Batcheldor, Kenneth J. (1921–1988)
British psychical researcher who specialized in the study of
psychokinesis, or PK (the ability to move objects by means of
mental concentration). He made a great contribution to identifying
the conditions under which such phenomena are most
likely to occur.
Before his detailed investigations, he had been a principal
clinical psychologist for a group of hospitals in Devon, United
Kingdom. At a social occasion in 1964, after a guest had told
ghost stories, Batcheldor suggested the group ‘‘[have] a go at
tabletipping just for fun.’’ Although there were no perceptible
unusual phenomena, a sitting at a later date was marked by a
loud noise. During a subsequent séance in darkness, the table
rose from the floor, apparently of its own volition. Batcheldor
was sufficiently intrigued to continue experimental sittings in
an attempt to explain the phenomenon. In 1976 he took early
retirement and spent more time in the systematic study of what
has become known as ‘‘macro-PK.’’ He was assisted by fellow researcher
Coin Brooked-Smith and other friends. He published
some valuable papers on the subject, supported by the papers
of Coin Brooked-Smith.
Batcheldor was fully aware of the difference between unconscious
muscular activity and paranormal movement of a table,
and of the part played by belief and a nonskeptical state of
mind in facilitating the production of genuine phenomena. He
stated
‘‘There’s something about table-tipping that enables a
group of ordinary people to succeed in generating PK without
even trying, provided they are reasonably open-minded. It is
this—in most cases the table will start to move due to unconscious
muscular activity. This can give an amazing illusion that
the table is moving of its own accord as if animated by some
mysterious force. You get the impression you are already succeeding
in generating paranormal movements. This has precisely
the same impact on you as real success would have—it
sweeps your doubts aside and produces total faith.’’
Such faith, he believed, was an essential factor in producing
general PK effects. Other researchers have from time to time
also discovered that rigid objectivity and skepticism are barriers
to producing PK phenomena. The problems of possible
fraud and repeatability under controlled conditions remain
difficult for researchers.
According to Batcheldor, in a letter to Guy Lyon Playfair in
1966, ‘‘It is as if the universe allows psi to occur, now and then,
quite easily and quickly provided the circumstances are such
that it is accidental and not under conscious control. Perhaps
if things were otherwise, reality would be too unstable.’’ Playfair
took part in a number of Batcheldor’s investigations, and in an
obituary for his friend (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,
vol. 55, July 1988) states, ‘‘It could even be argued that
PK takes place only under conditions that make its verification
impossible. . . . However, some of Ken’s evidence is very compelling,
especially the videotaped episodes in which the table
can be seen moving in ways that do not appear normal. . . .’’
Batcheldor died March 6, 1988. His paper ‘‘Notes on the
Elusiveness Problem in Relation to a Radical View of Paranormality’’
(compiled, edited, and with a preface by Patrick V.
Giesler) was published posthumously in the Journal of the
American Society for Psychical Research. Batcheldor did much
to encourage the production and investigation of PK phenomena
among various groups and identified the conditions under
which such phenomena could more readily occur.
Sources
Batcheldor, Kenneth. ‘‘Contributions to the Theory of PK
Induction from Sitter-Group Work.’’ Journal of the American
Society for Psychical Research 78 (1984).
———. ‘‘Notes on the Elusiveness Problem in Relation to a
Radical View of Paranormality.’’ Journal of the American Society
for Psychical Research 88 (April 1994).
———. ‘‘Report on a Case of Table-Levitation and Associated
Phenomena.’’ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
43 (1966).
Batcheldor, Kenneth, and D. W. Hunt. ‘‘Some Experiments
in Psychokinesis.’’ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
43 (1966).
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Brooked-Smith, Coin. ‘‘Data-tape Recorded Experimental
PK Phenomena.’’ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
47 (1973).

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