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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 . . .”


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

A recent report presents the results of a survey of counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists on the topic of synchronicity experiences: “Synchronicity in the Therapeutic Setting: A Survey of Practitioners,” by Elizabeth C. Roxburgh, Sophie Ridgway, and Chris A. Roe (Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 16, 44-53).

Elizabeth Roxburgh 4

Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh

Chris Roe 2

Dr. Chris Roe

Here is the abstract:

Aims: In this study, we intended to explore whether there are any differences between counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists in the reporting and interpretation of synchronicity experiences (SEs) in the therapeutic setting. SEs are defined as psychologically meaningful connections between inner events (such as a thought, vision or feeling) and one or more external events occurring simultaneously or at a future point in time. Design: An online survey link was emailed to a random sample of counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists drawn from membership lists of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), British Psychological Society (BPS) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). The survey was designed to investigate the following research questions: do practitioners report SEs in the therapeutic setting? Are there any differences between types of practitioners in terms of explanations for SEs? Were SEs believed to be more likely to occur at certain points in therapy? Results: A total of 226 respondents completed the survey. One hundred respondents (44%) reported that they had experienced synchronicity in the therapeutic setting, of whom 55 were psychotherapists, 21 counsellors and 24 psychologists. The majority of respondents (67%) felt that SEs could be useful for therapy. Statistical analysis revealed significant differences between practitioner types in their interpretation of SEs but no differences in perception of when synchronicity events were likely to occur. Conclusion: Findings have important implications for how practitioners may respond to clients who report SEs and are discussed alongside suggestions for future research.

The authors concluded:

“Just under half of all respondents (44%) in this survey reported that they had experienced synchronicity in the therapeutic setting . . . This finding has implications for practitioners in terms of raising awareness that such experiences are commonly reported in the therapeutic process and that consequently they should not fear discussing these experiences within training, supervision or the therapeutic encounter. In addition, the majority of participants (67%) in the current study felt that SEs could be useful . . . Whilst participants made brief comments about SEs in terms of what they found helpful there was insufficient data to undertake a qualitative analysis. Therefore, in a follow-up study, we sought to investigate this further with in-depth interviews using interpretative phenomenological analysis that aimed to explore how practitioners make sense of SEs . . . Participants in this study felt that SEs provided useful opportunities for therapeutic intervention by drawing attention to aspects or features of the therapeutic process that were valuable foci for reflection. They also believed that SEs could serve to strengthen the therapeutic relationship, could push through resistance and could tap into the unconscious or express what was in conscious awareness but was difficult to speak . . .”

“The finding that psychotherapists were more likely to report SEs than counsellors or psychologists confirms previous research which proposed that such experiences are more likely to occur in psychotherapy given that unconscious processes are a common feature of psychotherapeutic work . . . This warrants further research around whether SEs do actually occur more frequently in psychotherapy or whether psychotherapists are simply more likely to notice and use them in the therapeutic process. Related to this is the question of whether some settings are more conducive to SEs . . . We propose that synchronicity reporting should not necessarily be associated with psychopathology; rather, it might be a product of psychosocial contextual factors, such as therapeutic training in the case of psychotherapists.”

“Observed differences between practitioners in their favoured explanations of synchronicity might also reflect differences in therapeutic training. Psychotherapists and counsellors were significantly more likely than psychologists to agree that synchronicity occurred because of a need for unconscious material to be expressed or because of a collective unconscious. In addition, psychotherapists were significantly more likely to agree that SEs occur due to transference, countertransference and the therapeutic relationship, and psychologists were significantly more likely to agree that SEs are chance coincidences that individuals sometimes ascribe meaning to . . .”

“Further research is currently being conducted by the first author to explore how therapists respond to clients who report such experiences in therapeutic sessions, whether clients feel listened to and understood, and whether therapists believe there is a need for specialist training to address such experiences.”

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

The topic of a double with physical properties was the main concept discussed by Adolphe D’Assier (1827–1889), once member of the Académie des Sciences de Bordeaux, and known for his writings about matters such as grammar and language. His book Posthumous Humanity: A Study of Phantoms (1887) was translated from the original French edition Essai sur l’Humanité Posthume et le Spiritisme (1883).

D'Assier Posthumous Humanity

D'Assier Essai

In the book, D’Assier speculated on the posthumous personality as manifesting with phenomena such as apparitions, and argued that during life there was a principle that could leave the body and that could continue after physical death. Some cases of doubling during life, the author argued, were remembered by the experiencer, but others were forgotten.

D’Assier speculated about this principle, which he believed had physical properties. He wrote:

“The child who comes out of the body of its mother is attached to her by a vascular system which brought it strength and life. It is the same in this doubling; the human phantom is constantly in immediate relation with the body whence it has wandered for some moments. Invisible bonds, and of a vascular nature, so intimately connect the two extremities of the chain, that any accident happening to one of the two poles reacts (se répercute) instantaneously upon the other (p. 51) . . . . The phantom possesses a circulatory apparatus as well as the body of which it is the double. Invisible capillaries unite the one to the other, and the whole forms a system so homogeneous, so closely connected, that the slightest prick received by the phantom at once reacts . . . on all the vascular apparatus up to the extremity of the chain, and blood flows immediately. . . .” (p. 57)

D’Assier presented many cases of apparitions in his book. In his view, the phenomenon of duplication “is observed only in some organizations exceptionally gifted in the matter of sensitiveness; and this explains its extreme rarity” (p. 250). The posthumous apparition, he believed, was the same entity manifested in doublings and apparitions of the living:

“The living spectre and the spectre from beyond the tomb, having the same origin, can present in their manifestation the same common characteristics. Such are the noises that occur in certain habitations, where the chairs, furniture, crockery, &c., are seen to change place or to shake under the impulse of an invisible hand” (p. 256)

This was reprinted with permission from the Journal of Scientific Exploration 2011, Vol. 25.

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

Pascal Le Maléfan and Andreas Sommer recently published an article about veridical hallucinations in France: “Léon Marillier and the Veridical Hallucination in Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century French Psychology and Psychopathology” (History of Psychiatry, 2015, 26, 418-432).

Pas cal Le Malefan

Pascal Le Maléfan

Andreas Sommer 7

Andreas Sommer

Here is the abstract:

“Recent research on the professionalization of psychology at the end of the nineteenth century shows how objects of knowledge which appear illegitimate to us today shaped the institutionalization of disciplines. The veridical or telepathic hallucination was one of these objects, constituting a field both of division and exchange between nascent psychology and disciplines known as ‘psychic sciences’ in France, and ‘psychical research’ in the Anglo-American context. In France, Léon Marillier (1862–1901) was the main protagonist in discussions concerning the concept of the veridical hallucination, which gave rise to criticisms by mental specialists and psychopathologists. After all, not only were these hallucinations supposed to occur in healthy subjects, but they also failed to correspond to the Esquirolian definition of hallucinations through being corroborated by their representation of external, objective events.”

The authors concluded:

“Marillier’s attitude to the subject of telepathic hallucinations seems to us a faithful reflection of the ambivalence – the scepticism and yet at the same time the interest – aroused by this ‘bizarre’ object at the heart of the nascent psychology during the fin-de-siècle. It constituted an area of exchange between psychology and the ‘psychic’ sciences, and also with mental medicine and psychopathology. For specialists in mental illness and the psychopathologists who debated these matters, the main question was whether the telepathic hallucination was actually a hallucination, since it could manifest in normal subjects. The answers to this question were varied, and in France they can be connected to changes concerning the very definition of ‘hallucination’ and its place in mental pathology . . . .”

“Thus, telepathic hallucinations constituted a frontier-object within the human sciences and medicine. Their rejection, marginalization, and finally their relegation to the field of psychiatry through the pathologization of belief in the ‘marvellous’ at large, were the signs of a segregation between that which became legitimate and that which was illegitimate in these sciences – not without leaving a residue, which in France continued to be explored under the name of ‘métapsychique’ . . .”


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

An interesting discussion of mediumship in Brazil in presented by Bettina E. Schmidt in her article : “Spirit Mediumship in Brazil: The Controversy about Semi-Conscious Mediums” (Diskus: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, 17, 38-53). Here is the abstract:

“This article focuses on spirit mediumship in Brazil. The term mediumship refers to the communication between humans the spirit world which is the core of Spiritism. In anthropological literature it is often categorised as altered states of consciousness, however, people experiencing it reject these categorizations. This article presents excerpts from interviews with Brazilian spiritists in order to illustrate the different ways people explain mediumship to an outsider, an anthropologist from Europe. The article then discusses their interpretation within the wider academic discourse surrounding this kind of experience. The intention is that Brazilian Spiritism and the wider discourse surrounding mediumship will serve as a case study to present the complexity of this form of religious experience.”


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