Annie Jacobsen’s ‘Phenomena’
April 11, 2017
A new book has just been published in on ‘psychic spying’. It’s by Annie Jacobsen, author of best-selling books about the secret doings of the US military based on declassified documents, including Operation Paperclip and The Pentagon’s Brain, for which she was a Pulitzer prize finalist. This one is titled Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis. It contains a lot about the Star Gate remote viewing program, which is now likely to get a lot of new exposure.
Oddly, that’s a concern to some of the key people involved in it, who to judge by their reviews on Amazon are pretty disgusted with the book. They complain that it’s full of errors, ignores the science behind the program, and presents a ‘distorted and selective’ view of it – Russell Targ’s words, and he can claim to know what he’s talking about, since he and Hal Puthoff set the whole thing off with their early work with Pat Price. Jacobsen hardly mentions him, and instead gives the impression that the man behind it was Andrija Puharich, who had a lot to do with popularising Uri Geller, but nothing to do with remote viewing research. The driving force, arguably, was Edwin May, the nuclear physicist/parapsychologist who ran the scientific side of the program for ten years. Yet apparently he’s hardly mentioned either. Jacobsen also exaggerates the role of Uri Geller, and elevates other peripheral, largely unknown figures to central roles.
(Interestingly, Geller himself has also posted a short review, worrying that Jacobsen has exposed the depth of his ‘involvement with secret agencies’, when he would prefer to be remembered ‘as an entertainer and the originator of spoon bending’.)
More specifically, Ben Goertzel (futurist, AI expert) writes:
Having participated in discussions of the project with Ed May, Joe McMoneagle, Russell Targ and others who were directly involved with it over a long period of time, I can tell you that the story as Jacobsen tells it, is not the story as they tell it. So something is wrong here. This book is a well-crafted sensationalist half-truth, rather than any sort of definitive history. A shame, as the experiments done and results obtained in Star Gate are important stuff for everyone to understand and think about. (For one thing, the Star Gate project described here showed that psychic remote viewing can really work, if done with the right people. Wow. This is a dramatic sort of discovery, and a piece of history that very much deserves to be recounted accurately as well as artfully.)
Sonali Bhatt Marwaha, an associate of May’s in the research program, complains that Jacobsen
perpetuates the myth of psi research as a fringe “woo-woo” science, and does great disservice to the science of psi, and the serious psi researchers from a variety of academic disciplines, who have made substantial progress in understanding the phenomenon.Obviously I haven’t read the book, and with my present schedule am unlikely to in the near future, although if it makes it to my local Waterstones I look forward to skimming it to see what the fuss is about. On the plus side, Jacobsen gets credit for drawing attention to the subject with her racy page-turning style. She knows she’s struck a rich seam by focusing on the secret doings of our masters, especially at a time when people are becoming profoundly sceptical about established authority. She’s also open-minded about psi’s existence. So arguably the book could do good in attracting a wide readership and encouraging people to investigate further.
(Guy Playfair was dismayed by the way two recent films about the Enfield poltergeist –a three-part series by Sky and a feature film – were presented as being based on his book about his and Maurice Grosse’s investigation, This House Is Haunted, since neither had much to do with the book at all. But they gave a big boost to sales of the book, which means a number of people are now well informed about the episode who weren’t before.)
I think the scientists worry that Phenomena might be a runaway bestseller, and establish forever the historical record about remote viewing, or at least the Star Gate program. In that case, the reading public will hold in its collective mind an erroneous view that’s impossible ever to correct. But surely such books get written all the time. Who now remembers Jim Schnabel’s twenty-year old Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America’s Psychic Spies? That didn’t set the historical record, and neither will this.
I believe the idea readers will actually be left with is that hard-headed US military agencies – or at least credible individuals within them – were (and remain) convinced that psi is a real thing. That contradicts the sceptical narrative that the project was terminated because it didn’t work, which arguably is the mainstream view right now.
But there is a larger issue here about how psi research is best presented to the public, and by whom. It’s amazing to me how many books do get written about the subject - book reviews seem to make up the larger part of its scholarly journals these days - attesting to a large and interested readership. But the books seldom get noticed in the mainstream media, or contribute to public conversations. For that to happen requires a particular alchemy, which arguably Jacobsen provides: a first rate writer who’s established her credentials – and an enthusiastic readership – and having tasted success is prepared to push the boundaries to a place that few mainstream writers dare to tread, in the expectation of cashing in on the public fascination with secrets and mysteries.
The downside is that she’s a journalist, and journalists need to understand the subject if they’re to do a good job. (Steve Volk’s Fringe-ology is an example of one that works – based on interviews more than library research, but nevertheless, clearly informed by background knowledge, as well as being beautifully written.) You can't succeed at that without being prepared to put in some serious time, which an ambitious writer in a hurry won’t do – by all accounts Jacobsen put Phenomena together in less than a year.
I can claim some insights here from writing Randi’s Prize. To start with, I thought I’d give myself six months to research and write a book. At the end of six months I realised I’d only scratched the surface, so I decided to extend it to two years. Even that wasn’t enough: I’d written a complete book, but in my heart of hearts didn’t feel sure I knew what I was talking about. Now in a state of some frustration I felt obliged to press on until I did.
By the end of three years I’d written a very different sort of book, one based on a more or less settled idea about psi phenomena that has stayed with me ever since. Then later, I completely rewrote it.
So now I can easily recognise a two-year book about psi matters, one that authoritatively describes issues that I suspect the author is personally clueless about. It never really seems to get to grip with the material. If it also contains errors it’s most likely a one-year book, at best. Getting names even slightly wrong – for instance ‘Frederick Myers’ – is to be expected in an article by a journalist tackling the subject for the first time. But in a book it’s a sign that the author hasn’t often seen the name in print – and therefore can’t have done much research.
Jacobsen apparently refers to JB Rhine as ‘James’, a tip-off to the well-informed that her background knowledge is shallow. But that’s not surprising, since by all accounts she spent less than a year researching and writing. You could say she's pulled off a tour de force, considering the amount of ground she covers and the skill she apparently shows in presenting her research. But she may not understand how being in such a rush leaves her vulnerable to individual views and agendas, and readers certainly won’t.
Those of who know something about the subject also know how challenging and complex it is, and how much detail there is to master. But that’s not generally known because of its outlaw status: the paranormal is considered marginal at best, or at worst tacky and trashy. Clever people stoop from a great height to consider it. No wonder they’re so complacent.
I’ll be interested to know what other people think about the book. Speaking for myself, I may end up with a different view once I’ve looked at it, and I’m sure I’ll groan at the inaccuracies. Even so, on balance I think the effect will be positive. I believe Edwin May is planning shortly to publish a book detailing the CIA’s recently declassified documents, and the interest raised by Phenomena will surely help to extend its readership.
If you're in the Manchester area you might like to know about talks being given on Thursday April 13 by near-death researcher and author Penny Sartori, Kelly Walsh, a near-death experiencer and Steve Taylor, an author and lecturer in spirituality and psychology. See here for details.
in a book it’s a sign that the author hasn’t often seen the name in print – and therefore can’t have done much research.
Predicted irony: while the well informed reader may grouse about inaccuracies, doctrinaire skeptics will slam her for being insufficiently dismissive of even the possibility of psi. She can't win...
Posted by: Tony M | April 11, 2017 at 05:49 PM
I find it interesting that Russell Targ's review is listed as the top critical review with 111 people finding it helpful, yet the top positive review only has 3 votes (at moment I post this comment).
The point of your post is well put Robert. At least this book will provoke conversations, and hopefully motivate folks to dig deeper into the subject. Maybe they'll even discover the real Joseph Banks Rhine for the first time. :D
Posted by: Rabbitdawg | April 11, 2017 at 05:51 PM
' If it also contains errors it’s most likely a one-year book, at best. Getting names even slightly wrong – for instance ‘Frederick Myers’ – is to be expected in an article by a journalist tackling the subject for the first time. But in a book it’s a sign that the author hasn’t often seen the name in print – and therefore can’t have done much research.'
A good analysis, Rob. The peerless works of Houdini, and Rinn spring to mind - which (rather suspiciously) repeated some of the same name spelling mistakes as earlier Skeptic writers, such as Clodd. Finer details not to hand at present, I'm afraid - never mind. I could go on, and on, and on (and on) - but I won't. Never fear, though. I've little doubt that someone of a certain ideological persuasion will be ducking behind a hedge soon to pull their underpants over their trousers, don a face-mask, cape, and CSI t-shirt - to do just that. ;)
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 12, 2017 at 06:52 PM
Wish I'd seen the Manchester reference earlier :( I'll see if I can make it.
Posted by: Paul | April 12, 2017 at 10:27 PM
Thanks for the heads-up on Penny Sartori. I went. She was very impressive. I had read quite a lot of her research already but hearing it in person was very interesting. There were a couple of people who had NDEs but although they clearly had an impact on them personally, there wasn't any evidential content as far as I could see so less interesting for me but there were a lot of people there that I suspect got value from it. Then a talk from a psychologist about transformative experiences which was a bit too vague for me, but again interested others. Well worth popping in.
Posted by: Paul | April 13, 2017 at 11:49 PM
Yes, I'm in the Manchester area (rural West Lancs) and might have been able to attend the talk had I known about it earlier. Did Penny have any new material to add, Paul? And what impressed you most about her?
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 14, 2017 at 02:33 PM
Shame you didn't go - we could have introduced ourselves:)
What impressed me? Well I didn't hear anything new as I've read her last book however for me there was a lot of value in hearing about her research from her directly. She spoke a lot from her personal observations during her nursing career, which I found persuasive and interesting and she struck me as a very level-headed, measured and sensible person. A good witness.
Much of what she said about her own experiences with patients in intensive care would be difficult to ascribe to hallucination, the influence of medication or fabrication as far as I can see (though it's not my field). NDEs haven't been an area of primary interest really but I can now see better the power they have to change people and how the content of some of them are more easily explained by as being what they appear to be rather than more mundane explanations.
Posted by: Paul | April 14, 2017 at 04:58 PM
"A good analysis, Rob. The peerless works of Houdini, and Rinn spring to mind - which (rather suspiciously) repeated some of the same name spelling mistakes as earlier Skeptic writers, such as Clodd."
Those authors were writing 100 years ago. There was no internet, spellchecker or online documents for them to check through, and many of them did not have full access to the volumes put out by the SPR. Why would they? The skeptics you talk about were not paid full time psychical researchers they had professional careers, you seem to think that a spelling mistake will automatically invalidate anything they wrote?
As for spelling mistakes anyone can make a mistake. In Robert's book Randi's Pie I found several. Put sure every paranormal proponent is right Steve and every skeptic is wrong. And hey did you like my spelling mistake there? :)
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 14, 2017 at 06:36 PM
"Maybe they'll even discover the real Joseph Banks Rhine for the first time. :D"
Ah J. B. Rhine the credulous guy who believed a horse was telepathic? All his experiments have been debunked:
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 14, 2017 at 06:39 PM
It's a shame that the dramatizations of the Enfield case are silly. Maybe some melodrama is necessary, given the often mundane nature of poltergeist phenomena, but I wonder if either the film or 3-part drama depicted two particularly extraordinary occurrences in the Enfield case - namely, the poltergeist's apparently assuming the form of Maurice Grosse and assisting poor John Burcombe in collecting an alarm clock?
Indeed, I'd like to know more detail about these alleged events and what clues they might afford as to the nature of the poltergeist. But sadly, interviewers mainly prefer to ask Guy Playfair about how much phenomena might have been faked whenever he speaks about the case on the radio.
Posted by: Wesley | April 14, 2017 at 09:17 PM
Wesley, the Enfield poltergeist was the result of pranks. Anita Gregory and John Beloff from the Society for Psychical Research both investigated and put it down to pranks from Janet and Margaret.
As for Guy Lyon Playfair he is not a reliable source, he thinks psychic surgeons are legitimate and the fraudulent Brazilian medium Chico Xavier communicated with spirits.
Psychic surgery is a complete hoax, it little more than sleight-of hand quackery. It is dangerous to consult such a person.
Posted by: Paul C. Anagnostopoulos | April 14, 2017 at 09:29 PM
I can't comment on psychic surgery, Mr Anagnostopoulos, as I haven't looked into the matter. I'm afraid that I disagree with you about the Enfield case. As far as I can gather, Anita Gregory and John Beloff did not spend as nearly as much time at the house as Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair. Furthermore, although there seems to be a consensus that Maurice Grosse could be somewhat credulous whenever an incident occurred at the house, if he is to be believed, then Anita Gregory may well have been a liar. I would refer you to Will Storr's retrospective examination of the case.
Posted by: Wesley | April 14, 2017 at 09:52 PM
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's….
You're absolutely right, 'Sniffy'. Spelling mistakes, on their own, do not invalidate anything that anyone says about any subject. I would say that certainly holds with Rob if, as you say, there are misspellings (of which you give no examples) in his book. And I would extend the same courtesy even to such a prolific offender as Rinn.
Rinn would certainly have had 'full access to the volumes put out by the SPR' if, indeed, he had been 'one of the oldest members of the Society for Psychical Research' as he claimed in his 'Sixty Years of Psychical Research' (p.470). He would therefore (on your terms, at least) have had no excuse for such howlers as 'Phenuit' (Phinuit), or Mrs 'Sedgwick' (Eleanor Sidgwick) - especially as the latter was one of the best known academic luminaries of the SPR. Indeed, there were a whole host of other whoppers in Rinn's opus. I seem to remember that, when I read the book for the first time, I was having to retrieve my eyebrows from the ceiling practically every other page.
In their book 'The Stupidity Paradox', Mats Alvesson and André Spicer remark that functional stupidity can actually have short term practical utility in various ways. But I find it hard to grasp the purpose of making such a claim as the forgoing example of Rinn's, and then (perhaps) neglecting to inform your publisher that it might not be the brightest move in the world to send a review copy of your book to the very organisation that you claim, throughout, to have been a leading member of... if, in fact, you were never actually a member at all - let alone 'one of the oldest'.
Therefore I would have loved to have seen the look on W.H.Salter's face as he typed the following in his review of Rinn's book for the 'Journal of the Society for Psychical Research' (May 1951, p.437): -
"Barrett was not 'head of the British S.P.R.' at the time of his American visit in 1885, or anywhere near it (p.15). J. H. Hyslop is made (p. 294) to speak in 1910 of 'the English branch of our association', which he would certainly not have done, as he had negotiated on the American side the complete separation of the British and American Societies in 1906. Ivor Tuckett was not at any time a 'prominent member' of the S.P.R. (p.309): in 1911 he was not a member at all."
L.A. Dale , in a review of Rinn's book in the 'Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research' (April 1951, p. 70) pointed out that, not only was Rinn never a member of the British SPR, his claim to have joined the American SPR in 1885 was also false; although he did join in 1897, he was only a member for four years.
Naturally, that also cast quite a bit of doubt on Rinn's claim to have been a close associate of James Hyslop, having met him in 1888 when '…we were both members of the Society for Psychical Research'.
I'd say that such brazen telling of porky pies (or making quite astonishing honest mistakes) is more that enough reason to doubt anything that Rinn had to say about any subject at all.
Indeed, given that the forgoing list of Rinn's indiscretions is hardly exhaustive, I'd say that Rob's point about spelling mistakes often being indicative of a deeper malaise is proven amply by Rinn. Let's not get started on Houdini please - in some ways he was even worse. And I fail to see the relevance of your point about the absence of spell checkers one hundred years ago, or that about the writers in question not being paid psychical researchers - neither were most of the researchers.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 15, 2017 at 01:44 AM
"Indeed, I'd like to know more detail about these alleged events and what clues they might afford as to the nature of the poltergeist."
Hello Wesley. You can ask me, if you like. That is, if you would like a poltergeists perspective on the matter? I am Stuart Certain.
Please be aware that not all of my memory is intact, although what I do recall is still fairly vivid; due to the fact that I underwent hypnosis and then, roughly five years later, shock therapy. As a result, my memory concerning these events went into 'deep freeze' for thirty years. The hypnosis was conducted by John Beloff, as Peter Fenwick was not available at the time.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 15, 2017 at 01:50 AM
Steve yes there were many spelling mistakes in Rinn's book when it comes to psychical researchers. I don't think it really matters though. It doesn't take away from his brilliant debunking of the topic.
Sixty Years of Psychical Research was published in 1950... Rinn was over 80 years old when he was writing the book. Do you expect a mans memory to be perfect at that age? He was talking about events that happened in some cases 30-50 years previously. Memory can be faulty! He was an old man. But a few mistakes does not invalidate all his arguments against fraudulent mediums. It is a brilliant book that documents a lot of rare stuff.
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 15, 2017 at 03:17 PM
"Do you expect a mans memory to be perfect at that age? He was talking about events that happened in some cases 30-50 years previously. Memory can be faulty! He was an old man."
'Sniffy', I think you've just debunked your own argument in defence of Rinn.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 15, 2017 at 03:52 PM
I'm fully aware of how old Rinn was at the time that his book was published. And I'm also aware of how old Houdini and Clodd were at the time that their works were published (I'm presuming that you're not going extend your explanation to cover them).
But, as far as Rinn (at least) is concerned, we seemed to have moved on quite a bit - from his spelling mistakes as being due to the absence of spell checkers (I can't help noticing, though, that the researchers that Rinn criticises didn't seem to be affected by this), to the truly gargantuan factual errors, and a great deal of what seems to be pure fantasy (e.g. Rinn's weird ability to remember, verbatim, conversations with Hyslop when there does not appear to be any evidence that he ever met him at all).
Bearing in mind Julie's comment, above: Could you please tell us, according to your exceptionally charitable judgement of Rinn (I'll expand upon that later, if necessary), what your criteria are for judging when his memory was accurate, and when it was not?
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 16, 2017 at 12:10 PM
Steve there are errors in Rinn's book, like I said he was an old man over 80 writing that book, even Melvin Harris noted that it is riddled with certain errors but that does not invalidate his good research.
You ask how do we know what is accurate from his memory and what not. The answer to this question is basically what can be confirmed by other sources. I have checked out a lot of Rinn's claims and many of them are accurate about Houdini, they match up to other sources and are reliable. A lot of Rinn's book is quoting rare newspaper sources etc. It is very useful in that regard. He made mistakes on dates and names when it came to psychical researchers.
I think it is foolish to dismiss an entire book just because it has some errors. There is some very valuable material in Rinn's book. I spent 50£ purchasing an original copy of the book. The argument that started all this seems to be that if someone makes numerous spelling mistakes or errors about dates then they are not educated or experienced in the subject they are writing about. I do not agree with that argument I am afraid. I find it narrow-minded that believers on this blog just dismiss any skeptic book because it has a few spelling mistakes or errors. No book is perfect. You are forgetting about all the good research that Rinn did. It is not fair to only focus on his mistakes.
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 17, 2017 at 04:47 PM
"I find it narrow-minded that believers on this blog just dismiss any skeptic book because it has a few spelling mistakes or errors. No book is perfect. You are forgetting about all the good research that Rinn did. It is not fair to only focus on his mistakes."
I find that an utterly astonishing statement! Leslie Flint has been lambasted for a length of duct tape placed across his mouth moving one 16th of an inch while he, successfully, held a measure of coloured liquid throughout an rigorously investigated direct voice sitting. Not only that, he had already subjected himself to dozens of similar investigations without even one hint of fraud.
If only the rabid pseudo-skeptics were half as forgiving of the psychics they lambast! What duplicitous standards of judgement you people apply. The man in question, Rinn, is a complete incompetent as far as his reporting of matter goes. Any yet people like you, Sniffy, prostitute your integrity in his defence. I don't understand you, I really don't. :/
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 17, 2017 at 05:53 PM
Well, I don't have enough money to afford to purchase original copies of the old books but I have found that there often are egregious multiple spelling and grammatical errors in the reprints of the old books by some publishers. Some of the most respected proponents of psychic phenomena have reprints with spelling and grammatical mistakes but since I have not seen the original I cannot say whether or not the error occurred in the original. I surmise that the publisher relies on automatic spell checkers to catch misspellings in these reprints.
Generally I believe that if one is not attentive in small things then perhaps they are not attentive in larger things but spelling errors generally do not sway me one way or another. (Unless it is a person's name!). - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 17, 2017 at 07:11 PM
I have read your article about R101 from the Light magazine (2015). Would it be possible for you to share a copy of the Jarman report? Thank you.
Posted by: M. R. | April 17, 2017 at 11:00 PM
Sorry, M.R - no can do. I had to sign an affidavit pledging not to distribute the material- although, obviously, I was allowed to quote from it. I assume that is a rule of Senate House, which holds the Dingwall collection. Anyone is free to go and view it themselves, though.
Incidentally...if you've read my article (or maybe even only my mention of it on Michael Prescott's blog a while back - or Alan Murdie's citation of my it in 'Fortean Times'), then you may have smiled at Sniffy's reference to Melvin Harris' remark that Rinn's book contained inaccuracies. The words 'Pot', 'Kettle' and 'Black' spring to mind...although Harris was a hell of a lot smarter about it than Rinn - and he DIDN'T make any spelling mistakes :) You really couldn't make it up!
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 17, 2017 at 11:19 PM
Thank you for your response, Steve. I don't live in the UK so I may just have to wait for if they ever decide to publish it online.
I wanted to ask because there were still some details from Melvin Harris's book that weren't addressed fully, such as whether the "hush-hush experiment" truly did take place in secret, which account about R-101's secrecy is correct (Spanner's or Shute's), how exactly well known S.L. was among people then. I was wondering if you might know more about them. I think the case is quite good even if these are accepted as shortcomings, but still wanted to see if there was anything about these that might have been answered in the report.
Posted by: M. R. | April 17, 2017 at 11:58 PM
No problem, M.R. I'll do my best to answer your questions tomorrow (or the next day) - there's rather a lot to relate, I'm afraid.
Sniffy - I'll get back to your points presently as well.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 18, 2017 at 01:36 AM
There was a technical issue that turned out to be related to a character limit, hence the delay on this. So I've broken what follows into two, on Rob's advice.
‘You ask how do we know what is accurate from his memory and what not. The answer to this question is basically what can be confirmed by other sources.’
That’s the right answer, Sniffy!
‘I have checked out a lot of Rinn's claims and many of them are accurate about Houdini, they match up to other sources and are reliable.’
Then you could, perhaps, get cracking on the rest.
…As I did some years ago. As you say, Rinn’s claims do figure, in relation to Houdini (at least), although as I recall, it did take me a while to locate mention of him in any biographical work. It was the rest of Rinn’s claims that I was more interested in. Whether Rinn knew Houdini, or played as big a part in his life as he claims, is really neither here nor there in terms of the present discussion. Neither is Rinn’s claim to have met, in his youth (1882), the great mentalist Stuart Cumberland – interesting though that might be…or a whole load of other events related that are relatively plausible and innocuous.
What I am talking about here is whether or not it is believable that, while giving a reasonably plausible account of, say, meeting Cumberland at age fourteen (I think) in 1882, Rinn could then have confabulated entirely, (purely because of age) later events such as a DECADES long membership of an organisation that he was never actually a member of at all; and (in addition to his claims re Hyslop, already mentioned), to have attended a séance with Mrs Piper (for which there is no record) that was arranged for him by one of the principle investigators (Richard Hodgson), who attended with him; then have compounded the ‘error’ by claiming Hodgson was ‘of the English gentleman type’ (p.137) when he was actually (very famously) a very bluff, plain speaking Australian and, to cap it all, then have misspelled (in quite spectacular fashion), the name of Piper’s principle ‘control’. All of that, taken together, suggests to me that Rinn’s account is substantially fabricated – if not completely so.
That, Sniffy, is the merest tip of the iceberg. And it is probably why a chapter by Hovelmann, Truzzi and Hein Hoebens (which you seem to have some passing familiarity with) in “A Skeptic’s Handbook of Parapsychology” (pp.479-480) says of Rinn’s book: -
‘It is a book full of opinions, gossip, and anecdotes, and it needs to be treated that way – not as a work of objective scholarship.’
That mini review, which I think was probably written by the ever sensible Truzzi, then goes on to say: -
‘Readers should also consult the highly critical reviews that call attention to many of the factual inaccuracies in Rinn’s book…’[i.e. the two reviews I cited earlier – which is how I found about them. I’d recommend that you consult them too].
That said, the appraisal does say that, though ‘flawed’, Rinn’s book is ‘important’.
I’d say that it probably is important, although mainly as a historical curiosity or, at a push, an unintentional social/cultural pastiche that could server as a commentary of sorts.
But Rinn’s book says virtually nothing useful about the state of psychical research, the researchers, or their methodologies during the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This is because, in the important instances where Rinn broaches the subjects of anything that serious researchers gave a damn about during that period (and the claimants that they were actually studying), his treatment is often so swivel-eyed, hubristic, and at variance with the documented historical facts, that his claims are impossible to take seriously. We have the matter of misspellings and dates, of course. Perhaps more crucial, however, is that (to my knowledge) the likes of Hyslop and Hodgson do not mention Rinn once in any of their writings – and I don’t recall any mention of him in the works of any of the other major researchers who Rinn claims to have interacted with (e.g. Walter Prince), or ‘advised’ and/or criticised – although I could be wrong about that. All of these men were in the habit of mentioning critics, BTW. So claiming that they were ignoring Rinn because of his views, as I have seen some attempt to do, really doesn’t cut much ice with me. I recall that there is a letter from Prince late in the book, about the Mina Crandon/Walter thumbprint affair – but that is hardly evidence that Rinn ‘knew’ Prince, or met him. Yet Rinn claims that he denounced Prince to his face as being a liar (p.470), only to claim 9 pages later of Prince that ‘…I trusted him implicitly in his integrity’. Rinn’s claims simply do not make any coherent, congruent sense.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 20, 2017 at 05:13 PM
I’m afraid that my brief for the Light article was simply to reappraise the case in the light (pardon the pun) of the Jarman Report, which had recently become available for the first time. There simply wasn’t room for a full analysis of Harris’ piece on the case. So, I had to keep it restricted to the observation that he could not possibly have seen the Report, or have discussed it with Jarman in much depth – because the Report itself reached the exact opposite conclusion to what Harris appeared to claim. I also pointed out that Harris had, rather cleverly, just cherry picked a later Alpha article written by Jarman and left the reader to assume that he was quoting Jarman from the Report. Harris seems to have defeated the critical thinking skills of the Wikipedia ‘editors’ who cited him as quoting from it, nevertheless.
In answer to your further questions, though.
1) It’s important to realise that Will Charlton, the R101 Supplies Officer, did not use the term ‘hush hush’. That was John Fuller in his book The Airmen Who Would Not Die. Charlton merely said that the experiment was ‘contemplated’ and would be ‘Unlikely to be known outside of official circles’. Harry Price then said the proposed tests were '… a more or less official secret'. Harris ramped up the hyperbole further by referring to 'secret tests’. So Harris was attacking a ‘straw man’ of his own creation, or he simply did not read the source material properly. As Charlton merely says that the tests were ‘contemplated’, then that implies that they had not taken place. The question is whether a testing rig had been prepared at Cardington? That is a further line of enquiry that I intend to pursue if I ever have the time. But ask yourself who it would be safer to believe on this for now – Charlton and his Cardington colleagues, who were there – or Harris, who wasn’t? It’s also important to realise that nobody connected to the case claimed that any tests were going to be carried out on R101’s existing engines as Harris seems to be assuming.
2) Harris is correct in stating that the hydro-carbon scheme had been abandoned in relation to R100. What he seems to have missed is that Commander Charles Burney (a senior figure in the whole British Airship Program) attempted to resurrect the idea, in principle, in 1929, in his book The World, the Air and the Future (see John Swinfield, Airship Design, Development and Disaster p.260). Swinfield includes extracts from R101 First Officer, Noel Atherstone’s unofficial diary where he bemoans the effect that Burney’s book had on the moral of the R101 crew – especially Irwin. Atherstone also emphasises who stressed Irwin was about the whole project. So Irwin could very well have been concerned that ‘this exorbitant scheme’ was going to be tried in some form on R101.
3) The fact that both Spanner and Shute both had complaints about the secrecy surrounding R101, and they were both involved at the time, in different ways, suggests that they were both correct. Spanner even devotes a whole chapter to the subject in his 1927 book This Airship Business (p.77. if you ever manage to get hold of a copy). If Harris had done any real research, then he would have known this…Jarman does mention Spanner, but Harris shouldn’t have needed the Report to find this out.
4) The fact that Harry Price, who was in London during WW1, was unfamiliar with SL8 suggests to me that this ship was not widely known about. The general public, then as now, probably referred to all German airships as Zeppelins – because they were the most famous ones. The fact that Charlton and the other Cardington Staff had to check, suggests that they were not as well known as Harris assumed. I can’t be certain about that, though. What I am certain about, however, is that Harris was wrong about the origin of the meaning of ‘SL’; it was the combination of the two designers - Johann Schutte and Karl Lanze, not the name of one person called ‘Schutte Lanze’ as stated by Harris.
All in all, Harris’ largely unreferenced critique is sloppily researched, a bit emotive, and misleading in a highly disingenuous way.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 20, 2017 at 07:21 PM
As an aside from this talk of airships; many years ago I purchased from the market place in Enfield Town (for two-shillings, I believe) a fragment of an airship that had been shot down over Cuffley, Herts. A small, shiny and twisted piece of metal in a small brown envelope.
I may still have it somewhere, although I haven't seen it for years. It had some red print on the envelope detailing the name of the airship; the SL11. Apparently, this was the first airship to be shot down over Britain. I think that pieces of the wreck must have been sold as momento's. I apologise if you find that boring; I just thought I'd mention it.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 20, 2017 at 11:28 PM
As a child of nine or ten, I was given a book as a present. I can't remember the title, yet I well remember the subject matter. It was an adventure story about airships; something like 'Airships over-head!' or something like that. The dust-jacket had a picture of a bi-plane with guns blazing. It is interesting how the young mind can relate to something to which they have no understanding; for, having no idea as to what an airship was, I imagined it to be a real ship; that is, a sort of steam-boat complete with funnel, decking, crew, and as it flew I could imagine the propellers hanging from the stern! So, an air-ship in the literal sense!
When Janet was asked, by Peter Fenwick and whilst under hypnosis, 'Who is responsible for all this" meaning, of course, the events at Green Street; she answered, "Me and my sister." Meaning, of course, her and Margaret. This has been taken as an admission by Janet, that she was guilty of playing tricks and has oft been quoted as an example of the girl's culpability.
Yet, it does not mean that, at all. Janet had no understanding of how these events took place. The rappings, the flying lego, the mysterious materialisation of speeding marbles, which would sometimes drop from the ceiling. Or hit the walls, causing people to take evasive action. She had no idea at all. What Janet meant, was that she and her sister were responsible for the attraction of unknown forces. After all, this had been the accepted viewpoint of those who studied poltergeist activity, and Janet was well aware of that viewpoint, having been told as much by the investigators. It was not an admission of guilt.
The young mind, having no understanding, sees things in their literal sense. Janet felt that she was to blame.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 21, 2017 at 12:50 AM
Steve what is your conclusion about Melvin Harris, are you saying he made deliberate lies about the R101 case or do you think he just made a mistake? Didn't Harris claim to have personally known Jarman?
How can his conclusions about Archie Jarman's report be completely the opposite of what you are saying? So Jarman wasn't totally skeptical about Garrett? He was the opposite?
The quote from Harris that the Garrett's séances involving the R101 was explained by "either commonplace, easily absorbed bits and pieces, or plain gobbledegook. The so-called secret information just doesn't exist" are you saying this conclusion is totally wrong? Harris in his book said that Jarman told him we should "best forget the psychic side of R-101; it's a dead duck— absolutely" So is that a deliberate lie from Harris?
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 22, 2017 at 12:10 AM
"So, I had to keep it restricted to the observation that he could not possibly have seen the Report, or have discussed it with Jarman in much depth – because the Report itself reached the exact opposite conclusion to what Harris appeared to claim."
Ok I see you commented on this already sorry. I do not have access to the report but if you are right then what is your final conclusion? That Harris deliberately lied about things or he was just confused? Then where does the dead duck— absolutely comment come from? Do you think he made that up?
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 22, 2017 at 12:13 AM
Do we know anything about Archie Jarman? When did he die? An internet search reveals a post by Leslie Price describing him as a prankster. Maybe the problem was not Harris, it was Jarman tricking Harris.
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 22, 2017 at 12:18 AM
Regarding Joseph Rinn his claims about Hyslop and Piper are too specific, especially the sitting he claimed to have attended and put down to muscle reading. He even quotes conversations that he was meant to have had with these people.
These are the only possibilities - Rinn was lying and he made the whole thing up or he actually met Piper, Hyslop etc and was telling the truth. I do not think it is possible to know the truth. How can either be proven or disproven? With other sources yes and fact-checking but there are no other sources that mention Rinn meeting Piper or Hyslop etc.
Posted by: Sniffy the atheist | April 22, 2017 at 12:26 AM
If I get time later, I’ll ATTEMPT to post a fuller analysis of Harrison’s piece that I posted originally to Michael Prescott’s blog in response to ‘Bill’ (who sometimes posts as ‘Leon’). I had a look for this the other night, but could not find it – and whichever entry on that blog it appears in – it’s a very long way down the lists of comments. I say ‘attempt’, because there does seem to be a character limit here. But sometimes even breaking things up into smaller chunks does not appear to work. For example, that last entry on Rinn from me is only the (larger) first half…the smaller second ‘half’ simply would not upload. Rob is aware of it, but I know he is very busy at the moment.
Basically, with Harris’ piece (as with all other analyses of this nature, on any subject), you should take very careful note of what a writer is enclosing in quotes, and what he/she isn’t.
We do know a great deal about Jarman. It was Leslie who asked me to write that piece for ‘Light’ and he did know him. So, I spoke to Leslie at considerable length about it before I started my research, although I did know a fair bit beforehand. Jarman was a gifted humourist, perhaps a ‘prankster’, I’d say; a fierce critic of psi research (like his friends Eric Dingwall, and Trevor Hall). Although he was an SPR member, I recall that he wrote once (maybe in Eileen Garrett’s ‘Tomorrow’ magazine) that he didn’t know what to do with a bunch of allegedly psychic rabbits that someone had given him, so he’d left them on the doorstep of the SPR headquarters. There are several parts of his ‘Report’ that I found very funny indeed. I’ve found out since, that Jarman was romantically involved with Eileen Garrett during the early 1930’s, and I’d have to take that into account in any future analysis. But there is correspondence between him and Dingwall in the files that indicates that this did not play part in his judgement of the case. He was so scathingly critical of the later seances held for Major Oliver Villiers (basically, he rejected them as being virtually worthless as evidence), that I have little doubt that he would have done the same re the earlier Harry Price séance, if he felt that he’d had reason to.
I spent an inordinate amount of time checking Jarman’s research (the ‘Report’ is enormous), and I found that he was accurate, in the main, throughout.
As far as Rinn is concerned, and your point about Hodgson and Hyslop: That’s why I recommended that you try to get hold of those reviews. It couldn’t have taken W.H. Salter (a distinguished, Lawyer, and former SPR Treasurer, Secretary and President) very long to check Rinn’s claims and find that there is no record of the séance in question, and that it could not possibly have occurred under the circumstances that Rinn claims – with both Hodgson and Hyslop present. There is actually no record of any séance where Rinn was present at all, let alone with those two. The careful and diplomatic Truzzi (the piece in TSHOP bears all the characteristics of being authored by him), obviously did that, and he would not have recommended that people read them, unless he had very good reason to have done so.
For the sake of brevity, in relation to your further question re Rinn, I would refer you to Truzzi’s comment about James Randi in relation to the latter’s account of ‘Project Alpha’, and the resultant ‘Project ROTSUC’ in which Randi was counter hoaxed by Denis Stillings i.e. that ROTSUC proved that Randi ‘…is capable of gross distortion of facts’ (‘Zetetic Scholar’, 12/3 – 1987, p.89). From the available evidence, I’d say that Rinn was capable of, at least, the same.
After around forty years of looking into matters psi I’ve learned that it is exceptionally reckless to take anything that anyone from either extreme of the psi debate (pro or con) at face value. Unfortunately, people can confabulate to hugely varying degrees – and some people do just ‘make stuff up’ – quite brazenly, in some cases.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 11:43 AM
Sniffy - here goes: -
You really, really need to be more careful about shooting from the lip from Wikipedia, or from any source cited there to do with psi matters - WITHOUT CHECKING THE ACCURACY FOR YOURSELF FIRST. That pertains especially to any source quoted there originally published by Prometheus and (especially) to do with the R101 case.
Last year I was asked by 'Light' magazine to reappraise the case after the almost mythical report into it by the late Archie Jarman became available for public viewing at Senate House in London for the first time. It had been stashed away as part of the Eric Dingwall Collection for many years. Jarman had sent it to Dingwall (who was a close friend of both Jarman and Eileen Garrett) for 'safekeeping', after Garrett (who had commissioned it) had declined to publish - and Jarman had spent months researching it for her in 1962/3. I found that Jarman had lied to Garrett, telling her that he had destroyed it (he admits this in a letter to Dingwall contained in the files). He further stipulated to Dingwall that it should not be released until certain participants in the case had died.
For that reason, I'm sure, various sceptical commentators had assumed that Jarman's report contained something damning to the paranormal interpretation of the case. John G. Fuller appears to have done the opposite. I have to admit that, because of Jarman's track record of being extremely critical of psi research (like his friends Dingwall, and Trevor Hall), I just took it for granted that the former would probably be the truth. I turned out to be hopelessly wrong. Fuller, as it turned out, was pretty close to the truth - despite Jarman's protestations to the contrary.
Like you may have done, I read the Wikipedia article about the case. This was before I'd seen the 'Jarman Report' myself. Despite my own scepticism about Fuller's account, my suspicions were aroused by the following: -
'"Archie Jarman who had interviewed witnesses wrote an 80,000-word report on the case concluded the séance information was valueless and that we should "best forget the psychic side of R-101; it's a dead duck— absolutely!"'
Why was I suspicious?
Firstly, I had extreme doubts about whether anyone had had access to Jarman's report up to that point. So, although the Wiki quote could be read as having come from it, that struck me as being extremely unlikely. Secondly, I recognised the 'dead duck' phrase as actually having come from an article that Jarman had written for 'Alpha' magazine (Jan-Feb, 1980, p.12), wherein he had lacerated John G. Fuller for allegedly misrepresenting his views on the case (guilty, as charged, I'd say - but only just - if one were to be really pedantic about it). Thirdly, in that Alpha article Jarman (in a rather confusing, self-contradictory mode), had also written that his report '…concluded that the source of Eileen's "message" was a mystery…Perhaps the medium obtained information telepathically from some sitter…or…perhaps the shock of violent death drives the victim to inconsistency or insanity'. Fourthly, the reference cited was from 'Investigating the Unexplained' by Melvin Harris, published by (surprise, surprise), Prometheus Books.
You're absolutely correct about John Booth's book (again published by Prometheus and cited, in typically witless fashion, on Wikipedia). Certainly his brief piece about the R101 qualifies as unmitigated drivel, in my view - he doesn't even get the date of the disaster correct. But I still expected Harris' effort to be a lot better. I remembered him from my youth as being a moderately well known writer and broadcaster, who would pop up on TV, and in print, every now and then to comment dismissively about various popular 'mysteries'.
But by the time I got hold of Harris' book (still in advance of having read Jarman's report) I'd already done a large amount of research into the 'normal' aspects of the R101 disaster.
I knew straight away, therefore, that Harris' claim that there was nothing 'secret' about the R101 project was nonsense because two contemporary experts (Neville Shute - Chief Calculator and Senior Designer of the rival R100 - see his 1954 book 'Slide Rule'), and E.F. Spanner (Naval Architect, engineer, and public critic of the British Airship Program) had complained loudly about exactly that; Spanner doing so while R101 was being designed, built and trialled. In answer to the latter's criticisms, (see Spanner's 1927 book 'This Airship Business' p.78.) Wing Commander Thomas Reginald Cave Brown Cave, a senior member of the R101 design team, even retorted 'Is it customary to publish details of a new battleship or liner when she is being built?' In fact Spanner devoted a whole chapter to the 'secrecy' surrounding R101 in that particular book.
Ironically, Cave Brown Cave was one of the 'experts' mentioned by Harris. He had been largely responsible for deciding to fit the disastrously over-weight and under-powered diesel engines that contributed to the tragedy - as correctly identified at the séances. The other was Wing Commander Ralph Booth who was Captain of the R100.
Indeed, the complaint was that the R100 team and Spanner could only GUESS about the R101's design from patent specifications. The Air Ministry only released extremely trivial details to the popular press in advance of the disaster and Spanner complained that even details given to specialist magazines (and at official Air Ministry lectures) were technically inaccurate, ill informed and shallow (e.g. 'Gentlemen Prefer Aeroplanes', 1928, p.391.)
But, to read Harris, you would think that only those directly associated with the paranormal aspects of the case had claimed that technical details of the R101 development program were kept 'secret' in the way suggested by him. They did not - at all. The idea was entirely a straw man fantasy created by Harris himself. The idea of 'secrecy', as I have shown, came from technical experts of the period. Although Harris does mention Shute, he could not have read his book 'properly' as he does not detail the full nature of his complaints. He does not mention Spanner at all, and he was more famous at the time for the objecting to 'secrecy'.
The most questionable aspect of Harris' piece, though, is that you could be forgiven for believing that he is quoting directly from Jarman's report, or quoting him verbatim from conversation. Perhaps rather artfully, Harris does not tell the reader that he is quoting Jarman ENTIRELY from the Alpha article and is (rather stupidly) leaving out statements from Jarman in that piece, such as the example already given, that might suggest that the actual report had anything positive to say about a paranormal interpretation of the case. Another good example would be Jarman's statement that the 'number of experts' you refer to (there were actually two, see above) were 'somewhat biased'. Jarman is a lot less polite about that in his report - especially regarding Cave Brown Cave. One reason Garrett would have been mad to have published Jarman's opus in the form she received it from him (before returning it), is that he lays into his own expert witnesses (Cave and Booth), and practically everyone else of importance (still living at the time) connected to the case, whether or not they were 'pro' or 'con' as to the question of paranormality. In fact he criticises virtually everyone except himself and, ironically, Garrett. So she would have been inviting several libel actions if she had published it.
Still, you give the impression that you actually have Harris' book. You can't be blamed for not knowing about the 'Alpha' article - if, indeed, that is the case. But, surely you must have noticed that, although Harris claims to have spoken to Jarman shortly before his death, he does not actually quote him when he states, in summing up, 'Archie Jarman had no hesitation in dismissing the séance material as valueless'. Don't you find that rather suspicious? As a self-professed 'critical thinker', didn't that set any alarm bells going inside your head? It certainly did in mine, even before I received the actual report.
The truth is that, in his report, Jarman rejected the later Villiers séances as being virtually worthless (for very sound reasons, in my opinion). That's fine. But, again, that much is stated in 'Alpha'.
In the actual report Jarman states practically the exact opposite to almost everything that Harris claims he did with regard to the original alleged communication by the deceased Captain of R101, (Flight Lt. Herbert Carmichael Irwin) given via Garrett at the original séance arranged by Harry Price. This, as you should know, was held only a couple of days after the disaster - before the Official Inquiry had begun, and before speculation in the press as to the cause of the tragedy was becoming more informed. And Harris is factually incomplete or ignorant, in some respect, about almost everything else that he 'researched' on his own.
I obviously do not have the space to detail every one of the bloopers in Harris' highly questionable piece here. You'll have to consult my full article in the Spring 2015 edition of 'Light' for more, and there wasn't enough room even there to convey adequately the baleful inadequacy of it as a critique. You could also, maybe, consult Alan Murdie's commentary on my article in the May 2015 edition of 'Fortean Times'.
For now, I'll just leave you with this: -
Melvin Harris (p.176. of his book), on Jarman's report: 'He interviewed witnesses and drew up an exhaustive 80,000 word report…His findings were devastating'.
Archie Jarman (from the actual report's conclusions, p.412 - 412a): 'I am confident that Mrs Garrett gained her information in a paranormal manner. The technical information given at the Price Sitting was too orderly and sensible and devoid of absurdities to have emanated from her own brain, since she is quite ignorant of technical matters as displayed'.
Archie Jarman was an experienced pilot, by the way. Although, apparently, Harris did his National Service in the RAF, I haven't seen it mentioned that he was similarly qualified to comment on the technical aspects of the case.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 11:54 AM
Crikey... That actually seems to have worked!
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 11:56 AM
“After around forty years of looking into matters psi I’ve learned that it is exceptionally reckless to take anything that anyone from either extreme of the psi debate (pro or con) at face value. Unfortunately, people can confabulate to hugely varying degrees – and some people do just ‘make stuff up’ – quite brazenly, in some cases.
After more than 50 years reading about psi phenomena, I guess that the above quote from Steve Hume sums up my current views. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 22, 2017 at 02:26 PM
"After more than 50 years reading about psi phenomena, I guess that the above quote from Steve Hume sums up my current views." - AOD
It is part of the confusing issue of paranormalia that, in investigating such, one is led into various paths of reasoning and determination; such is the power of the dimensional aspects of such. It can become almost fractal in its exposition. This is certainly the case (I am convinced) with those who have experienced such phenomena themselves. Yet, this can also effect the reasoning of those who (and with a healthy dose of scepticism) investigate such matters. It is almost as if there is an independent willpower, pulling us this way and that. It is no surprise (to me at least) that researchers sometimes fall short of the expected level of 'truth,' (especially when publishing a book) as far as diligent observers like Steve Hume are concerned. [Hats off to you Steve, for a great (and very interesting) piece of investigation.]
Of course, this all plays into the hands of those sceptics who, having no knowledge of such, will quote examples of spelling mistakes and so forth to reinforce their viewpoints.
Yes; people do, unfortunately, appear to make things up. Yet, I wonder how much of that is really due to sloppiness or; deliberate confabulation in order to make a book more sellable?
We should never underestimate the power of our own dimension, to lead us 'up the garden path.'
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 22, 2017 at 06:06 PM
I'm obviously on the right track then, Amos! 😉
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 06:07 PM
Thank you, Stuart.
I would say, though, in relation to the rest of your comments: It seems to me that a big mistake many people make is to assume that 'scepticism' and 'belief' are firm baselines from which it is safe to make accurate judgements about these things (and the views of others) - in the same way that the speed of light is used in physics, for example. Of course, that is a ridiculous position to adopt. Each of us is sceptical, or believing according to an initial starting point. And if that is some personal (probably subjective) experience, then any further questions we might ask in relation to that, and the future direction we take from there will depend upon a huge number of variables. Indeed, we are all travelling at different rates and varying directions - so it sometimes resembles Monty Python's 100 metre dash for people with no sense of direction. At the end of the day I've found that the safest thing you can do is try to determine the facts as best you can - and that can be tremendously time consuming because so many people have thrown up so many smokescreens around these subjects (intentionally or otherwise) for so long.
PS - your thing re SL11 is interesting. I once went 'mudlarking' on the banks of the Thames with an artist friend of mine who was very experienced at that, and was collecting stuff for a piece he was working on. I found a twisted piece of aluminium that he said was probably part of a WW2 German aircraft. At that very moment a German tourist popped his head over the embankment and asked us what we were doing. I shouted back that I'd just found a bit of one of his planes, and did he want it back? I think I've still got it, somewhere - along with a medieval house brick, loads of ship nails, and a terracotta roof tile (black on one side), from the fire of London.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 06:27 PM
PS - Sniffy. Archie Jarman died in August, 1982.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 22, 2017 at 06:31 PM
"I once went 'mudlarking' on the banks of the Thames with an artist friend of mine"
The last time I did that, I was chased by the river police who quickly diverted their river-launch in my direction. When I climbed back over the fence to escape, I thought that was that and relaxed. But no! They climbed over the fence and ran after me! I had to hide out in the Temple church to escape! I had climbed over the fence to get a last look at what remained of the old London Bridge. I was standing upon one of the numbered blocks, when they spotted me. It was a close run thing, I can tell you!
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 22, 2017 at 10:19 PM
I should explain, re: my last comment; I didn't feel that I was doing anything wrong. The bridge was in the process of being dismantled for shipping abroad. Being a Londoner, I felt a sense of loss at its imminent departure. It was a goodbye to an old friend.
I later heard that, apparently, the person who purchased it thought they were buying Tower Bridge!
When I heard that, I felt much better about things.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 22, 2017 at 10:58 PM
Thank you very much for your response, Steve! I appreciate it.
Posted by: M. R. | April 22, 2017 at 11:42 PM
Excellent work, Steve. It's enough to make me wonder about Harris' critique of the Soal with the medium Blanche Cooper. I'll need to do more research, I see, to try and corroborate Harris' statements.
Posted by: ersby | April 22, 2017 at 11:47 PM
Just out of interest: I find it curious that the details of the R101 case should have been held at Senate House in London. George Orwell, the originator of the term 'Room 101,' (1984) is said to have been inspired by Senate House for his depiction of the Ministry of Truth.
Is this coincidence, or, should I be reading between the lines?
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 23, 2017 at 12:27 AM
"After around forty years of looking into matters psi I’ve learned that it is exceptionally reckless to take anything that anyone from either extreme of the psi debate (pro or con) at face value. Unfortunately, people can confabulate to hugely varying degrees – and some people do just ‘make stuff up’ – quite brazenly, in some cases." - Steve
But isn't that the case with every other area of research? Isn't life in general a game of knights, knaves and normals? For me, the important question is whether there is enough evidence to make the belief that consciousness survives death a reasonable proposition. And I think there is.
All the splitting of hairs in endless cross examination of evidence is a game that will go on ad infinitum. I'm not at all convinced that there will ever come a time that everyone will agree entirely on these matters. As you imply, there's a great deal of emotional investment from every aspect - including the material scientist who has to face the possibility that their entire career has been spent digging a hole in the wrong place.
Also, there's something in human nature that enjoys intellectual combat for the sake of intellectual combat. It's the armchair gladiatorial sport of intellectuals. But some issues, at root, aren't intellectual, and this is one of them. Somethings have to be decided at the individual level by other means - at least until science has the knowledge and tools to settle the physics involved, assuming that it ever will.
My only beef is with those who, having no personal experience of matters psychic; having made no serious effort to study the phenomena, and with all the confidence of sheer ignorance, proclaim themselves experts by quoting disingenuous pseudo-facts from sources such as Wikipedia. Such people, apart from having the intelligence of an amoeba, simply muddy the waters by spewing endlessly such blatant and unashamed rubbish.
Finally, I think sometimes we have to put our faith in people whom we feel we can trust. There are dedicated researchers out there, Dean Radin, Peter Fenwick, Julie Beischel, Sam Parnia, Penny Sartori et. al. who, I believe, deserve the support of honest truth seekers for the difficult task they face in devoting their time and effort to this are of study that attracts such aggressive derision from the willfully ignorant.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 23, 2017 at 09:46 AM
"All the splitting of hairs in endless cross examination of evidence is a game that will go on ad infinitum." - Julie
Julie, do you not feel though, that this is due to the interdimensional tensions produced.
I mean, sure; it can appear that people are 'splitting hairs' and, I might say, enjoying doing so in the process. Yet, do you not feel (as I do) that this is the inevitable consequence of debating such matters? Personally, I do not feel it is a game, as such. I see it more as the result of interplay between the forces of enchantment (FoE) and our own minds and determination of getting to the truth. In the same way that we can be said to being 'led up the garden path' I believe that people are unknowingly being used in this manner by those FoE. I call them Agents of Disenchantment (AoD)
Sorry Amos; for that unfortunate coincidence.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 23, 2017 at 10:52 AM
I understand where you're coming from, Stuart, and from that perspective you're right.
But, as I've said elsewhere, I rely primarily on my intuition to get at the truth and it's never let me down yet. I seldom get led 'up the garden path' since I'm very upfront, forthright and ask some very upfront and forthright questions. The splitting of hairs is of no interest to me. But I can see how it might appeal to others whose cortical mechanisms operate differently from mine. I don't show my workings in the margin. Each to their own.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 23, 2017 at 01:41 PM
Steve and Stuart,
I don't know how to start this comment as my powers of thought are diminished today but it seems to me that Steve's comment which I quoted above did strike a strong chord with me. I have said the same thing at times in other venues and often am chastised and rebutted for making such a statement or otherwise get just a big silent response. I think the bottom line though for me ,regarding all reports of paranormal activities, is exactly what Steve Hume said, "Unfortunately, people can confabulate to hugely varying degrees – and some people do just ‘make stuff up’ – quite brazenly, in some cases." (and I might add, ‘sometimes with great success’)
For that reason I have a very difficult time accepting reports of ectoplasm, direct voices, materializations, apports, translocation, and other forms of reputed physical evidence of the paranormal as I don' t think that the spiritual is evidenced by physical manifestations, excepting, perhaps, apparitions which may or may not be physical.
That is why I regard the Patience Worth and Pearl Curran story as perhaps the 'cleanest' evidence of something 'supernormal' that occurred in at least one human being, namely Pearl Curran. Evidence in that case does not depend entirely on observations and statements by other people. The evidence for the Patience Worth case is there for everyone to see in the written form of poems, plays, novels, aphorisms, and lively repartee. It is not the written form that provides the evidence however; it is what that written evidence implies that is important. I---like Julie I suppose---use my intuition to get at 'my' truth sometimes. Not good I know, but something in that writing resonates in me as evidence of survival of consciousness, either through reincarnation or direct spirit influence.
It is an explanation for the knowledge found in that writing that is difficult to provide without taking it at face value as coming from some other (spiritual) entity either from a disembodied entity or from one or more past life incarnations of Pearl Curran. It may help to believe what Walter Franklin Prince wrote in his book ‘The Case of Patience Worth' or what Casper Salathiel Yost wrote in his book ‘Patience Worth a Psychic Mystery’ but disregarding these two men and their works, the writing of Pearl and Patience stands for itself and anyone may read it and consider their own explanation(s). One does not have to rely on comments and opinions of other people. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 23, 2017 at 03:53 PM
" It is not the written form that provides the evidence however; it is what that written evidence implies that is important. I---like Julie I suppose---use my intuition to get at 'my' truth sometimes. Not good I know, " - AOD
Oi! Watch it, our Amos:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. Does this quotation interest you enough to investigate? Quote Investigator." - Albert Einstein
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 23, 2017 at 04:06 PM
""The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." - Einstein (minus the blurb)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 23, 2017 at 04:07 PM
This might not be relevant but Melvin Harris's book "Sorry, You've Been Duped" was published in 1986 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. This book does not contain the chapter on Garrett and R101. Yet the reprint of this book known as "Investigating the Unexplained" by Prometheus Books in 1986 and again 2003 does contain a new chapter on Garrett and R101. Apart from this one different chapter the book is the same.
Harris died in 2004. I am not sure why the single chapter on Garrett was added to the 1986 Prometheus Books edition but not the other. He obviously thought it was important to include this chapter for the Prometheus edition. Neither edition of the book includes a full bibliography or list of references. There are just some notes at the back of the book.
As we know Prometheus re-published the book in 2003, yet Harris did not revise the book at all, which is odd, he had 17 years to do this but chose not to. Perhaps he gave up on paranormal research. His main interest seems to have been Jack the Ripper.
Posted by: Harvey D. | April 23, 2017 at 07:11 PM
“I have said the same thing at times in other venues and often am chastised and rebutted for making such a statement or otherwise get just a big silent response.”
You and me both, Amos. I know where you’re coming from. Ironically, on balance, I think that, over the years I’ve probably offended more people on the extreme pro side of the debate, than I have on the other. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that extreme ‘believers’ and ‘disbelievers’ re psi are really (logically speaking) part of the same sociological/psychological group: They care rather more about the emotional payoff that comes from chewing away at the carpet of the particular worldview room that they inhabit than they do ‘facts’. Extreme believers believe anything they are told by others from their own group – as do ‘disbelievers’. They’re too intellectually lazy and lacking in natural curiosity to be motivated to do anything else, and they can get mightily offended if you don’t start salivating immediately at the prospect of sharing their meal. Is that a crass overgeneralisation? Strictly speaking, it certainly is. But, in the context of ease of conversation, then I’m sure most will get my point.
I’ve found, though, that the closer you get to a more ‘reasonable’ middle-ground, the easier things become. Bearing in mind some of what Julie said earlier: For my own part, if a Dean Radin, Ed May or Marcello Truzzi walked in and told me that the sky was blue, then I’d have a check a bit later, just in case the odd cloud had been overlooked. But if a James Randi (lol – Uri Geller, or Joseph Rinn) did the same, then I’d be heading towards the window to stick my head out of it right away – probably after donning a hat. There’s ‘nowt as queer as folk’.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 04:48 PM
Eileen Garrett was a fraud, she was debunked by magician John Booth in his book Psychic Paradoxes. She had utilized a secret accomplice to gather information about R101. There is no such thing as a genuine medium, they are all frauds.
Posted by: Paul C. Anagnostopoulos | April 24, 2017 at 05:05 PM
Oh, for pity's sake Paul - read the preceding comments. Booth provides no evidence at all for that theory, and even he wasn't so stupid as to field it so dogmatically - as even it were proven fact.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 05:14 PM
I’m surprised they chased you – but that that must have been a long time ago. Maybe the by-laws have changed since then, or we were just lucky, or your hair was too long for the cops of the time? ;). My exploits were only about 15 years ago, but there were a few other people at it – and we were walking around quite openly for hours with a metal detector. Mind you, it can be a bit dangerous – I know a couple of guys had to be rescued from the mud not that long after I was down there. It could also be a different story on the North Bank, the closer you get to Westminster. We started on the South Bank at Waterloo, and worked our way down towards Bermondsey, by fits and starts.
I know that Senate House used to be home to the real Ministry of Information, and it does look a bit sinister in a certain light. Maybe that was what inspired Orwell.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 05:15 PM
Thanks. Good luck with that. But I think that Harris was probably on more solid ground with that particular issue. I’ll reread that chapter – but Soal had been shown to be extremely dodgy in some respects, long before Harris got to the subject. Most of the work had already been done by others, although I do seem to remember that some had questioned the conclusions re the ESP results fiddling, at least. I don’t remember being impressed, particularly by the counter evidence, though.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 05:23 PM
"There’s ‘nowt as queer as folk’."
True, very true. But if someone describes to you an unusual experience that you can relate to then that, for me, is personal evidence of a very important kind. At least we then have a measure of objectivity. That's what I'm always on the look out for.
Anyway, my experience in the pro & anti fray is probably insignificant compared to yours, Steve. The only place where I've found myself being hit from traffic coming both ways is in the Skeptico forum. I actually got banned from there for, essentially, not taking the part of the female moderator (whose name escapes me now). Very aggressive place and not for the fence sitter on any issue.
But, I will always take issue with those who insist that all accounts of psi occurrences are claptrap - or words to that effect. There's simply too much evidence to dismiss these phenomena out of hand. Even so I see no point in arguing the ins-and-outs of the finer details with the likes of Randi et. al. if only because truth means absolutely nothing to them. But then again I'm not the most patient of people. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 05:25 PM
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 05:29 PM
I'm all for listening to peoples' subjective experiences sympathetically, Julie. I'm really referring to the literature, and dogmatic attitudes around belief systems that can result from extreme rival interpretations of those experiences.
Re your point about Flint earlier...
I may have mentioned here a few years ago that Prof. Donald West (the researcher responsible for the tape over the mouth episode), told me that he thought the test was merely 'inconclusive'. He did also imply, though, that he thought that Flint not taking advantage of the opportunity to sit at the SPR under view of an infrared telescope afterwards was suspicious.
West was good enough to retrieve his original research notes (together with correspondence to and from Flint) from the SPR archives at Cambridge for me. Looking at them, it seemed to me that the two were really talking past each other. I remember thinking at the time that the whole controversy was a bit overblown. If there had been better communication between both parties, then it might not have arisen at all.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 05:42 PM
What are your thoughts about the veracity of the Flint material, Steve? I can see all sides of this issue - and have been highly critical of Flint in the past. But I feel he was, on balance, genuine - even if I do find some of the direct voice recordings less than convincing.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 05:50 PM
Ps, "He did also imply, though, that he thought that Flint not taking advantage of the opportunity to sit at the SPR under view of an infrared telescope afterwards was suspicious."
I can understand Flint's attitude here. If your nature is to be upfront and honest, and if you are also sufficiently patient to allow others to examine - under painstaking conditions - the truth you offer, then the chances are that to be held under suspicion on such flimsy grounds is likely to cause deep offense. It certainly would with me. Only cheats and liars are slow to take offense.
I would certainly have told Prof. Donald West where to stick his duct tape.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 05:58 PM
Also, while I'm banging on, it's possible that Prof. Donald West was more concerned with the possibility of damage to his own academic reputation that he was about the abilities and sensitivities of Leslie Flint. I'm sure he would have felt on much safer ground concluding that the test results were inconclusive. 'Tis dangerous to commit oneself fully on controversial issues and requires a degree of courage that few notable academics possess.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 06:03 PM
Thanks, I didn’t know that. Under the circumstances, that original title is ironic, indeed. In the Prometheus version of the book, I think 11 out of 20 chapters have no notes, or references – apart from one or two in the text itself. The R101 chapter is one of those.
Harris specialised in commenting, mainly, on popular mysteries that, many would find entertaining – but probably wouldn’t take that seriously. It seems to me that, where he’s dealing with that sort of story, then he’s OK for the most part. The R101 case is very different, because he had to do his own research; didn’t do it very well, and compounded the error by attempting to fool the reader into thinking that he had had close interaction with a genuine expert (Jarman), and was quoting directly from his definitive work on the subject. I think if Jarman had lived to see Harris’ book published, given his ire at John Fuller expressed in the Alpha article that Harris was really quoting from, then the resulting explosion probably would have been audible from quite a few miles away!
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 06:06 PM
Good insight Steve, when you place 'believers’ and ‘disbelievers’ in the same sociological/psychological group.
I think that the problem with a 'more reasonable middle ground' is that people who take that stance never come to any conclusion one way or another about anything, so when I read their stuff I am left with "Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't" exactly where I started out. If I am looking for conclusive evidence of a spiritual realm or psi or reincarnation or whatever, I have not found it yet from those 'middle grounders'. They are in the same quandary as I and don't help me at all. If I am realistic with myself I know that most likely solid conclusive evidence of the paranormal will never be discovered in this physical state so perhaps as espoused by some old Christians, some things have to be taken on faith alone, at least for now.
The extreme believers and disbelievers are happy to provide a cock-sure view of things, sure of their beliefs but that quickly turns me away from them. I don't know what's wrong with me---what would it take to convince me? I guess that I am like Thomas the doubter, who had to thrust his hand into the bleeding side of Jesus before he would believe.
As my wheel of life turns I am becoming more and more of a disbeliever, coming from a wide-eyed gullible adolescent believing everything by anyone older and smarter than me (or written in a book) to a wizened old geezer who has experienced too much of the human condition to believe anything. All of the back and forth arguments over the years for one side or the other to me is now just a lot of noise. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 24, 2017 at 06:23 PM
Yeah man,......I'm sure it was a 'hair' thing. Flower power and all that. A lot of people were still suspicious at that time, of anyone (ladies aside) who's hair extended lower than their ears.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 07:10 PM
If the command had come from yourself, Julie, then West might well have complied ;)
Seriously, though, the West/Flint thing illustrated to me that claimants and academic researchers rarely seem to understand each others' position in terms of what the other requires. That has, especially, been the case as far as physical mediumship is concerned. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame West for being worried about his academic reputation, he was already taking a huge risk being involved at all at that stage in his career.
I'm afraid (sorry Amos, as well), I can't offer much of an opinion on Flint because I never sat with him; although, as you know, a close friend of mine (who passed away late last year), was a close friend of his and sat with him many times.
In the recordings I’ve heard, the communicators sound way too stylised, and the content is too platitudinous, for me to feel very impressed. There is also the fact that my friend David J. Nicholls went to quite a lot of effort to trace ‘Mickey’ recently (according to what his real name was, allegedly, and the circumstances of his death) and failed miserably. I recall that it is said that Flint’s communicators often relayed personal information only known by the sitter and the alleged deceased party. That may well be the case – but it would only be meaningful to the recipient, and if I was the on the receiving end, then it would only be meaningful if I was sure the information could not have been obtained by ‘normal’ means. Out of the (literally) hundreds of ‘messages’ I’ve received over the years via mediumship of various forms, I can count the number of times that has happened on one hand i.e. no evidence of cold or hot reading – where even the latter wouldn’t have been capable of gleaning the information relayed, and the super-psi theory is rendered more than a bit shakey.
If I were you, I don’t have the time at the moment, I’d get hold of all of the serious work done with Flint – a lot of it published in JSPR (by Drayton Thomas and, later, West) and give it a serious critical reading. That's what I'd have to do before I'd offer an opinion - balanced against my personal experience of direct voice as a sitter, (rather than as a researcher, with some control over the conditions).
More later, maybe. Gotta go now, unfortunately.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 07:11 PM
"Out of the (literally) hundreds of ‘messages’ I’ve received over the years via mediumship of various forms, I can count the number of times that has happened on one hand i.e. no evidence of cold or hot reading – where even the latter wouldn’t have been capable of gleaning the information relayed, and the super-psi theory is rendered more than a bit shakey."
One white crow?
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 07:25 PM
In the early '70s I interviewed for a teaching position at a large high school in northern Illinois. The interview went well as they were desperate for someone who would teach biology and art. As the interview closed I was taken aside and informed that I would have to cut my hair as it was too long for the school policy (It was only long enough to partly cover my rather large ears.) Well, I passed this golden opportunity by and opted to go back to university for an advanced degree.- AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 24, 2017 at 07:37 PM
Lo and behold! No sooner than the subject of Senate House comes up; 'Antiques Roadshow' is broadcast from the same place! Found out something else, from that program. Apparently, Orwell's wife used to work there. That's what gave him the inspiration.
Can you say;.....does Senate House have a basement? And if so,....what might it hold?
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 07:37 PM
Julie,....."One white crow?" - doesn't make a winter?
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 07:44 PM
And did it turn out to be the correct decision?
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 07:58 PM
"Julie,....."One white crow?" - doesn't make a winter?"
But it does prove that not all crows are black.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 08:08 PM
Teaching was not for me Stuart; at least not High School. I did teach for one year but that was all I could take. The students dumped my aquariums out of the second story window and put tacks on the chair seats of the girls so ---well, you know.
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 24, 2017 at 08:28 PM
Isn't it, "One swallow doesn't make a summer? - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | April 24, 2017 at 08:31 PM
Most people come to sit on the fence, eventually, it's the only comfortable place to be. I won't ever do that - other than very temporarily. But I understand exactly why people come to put intellectual argument before intuition. We can reason ourselves into and out of anything. But if we are true then we simply have to follow our heart. Not an easy thing to do when the cost is intellectual respectability.
I don't want to bandy arguments about anymore with regard to the issues at stake here. Some things are too important for that.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 10:19 PM
"But it does prove that not all crows are black."
Its a pity that most of the visitors to Green Street, appeared not to take that on board.
Those; including Anita Gregory, John Beloff and Tony Cornell (all of the SPR) seem to fall into that category. That's apart from other public notables, including Milburn Christopher and Ray Alan, who were concerned with being outdone, regarding; magic and ventriliquism respectively; by a couple of teenage girls from a council house. Says a lot about their own characters, I feel. There is no doubt in my mind, that the last two mentioned had an agenda to debunk the growing public interest in the case. Yet, one has to be saddened that an attitude of disbelief should have prevailed amongst the SPR members.
Of course, their criticism of the case is really an attack on the two main investigators; Maurice Gross and GL Playfair. And yet, if they had approached the case with even a modicum of the sense that Julie states: "not all crows are black" rather than the attitude of "two swallows don't make a summer" then their opinions may well have come round in a positive way.
What happened here, is obvious. They were quick to associate themselves with a case that was achieving widespread publicity, and then; bask in the glory of their 'superior' viewpoints, by debunking it.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 10:32 PM
Stuart, that was masterly!
"Yet, one has to be saddened that an attitude of disbelief should have prevailed amongst the SPR members."
It's the feet of clay that trample so much underfoot. :(
Posted by: Julie Baxter | April 24, 2017 at 10:51 PM
Thank you Julie, for your very kind comments.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 24, 2017 at 11:19 PM
The SPR report (unpublished but available to view on request) concluded that, although the children were caught mucking around (by the primary investigators, MG and GLP) the case, nevertheless, did exhibit what was probably genuine poltergeist activity.
That's my memory of the conclusion, anyway. It was reached after lengthy deliberation by committee, and written by Mary Rose Barrington.
Posted by: Steve Hume | April 24, 2017 at 11:33 PM
Yes, a report into a conclusion of an event; that had not concluded!
There was no satisfactory explanation of the 'events' and the report sounds as if it was cobbled together in order to mend rifts within the SPR.
Yes, the children were caught mucking around. That's not surprising, considering the length of time that the investigators were there. Considering that point, an attitude of blase acceptance from the girls was quite normal, and not evidence of complicity. Likewise, the light-hearted, almost joyful attitude of Janet and Margaret, was not an indication of trickery from them. That attitude was paramount in playing to the suspicious nature of Tony Cornell, in particular. Yet, he himself engendered that attitude by jumping into bed with the girls. To then speak of the girls attitude as reason for his doubts, seems to me as; a clear case of hypocrisy. Methinks; he couldn't handle the pressure from others within the SPR, and sought a reason to extricate himself from supporting the case. I ask, can anyone believe that Anita Gregory agreed to stand, facing the bedroom door and to be covered with the girls dressing gowns whilst articles of clothing such as shoes were thrown at her? Yet, this is what she claims and uses that as reason for disbelieving the girls. Janet, by the way, has no memory of that incident.
I'm with Janet on that. I don't believe it happened and think she (Gregory) was looking for an excuse, to save face. Probably, got the idea from the girls sometimes insistence on Maurice having to stand outside of the room when he recorded the 'voices.'
Of course, the report is one thing. And yet, all the internal tensions within the SPR at the time helped to cast doubt upon this case. This is a complete tragedy; for here there was a real chance to gain a real insight into a paranormal event, and the SPR blew it, big time.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 25, 2017 at 12:54 AM
Its all the fault of those Forces of Enchantment, (FoE) I know.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 26, 2017 at 04:28 PM
The irony in this case (the Enfield Poltergeist) can be grasped when one considers the following;
I had called to the house (284) to see the girls. I had been away from home for a few days, and upon returning was told, by Mother, that a couple of girls had called a couple of days earlier, she thinks; for me. They had asked for Stuart. I told mum that it couldn't be for me (Stuart not being my correct name) and then; saying that I had to buy some cigarettes, I quickly grabbed my jacket and made my way along the road to 284. At first, I thought that there was no one at home, as the windows were shut and there didn't appear to be any lights on.
On getting nearer however, a very bright light emitted from the front room window and, just as quickly, went out as the curtains were adjusted. I guessed immediately that something akin to filming was going on inside. I thought of leaving it for another day, yet was anxious to find out what the girls wanted. I decided that I would knock and ask for them to come to the door. With luck, one of the girls may answer it themselves?
I rapped the door-knocker three times and waited. No-one answered. I then noticed that the front door had been left unlocked and now stood slightly ajar. I gently pushed open the door and leaned inside to hear what was going on inside. The door to the front room was closed and I leaned forward and put my ear to that for a few seconds before standing upright once more. As I did so, I noticed movement from the curtains at the side of the bay-window. I quickly took a step into the small front hallway at the foot of the stairs and glanced across to my left, where I think I saw Maurice Grosse peer out of the curtains towards the pathway. With the net curtains blurring my vision, I couldn't be sure it was he. I quickly ducked my head back inside, and it was evident to me that he hadn't spotted me, as no-one came to answer the door. I waited for what seemed like a couple of minutes, listening to the muffled sounds from behind the door.
Janet was there, I knew, for I could hear her voice. At one point, I heard laughter. I decided to knock upon the front-room door and stand back outside to wait. So, I stepped back outside, leaned forward once more, and rapped gently, three times upon the living-room door with the knuckle of my fore-finger. I waited. And I waited. Nothing!
No-one came to the door to answer! I couldn't believe it? I reasoned that it must be something really important happening inside. There was nothing else I could do at that stage, except walk home and call again another time. So I made my way back along the pavement towards home. Glancing back, I saw the curtains move and it appeared Janet was looking out. Another face appeared at the window, next to her, and I guessed that must be Margaret. I waved at them before continuing on my walk home, when I then heard footsteps running behind me. It was Janet. She seemed amused. Upon reaching me the first thing she asked was; "Why are you wearing your slippers!" I'd forgotten to change into my shoes! My feet were sodden, from the rain.
Of course, the irony of that situation becomes apparent, when you consider the fact that Stuart Lamont from STV (Scottish Television) had been in the process of questioning Janet about Stuart Certain. And at that very same time I, Stuart Certain, was standing right outside the living room door! And, had rapped upon it!
The forces of enchantment, were at work again.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 26, 2017 at 07:06 PM
Something which might entertain people is my reaction to this comic: http://www.viruscomix.com/page433.html
Considering I know of several instances where the Horsemen have demonstrated blatant racism, sexism, classism, and social Darwinism, I see one of them being listed as "Equality" and mentally start singing the Sesame Street song "One Of These Is Not Like The Others".
Posted by: chel | April 27, 2017 at 11:30 AM
Chel, can't say I know the song. You might consider this as being more pertinent:
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 27, 2017 at 04:09 PM
"there seems to be a consensus that Maurice Grosse could be somewhat credulous whenever an incident occurred at the house"
Yes, a consensus formed from the amalgamated opinions of disbelieving SPR members and sceptics. Totally unjust and unfair.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 27, 2017 at 11:11 PM
Stuart, I'm referring to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6b0ftfKFEJg
Posted by: chel | April 28, 2017 at 01:35 AM
Chel, thank you for that. How about:
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 28, 2017 at 03:08 AM
You know, Maurice Grosse wasn't a stupid man. Far from it.
I was walking along Green Street one day and, nearing the highway, I saw him pull over in his jag and park half-on, half-off the pavement. It was rare to see such a beaut' of a car around those parts and I stopped to look. He emerged from the car, quickly glanced at me, and then made his way towards the shops. A neighbour, who I was on nodding acquaintance with, was tending her front garden and asked me what I was doing. She couldn't see the car from where she stood. I walked over to her and had a brief discussion with her. At that moment, Maurice suddenly reappeared, closed the hood of the car and made a conscious decision to lock it. He couldn't see the neighbour from his viewpoint, and it must have seemed to him as though I was eyeing the car for nefarious purposes.
Some ten minutes later, he returned carrying what looked like several bags of fish and chips from 'Peters,' got back in his car and drove off; obviously on his way to 284.
His actions gave me an idea. When I next spoke to Janet and Margaret, I asked them what they would think if I turned up at their house in Maurice's car and told them that Mr Grosse had been delayed and, he had lent me the car to take them for a ride. Not far, I explained; just over to Chingford Mount and back. Would they go? Both girls showed puzzled amusement in the idea and asked me if I knew Mr Grosse personally. I was non-committal in my response and left the idea with them. Something must have been said; for that was the last time I saw that car. Thereafter, he visited in his Hillman Imp.
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 28, 2017 at 04:06 AM
Some of the critics seem to .
Irvin child's important paper on dream telepathy cites misrepresentations from skeptics - no doubt this also applies to this.
I made some notes on Rhine - this might help for further research on Rhine's work:
see items from ESP-60, particularly this: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=227 (mention others, for instance, compare this to false statements made in Wynn, Charles; Wiggins, Arthur. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-309-07309-7 "In 1940, Rhine coauthored a book, Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years in which he suggested that something more than mere guess work was involved in his experiments. He was right! It is now known that the experiments conducted in his laboratory contained serious methodological flaws. Tests often took place with minimal or no screening between the subject and the person administering the test. Subjects could see the backs of cards that were later discovered to be so cheaply printed that a faint outline of the symbol could be seen. Furthermore, in face-to-face tests, subjects could see card faces reflected in the tester’s eyeglasses or cornea. They were even able to (consciously or unconsciously) pick up clues from the tester’s facial expression and voice inflection. In addition, an observant subject could identify the cards by certain irregularities like warped edges, spots on the backs, or design imperfections."
false in light of this: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=215, and r.e. auditory cues in light of this: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=160 (see also Hansen review))
experiments meeting counter-hypotheses are Pratt-Woodruff: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=175 (see also this note on that: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=177 (paragraph 3)) Warner report (somehow people have overlooked this: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=178)
(compare to Hansel, C. E. M. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited. Prometheus Books. p. 46. ISBN 0-87975-516-4)
cites conditions of distance: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=187,
also believes Reiss report meets counter-hypotheses, critics don't mention Reiss report: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=189 Murphy and Taves: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=191
believes that most other experiments are of high quality, suffering from minor defects not present in the six cited: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=197 (possible defect involving one hypothesis or two, but nothing to vitiate the experiments: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=201)
regarding replications: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=379
the view that Rhine failed to replicate his positive results refuted by the following items from appendix 17: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=427, see this: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=432
Summarize Soal, "Modern Exxperiments in Telepathy", ch. 2 & 3 on Rhine, & p. 77, note that Soal is very good at describing experiments other than his own, and was recognized (e.g. - not challenged) as an authority on that issue, aside from his own experiments, his writing on the subject presents early parapsychology as much better than "skeptic" caricatures. Compare to ESP-60.
From Soal, op. cit., pp. 77-79:
"Dr. Rhine's Experiments Rhine began his experiments in prediction by asking Hubert Pearce to write down a list of 25 Zener card symbols. Pearce was then asked to shuffle a pack of Zener cards for (in one series) 15 seconds in the presence of Dr. Rhine. The order of the cards in the pack was then checked against Pearce's list of guesses. In 16 runs of 25 he obtained an average of 7-7 hits per run, with corresponding odds against chance of about ten million to one. Of course, the obvious objection to this sort of experiment is that the guesser himself shuffled the cards. But these were only preliminary explorations. Rhine5 next carried out a series of 113,075 prediction trials with 49 guessers and 11 experimenters taking part. In these tests the guesser wrote down or dictated a list of 25 Zener symbols. An experimenter then shuffled and cut a pack of cards, holding them face downwards all the time. The experimenter himself—who had up to this stage not seen the list of guesses—checked off the order of the cards in the shuffled pack from top to bottom against the subject's list. The guesser witnessed the checking and counting of hits. Of the total of 113,075 guesses there was an excess over chance expec- tation of 614 hits, which corresponds to nearly 4-5 standard deviations, with odds of over 100,000 to 1 against chance. The rate of scoring (514 hits per 25) is very low indeed, and the bulk of the successful guessing was done by George Zirkle, one of Rhine's best subjects, and a group of 32 school children who had been selected on account of their good performances in previous ESP tests. ESP Shuffle Experiments It occurred to Dr. Rhine that the significant scoring in the previous experiments might be explained otherwise than by the supposition that the guessers were anticipating the future order of a shuffled pack. It might be that the experimenter had become subconsciously aware by clairvoyance or telepathy both of the subject's list of guesses and of the order of the cards in the pack which he was holding. His fingers might then be guided by ESP to place a card here and there in a position so as to agree with the symbol in the corresponding place in the guess-list. If this happened, the crucial point in the proceedings would be the last cut, which determines the final order. He would only have to manoeuvre a card into the right position once in five or six runs to obtain the observed rate of scoring. The alternative hypothesis to prediction by the guesser, then, was that the experimenter used ESP to match his pack with the subject's list. In order to test this theory, Dr. Rhine6 and his assistants carried out one of the biggest card-guessing projects ever undertaken. In all, 211,525 card matchings were made by 203 guessers. We shall here, however, confine ourselves to 51,525 trials in which the conditions appear to have been satisfactory. The experimenter shuffled a pack of Zener cards behind a screen, and laid it on the table out of sight of the guesser. The subject then shuffled a second pack, holding it face downwards with the intent of making it agree with the concealed pack. He was allowed to make as many shuffles as he desired. A second experimenter was present, who watched all operations, and witnessed the checking of the order of the cards in the guesser's pack against that in the concealed pack. These 51,525 trials with concealed target packs and double witnessing yielded an excess of 424 hits over chance expectation. This corresponds to a critical ratio of 4-57, with odds of about 180,000 to 1 against chance. The average num- ber of hits per 25 trials, however, was only 5-2. In 41,775 of these trials the checking was done independently by two persons, and this batch gave a positive deviation of 348, with correspond- ing odds of about 30,000 to 1. If the experimenter made no methodological errors in this work (such as letting a number of persons match simultaneously the same pack of Zener cards)—in which case the ordinary formulae for expectation and standard deviation would not strictly apply—it would appear that the guessers possessed a significant, though slight, ability to use ESP in shuffling a pack of cards so as to make it match a given concealed pack. Since the success obtained in the contemporaneous shuffling experi- ments at least equalled that of the prediction tests, it would seem that hand-shuffling is inadequate for the demonstration of precognition. Mechanical Methods Dr. Rhine7 next decided to fix the future order of the cards in the pack by mechanical means. Two methods were adopted. The subject and experimenters were in different rooms. In the first method the sub- ject, having recorded his list of 25 predictions, pressed a buzzer. This was a signal for an experimenter in the next room to stop turning the handle of a shuffling machine which contained 50 Zener cards. The shuffled pack was removed from the machine and laid face downward on the table. The experimenter then compared the order of the first 25 cards, counting from top to bottom, with the subject's list of guesses intended for them. A second experimenter watched the checking. This was known as the PDT (prediction-down-through the pack) technique, and up to 1st October 1940, various experimenters had carried out 235,875 trials by means of this method or a slight modifica- tion of it. These yielded an excess of 425 over expectation, and the not very significant critical ratio of 214 (odds of about 30 to 1 against chance). In his report Dr. Rhine seems to have included 2,250 trials done by Mr. G. N. M. Tyrrell* in England using his electrical machine. As Mr. Tyrrell's work involves a totally different technique we have not included these trials in the PDT group. In the second method the subject sat before a row of five blank cards on which were to be placed later five key-cards bearing the five Zener symbols in some order. The subject was asked to match a pack of shuffled Zener cards against what he imagined would be the five future key cards. In the meantime an electrically driven cage containing six ordinary dice was being rotated in another room. When the subject had laid down his 25 cards in five piles opposite the imagined key cards, he pressed a buzzer, which was a signal for one of the experimenters in the next room to stop the dice cage. A large number of envelopes had been prepared, each containing five key-cards in random order. The envelopes were numbered serially, and the sum of the digits turned up by the six dice indicated the particular envelope to be opened. The five key-cards were removed and placed in their proper order, one on each blank card, in the subject's room. The number of correct hits was then counted and checked by the two experimenters present, each keeping an independent record. This, in essence, was one procedure. In a variation the order of the key-cards was determined by the stop- ping of the card-shuffling machine immediately the subject had finished his matching against the imaginary key-cards. The order of the first five different symbols in the shuffled pack was taken as the order of the key- symbols. Seven series7 totalling in all 154,675 trials were carried out by various experimenters, using one or other of these matching methods up to 1st October 1940. In two series by Rhine and Gibson 27,700 guesses were made by a group of adults, and another 12,500 by a group of children. It is reported that the adults yielded a negative (below chance) deviation of 239 hits, which corresponds to a critical ratio of —3-5 while the child group produced a positive (above chance) deviation of 123 and a critical ratio of +2-7. ♦ Cf. Chapter VI, p. 87."
Rhine was very diligent in dealing with the fraud of Levy - for a positive overview of his actions in this area, see this.
Kennedy summarized "Security vs. Deception" as much more innocuous than critics have represented it, stating that: "In early 1974 J.B. Rhine (1974a) published a paper on experimenter fraud in parapsychology. In the paper he stated “I have selected a dozen cases to illustrate fairly typically the problem of experimenter unreliability prevalent in the 1940’s and 1950’s” (page 104). He also stated “Fortunately, the culprits have thus far been caught (at least in our ‘known’ cases) before serious damage has been done” (page 105). In addition, he described three more recent cases of fraud or clearly inappropriate experimenter behavior that made the results unsuitable for publication. One of his main points in this paper was that “we have been able to do quite a lot to insure that it is impossible for dishonesty to be implemented inside the well-organized psi laboratory today” (page 105).": http://jeksite.org/psi/misconduct.pdf
Martin Gardner has claimed to have inside information that Rhine's files contain "material suggesting fraud on the part of Hubert Pearce", but this has not been forthcoming from those historians and others who have themselves closely studied Rhine's archives and the archives of the Parapsychology Laboratory.(Mauskopf, S. H., & McVaugh, M. R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore, ML, US: Johns Hopkins University Press). [aside from that, Ian Stevenson's critique of Hansel, provides a notarized statement from Pearce directly contradicting such insinuation]. Contra the claim that "Pearce was never able to obtain above-chance results when persons other than the experimenter were present during an experiment making it more likely that he was cheating in some way.", we can look at ESP, pp. 75-76. To refute the claim that "Rhine's other subjects were only able to obtain non-chance levels when they were able to shuffle the cards which has suggested they used tricks to arrange the order of the Zener cards before the experiments started", we need only one counter example, and a striking counter-example is given in pp. 77-79 of New Frontiers of the Mind. We can also see p. [130 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015065532460;view=1up;seq=150] of Pratt's ESP-60 for a direct refutation of this claim (as well as the entire chapter including that page for refutations of counter-hypotheses). Rhine himself noted, in his article "History of Experimental Studies", in The Handbook of Parapsychology (Benjamin B. Wolman, ed. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company New York, 1977), on p. 31: "On the side of precautions, in experiments that were intended to be conclusive, it was required in the experimental design that the targets cards should be completely out of the subject's sensory range and the order unknown to all concerned. Opaque envelopes or boxes were adequate but less convenient than opaque screens. The latter were acceptable when additional assurance against sensory cues was provided. This led to the use of different rooms and even different buildings, with still further precautions; for example, an assistant to provide independent observation."
People mistakenly claim that the early Rhine experiments were discredited because of faulty ESP cards. However, Rhine's biographer Denis Brian noted, in The Enchanted Voyager, p. 166: "Rhine responded to criticism of the faulty ESP cards by saying they were manufactured to be used in shuffling machines and behind screens, that heavier cards without defects were subsequently made for unsweetened work. He said that a warning was printed in the first number of the Journal of Parapsychology to appear after the ESP cards were in circulation. Readers were advised to use screens in all serious experiments."
Posted by: Ben S. | April 28, 2017 at 05:56 PM
The notes were just to guide further research, and thus they come across in the way they did. For the first sentence I meant to reference this: http://www.tricksterbook.com/ArticlesOnline/QuantumLeapsReview.htm
Posted by: Ben S. | April 28, 2017 at 05:58 PM
The item on Rhine that people like to use as a means of stating he is credulous is the "Lady Wonder" horse incident, however, the Richmond-Times Dispatch states (Lady Sparked Wonders About Her Intelligence by Larry Hall, Times-Dispatch Librarian/Researcher, 7/16/2003), "Rhine later altered his assessment slightly, saying he sometimes had detected subtle signals from Claudia Fonda that the horse may have responded to, although he never explained how the horse was able to give correct responses to things Fonda could not have known.": https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20141031124200/http://archives.blogs.timesdispatch.com/2013/08/30/lady-wonder-1952/">http://archives.blogs.timesdispatch.com/2013/08/30/lady-wonder-1952/">https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20141031124200/http://archives.blogs.timesdispatch.com/2013/08/30/lady-wonder-1952/
Posted by: Ben S. | April 28, 2017 at 06:02 PM
"e.g." should have read "i.e."
Posted by: Ben S. | April 28, 2017 at 06:03 PM
Nah Rhines results were never replicated by scientists outside of parapsychology labs. Repeatedly is important for something like this, no neutral scientists ever replicated his card experiments.
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:12 PM
"Rhine’s results fail to be confirmed. At Colgate University (40, 000 tests, 7 subjects), at Chicago (extensive series on 315 students), at Southern Methodist College (75, 000 tests), at Glasgow, Scotland (6, 650 tests), at London University (105, 000 tests), not a single individual was found who under rigidly conducted experiments could score above chance. At Stanford University it has been convincingly shown that the conditions favorable to the intrusion of subtle errors produce above-chance records which come down to chance when sources of error are eliminated." - Joseph Jastrow
Does not look convincing, outside of parapsychology labs, normal everyday scientists can never replicate the results of parapsychologists. 120 years of this and counting... I will go with the null hypothesis.
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:15 PM
"the view that Rhine failed to replicate his positive results refuted by the following items from appendix"
No, linking a paranormal book by Rhine, that is not a refutation. Listing experiments from parapsychologists that have never been replicated by the scientific community is not evidence.
What neutral scientists (not parapsychologists) have replicated Rhines results in their laboratories? The answer is none. If psi was real we would all know about it know and there would be widespread replications all over the world. The evidence does not exist.
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:22 PM
Amos can you explain very brief why you believe Patience Worth deserves a supernatural explanation? There are no exact records that such a person ever existed and the linguistics were wrong.
"Unfortunately for Spiritualism, Curran’s writings failed to provide convincing evidence of life after death. Try as they might, researchers were unable to find any evidence that Patience Worth actually existed, and linguistic analysis of the texts revealed that the language was not consistent with other works from the period. The case for authenticity was not helped by Patience writing a novel set in the Victorian times, some 200 years after her own death. Eventually even the most ardent believer was forced to conclude that Pearl Curran’s remarkable outpourings were more likely to have a natural, not supernatural, explanation." - Richard Wiseman
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:27 PM
"From Soal, op. cit., pp. 77-79"
Even those in your field of parapsychology today accept Samuel Soal was a fraud, he fiddled results of his own experiments. So you trust what this man says about others experiments?
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:32 PM
Is it right to use the term; 'guessers' when applied to psi experiments?
I'm confused. Is this psi, or just guesswork?
Posted by: Stuart Certain | April 28, 2017 at 09:32 PM
A commenter above Paul C. Anagnostopoulos wrote that Eileen J. Garrett used a secret accomplice. My question to Steve Hume is how do you know she didn't? You seem to be too certain that she did not cheat. I think it is more likely she cheated than the paranormal explanation you are quick to accept.
Posted by: Debunking those believers | April 28, 2017 at 09:35 PM