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 . . .
Cassandra Vanzant calls herself an “extraterrestrial communicator,” among other things. I appeared with her on CBS’s Anderson, hosted by journalist Anderson Cooper. (The show aired on April 24, 2012.) Vanzant claims to be in communication with alien intelligences whose messages she allegedly receives telepathically and then “translates.” She informed Anderson that he, too, had a star family, the “Lamarians” living in “the fourth dimension.” (See Nickell 2012.)
New Age Contactee
Vanzant’s claims are legion. At one time or another (sometimes under the pseudonym “Cheryl Hill”) she has acted as a tarot-card reader and instructor, ghost hunter, spiritualist medium, angel communicant, ordained minister (nondenominational), professional psychic (although she failed to foresee a serious car accident in which she was a passenger), and of course, telepathic “Master Alien Communicator” (“About the author” 2012; “About me” 2012; Vanzant 2012a).
When an amused Anderson Cooper asked his TV audience how many believed Vanzant’s claimed ability to communicate with aliens, a single person raised her hand. The audience was right to be skeptical. Ms. Vanzant is only the most recent embodiment of the contactee, a person who purports to be in repeated communication with extraterrestrials.
Contactees emerged in the early 1950s, following an influx of flying saucer reports. The Space Brothers were supposedly making themselves known to a select group of chosen persons (who thus function rather like the prophets in religions of yore) to spread their supposedly advanced wisdom to mere Earthlings. The contactees tended to be mystical folk of a type we would today call New Agers, embracing Eastern “mystery” religions, notably Hinduism, as well as Western Messianic traditions (Story 2001, 134). Today, contactees have been largely supplanted by abductees who themselves now also frequently serve as alleged cosmic messengers (Nickell 2007, 255–56).
Revealingly, like many other claimed extraterrestrial communicants (Nickell 2007, 251–58), Ms. Vanzant has several of the traits associated with a fantasy-prone personality. Such a person is sane and normal but with an unusual ability to fantasize, according to a pioneering study by Wilson and Barber (1983).
For example, Vanzant has ostensible imaginary friends (“Artoli” and “Madascrat”), claims to receive special messages from higher beings (not only extraterrestrials but also angels and spirit guides), purports to have psychic powers and fortunetelling abilities, reports having had an out-of-body/near-death experience (NDE), and so on, as well as appearing to generally have a rich fantasy life (Vanzant 2012a; see also her website, http://www.starfamilymessages.com).
Describing her near-death experience Vanzant (2012a) recalls floating up to the hospital roof and onward, “toward the stars.” She soon entered a “green tunnel,” then found herself “surrounded by angels, extraterrestrials, and spirit guides,” each of whom gave her a message. The experience, she says, “started my quest.” (The NDE—although only a hallucination produced by an altered brain state—is often life-transforming for the experiencer [Blackmore 1996].)
- Likenesses between spirit channeler mediums and alien contactees/experiencers (examiner.com)
- Bombshell Report Reveals Activities and Motivations of ET Races Interacting With Humanity (projectanunnaki.wordpress.com)
- Aliens & UFOs – Re: Contact, Disclosure, and Deception (disclose.tv)
- Russia Says Its Space Troops Are “Not Ready To Fight Extraterrestrials” (disinfo.com)