“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of
regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”
On Tonights TRTZ we will be following on from Caroline Watt’s interview last week by considering the question..
“What have we learned from Paranormal Research?”
We will try t0 make a clear distinction between what could be considered as ‘personal truths’ or ‘beliefs’ – subjective truth – and what we can know through empirical research and objective observations.
Remember that in all of my personal writings I make a clear distinction between what can be called a ‘rational perspective’ and that which can be called a ‘mystical perspective’.
The issue I personally find challenging is the resistance some have to an individual who is willing to ‘have a foot in both camps’.
Part of the problem is one of language and another is about entrenched ideology.
In terms of language I often find that the very specific language of ‘science’ (which strives at being accurate and clearly defined) has meaning outside of the ‘laboratory’ which leads to confusion.
Theory – is a specific example of this issue.
“I have a Theory” when used in general parlance is about having an idea; a possible explanation.
In science for any ‘idea’ or ‘explanation’ to be given the status of THEORY means that it has undergone questioning, challenge, falsification and replication – it also underpins other predictions and assumptions.
This level of misunderstanding can be heard whenever a non-scientist makes a statement like:-
“Evolution IS ONLY a THEORY” a statement which is often followed by the ‘jibe’ that ‘and scientists don’t know everything!’
Such a defensive comment is usually made when logical and ‘rational thought’ escapes someone who is trying to mount a personal defence against a scientific challenge.
Now I AM NOT SAYING science is the ONLY way of knowing!
Of course it’s not AND this is where we cross the boundary between OBJECTIVITY (what we can measure, share, postulate, generate hypotheses which might result in theories) and SUBJECTIVITY (what we individually sense, know, feel, hold as self-evident truths).
Hopefully this evening will allow us to cross boundaries between different ways of exploring and experiencing the world in which we live.
First some news from Catherine…
July: You may have heard of Joe Purcell and you may have seen the infamous photograph of his attempt to board a train with his pony, Ruby, in May, but he also attempted to take the pony to several other somewhat unorthodox locations that you may not have heard about! He also took Ruby to Wrexham Maelor Hospital A&E department to get up check up on the pony’s unborn foal, but was told to take her to a vet, as well as taking her to several pubs where she was also turned away until one kind-hearted landlord treated her to a three-course meal.
The Uncon 2011 date has been announced, it will be taking place 12th-13th November at Camden Centre in London and you can purchase your tickets from www.forteantimes.com/uncon2011.
A North Devon bus driver received something of a fright after two of his passengers failed to get off after he picked them up from Green Lanes Shopping Centre. Upon investigation, the pair had appeared to have vanished without trace. Vince Adams describes the passengers in detail: “They were an elderly lady and a young man in a dark leather jacket carrying a bunch of red and white carnations. I asked the lady if she was going to the hospital. She just smiled, so I issued her a concessionary ticket. The young man showed me a day ticket, all scrumpled up, but the date was correct. He too never said a word and went to sit next to the elderly lady.” He was so baffled by their disappearance that he visited the hospital to see if they had checked in and queried passers-by as to whether they’d witnessed them get off the bus. Nobody had. As the cherry on the cake of the disconcerting event, the concessionary ticket he had issued the elderly lady was still in the machine when he returned to the bus.
The University of Bath is holding ASAAPs’ (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena) paranormal event Seriously Strange, later this year. It will feature a number of speakers, experiments to take part in or watch as well as a party and disco. The event takes place on the 10th to the 11th of September and more information can be found at www.assap.org/30.
July 14th: Californian Patrick Francis Brooks was arrested for burglary, receiving stolen property, forgery and violating the terms of his parole for a previous conviction on the 11th of this month. He was not a difficult criminal to track down it seems, given that he has a rather unusual tattoo that makes him stand out a mile. The owner of a cheque-cashing store where Brooks was eventually caught told police that Brooks’ custom body art initially caught his attention before he tried to cash a forged cheque. The tattoo is spread-eagled across Brooks’ forehead and simply reads ‘F*** YOU’ – the mug shot has since gone viral on the internet.
July 15th: An unfortunate Taiwanese businessman was subject to an internet scam that lost him the equivalent of £258,000. He received an e-mail that offered him “French bread so delicious it will make you cry” accompanied by a picture of the croissant he’d receive for 99 Taiwanese dollars (This amounts to about £2.12). He gave the company in question his bank details in the hope of receiving a croissant, but it never came and he received several calls stating that the money had not gone through. It wasn’t until the seventh cash transaction that he realised he’d been scammed and lost 12 million Taiwanese dollars into the mix.
July 17th: An Australian Labrador has become something of an internet phenomenon after committing an act that has youtube users divided; was it an amazing feat of bravery or a moment of sheer idiocy?! The dog in question was filmed by a baffled onlooker swimming in the sea before spotting a group of four fairly sizable sharks cruising in the shallows and deciding round them up. Not only does the dog blithely swim into the centre of the circling predators but it dives underwater and has a nip at one, getting tugged along a few metres before emerging and swimming happily to the shore as if nothing had happened. The onlooker was suitably pleased with himself for catching the event on tape and the youtube clip currently has around 981,033 hits.
July: A chef from Thailand, Kann Trichan, has been given the nickname ‘superhands’ after tourists began to notice his astonishing ability. He is able to fully immerse both his hands in boiling fat without feeling any pain or receiving any injury. He says that ‘it feels hot, but it doesn’t burn or blister my skin.’ He discovered his intriguing ability quite by accident several years ago and now people come from all around to buy his chicken and watch him perform his spectacular feat.
Paranormal Research – What Have We Learned?
An overview by Catherine…
William Crookes, the SPR and other Investigative Organisations
Sir William Crookes was born on 17th June 1832 and died on 4th April 1919. In 1856 he married Ellen and had three sons and a daughter.
Crookes was a chemist and physicist who was educated at the Royal College of Chemistry in London.
He invented the Crookes tube in 1875, consisting of a sealed glass tube containing a partial vacuum with two electrodes in its walls. When a subjected to a high voltage, electrons are emitted from the cathode and speed toward the anode. A significant number of electrons or cathode rays will miss the anode and hit the glass wall of the tube, causing it to glow a fluorescent green. This led to the discovery of electrons and later on to the discovery of x-rays.
In 1861 he discovered thallium, a toxic metallic element named after the Greek for thallos, meaning ‘a green shoot’.
In 1895 he discovered helium, a singular (Monatomic) non-toxic, odourless, tasteless, colourless element that heads the noble gases of the periodic table and exists almost solely as a gas.
He was one of the first scientists to investigate the properties of plasma, a substance now sometimes called the ‘fourth state of matter’.
In 1903 he invented the spinthariscope, a device used to observe the radioactive decay of individual particles caused by the interaction of ionizing radiation with a phosphor.
He also invented the Crookes Radiometer, now something of a novelty item. This is a glass bulb within the partial vacuum of which several diamond shaped panels can be seen that spin when exposed to strong light.
Crookes interest in spiritualism was thought to have stemmed from the premature death of his younger sibling Philip after he was stricken with Yellow fever in 1867.
He had been close to his brother and his departure disturbed him, subsequently, in his search for answers he attended séances in an attempt to contact his deceased brother and henceforth turned to Spiritualism.
He felt it was the duty of science to investigate ‘preternatural phenomena’.
Crookes investigated many acclaimed ‘Mediums’, including Daniel Douglas Home in 1871, a man reputed for his arrogance and powerful psychic gift.
He believed Homes’ gift was genuine and performed a complex experiment whereby Crookes wrapped an accordion in copper wire and placed it within a metal cage. A charge was sent through the wire; this was due to Crookes’ belief that if Homes’ gift was electro-magnetic, charging the accordion would interrupt any such manipulation and render him unable to play it. Home was still able to play the accordion despite this, and therefore led Crooke’s to believe that his psychic capacity was an altogether independent force.
Crookes attempted to get a paper he wrote on Home published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, but his request was denied. Subsequently, he managed to get it published in Quarterly Journal of Science, but this didn’t do him any favours in the scientific community despite his achievements up to that point and his work was discredited.
When other scientists told him that his findings over Home were ludicrous and impossible he stated that ‘I never said that it was possible, I only said that it was true.’
Subsequent to his interest in spiritualism, he joined the SPR (Society for Psychical Research) and became its President in 1896 until 1899.
“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” – C.G.Jung
The slogan for the SPRs Website.
The SPR aims to study paranormal phenomena scientifically, and unlike some other societies and groups in the same field, share information regarding their findings and encourage debate.
They are less prone to Spontaneous Case Investigation than other such groups as ASAAP or The Ghost Club.
It is the longest running organization of its type.
It runs one of the most extensive paranormal libraries for its members in the UK and has online access to journals dating back to the nineteenth century.
The SPR was founded in London during 1882 by Sir William Barrett and Edmund Dawson Rogers and according to their website it aimed to study ‘that large body of debatable phenomena designated by such terms as mesmeric, psychical and “spiritualistic”, and to do so in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned enquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems’.
They are responsible for these investigations gaining scientific merit, as well as setting out guidelines and standardising methods of analysis.
At the centre of the organization then was the ‘Sidgwick Group’, a collection of experienced paranormal investigators who consisted of Henry Sidgwick, Frederic WH Myers, Edmund Gurney, Walter Leaf, Lord Raleigh, Arthur Balfour and Eleanor Balfour, and Evelyn Raleigh.
This group has initially been designed as an informal group in 1874 and its members hoped to thoroughly investigate mediums and séances. Thankfully, most of the group members were quite wealthy which was a great help in getting up and running.
In their period of operations they managed to expose several frauds as well as witnessing many paranormal events that they simply could not explain.
Henry Sidgwick became the first president of the SPR and remained in office nine years.
The SPR were divided into several specialized areas of study as follows:
2) Mesmerism, Hypnotism.
3) Clairvoyance (and related phenomena), ‘Mediums’ and those who affirm their ability to communicate with the dead.
5) Levitations, Materialisations, other séance related phenomena.
6) The History of the above subjects.
The SPR even attracted the attention of noted psychologists Jung and Freud as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
They have suffered a number of potentially damaging events, including a sex scandal involving one of the founding members, Myers, a number of endorsements in psychics who later turned out to be frauds, a death that may or may not have been suicide, accusations of pseudoscience, and perhaps most damaging, the Fox Sisters public confession to being fraudulent in their claims during the 1800s.
The Fox Sisters were possibly the founders of the interest in Spiritual Phenomena, their widely publicized psychic talents subsequent to the ‘coming of the spirits’ to their home making them minor celebrities. Sadly, Maggie, Leah and Kate all struggled with bouts of alcoholism and family tragedies until Maggie confessed Spiritualism to be a sham in 1888, apparently having chosen such a confession over suicide. It is thought that the confession itself may have been a sham to spite Leah who had long since turned her back on her two sisters.
Sadly, the SPRs previous attempts to gain scientific credit by debunking frauds were not only mostly ignored by the scientists who accused them of pseudoscience, but upset the Spiritualist community as well.
Despite the problems they have faced in the past, they continue to be a significant force in the investigation of the paranormal and John Fraser states that the group is ‘still the essential backbone of paranormal investigations in this country.’
The other two most noted groups in the investigation of forteana are thought to be:
The Ghost Club.
The Ghost Club was founded in 1862 and is therefore the oldest of groups of its type, having suffered much of the ridicule from media as the SPR has in its time.
It is voluntarily run and more informal than the SPR, though it stills takes its investigations quite seriously and does not accept membership from ‘thrill-seekers’.
‘Whilst the SPR was a body devoted to scientific study the Club remained a selective and secretive organisation of convinced believers for whom psychic phenomena were an established fact.’ – The Ghost Club website.
Sir William Crookes was also a member later on in his career after one of his investigations, that of already somewhat dubious medium Florence Cook, went sour and she was made out to be a fraud.
They have also attracted a few famous members, such as Charles Dickens, Siegfried Sassoon, , Donald Campbell, Peter Cushing, Peter Underwood, Maurice Grosse, Sir Shane Leslie, Eric Maple and even Harry Price, whose investigations pertaining to Borley Rectory made him something of a psychic superstar.
They have expanded and encouraged their members to investigate UFOs, dowsing and cryptozoology as well as their main area of study.
The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena.
A relatively recent organization by comparison, they were formed in 1981 by author Hilary Evans and Jenny Randles, as well as Founding Editor of Fortean Times Bob Rickard and scientists Dr Hugh Pincott and Dr Vernon Harrison.
They do not adhere to the research of parapsychology alone; they feel that this term is too restrictive.
This group also focuses on gaining merit in the educational field, as well as conducting their own independent research into various phenomena.
They are divided into four main areas of study:
1) Psychic phenomena (ghosts, telepathy, mediums)
2) Fortean phenomena (cryptozoology, etc.)
3) Earth Mysteries (Leys, archaeoastronomy)
And 4) UFOs.
They also undertake training for budding paranormal investigators.
The Music on TONIGHT’S SHOW
The Truths : Hit the Streets : Tryptich
Benny Teteh-Lartey : Lucky Number
Little Spitfire : If I look I see you