Eyeless Sight
The ability to see without using the eyes, also known as
paroptic vision, dermo-optical perception (DOP), hyperesthesia,
synesthesia, cutaneous vision (skin vision), extraretinal vision,
and biointroscopy. The term eyeless sight was first popularized
through the English translation of a book by the famous
French author Jules Romains (Louis Farigoule) titled Vision
Extra-Rétinienne (1920), which detailed Romains’s research in
developing the extraordinary and little-known faculty of seeing
without the use of the eyes. The book was not well received,
however, and was ridiculed by his colleagues. Refused access to
subjects for further experiments, Romains abandoned his scientific
research, turned his attention to the literary arts, and
went on to become a world-famous poet, dramatist, and novelist.
Prior to Romains’s book there had been scattered references
to eyeless sight from the seventeenth century on. British scientist
Robert Boyle referred to a doctor’s report about a blind
man who could distinguish colors by touch. In the eighteenth
century, Jonathan Swift included a strange reference in Gulliver’s
Travels (1726) to a blind man who could distinguish paint
colors by feeling and smelling. Throughout the nineteenth century
there were occasional medical accounts of transposition of
sight to different areas of the body.
Ten years after publication of Romains’s book, Manuel
Shaves of S˜ao Paulo, Brazil, tested four hundred blind patients
and reported that about a dozen of them seemed to have the
faculty of ‘‘skin vision,’’ some being able to distinguish colors.
During the 1930s a Kashmiri fire-walking performer named
Kuda Bux demonstrated what was claimed to be eyeless sight
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Eyeless Sight
before a distinguished medical panel. Although heavily blindfolded,
with lumps of dough over his eyes, and with metal foil,
woollen bandages, and layers of gauze, Bux had no difficulty
reading from books. He gave a similar demonstration in Montreal,
Canada, in 1938, and in 1945 during a U.S. tour he rode
a bicycle through Times Square, New York, while heavily blindfolded.
However, much doubt has arisen concerning Kuda
Bux’s performances owing to claims such as those of stage magician
Milbourne Christopher, who suggested there were defects
in the blindfolding.
In 1963 Russian scientist I. M. Gol’dberg reported his experiments
with Rosa Kuleshova in an article in Soviet Psychology
and Psychiatry. During the previous September, Gol’dberg had
demonstrated Kuleshova’s ability to read ordinary printed text
with the fingers of her right hand when normal vision was completely
excluded. Rosa could also determine color tones on
paper and objects. The term dermo-optical perception became
After publication of the experiments with Kuleshova, Richard
P. Youtz, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University,
New York, experimented with a Mrs. P. Stanley, a 42-
year-old housewife. Youtz concluded that color sensing
through the fingertips was a real phenomenon and believed
that some 10 percent of a female college population tested by
him had the ability in rudimentary form.
Even before the reports on Kuleshova, an April 1965 story
from the Associated Press reported that Vichit Sukhakarn of
Bangkok was teaching blind people to see by hypnosis. Sukhakarn
claimed that if volunteers concentrated deeply on the
thought of ‘‘seeing through the cheeks,’’ the nerve endings of
the skin became so sensitive that impulses were transmitted to
the brain and converted into visual images. Some of his blind
subjects were reported able to ‘‘read’’ a newspaper or ‘‘watch’’
a movie with their cheeks. He opened an institution for blind
children in Thailand and found 8- to 14-year-old subjects very
susceptible to training. His findings were in line with Romains’s
experiments suggesting that some light hypnotic or suggestible
factor assisted the development of eyeless sight.
In 1966 Yvonne Duplessis at the Centre D’Eclairagisme
began reviving French research into eyeless sight with the aid
of a grant from the Parapsychology Foundation. Duplessis
trained blind volunteers to ‘‘see’’ objects both at a distance
(paroptic perception) and by touch (dermo-optical perception).
Volunteers also developed the faculty to distinguish colors
by eyeless sight, which some investigators believe is capable
of development mainly through use of the fingers, cheeks, or
epigastric region, all sensitive skin areas. The faculty seems facilitated
by light hypnotic suggestion.
The research of Duplessis was presented in a paper at the
First International Conference on Psychotronics, held at
Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1974. At the conference, a small research
group from Poland, headed by Lech Stefanski (founder
of the International Section on Parapsychology), reported similar
experiments. Although there have been counterreports suggesting
that such results were obtained because of imperfect
control or cheating, the significant number of positive results
has encouraged some parapsychological researchers. (See also
Stomach, Seeing with the)
Duplessis, Yvonne. ‘‘Dermo-optical Sensitivity and Perception.’’
International Journal of Biosocial Research 7, no. 2 (1985).
Goldberg, I. M. ‘‘On Whether Tactile Sensitivity Can be Improved
by Exercise.’’ Soviet Psychology and Psychiatry 2, no. 1
Romains, Jules [Louis Farigoule]. Vision Extra-Rétinienne.
1920. Translated by C. K. Ogden as Eyeless Sight A Study of
Extra-Retinal Vision and the Paroptic Sense. New York G. P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1924. Reprint, New York Citadel Press, 1978.