Rochas’ ideas, be they magnetic effluvia or fluidic doubles. My purpose has been that of rescuing from oblivion ideas that are sometimes forgotten by parapsychologists today because they have fallen out of fashion (even if still believed in by some groups), or because they are considered today to be wrong. A history of attempts to understand physical phenomena, however, should not consist only of the things believed to be “correct’ today. Such a perspective reflects current conceptions but do not do justice to the actual developments of the past. De Rochas’ theoretical model, bringing together ideas of biophysical emanations and fields, and of subtle bodies, are a reminder of a different era and of different conceptions that provide us with a more complete view of past attempts to understand physical mediumship.”

Albert de Rochas 3

Albert de Rochas


Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Although there has been previous discussion about the use of suggestion to induce OBEs, the topic has not been followed up systematically in recent times. An exception is the article by Patrizio E. Tressoldi, Luciano Pederzoli, Patrizio Caini, Alessandro Ferrini, Simone Melloni, Elena Prati, Diana Richeldi, Florentina Richeldi, and Alice Trabucco, Hypnotically Induced Out-of-Body Experience: How Many Bodies Are There? Unexpected Discoveries About the Subtle Body and Psychic Body (Sage Open, 2015, DOI: 10.1177/2158244015615919). (Article available here)

Patrizio Tressoldi 5

Dr. Patrizio Tressoldi


Here is the abstract:

“The possibility to induce real out-of-body experiences (OBEs) using hypnotic inductions, with the opportunity to interview participants during their experience, permits to investigate in depth the characteristics of different aspects of this particular state of consciousness from a first-person point of view. In this article, six selected participants report the description of another “body” we named “subtle body,” identified as an intermediate entity between the physical body (Pb) and their “Self” or “I-identity” that was named “psychic body,” and their relationships and characteristics. The “subtle body” was described as a sort of white silvered cloud surrounding the Pb, with a particular enlargement of its hands and feet that could move quickly like flying from one place to another even if less easily than the “psychic body,” and a vague sense of attrition was perceived when passing through walls. Similar to the “psychic body,” the “subtle” one too could move forward and backward in time even if they did not seem perceiving the sense of time. The “subtle body” was referred to be connected with the physical one by a sort of white brilliant link sometimes described like a silvered string more or less visible, whereas no visible links were identified between the “subtle body” and the “psychic” one. These reports were compared with similar descriptions deriving from the Vedanta philosophy and Theosophical tradition.”

It was concluded:

“Only a few questions elicited overall agreement in the answers, regardless of participants’ previous knowledge of this subject, but there was agreement regarding the existence of at least two “bodies” other than the Pb [physical body], which we have called the Sb [subtle body] and Ψb [psychic body].”

“If necessary, the DPS [disembodied personal selfhood] can inhabit either of the two bodies, even though it prefers the Ψb, which is described as the overseer of the Sb and Pb, and probably exists eternally.”

“Although the perceptive and cognitive differences between the Sb and the Ψb have not been clearly defined, the differences in how they “move through space” were described the same way by all participants: The Ψb seems to travel at the speed of thought, or will, with no “friction” from solid materials. Similar, but less ideal, characteristics are described for the Sb, due to it having boundaries. Furthermore, all descriptions about the link between the Pb and the Sb were in agreement . . .”

“Bearing in mind the known uncertainties inherent in first-person phenomenological descriptions, the information given by our participants about their OBE experiences induced by an hypnotic induction can be used for the time being as a new source of description of this particular state of consciousness as a converging evidence to other sources obtained with different methods . . .”



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