The 2013 Society of Psychical Research Conference, Part II

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I finally have the time to continue my report of the 2013 SPR Conference in Swansea. The second paper offered a fascinating account of a sad chapter in the history of parapsychology, Dr. Soal’s falsification of data that rendered all his findings suspect. In their paper, “Dr. Soal: A Psychic Enigma,” Donald West and Betty Markwick studied Soal’s later research findings which had not been considered in earlier studies documenting fraud. Unfortunately, they found clear evidence of fraud in Soal’s later studies in the form of answers being altered in order to raise ESP scores. They suggest that perhaps Dr. Soal believed in psi so much that he felt he had to offer conclusive data to convince other scientists to accept psi. Unfortunately, Soal’s fraud increased skepticism of psi among scientists, even though it was parapsychologists themselves who discovered and publicized the fraud. Who know what motivated Dr. Soal—what we do know is that the damage he did to parapsychology has not fully been repaired.

My own paper, “The Principle of Credulity and Testimonial Evidence for Psi,” appeals to Thomas Reid’s notion that one should trust another person’s purported testimony unless there is good reason to think otherwise. I discuss the use of the Principle of Credulity in philosopher Richard Swinburne’s discussion of the evidence for miracles. Swinburne defends the general trustworthiness of people’s claims that they have experienced a miracle, arguing against David Hume’s thesis that natural explanations for purported miracles are always stronger than supernatural ones. I defend the Principle of Credulity from attacks by analytic philosophers such as Quine and from the postmodern critique of philosophers such as Derrida and Foucault. I argue that in general people’s claims of having experienced psi should be trusted unless there are very strong reasons to think otherwise.

David Vernon’s paper, “Exploring the Possibility of Precognitive Priming,” taking off, of course, from the work of Daryl Bem and his colleagues. After I heard the paper, the evidence for precognitive priming does not seem to be consistent across researchers, and it seems to me that the experimenter effect may be playing a role in the different results arising from similar studies.

The always entertaining and colorful character Sean O’Donnell presented a paper entitled “Awkward Questions Revisited: Ameliorations Proposed.” He strongly defends the notion that psi is a learned skill and that a person can improve over time by extensive practice. This is a claim also made by many of those involved in remote viewing studies. It seems reasonable that people may differ in how much they might accomplish through practice, just as not everyone can play the violin with equal skill. If practice is essential for improving psi, then for me this raises the question whether psi can be understood on a craft-like model in which practice makes the ability to access psi “second nature” in the Aristotelian sense.

David Wilson’s paper, “The Spiritualist Development Circle as Laboratory: Some Reflections on Methodology Arising from Apprentice-Participation” was fascinating in that Professor Wilson is both an academic parapsychologist and a practicing medium. His account of the Spiritualist Development Circle illustrates that mediums take their craft seriously and work hard to improve their abilities. He also noted the differences between various Spiritualist groups, with some being more traditionally religious (“Christian”) than others.

Rachel Browning presented a paper on “The Relationship Between Physical Phenomena and Electronic Voice Phenomena Reported in Séances with a Physical Circle from 2008 to 2013.” Electronic voice phenomena fascinate me, especially since when I go on investigations I pick up more voices than anyone else in the group—40 vs. 0 or 1. Why that is the case is mysterious—is it my own psychokinesis or am I a medium of some kind. Unfortunately, much EVP evidence is not that strong, with voices saying short phrases, the identity of which very few people agree. I was not impressed with the quality of voices played, though it would not surprise me that EVP would be detected in an attempt to elicit physical phenomena.

Ross Friday’s paper, “I Hear Dead People: Individual Differences in the Perception of Anomalous Voices in Ambiguous Electronic Audio Recordings” focuses on the problem of interpreting what a voice in a particular EVP says. Some sounds that are not voices at all are interpreted as voices. Even when a voice is present, it is rare that, without “priming” from the person who heard the EVP and thinks he knows that it says, that any two people agree on the content of the EVP. The examples from the presentation confirmed the difficulty.

Ann Winsper presented another paper on EVP, “The Psychology of Alleged Electronic Voice Phenomena.” She believes that EVP evidence thus far is weak, and those involved in EVP research must consider ways out of the difficulty of interpreting EVP, especially given the human tendency to hear voices even when all that is present is noise.

Responding to a lack of studies on near-death experiences in Japan, Mika Iwasaki and Tatsu Hirukawa presented a paper, “Near-Death Experiences and their After-effects: 18 Cases from Japan.” They note that the elements of various NDE scales such as Ring’s are present in Japanese NDEs. Their experiences lack the Christian imagery of NDEs in countries where Christianity is the dominant influence, but this is no surprise given the Shinto-Buddhist nature of contemporary Japanese religion. NDEs are interpreted through cultural filters; however, some elements remain stable—the feeling of peace, a bright light, in some cases dead relatives (or the god of the dead). Iwasaki and Hirukawa’s study fills a major gap in NDE research in Asia.

Although Peter Fenwick spoke last due to his busy schedule as a physician, I will discuss his talk now in the order of the original program. His talk was, “Do End of Life Experiences and Cardiac Arrest OBEs Contribute to Our Understanding of Survival?” Those who know Dr. Fenwick’s work will not be surprised that he does believe that such experiences best support a survival explanation. As a philosopher I wish to make two points: (1) clinical death is not death—it is a “near-death” state, and when Dr. Fenwick as well as Dr. Parnia refer to cardiac arrest as actual death they are being philosophically sloppy. Death is a state from which one does not return absent a miracle of God. Now near-death experiences may not be explainable in terms of brain processes, which would mean a paranormal experience is taking place, and it is also possible that the experience can support a minimally survalist life after death. Super-psi is another issue NDE researchers ought to consider—could the events, or at least some of the events, in an NDE be explained by the experiencer’s super-psi or someone elses.

I wanted to sightsee in Swansea, so unfortunately I missed three presentations on precognition; below are their titles and authors:

Suschat Meshram, “Precognitive Dreams – A REM Sleep Fourth Dimensional Consciousness”

Fernando de Pablos, “The Arrows of Time, Precognitive Dreams and the Human Brain”

Fergus Hines, “A New Approach to Precognition.”

Professor de Pablos kindly gave me a copy of his book, and if he is reading, yes, I still plan to review it! When I first began to study parapsychology, I was surprised by the strong evidence for precognition. There are possible implications for the nature of time and for our experience of time, some radical. What if time itself is fluid? What does that do to the stability of our lives?

I caught the tail end of Carolyn Watt’s paper, “Dream Precognition in the Sleep Laboratory.” It would be no surprise if such precognition is found because of the results of the Maimonides study. Dreaming is probably the state in which most people claim to have precognitive experiences—when the sensory stimuli are mitigated and other powers of the mind can come through.

Neil Spring’s paper, “The Ghost Hunters. What might have happened at Borley and Price’s Laboratory” offers a fascinating account of the equipment Borley and Price had and the methods they used to “hunt ghosts.” Harry Price, not to be confused with the philosopher H. H. Price, was one of the first people to market himself as a ghost hunter—and he did an excellent job of self-promotion. While questions arose concerning his claims he made, he remains the intellectual father of the “ghost hunting groups” that are so popular today.

Tony Percy’s paper, “The Selection and Use of Instrumentation in the Investigation of the Paranormal,” is an approach by a ghost hunter on which equipment to use in an investigation. He brought several items—cameras, video cameras, etc., and focused on those he found most useful in his studies.

Steven Parson’s paper, “It’s not Rocket Science!” offered what Parson describes in his reply below as “a personal observation and was aimed squarely at the frequent failures by Psychologists and Parapsychology when it comes to making to objective measurements of physical variables such as Temperature, Electromagnetism or Infrasound and a call for an adherence to the existing measurement standards such as those by the ISO etc. To illustrate this my presentation used the Radin & Rebman Psychomanteum and the French Haunt Project as examples.” I suggest that those who read this post also read Steve Parson’s full response below, including a conference abstract and a reply to comments I had earlier on this post regarding the Parascience website. As anyone working online knows, it is easy, without the nuances of speech, to always communicate what we really mean in an online format, and I appreciate Parson’s efforts to correct any errors I have made and any misunderstandings anyone might have of his work.

A phenomenological approach to paranormal experiences is valuable in bringing out what people subjectively perceive when they experience a paranormal event. Aaron Lomas presents such an account in “Phenomenological Aspects of the Apparitional Experience:  A Current Study of How Individuals Have Experienced Such Anomalies.” Those familiar with the literature on apparitions would know that most, though not all, apparitions appear to be ordinary people, though in some cases they appear to be transparent. Lomas’ account showed the unity and diversity of apparitional experiences.

SPR members know that David Luke will present a paper with an interesting title, and 2013 was no exception. His paper, “The Men (and Woman) Who Stare at (Sheep and) Goats: Beliefs, Expectations, Experiences, Neurology and Gender in Haunt Site Vigils” reveals the role that expectations play in a person’s experience of an alleged haunt site. It is a well-know phenomena in psychology that expectations play a role in human experiences. Beliefs help focus the ways that human beings interpret experiences of all kinds, not just paranormal experiences. That such factors play a role in a person’s experience of a haunting site is no more or no less than the way human beings access experience in general.

Cal Cooper’s paper, “Helpful or Harmful? Anomalous Experiences in Bereavement,” affirms that in most afterdeath experiences by the bereaved, the effect is positive, though there are rare cases in which the effect is negative. If there was a bitter relationship between the deceased and a particular relative, if the deceased were to communicate, the result might not be a friendly greeting. However, most people find such experiences positive, and they aid in the grieving process.

Overall, this was one of the best SPR conferences I have attended and hope I can say the same about the upcoming September 2014 conference.

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36th International Conference, Society for Psychical Research, 7-9 September, 2012

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Corporate logo of the University of Northampto...

Corporate logo of the University of Northampton (400×102 px, 7,573 bytes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 36th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research took place from September 7-9, 2012 at the University of Northampton, UK. This year also marks the 130th year of the existence of the SPR, which was founded in 1882. The conference was a great success, and the quality of the papers outstanding. The first paper, by John Poynton, proposed narrative, specifically novels, as a way to show (rather than to tell) the public that the mechanistic view of nature is bankrupt. This is something he has attempted to do in his own novels. Given the contemporary emphasis in narrative approaches to philosophy and other fields, Carr’s view offered a corrective to an over-emphasis on discursive telling in science and philosophy.

Mary Rose Barrington has been in the field of psychical research for many years, and I am always impressed with the quality and wisdom of her papers, She proposed that psychical research does not deal with replicable phenomena and that this should not stand in the way of continuing to do such research. I found her talk intellectually stimulating. It raised issues concerning the definition of science and whether psychical research is a science. Given that science does deal with some non-replicable phenomena (the big bang, the course of biological evolution, which seems to be contingent), this should not preclude the scientific nature of psychical research. Even if it is an independent discipline more closely related to history, that does not prevent its discovery of truths.

Julie Rousseau’s paper concerned Galileo’s critics, and she offered a sympathetic account of the issues dividing Galileo from his critics. She correctly notes that at in Galileo’s lifetime, the evidence could not determine whether the Ptolemaic or Copernican theory of the solar system was correct. This underdetermination of the solar system controversy by the evidence shows that the notion of the rational Galileo fighting an irrational church is oversimplified. She then applies the paradigm shift from Ptolemy to Copernicus to the current paradigm shift toward less mechanistic explanations in the sciences. This process, she argues, requires a broad-based approach that recognizes that a radical paradigm shift involves a shift in intellectual commitments that involve philosophical as well as scientific claims.

Christopher Laursen’s paper was a unique contribution dealing with how psychical researchers from World War II to around 1990 dealt with those who wrote to them who also had obvious mental problems. Approaches ranged from avoidance to referral to a mental health care expert. Such cases bring up a serious ethical dilemma in what to do in such cases, and such dilemmas have generally been an unexplored area of psychical research.

Paul Rogers’ paper on how various parenting patterns, especially overprotectedness,  can influence later beliefs in psi is interesting from a psychological perspective. It is important to note, however, that such psychological factors have nothing to do with the reality or unreality of psi.

David Luke’s paper concerned whether eating San Pedro Cactus would improve psi ability. He used himself as the research subject. An interesting aside is that the Nuremburg Code allows for risky experimentation on human subjects if the subject is the investigator. He found that for him, San Pedro Cactus helped with psi abilities. An expansion of this study in an ethical way would be difficult since it would be ideal to have non-psychedic users involved to remove the confound of the influence of other psychoactive substances. However, those unfamiliar with psychedelics can have an uncomfortable experience of loss of control after taking a psychedelic substance. There is also a risk of a “bad trip.” One could try a comparative study of users and non-users of a particular psychedelic drug in a similar population and test both for psi ability, but the conclusions of such a study may not have the force that researchers may desire. In any case, Professor Luke’s paper was among the most interesting of the conference.

Sonnex, Roe, and Roxburgh are in the process of examining distant mental influence on non-whole human samples by examining studies that focus on DNA, bacteria, plants, or non-human animals. These studies seem to have more support than studies involving whole human beings.

Roberts and Hume did an interesting study of pairs (friends, strangers, siblings, and romantic couples) to determine whether a particular kind of pair had better psi scores than others. Surprisingly, strangers had the best hit rate. There was a slight predominance of psi hitting, but that was not statistically significant. The authors suggest that individual and interpersonal variables may be more valuable than the degree of relation regarding psi scoring. This makes sense—some romantic partners may be at a stage in their relationship that is not close at the time of a study, and some friends may be closer emotionally than romantic partners. Regarding the higher scores with strangers, perhaps there was strong motivation by some of the strangers to impress their partner.

There followed papers by Broughton and Zycowicz as well as by Chris Roe and his colleagues and students that were statistical, process-oriented studies of psi. As a philosopher, it was easy for me to get lost in the data, but such studies are essential for exploring the correlational patterns of relationships, personality, and other factors in psi research. Roe and his colleagues/students had another paper attempting to replicate Bem’s precognition task, one of the most interesting psi studies of the last decade, and one whose results were published in a mainstream psychology journal. My hope is that more researchers will attempt to replicate Bem. At the Rhine Center I participated in an informal version of the experiment that Bem administered to the audience. The fact that I and most others scored higher using “study words” given to us after we took a test was a fascinating result.

Donald West’s paper, “Awkward Questions,” notes that the best psi cases are the few extraordinary cases. He suggests, rightly I think, that more emphasis should be given to strong spontaneous cases of psi rather than larger scale studies that may have only limited validity. My own view is that a good spontaneous case is better evidence for how psi functions than laboratory studies that may be limited in validity due to the experimenter effect. Stephen Braude has noted that to study a football quarterback’s ability, one must see the quarterback in action during a game, not study him in a lab. I agree with Professor Braude that the situation with psi is analogous.

I had been looking forward to Chris Bratcher’s talk on H. D. Lewis’s contribution to psychical research, but unfortunately Mr. Bratcher was unable to make it to the conference. Another speaker, James Beichler graciously agreed to present a paper instead. His paper offered a fascinating theory explaining paranormal phenomena in terms of a five-dimensional geometry and involving a physical (though not necessarily materialist) view of apparitions. As with many such broad-based theory of physics, it awaits empirical evidence supporting its major tenants, and if his theory is one of several that account for the data of psi, then all those theories will be judged via epistemic virtues such as explanatory power, simplicity, and beauty.

Michael Potts’ paper was a comparison between James Carpenter’s “first sight” theory of psi and the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus’ (1265-1308) theory of intellectual intuitive cognition. Both hold that psi is “first sight,” but in different ways. Duns Scotus’ theory is one possible way to overcome the epistemological gap between mind and thing through direct cognition of the existing object. Carpenter adds the value of psi in meeting the needs of organisms, including the basic need of survival.

Wim Kramer offered an interesting history of one of the forgotten researchers in parapsychology, Floris Jansen, who developed a lab to explore psi in Amsterdam in 1906 that, sadly, closed in 1908 due to lack of funding.

Erlender Haraldsson, one of the towering figures of contemporary psychical research, presented a paper based on a recent book containing the results of a survey he conducted of afterlife encounters in Iceland. Such a survey was badly needed—Phantasms of the Living dates to the nineteenth century, and recent works of afterlife encounters usually give only anecdotes without full survey data. This work marks another masterful contribution to survival research from a giant in the field.

David Rousseau argued that veridical near-death experiences offer a way beyond the impasse of the survival vs. superpsi debate in favor of survival. If his work finds a way out of the impasse, as I think it will, this will mark a key contribution to survival research.

Callum Cooper presented an interesting historical paper on apparitions and survival in Egypt, both in ancient times and in the present day.

Richard Broughton’s after dinner talk dealt with his long career in parapsychology. It was fascinating to hear his accounts of the major figures in the field from around 1970 to the present day.

Deborah Oakes shared a fascinating account of non-linear modeling as it relates to rogue waves on the ocean, and argues that psi also requires such non-linear modeling. I have a long-time interest in chaos and complexity theory, and I would hope in her future work that Ms. Oakes would mention some specific examples in which psi fits into a non-linear, rather than into a linear, pattern.

Steven Parsons’ paper concerned paranormal researchers and whether infrasound could cause paranormal-seeming events. By this stage, jet-lag was getting to me, but if I understood his results, they seemed to discount most influence from infrasound while not leaving out a role for infrasound in psi phenomena.

Simon Sherwood’s paper concerned the characteristics of people who experience “ghostly phenomena.” Again, such studies are valuable unless they argue for psychological reductionism, which would commit the genetic fallacy and go beyond the available evidence. I do not think that Sherwood’s paper made that mistake.

Alan Murdie focused on Andrew Green, a UK ghost hunter who did not believe in ghosts.

Ann Winsper focused on Teresa Helena Higginson and various paranormal events associated with her.

Paul Cropper’s fascinating study of the poltergeist in Asia included a film of a bullet flying “on its own” through the air into a wall at high speed.  As poltergeist phenomena are notoriously difficult to photograph or film, that clip provides a strong, but not conclusive, case for the reality of poltergeist phenomena.

I had the blessing of talking to many of the psychical researchers at the conference. The food was excellent, and the area surrounding Northampton is among the most beautiful in England. This was one of the most interesting SPR conferences I have attended. As usual, Bernard Carr and the other members of the program committee as well as Peter Johnson’s hard work in dealing with practical matters of room and board, are greatly appreciated.

Parapsychology and Positivism

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Auguste Comte

Although “mainstream” psychologists may disagree, in its attitude toward science, parapsychology competes with psychology for being the most conservative of the sciences. Now there are parapsychologists who do not resemble the original positivists in the line of Auguste Comte or the twentieth century logical positivists in any respect. The late John Beloff was a good example. Today Allen Gauld is in that broad tradition of scientists open to philosophical insight. He appealed to the works of philosophers as well as those of scientists in his work, and he was among the most philosophical of professional parapsychologists. For the most part, I have seen little evidence of positivism among the members of the Society for Psychical Research in the U.K. This is a credit to that organization, which has traditionally held a “big tent” for not only scientists, but also for philosophers, theologians, and other scholars in the Humanities. I will not name them, but there are parapsychologists who believe that philosophy and theology should play no role in either truth claims or theories concerning the various aspects of psi. They desire that parapsychology should be respected as a science like any other field of science. In this respect they are similar to psychologists, who often believe the old-fashioned positivist view that science is the only path to knowledge of reality. Thus even metaphysical issues such as the existence of God, if not amenable to scientific study, cannot be about truth claims. That such a position is a philosophical position seems lost on some psychologists and parapsychologists. Organizations with this line of thought may, from time to time, publish historical studies in their journals, but philosophical papers are almost nonexistent, and all other papers take a quantitative psychological approach to parapsychology. For all the good work J. B. Rhine did to put experimental parapsychology on a firm foundation, his approach also tended to be narrower than the approaches of the Society for Psychical Research and of the American Society for Psychical Research. Some writers today distinguish psychical research from parapsychology, holding that parapsychology takes a more narrow approach to psi, focuses almost exclusively on a “scientific method” of procedure, and deals very little with the issue of survival after death. When I first became interested in parapsychology, I thought that this was inaccurate, and that currently psychical research and parapsychology are coextensive. As I talk with more people in the field, I find more philosophical materialists who also tend to hold that science is the exclusive source of reliable knowledge about reality. I wonder if F. W. H. Myers would be welcome to present a paper at some contemporary gatherings of parapsychologists.  By eschewing philosophical approaches, these parapsychologists may be blind to their own philosophical biases, biases that are present among scientists in every field of study.from physics to biology. I appreciate the open approach to the field taken at the University of Virginia. The research professors there do careful empirical research, but with a true interdisciplinary focus that takes account of the best work in, for example, the philosophy of mind. In a field that necessarily deals with phenomena about which many disciplines make knowledge claims, it is important for practitioners have an open mind and that they be well-read in a variety of fields. I would also encourage those psychical researchers who desire to revitalize psychical research in the United States to communicate with one another and perhaps organize to revitalize the field and keep it from being lost in a plethora of statistics.

2011 International Conference, Society for Psychical Research

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The 2011 International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research took place in the fair city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from September 2-4. As usual, the SPR is to be commended for including papers from a wide variety of perspectives, from traditional “hard core” laboratory research to philosophical studies to mediumship studies to contemporary “ghost hunting.” It was a pleasure to hear Daryl Bem speak concerning “feeling the future.” Dr. Bem’s careful research methodology has led to his being published in mainstream psychology journals, to to grudging respect from some of his psychological colleagues who do not accept the existence of psi. It was also a pleasure to hear Erlendur Haraldsson, one of the giants of the field. Before I was interested in parapsychology as such, I found his book with Osis on deathbed visions when I visited a flea market with my granddaddy in Tennessee. That book had a great deal of influence on me and helped stimulate an interest in the field that has only come to fruition in the last few years.

Matthew Colborn’s talk, encouraging more openness in parapsychology to reconsidering non-physicalist approaches to the mind-body problem, was a refreshing reminder that the recent upsurge in philosophical materialism among psi researchers does not end the debate over the nature of human beings. He did an excellent job of assimilating the latest philosophical thought on the mind-body problem into his talk. After he spoke, I had the misfortune of preceding Ed May’s incredible talk on the end of Stargate. This is like being the act preceding the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. But I was happy to share my view that Occam’s Razor does not play a useful role in deciding between the living agent and the spirit theories of poltergeist phenomena.

I must apologize for the rather obvious effects of jet lag as I sat in the audience–my body’s reaction was no reflection on the speakers–I was absolutely exhausted after the flight from America. But the facilities there were excellent–I was pleased with the rooms, and the food was superb. My wife, Karen, and I enjoyed the city–the Royal Mile‘s historic buildings. ghost tours underground and at Greyfriars Cemetery, and the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, which was, for me, one of the most fascinating stops in our journey. Visiting the Edinburgh Castle was a powerful experience, especially gazing at the very crown placed on the head of Mary, Queen of Scots, at her coronation. The rooms with paintings of all the monarchs of Scotland marked an incredible journey toward the room with the crown jewels.

All in all, the SPR conference was superb, and I could not imagine a better location–nor could I have imagined being blessed with such fine sunny weather. I hope future conferences are every bit as good as this one.

Society for Psychical Research Annual Meeting, Sheffield, UK

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Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Resea...

I just returned from Sheffield, UK, where I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychical Research. That organization dates back to 1882, when Henry Sidgwick, his wife Elenore, Frederic W. H. Myers, Edward Gurney, William James, and other intellectuals decided to investigate both survival after death and extended powers of the mind (psi) using scientific techniques. These scholars were disturbed at the cold, mechanical, Newtonian world of modern science, especially after such a Newtonian view was applied to biology in Charles Darwin‘s and Alfred Russell Wallace‘s theory of evolution by natural selection. The world of nature seemed, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson put it, “red in tooth and claw,” as cold and uncaring as the ocean waters surrounding sailors trapped on a dingy after their boat capsized. Christianity seemed hard-pressed to deal with the empty, heartless universe of science.  Some scholars, such as Wallace, believed that empirical evidence could be found to justify a more spiritual conception of the universe. Incidences of apparent telepathy (mind-to-mind communication), clairvoyance (gaining information from the environment) and various stories of hauntings and ghosts as well as readings from mediums were studied, and some useful case studies can be found, for example, in Edmund Gurney‘s and F. W. H. Meyers’ Phantasms of the Living. Many cases involved a recently dead person not known by family to be dead appearing to a family member. Mediums, such as Mrs. Leonora Piper, gave information about those who have died that was so accurate that it is difficult to explain by her own psychic abilities alone.

Although after the work of J. B. Rhine at Duke University psychical research (now called parapsychology) became more experimental in approach. But the Society for Psychical Research highlights a broad spectrum of studies. At this years’ annual meeting in Sheffield, there were experimental papers, theoretical papers, including a few oriented toward philosophy, and field studies. Topics ranged from telephone telepathy to appearances of black dogs, from ganzfeld experiments to survival of death. The variety of papers and viewpoints was impressive, as was the high level of scholarship. To say that psychical researchers/parapsychologists are not using a scholarly approach is sheer ignorance. I was part of some of the best intellectual conversations I have ever experienced.

I strongly support continued research in the traditional areas of parapsychology, including conceptual and philosophical papers. Extreme, “fundamentalist skeptics” have aggressively attempted to halt parapsychological research, and have to a large degree succeeded. But the Society for Psychical Research continues its mission, and I hope to submit a proposal to next year’s conference.