Movement (Paranormal)
Paranormal movement has been given various names,
among them, parakinesis, which refers to movement with some
contact but not enough to explain the motion. Movement without
perceptible contact is called telekinesis. It was a frequently
reported séance-room phenomenon during the first century of
Spiritualism. Telekinesis, in its apparent simplicity, is the most
important, and Spiritualists have hypothesized that an invisible
intelligence performs complicated operations and exercises a
directive influence over mysteriously generated and frequently
tremendous forces. Popularly called ‘‘mind over matter,’’ the
generally accepted modern term for paranormal movement is
psychokinesis or ‘‘PK.’’ This term includes the claimed phenomenon
of paranormal metal bending.
In the heyday of psychical research, through the 1930s,
physical phenomena in the séance was a major focus. It was
among the most controversial of phenomena, the object of severe
debate, resolved only after numerous mediums were
caught in fraud and the mechanics of that fraud delineated in
detail. Such fraud centered upon the production of materializations
but included apports and various extraordinary movements.
PK continues as an element of parapsychology and the
reported production of such has periodically excited researchers.
However, the continued discovery of fraudulent activity by
individuals claiming psychic abilities requires constant vigilance,
as the 1984 confession of prominent Japanese metal
bender Masuaki Kiyota to trickery amply demonstrated. The
presence of fraud (widespread in Spiritualism) by no means explains
physical phenomena, but, it raises the standards any
phenomena must pass before it moves from the status of séance-room
folklore to established fact.
Shaking of the House
In its initial stage in the séance room, physical movement
phenomena commonly begin with the vibration of objects by
the sitters; the séance table, upon which sitters have placed
their hands, begins to tremble, shake, or jerk. This motion is
not always restricted to the table; it may spread over the entire
room.
P. P. Alexander, in Spiritualism A Narrative with a Discussion
(1871), writes of a séance with the medium D. D. Home in
Edinburgh ‘‘The first hint or foreshine we had of the phenomena
came in the form of certain tremors which began to pervade
the apartment. These were of a somewhat peculiar kind;
and they gradually increased till they became of considerable
violence. Not only did the floor tremble, but the chair of each
person, as distinct from it, was felt to rock and—as we Scots
say—dirl under him.’’
Rev. Maurice Davies in the Daily Telegraph and a Dr. Gully
in the Morning Star describe the trembling of the floor during
Home’s levitation as reminding them of an earthquake. In a
similar record, Lord Adare, author of Experiences in Spiritualism
with D. D. Home (1870), states ‘‘We soon felt violent vibration
of the floor, chairs and table—so violent that the glass pendants
of the chandelier struck together, and the windows and doors
shook and rattled in their frames not only in our room but also
in the next.’’
Such phenomena, not limited to Spiritualism, can, for example,
be found scattered through religious literature, such as
the incident reported in the journal of George Fox, the Quaker
founder ‘‘At Mansfield, where was a great meeting, I was
moved to pray, and the Lord’s power was so great that the
house seemed to be shaken. When I had done, some of the professors
said, it was now as in the days of the Apostles, when the
house was shaken where they were.’’
The levitation of John Lacy, as described in Warnings of the
Eternal Spirit (part 2, 1707), made the chamber shake. The Wesley
family, during physical manifestations known collectively as
the Epworth phenomena, heard vast rumblings and clattering
of doors and shutters.
Felicia Scatcherd writes of a séance with Etta Wriedt in Light
(August 3, 1912) ‘‘We all felt the floor, walls and windows vibrating.
I have twice experienced earthquake shocks in the Ionian
Islands. The sensation was similar.’’ In the case of Mary
Jobson, ‘‘a rumbling noise was heard like thunder, the tenants
downstairs thought that the house was coming down.’’ An excess
of power held the room in which William Stainton Moses
sat in séance in constant vibration. Gambier Bolton writes in
Psychic Force (1904)
‘‘On several occasions when sitting in my own room with Mr.
Cecil Husk, the whole place, floor, walls, and ceiling, have commenced
to tremble and vibrate strongly, table and chairs all responding,
and glass, china and pictures swaying to and fro,
some of the lighter articles eventually falling over; the motion
being similar to that experienced when the screw of a steamer,
during a gale of wind, and owing to the pitching of the vessel,
comes nearly or quite to the surface of the water, and ‘races’;
or like the tremble of the earthquake which, as I know by experience,
when once felt is never forgotten again. So decided was
this tremble and vibration that several of the experimenters
present not only stated that it made them feel very ill, but their
appearance proved to anyone used to ocean travel, that this was
not an exaggeration.’’
Movement of Objects
The telekinetic phenomenon reported from the séance
room is varied a séance curtain sways and bulges out; a table
moves, slides or rotates; weights are lifted; small objects stir,
jump into the air, and drop slowly or heavily. According to reports,
such objects do not follow straight lines but move in
curves, as if under the influence of an intelligent mechanical
force. Their speed is sometimes alarming. They may come
within an inch of some one’s face, then suddenly stop. There
is no fumbling, no exploration, no accidental collision. If one
puts out his hand in the dark for the reception of an object it
neatly drops into his palm. The sitters may change seats or posture,
yet the objects will seek them out perfectly. The invisible
manipulator behind the phenomena seems to have cat’s eyes.
A table may incline at a considerable angle, yet the objects may
remain unmoved on the leaf or they may glide up the slope. A
switch may be thrown, gas or electricity turned off, the flame
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of a candle depressed, cords and handkerchiefs knotted, bonds
untied.
Much of the reported phenomena occurred in a darkened
séance room. Sitters also reported evidence of the operation of
‘‘invisible’’ hands, whose presence was often felt through touches;
frequently the disembodied hands were said to have been
seen in operation. The very nature of the reports suggest that
much of the phenomena was produced by the mediums and
their accomplices.
Lord Adare saw, in a séance with D. D. Home, a hand
stretch over the jet of gas. At the same moment eight jets of gas
went out in the house. Psychical researcher Hereward Carrington
wrote of the Naples séances with Eusapia Palladino
‘‘In one of our séances, a white hand appeared, remained
visible to all, and untied both Eusapia’s hands and one of her
feet.
‘‘Once a gentleman seated to the left of Eusapia had his
cigar case extracted from his pocket, placed on the table in full
view of all of us, opened, a cigar extracted, and placed between
his teeth.’’
Sir William Crookes in his Researches in the Phenomena of
Spiritualism (1874), gives a good description of the average type
of telekinetic phenomena
‘‘The instances in which heavy bodies, such as tables, chairs,
sofas, etc., have been moved, when the medium was not touching
them are very numerous. I will briefly mention a few of the
most striking. My own chair has been twisted partly around,
whilst my feet were off the floor. A chair was seen by all present
to move slowly up to the table from a far corner, when all were
watching it; on another occasion an armchair moved to where
we were sitting, and then moved slowly back again (a distance
of about three feet) at my request. On three successive evenings,
a small table moved slowly across the room, under conditions
which I had specially pre-arranged, so as to answer any
objection which might be raised to the evidence. I have had several
repetitions of the experiment considered by the Committee
of the Dialectical Society to be conclusive, viz., the movement
of a heavy table in full light, the chairs turned with their
backs to the table, about a foot off, and each person kneeling
on his chair, with hands resting over the backs of the chairs, but
not touching the table. On one occasion this took place when
I was moving about so as to see how everyone was placed.’’
Julien Ochorowitz recorded some very curious telekinetic
phenomena in his experiments with Stanislawa Tomczyk. In
good light, before a commission composed of physicians, physiologists,
and engineers, the medium placed her hands at a
small distance on either side of an object. Between her extended
fingers, the object rose into the air and floated without apparent
support. In fact, the support appeared to be a threadlike,
nonmaterial line of force of which Ochorowitz stated,
‘‘I have felt this thread in my hand, on my face, on my hair.
When the medium separates her hands the thread gets thinner
and disappears; it gives the same sensation as a spider’s web.
If it is cut with scissors its continuity is immediately restored.
It seems to be formed of points; it can be photographed and
it is then seen to be much thinner than an ordinary thread. It
starts from the fingers. Needless to remark that the hands of
the medium were very carefully examined before every experiment.’’
When these photographs were projected enlarged upon a
screen, the psychic structure became visible. There were swellings
and nodes along it, like the waves in a vibrating cord. A
whole number of filaments surrounded, like a net, a ball that
Tomczyk lifted.
With Eusapia Palladino, a marked synchronism was noticed
between her movements and that of the objects. She could attract
and remove pieces of furniture, cause them to rise into the
air or drop to the floor by a corresponding motion of her
hands. However, this was an exceptional phenomenon at her
séances. Usually mediums profess an inability to account for
the movement of objects because they do not know in advance
what is going to happen.
In the cases of both poltergeists and apparitions, spontaneous
telekinetic phenomena have been witnessed. Joseph Maxwell
obtained good phenomena with nonprofessional mediums
in public restaurants in daylight. A Miss Cleio made
pictures swing out on the wall in the rooms of the Hellenic Society
for Psychical Research in full light before dozens of invited
guests.
Difficult Operations
The effect of these telekinetic manifestations is often a very
complicated one. Pistols were fired in the dark séances of the
Davenport brothers against a minute mark which was always
hit with marvelous precision. The same phenomenon was witnessed
earlier in the house of Jonathan Koons, under the control
of ‘‘John King.’’
In the presence of the Davenport brothers, a billiard room
at Milwaukee was darkened. After a few moments the balls were
heard to roll and click against each other as if propelled by expert
players. The cues moved, the game appeared to be regularly
played, and it was marked and counted. The Davenports
did not claim to be Spiritualist mediums, however, and are now
generally regarded, as is Koons, as clever stage performers.
In the séances of the Bangs sisters, the typewriter was held
in the hands of the sitters above the table and was heard operating
in rapid motion. The operators also inserted paper, addressed
the envelopes, and sealed them. The Posthumous Memoirs
of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1896) is claimed to have
been produced by this technical means. The machine, according
to J. M. Wade’s introduction, typed nine paper sheets per
hour.
Of a sitting with Franek Kluski on November 23, 1919, the
Polish Society for Psychical Research recorded ‘‘The typewriter
on the table, fully illuminated by the red light, began to
write. The sitters remarked that it wrote very quickly, the keys
being depressed as if by a skilful typist. There was no one near
the machine. The persons holding Mr. Kluski’s hands noticed
that they twitched during the writing.’’
In Tullio Castellani’s record of a sitting on July 6, 1927, in
Millesimo Castle, there is a description of an artistic exhibition
‘‘After a little while we heard in perfect rhythm with the
music, a dance of two drumsticks upon the floor. Then the
rhythm of the drumsticks was heard in the air. On being questioned
Cristo d’Angelo described it as the dance of a celebrated
American negro upon the ground and in the air. The same
phenomena occurred later in the presence of Bozzano, and has
been described by him. I think, however, it is useful to emphasize
so that the reader may form some idea of how these phenomena
took place, and the effect which this dance produced
on me also, habituated though I am to spiritistic phenomenology.
The dance took place upon the rug but the resonance was
like that of wooden drumsticks which were dancing in the void.
There was observable all the weight of a normal man dancing
with vigour. Thus in the dark, by only the slight spectral light
of the phosphorescence from the trumpet, one is reminded of
a dance macabre.’’
Many are the mediums in whose presence musical instruments
were played by invisible hands (see Music). Other forms
of artistic expression through telekinetic movements are on record
in independent direct drawing and painting.
In volume 14 of the automatic scripts of Stainton Moses,
there is a description of the carving of two cameo heads by the
spirit entities ‘‘Mentor’’ and ‘‘Magus.’’ Magus produced his own
likeness. Mentor’s artistic efforts are thus narrated under the
date August 27, 1875
‘‘A long message was rapped out by Catherine. She said they
had brought a shell and were going to cut a cameo. A light was
struck, then Dr. and Mrs. S. saw a shell in the middle of the
table. Then Mentor came and Imperator. After he left light was
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called for and in the centre of the table was a cameo and a
quantity of debris of shell. Noises had been heard as of picking,
and I saw a hand. The shell is more clearly cut than the first,
and shows a head laurel-crowned. It is polished inside and
shows plain marks of the graving tool.’’
According to a letter from Moses’ unpublished correspondence
(Light, May, 1902), ‘‘Owasso,’’ one of Henry Slade’s controls,
extracted, without actual pain, a bad tooth of his suffering
medium. A reader of Light related in the following issue a similar
incident, in the presence of several witnesses, in the history
of the medium Miss C. E. Wood.
The Question of Scientific Verification
Levitation of a table in the full blaze of sunshine was witnessed
by Charles Richet in front of his Chateau de Carqueiranne
with the medium Eusapia Palladino. Again, Ochorowitz,
working with Tomczyk, saw a garden chair raised in full light.
An ancient instance of table levitation is described in Samuel
Brent’s Judischer agestreifter Schlangen Balg (1610), and in Zalman
Zebi’s reply, Judischer Theriak 1615). Zebi admits the levitation
but argues that it was not caused by magic since ‘‘beautiful
hymns are sung during the production of the phenomena and
no devil is able to approach us when we think of the Lord.’’
Count Gasparin, Baron Guldenstubbe, Marc Thury, Robert
Hare, and James J. Mapes were the first investigators of
table turning. Hare devised special scientific instruments. William
Crookes repeated his experiments and improved upon
them.
Experiments with an electric bell in a locked and sealed box
were successfully carried out with the mediumship of William
Eglinton by the research committee of the British National Association
of Spiritualists in January 1878. The bell sounded
twice and the armature was depressed with so much force that
a spring was strained and an electromagnet disarranged.
Professor Johann Zöllner’s famous knot-tying experiments
on an endless cord were successfully repeated with Eglinton by
a Dr. Nichols in his own house. Mina Crandon (‘‘Margery’’)
also rivaled Zöllner’s experiments by demonstrating the paranormal
linking of two rings made of different woods (see Matter
Passing through Matter).
The ‘‘fraudproof’’ trick table of Harry Price was lifted by
‘‘Margery’’ in sittings in London. The telekinetoscope and the
shadow apparatus of the same researcher provided some extraordinary
phenomena in the presence of ‘‘Stella C.’’ in the
National Laboratory of Psychical Research.
The first demand that a Scientific American Committee
submitted to ‘‘Walter,’’ Margery’s control, at the time of this
well-known investigation was to produce movements inside a
closed and sealed space. For this purpose a sealed glass jar with
a brass hook projecting down into the bottle was used. Walter
was set the task of opening the snap of the hook and hanging
upon it the wooden, brass, or cord rings also enclosed in the jar.
Two days later the cord ring was found on the hook. A day after
its examination by Prof. Daniel F. Comstock, the ring was
found removed.
Another experiment with sensitive scales under a celluloid
cover produced satisfactory results. With one of the pans
weighted and the other empty, Walter held the scales in balance
and sent up the weighted pan. This dynamic feat was
achieved in good visibility. Similar results were achieved with
a bell box, physically operated first by the depression of a key
or by throwing a switch, and later (with the instrument revised)
by the depression of contact boards. Held in the lap of Walter
Franklin Prince, Research Officer of the American Society for
Psychical Research (ASPR), the instrument was operated in
daylight.
The voice-cutout machine of Dr. Richardson apparently established
the independence of Walter’s voice (see Journal of the
American Society for Psychical Research, vol. 19, no. 12, 1925).
Modern psychical research laboratories may boast of a number
of other instruments that detect or prevent the slightest movement
in the séance room and afford opportunities for observation
under strict scientific conditions.
Display of Strength
Occasionally the power that accumulates for telekinetic phenomena
is so great that astounding feats of strength are exhibited.
At Warsaw, in Ochorowitz’s experiments, a dynamometer
marked a force three times as great as Eusapia Palladino’s and
in excess of that of the strongest man present.
The medium of Elizabeth d’Esperance recorded that during
a séance in Breslau the strongest man in Silesia, a veritable
Hercules, vainly tried to prevent the movements of the table.
Zöllner recorded this incident from a séance with Henry
Slade
‘‘A violent crack was suddenly heard as in the discharging
of a large battery of Leyden jars. On turning, with some alarm,
in the direction of the sound, the before-mentioned screen fell
apart in two pieces. The wooden screws, half an inch thick, were
torn from above and below, without any visible contact of Slade
with the screen. The parts broken were at least five feet removed
from Slade, who had his back to the screen; but even if
he had intended to tear it down by a cleverly devised sideward
motion, it would have been necessary to fasten it on the opposite
side.’’
Zöllner estimated that the strength of two horses would be
necessary to achieve this effect. He mentioned that one of his
colleagues seriously suggested that Slade carried dynamite
about him, concealed it in the furniture, and exploded it with
a match.
In a sitting with Countess Castelvitch in Lisbon, a small
table, strengthened with sheetiron, was rent into 200 pieces.
The fragments were found piled in a corner of the room.
This incident is found in the record of a séance with Eusapia
Palladino, in which she was supervised by several Italian researchers
‘‘Dr. Arullani asked that the hand behind the curtain should
grasp his. The medium replied in her own voice ‘First I am
going to break the table, then I will give you a grasp of the
hand.’ This declaration was followed by three fresh, complete
levitations of the table, which fell back heavily on the floor. All
those who were on the left of the medium could observe, by a
very good red light, the various movements of the table. The
table bent down and passed behind the curtain, followed by one
of us (Dr. C. Foà) who saw it turn over and rest on one of its two
short sides, whilst one of the legs came off violently as if under
the action of some force pressing upon it. At this moment the
table came violently out of the cabinet, and continued to break
up under the eyes of everyone present. At first its different
parts were torn off, then the boards themselves went to pieces.
Two legs, which still remained united by a thin slip of wood,
floated above us and placed themselves on the séance table.’’
The astronomer Porro reported from his séance with Palladino
in 1891 ‘‘Next a formidable blow, like the stroke of the
fist of an athlete is struck in the middle of the table. The blows
are now redoubled and are so terrific that it seems as if they
would split the table. A single one of these fist blows, planted
in the back, would suffice to break the vertebral column.’’
Moses recorded sledgehammer blows in one instance and
stated, ‘‘The noise was distinctly audible in the room below and
gave one the idea that the table would be broken to pieces. In
vain we withdrew from the table, hoping to diminish the power.
The heavy blows increased in intensity, and the whole room
shook with their force.’’
From the Livermore séance with Kate Fox, February 15,
1862, came these notes ‘‘I asked for a manifestation of power;
and we at once received the following message ‘Listen, and
hear it come through the air; hands off the table.’ Immediately
a terrific metallic shock was produced, as though a heavy chain
in a bag swung by a strong man had been struck with his whole
power upon the table, jarring the whole house. This was repeated
three times, with decreasing force.’’
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In slate-writing experiments with Henry Slade, the slates
were often pulverized. Paul Gibier reports in Le Spiritisme
(1887) ‘‘At ten different trials the slate held by Slade under the
table was broken into several pieces. These slates were framed
in very hard wood. We endeavoured to break them in the same
way by striking them against the table, but never succeeded
even in cracking them.’’
Writing of a visit to a Shaker village with the mediums Miss
King and H. B. Champion, the Reverend J. B. Ferguson said
of the latter ‘‘Although a man of most delicate physical organisation,
he was, to my knowledge, without food for ten days, and
during that time seemed to possess the strength of three men,
when under direct spiritual influence; but when not he was as
feeble as an infant, and needed all the care I had promised.’’
Lifting of Heavy Tables and Pianos
There was a frequent display of great force in the paranormal
lifting of heavy tables or pianos. Sir William Crookes saw
on five separate occasions a heavy dining table rise from a few
inches and one to a half foot off the floor under special circumstances
that rendered trickery impossible (R. G. Medhurst, K.
M. Goldney, M. R. Barrington, Crookes and The Spirit World
[1972], 115).
D. D. Home testified before the committee of the London
Dialectical Society ‘‘I have seen a table lifted into the air with
eight men standing on it, when there were only two or three
other persons in the room. I have seen the window open and
shut at a distance of seven or eight feet, and curtains drawn
aside and, in some cases, objects carried over our heads. In the
house of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall a table went up so high in the
air that we could not touch it.’’
At a supper party attended by 30 persons, including Florence
Cook, the heavy dining table, with everything on it, rose
in full light into the air, until the feet of the table were level with
the knees of those sitting around it; the dishes, plates, and
glasses swayed perilously but came to no harm. (Gambier Bolton,
Psychic Force 1904) Florence Marryat also writes of this incident
in her book There Is No Death (1891). Robert Dale Owen
claimed to have seen in Paris, in broad daylight in the dining
room of a French nobleman, the dinner table seating seven
persons, with fruit and wine on it, rise and settle down, while
all the guests stood around without touching it.
In another séance, with Katie Cook, a piano was carried
over the heads of the sitters. One of the ladies became nervous
and broke the chain of hands; the piano dropped to the floor
the two carved legs were broken and the sounding board
smashed.
The levitation of two pianos in the presence of an 11-yearold
child was described as early as 1855 in Marc Thury’s Des Tables
Tournantes. The phenomenon of a levitated piano was witnessed
by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
Mr. Jencken, the husband of Kate Fox, said in a paper read
before the London Dialectical Society, ‘‘As regards the lifting
of heavy bodies, I can myself testify I have seen the semigrand
at my house raised horizontally eighteen inches off the ground
and kept suspended in space two or three minutes.’’
The Master of Lindsay, before the same body, said, ‘‘I was
next to him [D. D. Home]. I had one hand on his chair and the
other on the piano, and while he played both his chair and the
piano rose about three inches and then settled down again.’’
Dr. John Ashburner, author of Notes and Studies in the Philosophy
of Animal Magnetism and Spiritualism (1867), recorded the
following personal experience ‘‘Mr. Foster, who is possessed
of a fine voice, was accompanying himself while he sang. Both
feet were on the pedals, when the pianoforte rose into the air
and was gracefully swung in the air from side to side for at least
five or six minutes. During this time the castors were about at
the height of a foot from the carpet.’’
Sergeant E. W. Cox, in What am I (2 vols., 1873–74), writes
‘‘As Mr. Home and myself were entering the drawing room
lighted with gas, a very heavy armchair that was standing by the
fire, thirteen feet from us, was flung from its place through the
whole length of the room and fell at our feet. No other person
was in the room and we were crossing the threshold of the
door.’’
Arthur Lévy writes in his report on Eusapia Palladino, November
16, 1898 ‘‘Just as if she was defying some monster, she
turns, with inflamed looks, toward an enormous divan, which
thereupon marches up to us. She looks at it with a Satanic
smile. Finally she blows upon the divan, which goes immediately
back to its place’’ (Camille Flammarion, Mysterious Psychic
Forces, 1907).
Vanishing Objects
In the reported incidents of apports and human teleportation,
and frequently in the phenomenon of matter passing
through matter—still among the most controversial of phenomena—there
is often reported an intermediate stage in
which the objects in question or the human body apparently
disappear. Sometimes nothing further than disappearance and
subsequent reappearance is accomplished. How it occurs—if it
occurs—is the object of speculation. Some have suggested it is
accomplished by a great increase in the vibratory rate of the objects
or by dematerialization. Instances to demonstrate the
claimed phenomenon are abundant.
A small table disappeared from underneath a larger one in
Zöllner’s séance with Slade. They searched the room without
result. Five minutes later it was discovered floating in the air,
upside down. It dropped and struck Zöllner on the head. The
vanishing and reappearance of a book was similarly observed.
It struck Zöllner on the ear in its descent (J. C. F. Zöllner, Transcendental
Physics, 1882).
The records of Stainton Moses dated November 27, 1892,
read
‘‘As Dr. S. and I were pacing up and down the room a whole
shower of Grimauve lozenges (the remainder of the packet out
of which the cross had been made on Friday last) was violently
thrown on to my head, whence they spread over the floor
round about where we were standing. There were thirteen or
fourteen of them, and that number, together with the nine used
in making the cross, would just about make up the two ounce
packet which I had. I had looked in every conceivable place for
these lozenges (which were missing after the cross was made)
but could find them nowhere.’’
‘‘Lily,’’ the guide of Katie Cook, asked Florence Marryat
whether she could take the fur coat that the authoress had put
on her shoulders. She was given permission under the stipulation
that she return it when Marryat had to go home. Lily asked
that the gas be turned up. The fur coat disappeared. During
the course of the séance, the coat was flung, apparently from
the ceiling, and fell right over the owner’s head. The coat had
gone through an ordeal for, although it was quite new, all the
fur was coming out and an army of moths could not have damaged
it more than ‘‘Lily’s’’ trick.
Gladys Osborne Leonard, in her book My Life in Two Worlds
(1931), tells of a control named ‘‘Joey,’’ a famous clown in mortal
life, who as proof of his power made things belonging to her
husband disappear in daylight in the house and reappear days
later in exactly the same place. ‘‘Yolande,’’ d’Esperance’s control,
often performed similar feats.
In the presence of Eleonore Zügun, objects vanished for an
indeterminate period. Her patron the Countess WassilkoSerecki
coined the vivid phrase ‘‘holes in the world’’ to describe
the effect (Harry Price, ‘‘Some Accounts of the Poltergeist Phenomena
of Eleonore Zügun’’ Journal of the American Society of
Psychical Research, August 1926).
The disappearance usually involves no injury. In experiments
with the medium Thomas Lynn at the British College
of Psychic Science, watches frequently vanished from sight
without showing harm or stoppage on their reappearance (Psychic
Science, vol. 8, no. 2, July 1929). With the Austrian medium
Maria Silbert it was noticed that she seemed to know intuitively
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a few minutes beforehand what articles would appear, as if the
‘‘cloud of invisibility’’ that surrounded the objects had been of
ectoplasmic nature.
The objects that vanish are not necessarily solids. The invisible
operators seem to have the same power over liquids. Lord
Adare recorded that brandy was invisibly withdrawn from a
glass that the medium D. D. Home held above his head. When
Lord Adare held his hands above the glass the liquor fell over
and through his fingers into the glass, dropping from the air
above him. Home explained that the spirit making the experiment
was obliged to form a material substance to retain the
fluid.
Dr. Eugene Crowell, author of The Identity of Primitive Christianity
with Modern Spiritualism (2 vols., 1875–79), took a small
vial filled with pure water to a séance with the medium Henry
Slade to have it ‘‘magnetized.’’ He writes
‘‘We were seated in a well-lighted room, the rays of the sun
falling upon the floor, and no one present but us. Twice the
medium said he saw a spirit hand grasping the vial, and I supposed
the spirits were magnetising it and kept my eyes directing
towards it, but I saw nothing, when suddenly at the same
instance we both saw a flash of light apparently proceeding
from the vial and the latter disappeared. I immediately arose
and inspected every part of the room which from the beginning
had been closed, under the table, chairs and sofa, but the vial
was not found. Then resuming my seat and questions, in about
fifteen minutes, while the two hands of the medium were clasping
mine upon the table, I felt something fall into my lap, and
looking down I observed the vial rolling off my knees on to the
floor. Upon my taking it up we both remarked that the water
had acquired a slightly purple tinge, but otherwise its appearance
was unchanged.’’
Max George Albert Bruckner describes in the July 1, 1931,
issue of the Zeitschrift für Metapsychische Forschung, a sitting with
Maria Silbert in which a bottle filled with water and sealed was
transferred from the top of the table to the undersides of it. On
examination it was found that the water had completely disappeared.
The seal and the cord remained intact. Not a drop of
water was visible on the floor.
Vice-Admiral Usborne Moore noticed that the ink in his bottle
disappeared in a séance with the Bangs sisters (Glimpses of
the Next State, 1911).
Theories of Explanation
Since the first days of modern Spiritualism, speculation has
been rife as to the mechanical agency by which movement without
contact takes place. Animal magnetism was first thought to
furnish a clue. Many theories were formulated. All of them (deriving
somewhat from the ‘‘od’’ of Baron Karl von Reichenbach)
were more or less similar to the ‘‘odylo-mesomeric’’ theory
of E. C. Rogers. Rogers defined a medium as ‘‘a person in
whom the conscious and personal control of the higher brain
centres was for the moment in abeyance leaving the organism
open to be acted upon by the universal cosmic forces.’’
J. Bovee Dods (Spirit Manifestations, 1854) posited an electromagnetic
cause. He suggested rapping was caused by ‘‘an electro-magnetic
discharge from the fingers and toes of the medium.’’
About table tilting he stated that ‘‘the millions of pores in
the table are filled with electro-magnetism from human brains,
which is inconceivably lighter than the gas that inflates the balloon.’’
However, the agency of human magnetism or electricity
was quickly disproved when no instrument could detect the
slightest trace of electromagnetism and neither the smallest
iron filing nor the tiniest pith ball was attracted by the charged
table.
More mundane explanations—chance, fraud, hallucination,
or a composite of these suppositions—fail to account for
all reported data. The other extreme—that spirits were responsible
for the movement—also explains little. It was a comparatively
early claim that the contribution of the spirits was at most
a directive influence and that in some mysterious way the bodily
organism of the medium played a dominant role.
The spirits themselves reportedly described people who act
as physical mediums to Allan Kardec in the following words
‘‘These persons draw from themselves the fluid necessary to the
production of the phenomena and can act without the help of
foreign spirits. Thus they are not mediums in the sense attached
to this word; but a spirit can assist them and profit by
their natural disposition.’’
The ‘‘fluid’’ mentioned to Kardec at this early period was
later replaced by the ‘‘ectoplasm’’ of psychical research. The
claimed existence of this substance facilitated the idea of a
bridge between telekinesis and ordinary mechanics. W. J.
Crawford’s cantilever theory represented a sophisticated attempt
in this direction. It essentially claimed that out of ectoplasmic
emanations psychic rods so strong as to become semimetallic
are formed; that this extrusion acts as a cantilever; and
that the phenomena are produced by an intelligent manipulation
on the part of unseen operators of these rods.
In his early observations of the Goligher Circle, Crawford
found that if the object to be levitated was heavy, the psychic
structure beside the medium’s body found support on the floor.
He made many exact measurements claiming to discover that
the objects were usually gripped in a manner resembling suction.
He supposedly proved the presence of the psychic rods by
their pressure on a spring balance and measured their reaction
on the medium’s body with scales. Crawford said he photographed
psychic structures. He claimed he noticed that if an
object was lifted or glued to the floor, the medium’s body
showed a nearly equivalent increase or decrease in weight. The
difference was distributed among the sitters (W. J. Crawford,
Psychic Structures in The Goligher Circle, 1921).
Crawford’s observations were paralleled by others. German
zoologist Karl Gruber reported experiments with the medium
Willi Schneider in 1922
‘‘A rigid body seemed to emanate from the right hip of the
medium. At about three quarters of a yard from the floor it traversed
the gauze partition, enlarging some of its interstices,
and moved objects 80 to 100 centimetres distant from the medium.
It seems that the medium has to make a certain effort to
cause this fluidic member to traverse the screen. By using luminous
bracelets we have verified that during the levitation of a
small table a dark stump like that of a member could be distinguished,
that it rose up under the table, raised it, and replaced
it on the floor and showed itself afresh underneath it.’’
The advantage of the cantilever theory is its simplicity. For
that very reason it only explained an initial stage of telekinetic
phenomena. But the theory has many weaknesses, chiefly the
later discovery of the fraudulent production of the phenomena
in the circle in which he made all of his initial observations.
Also, Crawford’s theory does not explain movement without
contact in haunted houses or in poltergeist cases, and the levitation
of the human body, all of which apparently demand a
different theory.
Charles Richet suggested that telekinetic phenomena constitute
the first stage of materialization which may be called
mechanization. When phantom hands or whole bodies are
formed, the presence of a separate dynamic organism is suggested.
Such a body would be created at the expense of the medium
and the sitters. By calculation Julien Ochorowitz announced
the finding that the dynamometric energy which a
circle lost corresponded to the average energy of a man.
If the theory of a separate dynamic organism were accepted,
it could account for experiences like that reported by Lord
Adare
‘‘[D. D.] Home . . . told me to go into the next room and
place outside the window a certain vase of flowers. I did so, putting
the vase outside the ledge and shutting the window. Home
opened the window of the room in which we were sitting. The
flowers were carried through the air from the window of the
next room in at our open window. We could all hear the rusEncyclopedia
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1065
tling, and see the curtains moved by the spirit standing there,
who was bringing in the flowers; Lindsay saw the spirit distinctly.’’
Many psychical researchers refused to accept Ochorowitz’s
ideas. They did not like to diminish the medium’s physical participation
in the occurrences. Theodore Flournoy suggested
an alternative theory,
‘‘It may be conceived that, as the atom and the molecule are
the centre of a more or less radiating influence of extension,
so the organised individual, isolated cell, or colony of cells, is
originally in possession of a sphere of action, where it concentrates
at times its efforts more especially on one point, and
again on another, ad libitum. Through repetition, habit, selection,
heredity and other principles loved by biologists, certain
more constant lines of force would be differentiated in this homogeneous,
primordial sphere, and little by little could give
birth to motor organs. For example our four members of flesh
and blood, sweeping the space around us, would be but a more
economic expedient invented by nature, a machine wrought in
the course of better adapted evolution, to obtain at the least expense
the same use full effects as this vague, primitive spherical
power. Thus supplanted or transformed, these powers would
thereafter manifest themselves, only very exceptionally, in certain
states, or with abnormal individuals, as an atavic reapparition
of a mode of acting long ago fallen into disuse, because it
is really very imperfect and necessitates, without any advantage,
an expenditure of vital energy far greater than the ordinary
use of arms and limbs. Unless it is the Cosmic power itself,
the amoral and stupid ‘demiurge,’ the Unconsciousness of M.
Hartman, which comes directly into play upon contact with a
deranged nervous system and realises its disordered dreams
without passing through the regular channels of muscular
movements.’’
Edmund E. Fournier d’Albe, author of several books on psychical
phenomena, wondered if living principle of the cells that
die could in some way still be attached to us. If so, we would be
actually living half in this world and half in the next, he theorized.
Could not then telekinesis be explained by a resumed
embodiment or materialized activity of the disembodied epidermal
cell principles he asked.
Cesare Lombroso suggested
‘‘I see nothing inadmissible in the fact that, with hysterical
and hypnotic subjects the excitation of certain centres which
become active in proportion as all other centres become paralysed,
may cause a transposition of psychical forces, and thus
also bring about a transformation into luminous force or into
motor force. It is thus conceivable how the force of a medium,
which I may nominate as cortical or cerebral, might, for instance,
raise a table or pull someone’s beard, or strike or caress
him, phenomena which frequently occur under these circumstances.’’
Joseph Maxwell verified a correlation between the intensity
of the muscular effort and the abnormal movement. The movement
could sometimes be provoked by shaking the hand at a
certain distance above the table. Rubbing the feet on the floor,
rubbing the hands, the back, the arms—any quick or slightly violent
movement—appeared to liberate this force. The breath
appeared to exercise a great influence, as though in blowing on
the object the sitters emitted a quantity of energy.
Maxwell had the impression that, within certain limits, the
quantity of force liberated varied in direct proportion with the
number of experimenters
‘‘There is a close and positive connection between the movements
effectuated by the medium and the sitters, and the displacement
of articles of experimentation; there is a relation between
these displacements and the muscular contractions of
the experimenters; a probable relation, whose precise nature
he is unable to state, exists between the will of the experimenters
and paranormal movements’’ (Joseph Maxwell, Metapsychical
Phenomena, 1905).
Exteriorization of motricity was postulated in the case of
Eusapia Palladino by Enrico Morselli, Theodor Flournoy,
Gustav Geley, and Hereward Carrington. Essentially the same
theory was advanced earlier, in 1875, by Francis Gerry Fairfield
in Ten Years With Spiritual Mediums, suggesting a nerve aura that
surrounds every organic structure, capable of receiving sensory
impressions, acting as a force and assuming any desired shape.
The nerve aura, however, suggests something different from
ectoplasm. It suggests the presence of a third factor, a nervous
force to which both the medium and the sitters contribute.
During the levitation of a table in the ‘‘Margery’’ séances on
June 23, 1923, the sitters felt cold, tingling sensations in their
forearms. Dr. Crandon at the same time observed faint, auroralike
emanations from the region of Margery’s fingers.
F. W. H. Myers suggested, as a correlative to telepathic effect,
a ‘‘telergic action,’’ by which he meant the excitation of the
motor and sensory centers of the medium by an external mind.
He said that in the case of possession the external intelligence
may directly act upon the body and liberate unknown energies.
This theory goes far, as the external mind appears to dwell in
the spiritual world, although it is of frequent observation that
the sitters’ thoughts exercise a certain influence upon the phenomena.
M. Barzini, journalist for Corriere della Sera, wrote about his
séances with Palladino in Genoa, 1906–07 ‘‘It was obvious that
our conversations were listened to, so as to yield a suggestion
in the execution of the strange performance. If we spoke of levitation
the table would rise up. If we began to discuss luminous
phenomena instantly a light would appear upon the medium’s
knees.’’
If one considers the world of spirits in the search for the
agency in psychokinesis, Baron Lazar de Baczolay Hellenbach’s
suggestion, from his Birth and Death as a Change of Form
of Perception (1886) might provide a starting point ‘‘I am convinced
that the unseen world has first to learn how to act, so as
to make themselves accessible to our senses somewhat in the
same way that we have to learn how to swim in water, or communicate
with the deaf and dumb.’’
In the weighing-scale experiments of the Scientific American
Committee with ‘‘Margery,’’ the photograph of a curious, semitransparent
cylinder was obtained (with flashlight and a quartz
lens). The cylinder looked as if it was made of glass or celluloid.
Seven of twelve exposed plates showed the cylinder. It was five
or six inches long and three inches or a little less in diameter
and stood on a base. When it was photographed on the scale,
the pan that carried it was up; when it was photographed on the
platform of the scale, the pans balanced. The deduction was
that the cylinder acted as a sort of suction pump to keep the
lighter pan up. The control ‘‘Walter’’ said that if the cylinders
had been taken under long exposure they would have looked
as though filled with cotton wool.
There were also observations to suggest that threads finer
than a strand of spider’s web, may connect the medium with objects
in the room. Elizabeth d’Esperance often complained of
a feeling of cobwebs on her face. ‘‘Margery’’ and many of her
sitters had the same experience.
With Stanislawa Tomczyk, Ochorowitz photographed a balance
that was supernormally depressed by fine, hairlike
threads. The method must have been similar when Palladino
performed the same feat. In fact the thread was seen as it made
a glass of water dance. Slowly and cautiously, a sitter drew the
thick, white thread to himself. It resisted, then snapped and
disappeared with a nervous shock to the medium.
Ernesto Bozzano observed such threads 20 times in the
same year. Juliette Bisson detected them with the medium
‘‘Eva C.’’ Dr. Jorgen Bull, of Oslo, found them instrumental in
an invisible state in producing direct writing on wax tablets in
the presence of Lujza Linczegh Ignath.
In some of the excellent photographs obtained by Dr. T.
Glen Hamilton with ‘‘Mary M.’’ of Winnipeg, slight threads can
be seen reaching up to a bell fixed high above the curtain. A
Movement (Paranormal) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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similar attachment of threads to ‘‘apported’’ objects was observed
in photographs taken by Major Mowbray with the medium
Thomas Lynn.
The spirit guide of a Frau Ideler explicitly stated, in the experiments
conducted by a Professor Blacher of the University
of Riga (Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, October 1931), that she
spun threads to accomplish telekinetic movement. In red light
and later in blue light these attachments were observed and the
medium seemed to pull the threads from the inner side of her
hand with her fingertips. The threads seemed to be of a
doughy, elastic substance, then pulled fine, and felt soft and
dry. Even while being handled they diminished perceptibly. A
piece was secured and subjected at once to microscopic examination
in an adjoining room. An enlargement of the microscopic
photo showed that it was composed not of one strand but
of many fine but not organized threads. In its chemical composition
the structure was not that of the known textile fabrics.
Curiously, fire had no power over these threads. They made
the flame withdraw. But they were conductors of electricity.
The alleged unusual nature and action of such ‘‘psychic
threads’’ makes it necessary to be cautious in hastily assuming
fraud with ordinary threads.
If the thread connection with the medium is accepted, it
would be easy to understand what the medium subconsciously
may feel and could indicate in advance what objects are going
to be moved. Such an approach proved useful in Eugen Osty’s
work with the medium Rudi Schneider at the Institut Métapsychique.
The experience was also well known to sitters with
Maria Silbert.
Modern Experiments in Psychokinesis
The bulk of past observation and theory relating to paranormal
movement belongs to a period when physical mediums
dominated both Spiritualism and the attention of psychical research.
Consideration of such phenomena is influenced by the
fact that much of the evidence is purely anecdotal or belongs
to a period of psychical research less sophisticated than in modern
times. Much of the phenomena upon which researchers
speculated is now, like that of the Golicher Circle, considered
to have been produced deceptively.
In the modern era of parapsychology, movement of objects
without contact is now studied experimentally under the general
term psychokinesis or ‘‘PK.’’ Parapsychology has attempted to
construct more simple laboratory experiments that to demonstrate
psychokinetic effects without the complicating and often
questionable environment of the séance room. The first important
experimental studies of this kind were initiated by J. B.
Rhine in 1934 after he had encountered a gambler who
claimed that he could influence the fall of dice by willpower.
Rhine, who had been involved in investigation of the controversial
‘‘Margery’’ mediumship, was anxious to find some type
of phenomenon that could be studied under the exacting conditions
in a laboratory, thus avoiding the endless arguments
about fraud and faulty observation involved with spontaneous
phenomena. Dice-fall experiments could be controlled, and
they were also repeatable and subject to statistical assessment.
Rhine and his associates duly set up classic experiments at
Duke University in North Carolina in which subjects attempted
to influence the fall of dice by willpower.
Over the years other parapsychologists verified the successful
scores of Rhine and others. Eventually one of Rhine’s associates,
W. E. Cox, introduced interesting variations, such as
‘‘Placement PK,’’ in which subjects attempted to influence
movement of various objects in a target direction.
Another interesting direction in scientific PK tests was the
introduction of the Minilab, a glass tank containing various
small objects as targets for PK. The Minilab can be sealed and
locked, and is monitored by a video camera that is activated by
a switching apparatus connected to the objects; thus, object
movement is automatically recorded.
The Minilab has been used by parapsychologist J. D. Isaacs,
who has investigated the phenomenon of paranormal metal
bending, introduced by the Israeli psychic Uri Geller, whose
feats in bending spoons and keys became world-famous, both
stimulating imitators and new experiments, and providing accusations
of fraud.
Geller produced phenomena for scientists under laboratory
conditions that led many of them to back his claims of being
psychic with psychokinetic powers. Some later withdrew their
enthusiastic endorsements. In the meantime, critics, like stage
magician James Randi, denied the possibility of paranormal
metal bending. Randi questioned the validity of the laboratory
tests partly because of the inability of the scientists to detect
stage tricks. He backed up his observations by carrying out an
experiment in which he sent two amateur magicians into a
parapsychological laboratory. They were able to fool the members
of the staff of the McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research
in St. Louis.
Project Alpha, as Randi termed his experiment, was embarrassing
to researchers in parapsychology and called attention
to the ongoing need to double-check methodological controls,
but it did not speak to the large body of data on psychokinesis
accumulated during the last half century.
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