In a 2010 study by Wilson et al., researchers actually had participants perform over 15 sessions of séances. Their goal was to see if table lifting or floating would occur (Psychokinesis). Researchers were also interested in whether or not random number generators (RNG) would be affected by the séance sessions to produce non-random number series. Several meters and devices were also used during one session to examine changes in light and electromagnetic fields (EMF).
The researchers found that while RNG generators were not affected, but there were several instances of bizarre table behavior. In two instances the table appeared to move around on its own. In other sessions, the table tilted on two legs. In many of the sessions, rapping noises and knocks were heard. The researchers make no definitive claims that these events were faked, but do not claim that the movement was factual Psychokinesis.
In the session where light and electromagnetic fields were measured, there was a noticeable drop in infrared light (which is invisible to the human eye). Visual light also dropped to a noticeable level. Finally, equipment detected a noticeable increase of DC electromagnetic fields in the séance area, without any electronics or alternate sources that could account for the increase in field strength.
Fact or Fiction? You decide.
Wilson, M., Williams, B., Hart, T., & Roll, W. (2010). The Daniel experiment: Sitter group contributions with field RNG and MESA environmental recordings. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 24, 611-636.
Auton, Pope, and Seeger (2003) conducted a study to determine if personality traits would be predictive of paranormal beliefs. Previous studies had shown two different results, one possible link between paranormal beliefs as a predictor of psychopathology, and another that did not show psychopathology predictor but another way of fulfilling one’s underlying needs. Authors of this study wanted to look more closely at personality traits and whether they had an influence on paranormal beliefs.
Participants were asked to complete questionnaires such as the Personality Research Form, Anomalous Experience Inventory, and the Paranormal Belief Scale. The Paranormal Belief Scale was used to measure the participant’s belief in higher or lower degrees of belief in the paranormal.
Results revealed a significant difference on four of the PRF scales: Abasement, Aggression, Dependence, and Sentience, but overall, the findings were not strong enough to show a relationship between bad personality traits and high or low degrees of paranormal beliefs. Paranormal beliefs were not indicative of a presence in predicting psychopathology in this study.
Auton, H. R., Pope, J., and Seeger, G. 2003. It Isn’t that Strange: Paranormal Belief and
Personality Traits. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(7), 711-720.
It’s not commonly known, but parapsychology receives a lot of criticism from mainstream science. Although most of this criticism is often unfounded, parapsychology has taken its reputation of scientific accuracy very seriously. Baptista and Derakhshani do just that. One of the common criticisms of ESP research is what is called the “file drawer effect”. Essentially this claim is that non-significant ESP studies never get published, thus, the studies available on ESP are cherry picked. Baptista and Derakhshani show that unpublished studies in ESP canceling out published studies is very very unlikely.
Other criticisms involve the mathematical power used in studies of ESP. These researchers show that the mathematical power of ESP studies are actually higher than those used in many mainstream scientific fields. Baptista and Derakhshani also show that declines in ESP findings are being replaced with more recent studies showing consistent ESP effects.
What should you the reader conclude about ESP and parapsychology? Every science has its weaknesses, and parapsychology is no exception. However, critics and skeptics time and time again have failed to invalidate the findings of this controversial science. Parapsychology, as an underdog, has taken great lengths to use scientific methods that are often more stringent than mainstream science. Unfortunately, unpopular in science sometimes means unfair criticism in science. Beliefs can influence the most reasonable of people. Scientists are no exception.
Baptista, J., & Derakhshani, M (2014). Beyond the coin toss: Examining Wiseman’s criticisms of parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 56-79.
Roe and Morgan (2002) wanted to study if there was a relationship between narcissism and the belief in the paranormal. Students from Northampton University were recruited to complete questionnaires such as the Australian Sheep-Goat Scale which is an 18-item scale that asks about belief in and experience of phenomena such as extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. The Tobacyk’s Paranormal Belief Scale which is a 26-item scale, that asks questions about a participant’s belief in the paranormal phenomena such as levitation, the survival of bodily death and the belief in witchcraft. And finally, The Narcissistic Personality Inventory scale which consists of 54-items that measure a participant’s level of narcissism.
Results showed that in regards to Tobacyk’s Paranormal Belief Scale and narcissism, there was no significant difference found. The Australian Sheep-Goat Scale did show a significant difference with those participants scoring higher on the narcissism measure meaning that those who scored higher showed a more belief in paranormal phenomena that those that scored lower on narcissism. Those that scored higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory may be more likely to express a belief in, or experience paranormal phenomena that would serve to raise their personal status rather than that of others around them.
In conclusion, the findings that narcissism maybe related to paranormal belief in a more narrow form gives some suggestion that paranormal beliefs in some participants, may be associated with a need for control.
Roe, C. A., and Morgan, C. L. 2002. Narcissism and Belief in the Paranormal. Psychological
William Roll had an opportunity to speak with Dr. A. R. G. Owen, a recent researcher to the Poltergeist phenomena in 1964. While on vacation from Cambridge, Owen investigated a case in Sauchie Scotland. A somewhat famous case to this day, Owen had the opportunity to interview multiple witnesses over a period of 10 days. The events took place during 1960, and focused around one Virginia Campbell and started with a series of “thunking” noises that would only stop when Virginia went to sleep.
According to first-person accounts, the minister of Sauchie witnessed several disturbing phenomena. First, Rev. Lund investigated the knocking, which came from all manner of places, and could find no explanation for their occurrence. More shockingly, Lund witnessed a large linen chest levitate approximately 18 inches off the floor, move towards the bedroom and then replace itself in its original position! As if this were not enough to make the average American think of the movie the Exorcist, Lund witnessed Virgina’s pillow rotate 60 degrees with her head on it. Her hands were away from the pillow at the time.
The family physician Dr. Nisbet, confirmed Lund’s experiences, witnessing the linen chest open and close several times, as well as move on its own accord. He also saw the pillow under Virgina’s head move and ripple several times. This was confirmed with Dr. Nisbet’s colleague Dr. Logan, who also witnessed the events.
It is also interesting that the activity with Virginia followed her to her school. Her teacher noted her desk opening and closing of its own volition. Her teacher also noted a nearby desk levitate approximately one inch, and her own desk move on its own. Virgina’s teacher noted that in all cases, Virgina was either trying to hold her desk down or in the other cases, was not touching either of the desks that moved or floated.
Take home message: Avoid schools and linen chests.
Roll, W. (1972).The poltergeist. New York, Doubleday.
Agorastos, Metscher, Huber, Jelinek, Vitzhum, Muhtz, Kellner and Moritz (2012) conducted a study that investigated the differences in Religiosity/Spirituality and the belief in magical/paranormal ideation among people who suffer from anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Researchers wanted to do a parallel comparison study between religiosity/spirituality, magical, and paranormal beliefs between two groups of healthy and those who suffered from AD, and OCD. Inpatient subjects who had a principal diagnosis of OCD or another type of AD were recruited for this study. Subjects for the control group were recruited from a variety of sources such as outreach community workers, clinical staff, and students.
Results showed no significant differences between OCD, AD, and outpatient groups in regards to all magical ideation and paranormal beliefs. There was no significant difference between the OCD and AD subjects as well. Subscales were analyzed and found a significant difference among the three groups negatively in regards to religious beliefs and religious coping. Results in the Healthy Group and Non-Healthy Groups showed healthy subjects had lower scores in negative religious coping than those who were in the non-healthy group. There was no significant differences between healthy and unhealthy groups in this study. Paranormal belief scores showed no significant differences. Thus paranormal beliefs are not related to either OCD or AD.
Agorastos, A. Metscher, T. Huber, C.G. Jelinek, L. Vitzthum, F. Muhtz, C. Kellner, M. and Moritz, S. (2012). Religiosity, Magical Ideation, and Paranormal Beliefs in Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:A Cross-Sectional Study. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200, (10), 876-884.
In the world of parapsychology, Poltergeists are considered a different breed of haunting than what you traditionally see in T.V. shows. German for “noisy spirit/ghost”, a poltergeist is believed by parapsychologists to be the unconscious psychic action of someone living in the home. Whereas many would attribute objects moving and noises to spirits or ghosts, Poltergeists often center their activity around a young girl or boy, and often around the age of puberty.
Unlike hauntings, which often continue in a location for years, a Poltergeist is more of a temporary episode, often not occurring for more than a few months. William Roll, the foremost expert on the phenomena, has always believed that these ghostly episodes were the result of teenagers with repressed emotions. These emotions then manifest in psychic episodes of objects moving, breaking, or physical attacks on family members.
Is Dr. Roll right? Are Poltergeists really just psychic activity, as opposed to spirits or ghosts? If you don’t immediately dismiss his meticulous investigation of these accounts, the theory is sound. It is important to note that poltergeists do not account for all haunting accounts, just ones where activity appears to center around a single member of the family. And unfortunately, research on haunt phenomena is lacking, and worse, poltergeist cases have been rapidly diminishing in the last few decades. ISRAE specializes in this type of haunting research, so if we discover more about hauntings or poltergeists, we promise we’ll let you know about it.
Roll, W. (1972).The poltergeist. New York, Doubleday.
Laubach (2004) studied the social influence of Psychism. His hypothesis was that other social influences in religious practices that were privately held would result in higher frequencies of psychism. In reverse, higher frequencies of psychism would result in higher degrees of religious engagement. Finally, Psychism would have no effect on the beliefs that reflect religious identity.
Data was pulled from the 1988 General Social Survey, which is a large national survey of American noninstitutionalized adults that has been collected since 1972 used to measure mysticism. This scale measured ESP Extrasensory Perception, Spirit contact, Clairvoyance, and Mystical Experience. A subset scale of the 1988 survey included a module on religious beliefs and practices.
Results indicated that there was no significant difference between religious identity and psychism. Those who engaged in private religious practices did have a higher degree in psychism. The hypothesis in reverse was not supported. Higher degrees of psychism did not result in higher frequencies in religious involvement.
Laubach, M. (2004). The Social Effects of Psychism: Spiritual Experience and the Construction of Privatized Religion. Sociology of Religion 65(3). 239-263.
The year was 1962, and the newspaper reported “Mysterious bat like bites” that had appeared on arms of a thirteen-year-old girl, her mom, and her grandmother. Amidst these bites, objects and movements appeared to be moving and breaking on their own. During interviews with Dr. Roll, the mother reported a cup flew across the room and broke against the wall ten feet away!
The grandmother in all reported 14 episodes of punctures on her body, ranging from one to fourteen punctures at a time. The majority of attacks focused on her. Roll was present for some but not all of the occurrences. Roll was never able to put the Grandmother in controlled conditions and thus was unable to rule out fraud.
Just as Roll was about to leave the case, rapping and knocking started manifesting in the house. With help of colleague Dr. Blumenthol, knocking and rapping occurred while watching the inhabitants of the house directly. Roll found no one inside or outside the house that were likely producers of the noises. At one point, Blumenthol held the Grandmother’s hands, just to be sure the knocks were not fraud.
If this wasn’t enough, Roll in all logged 110 incidents in all! 76 incidents of objects moving or breaking, 25 incidents of knocks, and 14 episodes of biting. Despite rational explanations for some of the phenomena, others failed to be debunked according to Roll.
Roll, W. (1972).The poltergeist. New York, Doubleday.
Markovsky and Thye (2001) took a look at social impact theory and the belief in the paranormal. These researchers wanted to determine if paranormal beliefs were transmitted from person to person. Social impact theory is based on a variety of changes in physiological states, and how subjective feelings, a person’s motives, emotions, cognitive beliefs, values, and behavior occur in a person., Any behavior could be a result of a real, implied or imaginative presence or actions of another person. In other words, could one person’s belief in the paranormal transmit to another person based on the previous group or persons belief or experience?
Pyramidology is the belief that a pyramid would preserve, give energy, or cure anything that is placed inside it or below it. Researchers took a pyramid and a pair of bananas. The experimenter had given instructions to the subjects that included a review of “evidence” that the pyramid had special powers in preserving anything inside it, just like the pharaohs bodies that had been found entombed in Egypt. Participants were then asked to answer questions in regards to the look, feel, and freshness of the banana. During the second part of the experiment, the researchers did not talk about the power of the pyramid.
Results showed that those that had been told about the pyramid’s powers rated the bananas higher in freshness and preservation. Those participants that were not told rated the bananas lower in freshness, look, feel and was a difference of five points on a fifteen point scale. The hypothesis about social impact theory was accepted due to the paranormal pyramid power “evidence” did show a difference in how participants rated the condition of the banana.
Markovsky, B. and Thye, S., R. 2001. Social Influence on Paranormal Beliefs. Sociological Perspectives, 44(1), 21-44.