An experimental ghost created by Iris M. Owen and members
of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research, Canada,
who wanted to test the connections between living individuals
and paranormal phenomena. In the past, many psychical researchers
have hypothesized that the entities manifesting at séPhilalethes
(or Philaletha), Eirenaeus Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
ances may be artificial personalities created by the unconscious
attitudes of the sitters. Many spirit guides and spirits have
been self-evidently synthetic and illusory entities, although acceptance
of them as real personalities often favorably influences
In September 1972, the Toronto experimenters began meditating
on Philip, a deliberately created ghost with a personal
history, idiosyncratic characteristics, and even an appearance
consciously worked out by the group. The eight members of the
group other than Owen (a former nurse) were Margaret Sparrow
(former chairman of MENSA in Canada, an organization
of individuals with high IQs), Andy H. (housewife), Lorne H.
(industrial designer, husband of Andy H.), Al P. (heating engineer),
Bernice M. (accountant), Dorothy OD. (housewife and
bookkeeper), and Sidney K. (sociology student). At times A. R.
G. Owen (mathematician and Iris Owens husband) or Joel
Whitton (a psychologist) attended meetings as an observer.
After nearly a year without significant results, the group
changed their method of sitting to conform with that of a traditional
nineteenth-century Spiritualist séance, in which participants
were seated around a table and sang or talked to enhance
the atmosphere. This approach embodied the suggestions of
British psychologist Kenneth Batcheldor, who claimed that
skepticism inhibited paranormal phenomena but that the conventional
form of a séance tended to dispel skepticism and provide
an atmosphere in which paranormal phenomena seemed
Within only a few weeks, the group elicited raps from the
table and communications from Philip on conventional yesno
lines. On one occasion this phenomenon was successfully
demonstrated before a live audience of fifty individuals for a
videotaped TV show. In addition, there have been instances of
noises from various parts of the room, a light blinking, and an
apparent levitation of the table.
The results attained by the group have provided insight on
the nature of spirit personality, the phenomena of the poltergeist,
hauntings, and the claims of Spiritualism.
Owen, Iris M., and Margaret Sparrow. Conjuring up Philip.
New York Harper & Row, 1976.