Crawford, William Jackson (1881–1920)
Engineering professor at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland,
and researcher in psychic phenomena. Crawford was
born in New Zealand. He received his doctorate from the University
of Glasgow. He resided in Belfast when around 1914 he
began to investigate the physical phenomena of Kathleen
Goligher and the group around her, known as the Goligher
Circle. His investigation continued until his death in 1920.
From his research, he developed a set of speculations on the
scientific laws behind the phenomenon of telekinesis (now
known as psychokinesis or ‘‘PK’’), which he presented in his
books, The Reality of Psychic Phenomena (1916), Experiment in Psychic
Science (1919), and The Psychic Structures in the Goligher Circle
(1921). During his research, he converted to Spiritualism,
though his theories played down the role of spirits in favor of
a psychic force.
Crawford first tackled the problem of the alteration of
weight as objects were lifted and displaced. He found that the
weight of the levitated table was beared by the medium. Her
increase in weight was usually well within five percent of that
of the table. The difference was beared by the sitters. Similarly,
if the table was glued down to the floor by the psychic force, the
medium’s weight decreased in proportion to the pressure
borne by the floor. The levitation itself was effected, he reasoned,
by an invisible substance that streamed out of the medium’s
body and became more or less solidified into what he
called ‘‘psychic rods.’’ These rods, which consisted of ectoplasm,
found leverage in the medium’s body and acted as cantilevers.
If the weight to be lifted was too big, an elbow formation,
transferring the pressure to the floor, was used. These
psychic rods evolved with great rapidity and they could assume
any shape and size. They were invisible but the ends were dense
enough to be felt. This psychic substance according to Crawford,
could rap, grip an object by suction, and perform delicate
mechanical effects. If Crawford passed his hand in front of the
medium’s ankle, he could intercept the psychic rod and stop
the raps. In so doing, he said, he felt something cold and clammy.
Putting the medium on a weighing machine he measured
the amount of substance withdrawn for raps of varying loudness.
The raps reacted on the medium’s body, apparently in the
region of the chest, but she was unconscious of the effect. He
found that the withdrawal of ectoplasm was but a temporary
loss. The medium, at the end of the séance, lost less in weight
and was less exhausted than the sitters.
Crawford concluded from this that the psychic force that vitalizes
the ectoplasm is drawn mostly from the sitters and used
up. The sitters lost between five and ten ounces of weight. The
maximum loss of weight, when ectoplasm was experimentally
withdrawn in fluxes from the medium, was 54 pounds, nearly
half of her normal weight. At the same time, the medium perceptibly
shrank, her pulse gradually rose, and her muscles convulsed.
The flow of ectoplasm could carry particles of paint. By a
colored track Crawford traced the flow from the ankles up to
the hip and to the base of the spine. Powdered carmine was
used for this purpose. When it was placed on the knickers, the
track extended to the shoes and upward to the lower part of the
trunk. This showed that the flow started from her trunk, passed
down her feet, and returned. The fabric of her knickers and
stockings was abraded in places. Crawford inferred that some
frictional resistance was encountered. He also found that it was
not the ectoplasm, but the medium which suffered from sudden
exposures to light. By shielding her with black cloth he obtained
many good flashlight photographs.
Crawford’s conclusions were challenged by E. E. Fournier
d’Albe in his book The Goligher Circle (1922). In 20 sittings with
the same medium he obtained almost no results. He expressed
the belief that the levitations recorded by Crawford were accomplished
by the medium’s legs.
Crawford committed suicide on July 30, 1920. Four days before
his death he wrote, ‘‘I have been struck down mentally. I
was perfectly all right up to a few weeks ago. It is not the psychic
work. I enjoyed it too well. I am thankful to say that the work
will stand. It is too thoroughly done for any material loopholes
to be left.’’
In this belief Crawford relied in part upon the opinion of
colleagues such as Sir William Barrett, who wrote on March
24, 1917, ‘‘I can testify to the genuineness and amazing character
of these physical manifestations and also to the patient care
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Crawford, William Jackson
and skill which have characterized Crawford’s long and laborious
Barham, A. ‘‘Dr. W. J. Crawford His Work and Legacy in
Psychokinesis.’’ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 55
(1988) 113.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Crawford, E. F. Experiment in Psychic Science. N.p., 1919.
———. The Psychic Structures in the Goligher Circle. New York
E. P. Dutton & Co., 1921.
———. The Reality of Psychic Phenomena. London J. M. Watkins,

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