Scientists at the PEAR laboratories noticed something odd during their work with coincidence: Some humans seemed to influence random numbers with nothing but their thoughts. Could this be pseudoscience, or a scientific breakthrough?
People who believe in the empty force claim … the ‘Empty Force,’ is the highest martial arts skill in China. This technique claims to harness the power of qi, the “body’s vital energy“, enabling masters of the art to defend themselves against opponents without making physical contact.”
- What is the EFO Empty Force? EFO Empty Force Fail Video Proves Self Defense Method is a Scam (americanlivewire.com)
- Ladies And Gentlemen, The Dumbest Shit In The World: The ‘Empty Force’ Effect (sportsgrid.com)
- Surprise! Magic Is Not A Real Self-Defense Method (EFO Fail) (socialnewsdaily.com)
- After Showing Up to His Live Event, Skeptics Debunk Promoter of ‘Touchless’ Karate (patheos.com)
- Watch this “Master” get exposed as a fraud on video (vigilantemma.com)
Can people move or alter physical objects simply by using a hidden power of the mind called psychokinesis? I have encountered many claims of such powers in the course of my work (since 1969) as a paranormal investigator. And I have pretended to have such ability myself—both as a professional stage magician and mentalist (a magician specializing in apparent psychic feats). In the fall of 2012, I attended a workshop that enabled me to investigate the latest popular expression of psychokinetic metal bending.
The term psychokinesis (formerly telekinesis), or PK, derives from the Greek words for “mind” and “motion.” Together with extrasensory perception (ESP), it constitutes what parapsychologists refer to as “psi” to describe the two seemingly closely related phenomena. However, the existence of psi has never been proven and, indeed, according to a sympathetic source: “Despite decades of research, psi continues to elude physical and quasi-physical theories of how it functions; it operates outside the bounds of time and space” (Guiley 1991, 468).
PK describes the alleged power of mind over matter, including such “micro-PK” acts as subtly influencing how thrown dice will land, or “macro-PK” feats like levitating a table or producing so-called “poltergeist” effects (actually, typically the tricks of children1). Psychokinetic metal bending is another alleged macro-PK phenomenon.
Geller the PK Marvel
It appears that the first major performer of apparent PK metal bending (PK-MB) was Israeli-born former fashion model and nightclub magician, Uri Geller (b. 1946) (Figure 1). Claiming to be guided by super beings from a distant planet, Geller appeared to read minds, bend keys and cutlery with PK, see while blindfolded, and perform other feats—all of which skilled magicians easily duplicate. (I, for example, have driven a car while blindfolded [Nickell with Fischer 1992, 77].) He typically refused to perform when magicians were observing but, nevertheless, was occasionally caught cheating.
Renowned American magician and psychic investigator James “The Amazing” Randi once observed Geller up close. Posing as an editor when Geller performed in the offices of Time magazine, Randi saw the simple tricks behind Geller’s wonderworking. For example, while Geller pretended to cover his eyes as a secretary made a simple drawing, he actually peeked, thus enabling him to appear to read her mind and reproduce the drawing. Again, while supposedly bending a key “by concentration,” Geller had instead bent it against a table when he thought he was unobserved. (For more on Geller’s methods, see Randi 1982.)
Geller was soon imitated by other “psychics” who discovered that they, too, could bend keys and spoons. One was Judy Knowles, who impressed London physics professor and parapsychologist John Hasted with her apparent ability. Hasted invited James Randi to observe tests of Knowles in a lab at Bath. Randi arrived with colleagues and his checkbook, offering Ms. Knowles $10,000 if she successfully passed the test, which was designed by Harry Collins of the University of Bath. Collins had tested other spoon benders, but none had been successful, and some children had been caught cheating.
Briefly, the test involved Knowles holding the spoon in a . . .
James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water “with a memory,” and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural. He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural.
- James Randi – Secrets of the Psychics (Full) (illuminutti.com)
- Psychic Secrets (illuminutti.com)
- Secrets of the Psychics (illuminutti.com)
- The Amazing Randi – Penn is BAD, BAD, BAD (randi.org)
- October News & Updates (randi.org)
- James Randi – Investigating Pseudoscientific and Paranormal Claims (disclose.tv)
- Skeptics Like James Randi Are a Necessary Evil (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 2 (secularnewsdaily.com)
- James Randi exposes Uri Geller and Peter Popoff (ritholtz.com)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 1 (secularnewsdaily.com)
OKAY . . . You only THINK you’ve seen the best prank ever . . . WATCH THIS!
What if telekinesis was real? How would you react? Our hidden camera experiment captures the reactions of unsuspecting customers at a New York City coffee shop as they witness a telekinetic event.
- Prank Video Shows How People Would React if Carrie and Her Telekinetic Powers Were Real–Watch Now! (eonline.com)
- Prank Video Shows How People Would React if Carrie and Her Telekinetic … – E! Online (topbreakingnews.info)
- Holy Sh*T! Telekinetic Coffee Shop Prank Might Be The Craziest Video You’ll See All Day (elitedaily.com)
- Watch This Girl With Telekinetic Powers Freak Out Coffee Shop Patrons (gizmodo.com)
- Carrie Coffee Shop Prank Video: People Freak Out When Girl Uses “Telekinetic Powers” (gossipcop.com)
Secrets of the Psychics – James Randi
Original broadcast: October 19, 1993
Description via PBS.org:
Can psychics predict the future? Many people seem to think so. Others argue that, in most cases, so-called psychic experiences are really misinterpretations of events. In this episode of NOVA, magician and confirmed skeptic James Randi challenges viewers to weigh the evidence for and against the existence of psychic phenomena.
Randi argues that successful psychics depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe that what they see is the result of psychic powers. The program highlights some of the methods and processes he uses to examine psychics’ claims. Using his own expertise in creating deception and illusion, Randi challenges specific psychics’ claims by duplicating their performances and “feats,” or by applying scientific methods. His goal is to eliminate all possible alternative explanations for the psychic phenomena. He also looks for evidence that they are not merely coincidental. His arguments can motivate your class to discuss the differences between psychic performances and legitimate cases of unexplained phenomena.
- James Randi – Secrets of the Psychics (Full) (illuminutti.com)
- Psychic Secrets (illuminutti.com)
- Psychics Boost Believers’ Sense of Control (illuminutti.com)
- Jury finds ‘psychic’ Rose Marks guilty on all 14 fraud… (illuminutti.com)
- Psychic Secrets (randi.org)
- Psychic Line (cpdowdle.wordpress.com)
- Flordia Psychic found guilty of fraud and sent to jail (skeptical-science.com)
- TV psychic in U.K. guilty of fraud (doubtfulnews.com)
If you can demonstrate a power unknown to science, there are people looking to write you a check.
It can sometimes be quite mind-boggling to hear a friend or family member reveal that they have some kind of supernatural ability. Often they feel an empathetic connection to others, sometimes the ability to perform minor healings, or to predict future events. Many times, these are abilities for which “supernatural” seems too strong a word; they are more spiritual or metaphysical, or based on some sensing of an energy. It’s more than likely that you yourself believe you have such an ability, or perhaps did at one time. Nearly all of us have. But whether the ability is energetic or spiritual, supernatural truly is the best word that applies. A supernatural ability could almost be seen as a superpower, something a fictional superhero might be able to do. And we all want superpowers. We all want your supernatural ability to be proven true. And we want it so much that a large number of groups around the world will pay you to prove it.
Such prizes have been available at least since Houdini, who had a standing $10,000 offer for anyone who could create a paranormal manifestation that he could not duplicate. The granddaddy of today’s challenges is the James Randi Educational Foundation‘s Million Dollar Challenge, which will pay anyone who can prove an ability unknown to science one million dollars, and Chinese journalist Sima Nan will kick in a million Yuan (about $150,000) on top of it. It’s not the only big prize out there: the Belgian group SKEPP offers the Sisyphus Prize for one million Euros, which at current exchange rates, is about a quarter million dollars more than the Million Dollar Challenge. The Independent Investigation Group, with affiliates throughout the United States, offers a $100,000 prize. Puzzling World in New Zealand has long offered the $100,000 Pyschic Challenge, and just across the pond, the Australian Skeptics offer a $100,000 prize. The Science and Rationalists’ Association of India offers a INπ 2 million Miracle Challenge, worth about $50,000. These are most of the largest prizes, but many, many smaller prizes are offered all around the world. If you have a supernatural ability of any kind, you owe it to yourself – or at least to your favorite charity – to prove it and use the reward however you see fit.
It’s easy to dismiss the groups who run these challenges as cynics who just want to gloat over someone’s failure, and for sure, such people are found in those groups. But many members of the groups joined because they, too, have always dreamed of having a superpower. Should you win the money and prove that a supernatural ability is possible, you’ll not only turn the world on its head, you’ll be handed money by people who have never been happier to sign a check.
I truly do encourage you to go for it. Here are three big pieces of advice, based on the experiences of the many previous claimants:
1. Be able to succinctly describe a testable ability.
The biggest headache for the people who offer these prizes is that the claimant can almost never provide a simple, clear description of their ability. For example, if you believe you have the power to influence a cat telepathically, you have to give a specific and testable example. Most claimants usually write in with a great lengthy email, telling about the many examples they’ve experienced of a cat doing whatever they wanted it to do; or perhaps with long rambling experiences of sharing the cat’s feelings or of their history of owning cats with whom they felt empathetic.
The challengers have no use for a long letter. You truly must be able to describe one specific ability in a single sentence. If you have many, then pick exactly one, one that you are most confident you can consistently prove.
Nobody is going to give you a cash prize for the length of your letter, or for the number of cats you’ve felt empathetic toward. You must be able to provide a clear, testable ability. If your ability is broad-reaching and vague, it will not be possible to construct a test protocol, and you will not be able to prove it. You must be able to select, within the scope of your broad-reaching abilities, something specific that’s testable and repeatable. For example, “I can make my cat jump onto its perch, within five seconds of giving it a mental command, when the cat neither see me nor hear me, and I can do it 8 out of 10 times.”
It has to be something concise, specific, and unmistakable. If you feel that your ability is too broad to be fairly represented by such a precise example, then you are unlikely to convince anyone, and will certainly be unable to prove your ability to the satisfaction of whatever criteria are agreed upon.
Many claimants report that they feel it’s unfair to try and represent their ability with a single demonstration that’s so much more specific than what they generally do. If you feel the same way and can’t agree to a simple test protocol, then you’re likely to leave the impression that your abilities are really just your own misinterpretation of ordinary coincidences. It’s something the psychologists call confirmation bias – you happen to notice when your cat jumps onto his perch while you were thinking of him, but you failed to weigh it against the far larger number of times your cat jumped onto the perch when you weren’t around and had nothing to do with it.
2. Be aware of why previous claimants failed.
Many people have taken such tests, and so far, all have failed. However, they’ve almost always cited an excuse or some external reason out of their control that the test failed. You must be aware of why previous claimants have failed, and be prepared not to suffer their same fate. This means preparation and anticipation of the problems.
Claimants are generally required to . . .
- Skeptoid #372: Prove Your Supernatural Power and Get Rich (skeptoid.com)
- Wang Li: Qigong “Master” a Conjurer of Cheap Tricks? (thediplomat.com)
- Testing the supernatural (ieet.org)
It seems that stories of the paranormal sprout up every day, and everywhere, in pop culture and the media. Weird news websites number in the hundreds, and there are entire television series dedicated to psychic abilities, hauntings and paranormal investigation.
But that’s all showbiz, really. The actual academic study of parapsychology — the established term for phenomena such as clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy and precognition — has seemingly disappeared since its heyday in the mid-20th century. So what happened to parapsychology?
It hasn’t gone anywhere, said John Kruth, executive director of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, N.C. It’s just become disorganized, underfunded and — in the realm of traditional science — largely ignored. The Rhine is one of a handful of privately funded groups in the United States still doing active research into parapsychology, sometimes called “psi phenomena.”
“People have never stopped doing research in these areas,” Kruth said. “But the skeptic community is strong and vocal, and they’re much better at working the media.” Kruth attributes much of the field’s decline in the United States, during the 1970s and 1980s, to media-savvy debunkers such as James Randi.
“Certainly there are fraudulent practitioners out there, and we’re always watching for that,” Kruth said. “It’s like we have the frauds on one side and the debunkers on the other, and we’re in the middle, still trying to do science.”
Critics respond that, as a field of scientific study, parapsychology has much bigger issues. In short, the science has a fundamental evidence problem.
“It’s fallen into disuse due to the fact that there’s just nothing there,” said Michael Shermer, editor of the quarterly journal Skeptic and columnist for Scientific American. “Parapsychology has been around for more than a century. (Yet) there’s no research protocol that generates useful working hypotheses for other labs to test and develop into a model, and eventually a paradigm that becomes a field. It just isn’t there.”
If you didn’t believe in telekinesis before, you will definitely believe after seeing this extraordinary video (said with extreme sarcasm).
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
Heg Robinson has been a martial artist and Tai Chi teacher for four decades. He has surely taught legions of willing participants to relax and “find their inner flow.” Through his practice of this ancient art, Robinson claims “that a self-health practice such as T’ai Chi heals the mind/ body /spirit and prevents common ailments.”
It’s the boilerplate alternative medicine pitch. I was expecting that. Traditional Chinese Medicine has made that claim based on the supposed power of Chi forever. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how extraordinary his demonstration of telekinesis was.
I have to be honest (and laugh). Even if skeptics unduly assume that many of those who claim to have supernatural powers are knowingly faking it, this demonstration does seem like an impression of an impression of a fake. It could be a Poe. I have seen spoon-benders and page-turners and other martial artists who can “knock out” an attacker without touching them. This is something else.
The flailing student is quite shocking. It’s reminiscent of the dances of trance-induced ecstasy cultures like the Amazonian Yanomami practice. Though “kinetic” implies some force being transferred, we get this imparted dance instead of an otherworldly punch or kick. But as bizarre as the reaction to Robinson’s “energy” is, it’s still no different from other feats of Chi. Reality always hits it hard.
A demonstration like in the video above, I will claim, can only be done with a student or willing participant. Like stage hypnosis, Robinson’s feat is a performance piece between two believing parties. Choose anyone else, and the supposed power will immediately evaporate.
Sam Harris gives a great example of the student-master delusion on his blog. A martial arts master, supposedly able to defeat multiple opponents (his own students) with unseen Chi-based attacks, meets reality rather violently. Outside of his own school, facing an unfamiliar opponent, the master is punched in the face multiple times. It’s rather sad. When he needed it most, his powers vanished. Of course, the die-hard practitioners will claim this or that condition was not met or this or that life force was not in line, but nothing can substitute for the empirical test. He put his money where is mouth was, as did the opponent his fist.
- Reality Hits Hard (randi.org)
In a nutshell: ESP stands for extrasensory perception. If you had ESP, you could see, feel, or hear things without using your eyes, hands, or ears. There are some scientists who say they have proof of ESP, but most scientists think the proof is weak and does not support a belief in ESP.
ESP stands for extrasensory perception.
Sensory perception is seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting. Extrasensory perception is when you see or hear something that can’t be seen or heard with your eyes and ears. Such experiences happen outside the normal range of the senses and are said to be paranormal or psychic. Most scientists don’t think paranormal events actually happen or that anyone is actually psychic.
If you had ESP, you could see, feel, or hear things without using your eyes, hands, or ears. Somehow your brain would get messages and images from distant places and distant times. If your brain confused you with perceptions from the past and from places far away while you were trying to get dressed, eat breakfast, get on the school bus, pay attention in class, or do your homework, you would have a very hard time making it through the day. As far as we know, this has never happened to anybody.
mind reading or telepathy
Mind reading is a type of ESP where a person “sees” what is in another person’s mind. Mind reading is also called telepathy. The scientific study of telepathy began over one hundred twenty years ago when it was called psychical research. Today, scientists who study ESP are called parapsychologists and their science is called parapsychology. (Psychical comes from the Greek word for spirit. Many parapsychologists say the mind is a spirit.)
The first scientific test of telepathy was done in England in 1882. Scientists at the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) tested several young girls who said that they could tell what each other was thinking. The scientists put the girls in different rooms and asked those in one room about a card or name of a person that a girl in the other room was thinking of. Many tests were given over a period of six years. The scientists said there was no way the girls could have got as many right answers as they did just by guessing. The scientists also said they were sure the girls weren’t cheating. The scientists agreed that the girls were reading each other’s minds. The scientists were right about one thing. The girls couldn’t have gotten as many right answers as they did just by guessing. But the scientists were wrong about the cheating. The girls—the Creery sisters and their servant Jane Dean—admitted they cheated by using secret signals. This wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time, that children would fool scientists.
In 1848 two sisters, Kate Fox (age 12) and Margaretta Fox (15), said they heard strange rapping noises in their bedroom. They got people to believe that they were getting messages from spirits. Soon they went on tour with their big sister Leah who was in her mid-30s. They did séances, which became the rage in both the U.S. and Europe. In 1871, the Fox sisters fooled Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), an important scientist who attended a Fox-girls séance in London. Sir William said he tested the girls “in every way that I could devise” and was sure they were not producing the rapping noises “by trickery or mechanical means.” In 1888 the sisters confessed that they made the raps by cracking their toe-joints. They made bumping noises by fastening an apple to a string under their petticoats and bouncing it off the floor.
From 1979-1983, two teenagers tricked scientist Peter Phillips into thinking they were able to move and bend objects by their thoughts, a power known as psychokinesis. (Psychokinesis comes from two Greek words meaning mind or spirit and movement. Psychokinesis, when it involves moving an object with mental power alone, is called telekinesis, literally distant-movement.) Steve Shaw (18) and Mike Edwards (17) fooled the scientist for four years through more than 160 hours of tests. One of their favorite tricks was to pretend to bend a spoon or fork with thoughts, a trick made popular by Uri Geller. Geller, however, claimed that he had psychokinetic powers. At one time, he claimed he got his powers from the planet “Hoova” in another star system and a UFO called “IS” or “Intelligence in the Sky.”
Skeptics don’t think there is good evidence that anyone has moved even a pencil across a table using only the power of thought. Psychokinesis nearly always involves trickery, though we might occasionally think we caused something to happen when it happens right after we thought about it happening. If you point to the sky during a rain storm and say “let there be lightning” and then a lightning bolt shoots across the sky, you might think you caused it. You’d probably be wrong.
Here he is exposed as a fraud by none other than James Randi:
It was soon after this appearance on That’s My Line Hydrick confessed the fraud to an investigative reporter.
Uri Geller’s Tonight Show failure (courtesy of James Randi):
Also see: Top 10 Psychic Debunkings
- Remote Viewing (illuminutti.com)
- Why the Power of Mind Over Matter is Important (secretsofthefed.com)
- Remote Viewing Pioneer Russell Targ Describes The Origins Of ESP Powers (disinfo.com)
- Uri Geller Psychic Spy? (zen-haven.com)
- Is TELEPATHY Still Considered a Fiction? (joseasanoj.wordpress.com)
- Types of Psychic Abilities (psychicwebinfo.wordpress.com)
- Proof of Psychic Ability and ESP with Physicist Dr. Russell Targ (truthfrequencyradio.com)
- Uri Geller was CIA spy, documentary says (jta.org)
People tell me I should be more open-minded.
There is a clichéd saying regarding open-mindedness: “Keep an open mind — but not so open that your brain falls out”.
This piece of advice is most often said to come from physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but also a slew of other more or less famous people, most of them from the field of science: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, Bertrand Russell, J. Robert Oppenheimer. It’s plausible that they all certainly said it at one time or another because it applies every time one is presented with a fringe or alternative explanation for something. It’s well worth remembering as a rule of thumb.
Because I peruse paranormal-themed sites and various “water-cooler” forums on the web, I frequently see ideas thrown out there that would qualify as amazing and paradigm-shifting. So, what do I think about this latest crazy thing, people ask?
Here’s a recent example. With all the recent speculation about “alien” remains, someone on Facebook mentioned Lloyd Pye who contends (for almost 15 years now) that a curiously-shaped skull he has is that of an alien-human hybrid. Called the “star child” skull, Pye promotes the story that this is proof that humans descended from extraterrestrial beings.
The plausibility of this idea is practically nil. There is no decent evidence in support of it except a nifty story. To accept it, we’d have to throw out all of what we know about human history, evolution, and a good bit of well-established physics. Just because of one odd-looking skull? No, thank you. That would be stupid. Thus, to consider such an idea takes me about a minute before I realize that would be unreasonable. It’s an imaginative idea, just like mermaids and remote viewing and time travelers. But in order to accept it, I’d have to discard too much (e.g., my brain and society’s accumulated knowledge). The evidence clearly suggests another more down-to-earth explanation. Since the skull DNA tested as human, and we know that certain genetic conditions can cause the enlargement of the skull in just this way, I’m going to accept the obvious and not some far-fetched story just for kicks.
Calling skeptics closed-minded because we discard wacky ideas is a common ploy. It’s often used as a personal insult because the skeptic has rejected a baseless idea that the promoters fancy. When you don’t have evidence to support your idea, observe that the proponent resorts to derogatory tactics.
It’s not about actually being open-minded towards new ideas. Instead, the proponent is accusing the skeptic of being stubborn, undemocratic and unfair. They see it as the skeptical person, being overly rational, ignoring a possibly worthwhile option to be considered. But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.
Let’s take another example: energy healing. I should be open-minded, reiki practitioners say, and try these forms of energy medicine where healing energy gets channeled or manipulated for better health. If someone offers these treatments to me and I just say “OK! Sounds good!” (and hand over my money) is that actually being open-minded? No. It’s swallowing what I’m being fed without a thought. The same would apply to . . .
- Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained (illuminutti.com)
- The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore (illuminutti.com)
- Foiled Again: Lake Monster, Bigfoot Body and Alien Humanoid All in One Week (illuminutti.com)
- Yet Another Sylvia Browne Fiasco (randi.org)
- Sharon A. Hill (en.wikipedia.org)
- Join Us for Sharon Hill’s Workshop: “I Doubt That: The Media Guide to Skepticism” (randi.org)
Let’s say there’s a row of street lamps you pass every day while going to and from work. They are, being typical, modern street lamps, of the low-pressure sodium-vapor variety, emitting a red glow at start up and, once they’re operating fully, a steady monochrome yellow. The lamps automatically switch on at sundown, via the activation of a light-sensitive cell, or photocell. The cell is triggered again when sunlight returns at dawn, switching the lamps off. Generally, rather than each lamp having its own photocell, a single photocell is used to control a whole group of street lamps.
You’re returning home from work on what has so far been a completely typical evening, the street lamps illuminating your way as you stroll down the footpath. No one else is around. Oddly, the street lamp nearest you suddenly blinks out, turning on again as soon as you’ve passed it. A level-headed person, you attribute the event to coincidence and think no more of it. Three evenings later, however, while passing the same row of lamps, the phenomenon occurs again. On this occasion, three successive lamps are affected, each one blinking out as you approach, only to suddenly blink on again the moment you step away.
What on earth just happened? Did you influence the lamps with the power of your mind? Or is there a mundane explanation for these events?
Known as street lamp Interference (SLI), experiences of this nature are common, with people in many different parts of the world claiming “that they involuntarily, and usually spontaneously, cause street lamps to go out. Generally the effect is intermittent, infrequent and without an immediately discernable sequence of cause and effect.”
These are the words of the British paranormal scholar Hilary Evans, who, prior to his death in 2011, was the foremost authority on SLI. (“SLIder” is the term he coined to refer to someone who reports a SLI experience.) In addition to being a pictorial archivist and author of numerous books on the Fortean, he helped found, in 1981, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). After receiving numerous reports from people claiming that street lamps respond to their presence in an inexplicable fashion, Evans decided to take on the mystery, collecting hundreds of accounts of SLI through his Street Lamp Interference Data Exchange (SLIDE). The culmination of this research – what turned out to be his final book – is the brief yet highly impressive SLIDERS: The Enigma of Street Light Interference (2010). “SLI… can reasonably be regarded as a phenomenon in its own right,” he argued.
Frankly, when I first heard of SLI I considered it largely insignificant and boring, regardless of whether or not the phenomenon had a paranormal basis. I hastily concluded that most, if not all, SLI experiences could be accounted for as a result of people perceiving connections that have no basis in reality. For, as everybody knows, street lamps can and do malfunction from time to time, and people are bound to walk past them at the moment these malfunctions occur. After taking a deeper look at the phenomenon, however, I came to the unavoidable conclusion that we’re dealing with a genuine mystery – and, what’s more, an important and fascinating one. I agree with Evans when he says: “If true… claims [of SLI] carry profound and exciting implications for science and for our knowledge of human potential.”
It’s time we examined some of those claims.
- Streetlamp Interference: A Modern-day Paranormal Mystery (mysteriousuniverse.org)
There are several claimed types of psychic powers, including precognition (knowing future events before they happen); pyrokinesis (creating fire with the mind, popularized in Stephen King’s novel and film “Firestarter”); and telepathy (describing things at a remote location). Among the most dramatic of these is telekinesis (also called psychokinesis, or PK), the ability to move objects through mind power. Though many Americans believe in psychic ability (about 15 percent of us, according to a 2005 Baylor Religion Survey), scientific evidence for its existence remains elusive.
History of telekinesis
The idea of people being able to move objects through mind power alone has intrigued people for centuries, though only in the late 1800s was it seen as an ability that might be scientifically demonstrated. This occurred during the heyday of the early religion Spiritualism, when psychic mediums claimed to contact the dead during séances, and objects would suddenly and mysteriously move, float, or fly by themselves across the darkened room, seemingly untouched by human hands. Sometimes small tables would tip or levitate, disturbed either by unseen spirits or the psychic’s mind.
Though many people were convinced — including, ironically, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes — it was all a hoax. Fraudulent psychics resorted to trickery, using everything from hidden wires to black-clad accomplices to make objects appear to move untouched. Magician Harry Houdini investigated and exposed many fake mediums, and even wrote a book about it titled “Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.”
As the public slowly grew wise to the faked telekinesis, the phenomenon faded from view. It was revived again in the 1930s and 1940s, when a researcher at Duke University named J.B. Rhine became interested in the idea that people could affect the outcome of random events using their minds. Rhine began with tests of dice rolls, asking subjects to influence the outcome through the power of their minds.
Though his results were mixed and the effects were small, they were enough to convince him that there was something mysterious going on. Unfortunately for Rhine, other researchers failed to duplicate his findings, and many errors were found in his methods.
A few decades later, in the 1970s, a man named Uri Geller became the world’s best-known psychic and made millions traveling the world demonstrating his claimed psychokinetic abilities including starting broken watches and bending spoons. Though he denied using magic tricks, many skeptical researchers observed that all of Geller’s amazing feats could be — and have been — duplicated by magicians. In 1976, several children who claimed to be able to bend spoons with their minds were tested in controlled experiments at the University of Bath in England. At first the results seemed promising, and experimenters believed they might finally have found real scientific evidence of psychokinesis. However the children were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands when they thought no one was watching.