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

Vanessa Charland-Verville, Demetrius Ribeiro de Paula, Charlotte Martial, Helena Cassol, Georgios Antonopoulos, Blaine Alexander Chronik, Andrea Soddu, Steven Laureys. Characterization of near death experiences using text mining analyses: A preliminary study. Plos One. 2020, 15(1): e0227402.


The notion that death represents a passing to an afterlife, where we are reunited with loved ones and live eternally in a utopian paradise, is common in the reports of people who have encountered a “Near-Death Experience” (NDE). NDEs are thoroughly portrayed by the media but empirical studies are rather recent. The definition of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. To date, NDEs’ identification and description in studies have mostly derived from answered items in questionnaires. However, questionnaires’ content could be restricting and subject to personal interpretation. We believe that in addition to their use, user-independent statistical text examination of freely expressed NDEs narratives is of prior importance to help capture the phenomenology of such a subjective and complex phenomenon. Towards that aim, we included 158 participants with a firsthand retrospective narrative of their self-reported NDE that we analyzed using an automated text-mining method. The output revealed the top words expressed by experiencers. In a second step, a hierarchical clustering analysis was conducted to visualize the relationships between these words. It revealed three main clusters of features: visual perceptions, emotions and spatial components. We believe the user-independent and data-driven text mining approach used in this study is promising by contributing to the building a rigorous description and definition of NDEs.

Nicole M. Lindsay and Natasha Tassell-Matamua. Near-death experiences and afterlife belief: A mixed-method analysis. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 2020. Advance online publication.


Following near-death experiences (NDEs) many people report a new or increased belief in life after death, yet this construct has never been specifically examined. In this mixed-method analysis, 105 persons who had experienced a life-threatening event and 69 participants who had never come close to death completed an online survey measuring beliefs about the “self” after death. Those who reported having an NDE during a life-threatening event were significantly more likely to believe in postmortem continuation, particularly the persistence of consciousness and individual identity beyond death. Eighteen people were also independently interviewed to explore the thematic form and psychological antecedents for any revised beliefs. Results were highly convergent with survey data and suggested the phenomenological characteristics of NDEs played an important role. These findings offer more systematic empirical evidence for the idea that NDEs foster certain types of postmortem beliefs.

David Royse and Karen Badger. Burn survivors’ near-death Experiences: A qualitative examination. Omega, 2020, 80(3), 440-457.


Persons who come close to death but survive catastrophic accidents sometimes report very vivid experiences during times when their survival was in doubt, when they were believed to be dead, and during resuscitation efforts. This qualitative study builds upon existing research on near-death experiences (NDEs) by focusing on the oral accounts from a sample of individuals with large and life-threatening burns. The NDE accounts were obtained from burn survivors attending the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress and are similar to reports by notable researchers ( Greyson, 2003 ; Moody, 1975 ; Ring, 1980 ) while reflecting the uniqueness of the individual survivor’s experiences. Six major themes are reported. Counselors and health professionals need to be aware of and educated about NDEs as these experiences can have profound effects upon the individual. Patients who have had NDEs may need to discuss them but fear professionals will reject their stories as being crazy.

Lilia Samoilo and Diane Corcoran. Closing the medical gap of care for patients who have had a near-death experience. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, 2020, 10(1), 37-42.


This commentary discusses the twelve stories in which patients tell what happened when they were hospitalized and they had a near-death experience. The stories display a consistent theme of the gap in medical and spiritual care they received, after the patient’s near-death experience. This commentary explores the implications of this gap in care for these patients and the perceived medical professionals’ bias that occurs after these experiences, which can contribute to long-term consequences such as isolation and rejection. Education in medical schools and continuing education can provide medical professionals with insights needed to support individuals with near-death experiences.


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

An interesting figure in the history of French psychical research is the astronomer Camille Flammarion. I recently published, with Nancy L. Zingrone, an article about him (available on request: Here is the reference and the abstract:

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Nancy L. Zingrone

Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2020). Classic Text No. 122: Camille Flammarion on the Powers of the Soul. History of Psychiatry, 31(2), 237–252.


There is a long conceptual tradition that interprets phenomena such as clairvoyance and apparitions as evidence for a spiritual component in human beings. Examples of this appear in the literatures of mesmerism, Spiritualism and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to present excerpts from a book by French astronomer Camille Flammarion touching on this perspective. They are selected from the introduction and conclusion of Flammarion’s L’Inconnu: The Unknown (1900), a translation of L’Inconnu et les problems psychiques (1900), in which he published and commented on cases of apparitions and other phenomena he collected. In his view, these phenomena showed the existence of the soul. Similar beliefs regarding ideas of the nonphysical nature of human beings and psychic phenomena have continued to the present.

Flammarion at different stages in life

Camille Flammarion 20 years old

Camille Flammarion2

Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion 5

Regardless of attempts to reduce psychic phenomena to medical, physiological and other conventional explanations, many, such as Flammarion, saw psychic phenomena—apparitions, telepathy, mediumship—as examples of the action of spiritual or nonphysical component of human beings. We mention authors defending such view before the excerpt we reprint by Flammarion, such as Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling, J.P.F. Deleuze, Catherine Crowe, Carl du Prel, and Frederic W.H. Myers.

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

We wrote: “Flammarion was extremely productive as a writer about astronomy and related topics . . . His Astronomie populaire (1880), one of his best-known books, was an introduction to the topic. It had 47 chapters divided in six sections about earth, the moon, the sun, planets, comets and shooting stars, and stars and the universe. While most of Flammarion’s works were designed to popularize the topic and inform the public about the triumphs of astronomy, he also had some technical publications . . . Flammarion was particularly interested in the possibility of life on other planets, as seen in his first book, the famous and influential La pluralité des mondes habités . . . [1862].”

Flammarion Astronomie Populaire 2

Flammarion was interested in Spiritism and psychic phenomena most of his life (1842-1925). Here are the books and some of articles he published on the subject (I have emphasized below some of the books that were translated into English:

(1862). Les habitants de l’autre monde: Révélations d’outre-tombe (2nd ed. (series 2). Paris: Ledoyen.

Flammarion Les Habitants de l’autre monde

[under the pseudonym Hermès]. (1865). Des forces naturelles inconnues: à propos des phénomènes produits par les frères Davenport et par les médiums en general. Paris: Didier.

(1897). A séance with Eusapia Paladino: Psychic forces. Arena, 18, 730–747.

Flammarion Seances with Palladino 1897

Flammarion’s Seances with Eusapia Palladino, 1897

(1899). Les problèmes psychiques et l’inconnu. Annales Politiques et Litteraires, 32, 3–5, 35–36, 67–69, 99–101, 131–133, 163–165, 195–196, 227–230, 259–261, 291–293, 338–341.

(1900b). L’Inconnu: The Unknown. New York: Harper and Brothers.

 (1905). Animals and psychic perception. Annals of Psychical Science, 2, 374–378

 (1907). Mysterious Psychic Forces. Boston, MA: Small, Maynard.

Flammarion Mysterious Psychic Forces 3

 (1920). Métapsychisme: Des faits. Revue Spirite, 63, 106–110.

(1921). Les vision prémonitoires. Revue Spirite, 64, 129–135.

 (1921–1923) Death and Its Mystery (3 vols.). New York: Century (First published in French in 1920–1922).

Flammarion Death and its Mystery

 (1923). Discours présidentiel. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 34, 1–27.

 (1924) Haunted Houses. New York: D. Appleton (First published in French in 1923).

 (2005). Fantômes et sciences d’observation (compiled by P. Fuentès). Agnières, France: JMG.

Flammarion Fantomes

“In much of this work Flammarion defended the existence of a soul separate from the body . . . The excerpts presented here to illustrate Flammarion’s ideas about the spiritual aspects of psychic phenomena come from his book L’Inconnu et les problèmes psychiques . . . , which was translated into English as L’Inconnu: The Unknown . . . The book in question was mainly the result of an appeal for cases that appeared in the Annales Politiques et Littéraires . . . , and later in other publications. Flammarion asked two questions: one about unexplained waking visual, auditory and tactile experiences related to some other person, and the other asked whether that experience was related to a death.”

Flammarion Unknown

Here are some fragments of Flammarion’s conclusions reprinted in the article:

“The object of these researches is to discover if the soul of man exists as an entity, independent of his body, and if it will survive the destruction of the same . . .”

“It is certain that one soul can influence another soul at a distance, and without the aid of the senses.”

“Many dead persons whose examples are herein given have been told by telepathic communications, by apparitions (subjective or objective), called by voices they distinctly heard, by songs, noises, and movements (real or imaginary), and impressions of different kinds. We can have no doubt upon this point. The soul can act at a distance . . .”

“POSITIVE OBSERVATION PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF A PSYCHIC WORLD, as real as the world known to our physical senses.”

“And now, because the soul acts at a distance by some power that belongs to it, are we authorized to conclude that it exists as something real, and that it is not the result of functions of the brain? . . .”

“The observations given in this work, the sensations, the impressions, the visions, things heard, etc., may indicate physical effects produced without the brain . . .”

“All these things present themselves to us as indicating, not physiological operations of one brain acting on another, but psychic actions of spirit upon spirit. We feel that they indicate to us some power unknown.”

“No doubt it is difficult to apportion what belongs to the spirit, the soul, and what belongs to the brain. We can only let ourselves be guided in our judgment and our appreciations by the same feeling that is created in us by the discussion of phenomena. This is how all sciences have been started . . .”

“These phenomena prove, I think, that the soul exists, and that it is endowed with faculties at present unknown. That is the logical way of commencing our study, which in the end may lead us to the problem of the after-life and immortality . . .”

Flammarion was criticized by his lack of investigation of most of the cases he published. He did not seem to doubt any case he received via correspondence.

We also point out that this conceptual tradition of belief in nonphysicality based on psychic phenomena has continued after Flammarion. “Variants of these ideas have continued to more recent times . . . ‘The findings of scientific parapsychology’, wrote psychologist Charles T. Tart in his book The End of Materialism, ‘force us to pragmatically accept that minds can do things . . . that cannot be reduced to physical explanations, given current scientific knowledge or reasonable extensions of it’ ” . . . Many studies by authors who supported survival of death were also published in later years, after the publication in 1900 of Flammarion’s book. Among these were treatments of areas such as physical phenomena related to deaths . . . , apparitions of the dead . . .  and recollections of previous lives . . . Interestingly, in recent decades there has been some interest in death-related phenomena similar to those explored by Flammarion, and with a similar interest in favouring belief in survival of death . . .”

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

For years the ganzfeld ESP experiments have been an important area of research in parapsychology (for information about these studies click here). Thanks to the editorial efforts of Etzel Cardeña, the topic is featured in over half of the current issue of the Journal of Parapsychology (2020, Vol. 84, No. 1).

Ganzfeld 4

Ganzfeld setting

Cardeña has arranged for several reports of ganzfeld research to appear together, showing this approach to ESP testing still has much to offer. In his editorial “Pieces of the Psi Puzzle and a Recipe for Ganzfeld Success” (pp. 5-7) he states: “The bottom line is that not only is ganzfeld research alive and well, but overall the studies in this issue support the conclusions of previous meta-analyses . . . in one case with a prospective, preregistered, and very well-designed study. This is a good answer to those who think that psi results are just the product of ‘questionable research practices.’ ”

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

The next contribution, by Rex G. Stanford, is an invited editorial entitled “Ganzfeld-ESP: Pondering Three Reports and Looking Ahead.” He discusses various methodological issues such as misconceptions about the effectiveness of counterbalancing, the use of between- or within- subject designs, method-driven artifacts in the study of traits as predictors, and the importance of interviews at the end of the session.

Rex G. Stanford

Rex G. Stanford

Stanford writes: “It can be easy to forget that the use of subjective, self-report measures—whether of traits or states—can necessitate extensive introspection that often may require attribution (i.e., interpreting experiences as meriting a construct label, such as ‘altered state,’ ‘absorption,’ or whatever). Such introspection and its reporting are subject to the vagaries of memory, social desirability/undesirability of particular response(s), and experiment-related demand characteristics (relative to understood or supposed investigator expectations).”

This is followed by three experimental reports by various authors:

Testing Precognition and Alterations of Consciousness with Selected Participants in the Ganzfeld

Caroline Watt, Emily Dawson, Alisdair Tullo, Abby Pooley, and Holly Rice

University of Edinburgh

Caroline Watt 2

Caroline Watt

Abstract: This study is the first to contribute to a registration-based prospective meta-analysis of ganzfeld Extrasensory Perception (ESP) studies. We sought to maximize the anticipated psi effect size by selecting participants for self-reported creativity, prior psi experience or belief, or practice of a mental discipline. We also employed an automated precognition design for simplicity and security, and to add to the small database of precognitive ganzfeld studies. Targets and decoys were short video clips randomly selected with replacement from a pool of 200. As well as predicting overall significant scoring on the ganzfeld precognition task, the study tested the assumption that the ganzfeld method elicits a psi-conducive altered state of consciousness, by correlating two measures of an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) with precognition task performance. We predicted higher target similarity ratings would be associated with greater evidence of ASC during the session. Three experimenters each conducted 20 trials. Twenty-two direct hits were obtained (37% hit-rate), thus significantly supporting the planned test of the ganzfeld precognition task (exact binomial p = .03, 1-tailed). No relation was found between ASC and psi task performance, contrary to prediction. We conclude by discussing the reasons why further ganzfeld ESP research is justified.

Performance at a Precognitive Remote Viewing Task, with and without Ganzfeld Stimulation: Three Experiments

Chris A. Roe, Callum E. Cooper, Laura Hickinbotham, Andrew Hodrien, Laurrie Kirkwood, and Hannah Martin

University of Northampton

Chris Roe 2

Chris Roe

Abstract: Recent research by the lead author has sought to incorporate ganzfeld stimulation as part of a remote viewing protocol. An initial exploratory experiment (Roe & Flint, 2007) suggested that novice participants can successfully describe a randomly selected target location while in the ganzfeld context but did not make a direct comparison with performance in a waking state. This paper describes a series of three subsequent experiments that compared performance at a remote viewing task in a waking condition with a ganzfeld stimulation condition using a counterbalanced repeated measures design. There were only minor variations in design across the three experiments to enable combination of data in a summary analysis. In total, 110 participants produced 43 hits in the ganzfeld stimulation condition (39%), giving a highly significant positive deviation from chance expectation (sum of ranks = 225, p = .000012), whereas in the waking RV condition they achieved 30 hits (27.5%), which is marginally better than chance expectation (sum of ranks = 253, p = .034). The difference in z scores for target ratings in the two conditions approached significance (t[39] = 1.86, p = .065). In experiment 1, individual difference measures identified as predictors of psi performance were unrelated to target ratings. Participants completed Pekala’s (1991) Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) in order to gauge their responsiveness to the ganzfeld protocol and of the 12 sub-dimensions tested, ganzfeld performance correlated significantly with greater absorption in their subjective experience, lower arousal, and less internal dialogue. In experiments 2 and 3 individual differences measure were replaced by measures of transliminality, openness to experience, and dissociative experiences, but these were unrelated to task success. Data from experiment 2 did not confirm the findings using the PCI from experiment 1, though a significant association was found with the time sense dimension. In experiment 3 no PCI dimensions correlated with task performance, a pattern that was confirmed when data were combined across all three experiments.

Changes in State of Consciousness and Psi in Ganzfeld and Hypnosis Conditions 

Etzel Cardeña and David Marcusson-Clavertz

Lund University

David Marcusson-Clavertz 2

David Marcusson-Clavertz

Abstract: In a previous experiment with participants high (Highs) and low (Lows) in hypnotizability, psi z scores had moderate to strong correlations with percipients’ belief of their success and their previous ostensible psi experiences, experiencing an Altered State of Consciousness and other alterations of consciousness during a non-psi ganzfeld session, but only among the Highs. The current pre-registered study had a larger N of only Highs, evaluated in hypnosis and hypnosis + ganzfeld procedures. Participants (N = 35) served as “receivers” in two 20 min sessions of ganzfeld or hypnosis in counterbalanced order. Both sessions used hypnosis verbalizations, but only one of them had sensory homogenization. The authors served as “sender” and “experimenter” in different buildings. As an index of experienced alterations of consciousness, participants filled out the Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) at the beginning and end of the sessions, and gave a rating of 0-100 to 4 film clips (one of them the target), from which psi z scores were derived. Overall, participants did not score better than chance and there was no difference between the conditions. However, for the ganzfeld sessions psi scores correlated moderately (r = .40, p = .02) with the PCI Altered State shift scores (ganzfeld – baseline scores). Although the overall psi rate was not significant, we found a relation between psi scoring and experiencing an Altered State in ganzfeld psi sessions.


In addition to providing information about ganzfeld ESP testing, and evidence for ESP, this issue of the journal shows what a good editor can do to assist the development of parapsychology by taking an active approach in bringing together high-quality material about specific topics. I hope that editors of other journals will follow Cardeña’s lead and take more active roles in crafting thematic journal issues. Doing so will not only improve our journals but will also help the development of the field by focusing ideas useful for further research and theoretical developments. Unfortunately, the publisher of the journal, the Rhine Research Center, has decided to terminate Cardeña’s contract as editor.

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

I recently presented a webinar in Spanish about “Psychical Research and Psychology: The Importance of Historical Perspective.” (To watch the video click here). This was organized by Drs. Wellington Zangari and Fatima R. Machado in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Inter Psi, a research and teaching unit at the University of Sao Paulo.

Here is the summary of the presentation:

This presentation is about the importance of the history of psychical research to understand the development of some aspects of psychology. The first part of the presentation is about modern historical studies that show the influence of psychical research on the development of ideas in psychology such as dissociation and the unconscious mind. This includes the publications of Henri Ellenberger, Régina Plas, Andreas Sommer, Eugene Taylor, and my articles on the subject. The second part is about the usefulness of the old psychical research literature, which is important today to understand phenomena such as mediumship and ESP. This includes the work of individuals such as Edmund Gurney, Frederic W.H. Myers, Eugène Osty, Charles Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick, and others.

Edmund Gurney

Edmund Gurney

Frederic Myers 4

Frederic W.H. Myers

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

Eleanor Sidgwick 2

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

 Some Relevant Publications

Alvarado, C.S. (2002). Dissociation in Britain during the late Nineteenth Century: The Society for  Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 9-33.

Crabtree, A. (1993). From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic sleep and the roots of psychological healing. New Haven: Yale University Press.

 Crabtree From Mesmer to Freud 2

Evrard, R., Pratte, E.A., & Cardeña, E. (2018). Pierre Janet and the enchanted boundary of psychical research. History of Psychology, 21, 100-125.

Graus, A. (2019).  Ciencia y espiritismo en España, 1880-1930. Granada: Comares.

Le Maléfan, P. (1999). Folie et Spiritisme: Histoire du discourse psychopathologique sur la pratique du Spiritisme, ses abords et ses avatars (1850-1950). Paris: L’Harmattan.

Plas, R. (2000). Naissance d’une science humaine: La psychologie: Les psychologues et le “merveilleaux psychique.” Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Plas Naissance

Sommer, A. (2012). Psychical research and the origins of American psychology: Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino. History of the Human Sciences, 25, 23–44.

Sommer, A. (2013). Normalizing the Supernormal: The Formation of the ‘Gesellschaft Für Psychologische Forschung’ (‘Society for Psychological Research’), c. 1886–1890. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 49, 18-44.



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

 The book commented on here is one of the most interesting historical studies of psychic phenomena I have read in recent years: Physics and Psychics: The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain  (Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp. xvi + 403. $120.00). It is authored by Richard Noakes, PhD, Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology at the University of Exeter. I have been following Richard’s interesting articles about Spiritualism and psychical research for the last few years, work published in journals such as History of Science, and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Richard Noakes

Richard Noakes

Noakes Physics abd Psychics

The book is described by the publisher as “the first systematic exploration of the intriguing connections between Victorian physical sciences and the study of the controversial phenomena broadly classified as psychic, occult and paranormal.” Different from other studies that emphasize psychological and philosophical dimensions of the topic (something that is not neglected in this book), in Physics and Psychics Richard explores connections with physics, including ideas such as brain waves and the ether.

Here is the table of contents.

Animal Magnetism as Physics
The Oddity of Od
Outdoing the Electric Telegraph
“Scientific Men” and Spiritualism
Extending the Boundaries of Physics
Inventing Psychical Research
Identifying Physical-Psychical Scientists
Connecting Physical-Psychical Scientists
Gold Mines of Science, Handmaids to Faith
Changing Attitudes to Psychical Investigation
Removing Scientific “Stumbling Blocks”
Challenging Materiality
3.3 Dim Analogies
Maxwellian Psychics
Doubts and Criticisms
From Psychic Force to the Radiometer
Tying Mediums with Electricity
Magnetic Sense or Nonsense?
Physical as Psychical Laboratories
Wanting Opportunities?
Scourging Spiritualists and Scientists
Tricky Instruments of Psychics
Tricky Instruments of Physics
Psychical Researchers and Conjurors
N-rays and Psychical Expertise
Busy Men
“Applied” Psychical Research
Lodge’s Etherial Body
Interpreting Lodge’s Physics and Psychics
Interwar Transitions


Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Physics and Psychics is a revisionist study of the physicists, chemists, astronomers, electrical engineers and other “physical” scientists that involved themselves with psychical research and related enquiries in the period approximately 1850-1930. A significant proportion of them are British (e.g., William Crookes and Oliver Lodge) but I do discuss the handful of non-British practitioners who were involved (e.g., Baron von Reichenbach and Karl Friedrich Zöllner). I use this material to show that the interests of physical scientists in psychical research and related enquiries was both more widespread and more complex than we have assumed. We might find this surprising given the strongly psychological nature of psychical phenomena – a quality that placed them outside the formal boundaries of the physical sciences. A significant number of physical scientists showed some kind of interest in psychical phenomena and this interest varied in strength and nature. They included Lodge who investigated a wide range of psychical phenomena for nearly sixty years and his teacher John Tyndall who, while deeply sceptical of spiritualist mediumship, still turned up to seances. My book explores the plethora of reasons why physical scientists got involved – intellectual, religious and moral – and argues that only a combination of reasons can explain the patterns of interest that we find. Another major preoccupation of my book is with the role of psychical research in extending (as opposed to impeding) the theoretical and experimental aspects of the physical sciences. Many of the characters that I study saw the study of telekinesis, telepathy, Reichenbach’s “odic” force and other phenomena as exciting but problematic ways of applying, extending and enriching their “physical” research.

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

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any background in parapsychology, psychical research or related endeavour. I have approached the history of these endeavours as somebody trained in the sciences and the history and philosophy of science.

What motivated you to write this book?

The book’s origins are in the doctoral research that I did in the 1990s so I’ve lived with this project for over two decades! That research started life as an attempt to deepen our understanding of what led to the discovery of the subatomic particle, the electron, in 1897. This led me towards mainly British scientific investigations of some of the strangest and most spectacular phenomena of electricity (e.g., cathode rays) but also to scientific practitioners who shared interests in electrical physics and the strange phenomena of spiritualism and psychical research. My doctoral dissertation looked at only a fraction of these practitioners and what I did next was to extend this much further in terms of people, practices, theories and analytical approaches.

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

My book is important because it highlights the fruitful encounters between more strongly established and less well established forms of scientific enquiry. It reveals a period when these encounters could be fruitful and creative – when psychical enquiries benefited from theories and practices of physics, and when psychical phenomena posed some interesting puzzles for physics to solve. My book also gives us hope that future encounters may not be as antagonistic as we might expect. It’s a hope that is confirmed by what I’ve read in the parapsychological literature over the past few decades and what I’ve learned from talking to physicists such as Bernard Carr. I also hope that like all works of history mine challenges many assumptions about the past and the present, and in particular encourages a more open-minded view of scientific enquiry. We often hear that associations between physics and anything psychical, occult, etc., threaten physics, but not all physicists in the past have accepted this and maybe my book will encourage more of the current and future generations to follow suit.

*  *  * *  *

Here is a video of an interview about Physics and Psychics.

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

Christine Simmonds-Moore has published an interesting article entittled “Synesthesia and the Perception of Unseen Realities” (Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2020, DOI: 10.1177/0022167820918691; available here).

In Interview with Christine Simmonds-Moore, Ph.D. - YouTube

Christine Simmonds-Moore

Here is the abstract:

“Exceptional experiences (ExE) incorporate a range of phenomena including subjective paranormal and transpersonal experiences. Synesthesia and synesthetic experiences are discussed as important variables in understanding the etiologies of ExE. The neural and psychological correlates of synesthetic experiences (associated with hyperconnectivity) are discussed in relation to ExE. It is argued that synesthetic processes enable both the detection and conscious perception of information from a range of sources that are usually unseen or inaccessible, including abstract, unlanguaged, preconscious, and potentially other nonlocal sources.”

She concludes:

“In summary, ExE might be understood as complicated synesthesias, which are composed of a unified inducer and a concurrent experience, lending qualia to experiences that are usually not experiencable. This may occur among those who experience synesthesia consistently and among those who are anomaly prone and experience synesthesia due to changes in the system (e.g., neural unmasking and neural plasticity via inhibitory processes that result from alterations in consciousness). Synesthetic processes may provide a concrete label for preconscious processing of internal and external sources of information that emerge via stronger interactions with qualia-rich areas of the brain (e.g., colors or forms). In turn, there is a more tangible or concrete code or usually unseen information, which may be misinterpreted as paranormal and have a mundane origin, or reflect genuine access to nonlocal or spiritual information. More research is needed to further explore how and when the synesthesias are implicated in different types of ExE.”

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

This is the third part of a series of blogs designed to provide online reading materials about the old psychical research literature. I hope readers find it interesting, particularly in these days of social isolation due to the virus going around the world.

Here I would like to focus on reading material about the celebrated mental medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). Although there are discussions about her mediumship in recent publications, an example being Michael Tymn’s Resurrecting Leonora Piper (Guildford: White Crow Books, 2013; see also my blog), here I focus on online freely available publications coming from the late nineteenth century to 1929.

Mrs. Piper in Different Stages of Her Life

Leonora Piper 2

Leonora Piper 4

Leonora E. Piper

Leonora Piper 3

Michel Sage’s Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research (New York: Scott-Thaw, 1904) is a good general introduction to Mrs. Piper. The author wrote in the first chapter: “Mrs Piper’s mediumship is one of the most perfect which has ever been discovered. In any case, it is the one which has been the most perseveringly, lengthily and carefully studied by highly competent men. Members of the Society for Psychical Research have studied the phenomena presented by Mrs Piper during fifteen consecutive years. They have taken all the precautions necessitated by the strangeness of the case, the circumstances, and the surrounding scepticism; they have faced and minutely weighed all hypotheses. In future the most orthodox psychologists will be unable to ignore these phenomena when constructing their systems; they will be compelled to examine them and find an explanation for them, which their preconceived ideas will sometimes render it difficult to do” (pp. 1-2).

An interesting biography by the medium’s daughter is Alta L. Piper’s The Life and Work of Mrs. Piper (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1929). Summaries of research with the medium can be found in: Henry Holt’s On the Cosmic Relations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919, Vol 1, Vol. 2); James H. Hyslop, Science and a Future Life (Boston: Herbert B. Turner, 1905); and Oliver J. Lodge’s The Survival of Man (New York: George H. Dorran, 1920, 2nd ed.).

Piper Life and Work of Mrs. Piper

The first research report with Mrs. Piper was William James’ “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena” (Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1886, 1, 102–106). This was followed by James’ “A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance (5). Part III (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 651–659), and “Report on Mrs. Piper’s Hodgson-Control” (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 23, 2–121). In his 1890 paper James stated “taking everything that I know of Mrs. P. into account, the result is to make me feel as absolutely certain as I am of any personal fact in the world that she knows things in her trances which she cannot possibly have heard in her waking state, and that the definitive philosophy of her trances is yet to be found” (pp. 658–659).

William James

William James

Other important research reports included:

Hodgson, R. (1892). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 8, 1-167.

Hodgson, R. (1898). A further record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 13, 284-582.

Richard Hodgson

Richard Hodgson

Hyslop, J.H. (1901). A further record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 16, 1-649.

Leaf, W. (1890). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance (3). Part II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 558-646.

Lodge, O. (1890). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance (2). Part I. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 443-557.

Oliver Lodge younger

Oliver J. Lodge

Tanner, A.E. (1910). Studies in Spiritism. New York: D. Appleton.

The last study, by Amy Tanner, was a skeptical one in which she argued that the communicators were purely psychologically created secondary personalities and that the rest was explained as being due “to a heightened suggestibility to involuntary betrayals of the sitter, with a modicum of guessing, fishing, and inference” (p. 310).

Another study, a massive review of the literature about Mrs. Piper authored by Eleanor M. Sidgwick, also took a psychological view of Piper’s mediumistic communicators (“A Contribution to the Study of the Psychology of Mrs. Piper’s Trance Phenomena.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1915, 28, 1–657). However, she believed the medium produced veridical communications. Sidgwick wrote: “I think it is probably a state of self-induced hypnosis in which her hypnotic self personates different characters either consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously and believing herself to be the person she represents, and sometimes probably in a state of consciousness intermediate between the two. In the trance state her normal powers transcend in some directions those of her ordinary waking self . . . . And further what makes her case of great importance she can obtain, imperfectly and for the most part fragmentarily, telepathic impressions” (p. 330).

Eleanor Sidgwick 2

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

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This is by no means a complete bibliography about Mrs. Piper. But I hope it will facilitate the study of this important and fascinating medium.

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

Because we are still practicing social isolation due to the virus problem, I am presenting more links to books from the old psychical research literature in case you need reading material.

I hope you find them interesting.

Hereward Carrington (1919). Modern Psychical Phenomena. New York: Dodd, Mead.


Hereward Carrington

Théodore Flournoy (1911). Spiritism and Psychology. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

James H. Hyslop (1919). Contact with the Other World. New York: Century.

James H. Hyslop

James H. Hyslop

Cesare Lombroso (1909). After Death–What? Boston: Small, Maynard.

Cesare Lombroso 3

Cesare Lombroso

Joseph Maxwell (1905). Metapsychical Phenomena. London: Duckworth.

Joseph Maxwell profile 1895

Joseph Maxwell in profile (with Albert de Rochas, in seance with medium Eusapia Palladino)

Frank Podmore (1894). Apparitions and Thought-Transference. London: Walter Scott.

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

A. von Schrenck-Notzing (1920). Phenomena of Materialisation. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner.

Albert von Schrenck Notzing

Albert F. von Schrenck-Notzing

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

Many of us are not going out much due to the virus crisis. Recently someone told me in an email that they are bored at home. With that in mind, now is a good time to catch up with the old psychic literature.

Because my main interest is the history of parapsychology, I would like to present some reading suggestions about important books published before 1923 freely available online that I hope you will enjoy.

I will start with some general overview books published in English, and will cover other titles in future blogs.

Barrett, W. F. (1911). Psychical research. New York: Holt.


William F. Barrett

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Barrett, W.F. (1917). On the threshold of the unseen (2nd rev. ed.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.

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Joire, P. (1916). Psychical and supernormal phenomena. London: Rider.

Paul Joire

Paul Joire

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Kingsford, S.M. (1920). Psychical research for the plain man. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.

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Lambert, H.C. (1928). General survey of psychic phenomena. New York: The Knickerbocker Press.

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Podmore, F. (1897). Studies in psychical research. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

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Podmore, F. (1908). The naturalisation of the supernatural. New York: G.P. Putnam‘s Sons.

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Richet, C. (1923). Thirty years of psychical research. New York: Macmillan.

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

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 Wright, G.E. (1920). Practical views on psychic phenomena. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe.

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

Here is a pioneering investigation of pagan spell casting:

Sonnex, C., Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E.C. (2020). Testing the Pagan Prescription: Using a Randomised Controlled Trial to Investigate Pagan Spell Casting as a Form of Noncontact Healing. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26, 219-225. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0279


Objectives: This research investigates the healing practices of modern Paganism using a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). Paganism is a burgeoning belief system in the UK within which healing is a key aspect. However, Pagan spellcasting practices have received little attention from distance healing researchers. This study aims to address this gap in the literature.

Design: This study utilised a randomised, double blind, delayed intervention design.

Settings/location: Research took place at the University of Northampton.

Subjects: 44 Participants (30 female, 14 male) were recruited using snowball sampling (mean age = 24.30; range = 18-55).

Procedure: Participants were randomly allocated to either Group A or B. Participants made written requests to the practitioner about changes they would like to see in their lives and provided a photograph and personal item to be used during the intervention. Participants attended meetings once a week during which they would take part in a guided body scan meditation before completing a quality of life measure. Healing practices were conducted for Group A between weeks one and two and for Group B between weeks two and three.

Outcome measure: Wellbeing was measured using the 26-item WHOQOL-BREF.

Results: MANOVA analysis showed a significant, positive change in general health from week one to week four (F = 4.02, p = .025, eta2 = .149). Separate ANOVAs of the four WHOQOL domains showed significant improvements across the study in the Physical and Psychological domains only, there was no significant group difference on any of the outcomes.

Conclusion: All participants showed an increase in health and wellbeing domains directly related to their spell requests. However, there are no group differences to suggest that the spell casting intervention was responsible.