Thursday, February 28, 2008

APRU Telephone Telepathy Experiments

The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU) at Goldsmiths, University of London is currently engaged in a collaborative research project with Dr Rupert Sheldrake investigating the phenomenon of "telephone telepathy". This is the fairly common experience of feeling that you know who is calling you on the telephone before you answer it - even on occasions when you had no particular reason to expect a call from that person. Obviously, skeptics and believers in the paranormal have different explanations for what is going on in such situations, but Rupert Sheldrake claims to have demonstrated that a genuinely paranormal phenomenon may be in operation here. The only way to find out is to carry out well controlled empirical studies and that is what researchers at the APRU are doing.

They are looking for volunteers to act as participants in this experiment, people who feel that telepathy is possible in relation to phone calls - knowing who is ringing before they answer the phone. Each volunteer is asked to find 4 people who this might happen with. The test itself should take less than an hour and a half. During this period, the volunteer will be in one building, being filmed on videotape, and the four callers will be in another building. They will be selected at random by the throw of a dice for a series of ten trials. The person who is selected to make the call will also be filmed on video while calling the participant.

These videos are for research purposes only, and will not be shown in public unless those involved give their permission. All those who take part will remain anonymous in any publications or reports about this work. The APRU has limited funding for this project but they are offering a payment of £50 total to each group of people who take part, that is to say the volunteer and his/her four callers. They can also cover some travel costs, and can provide more details if requested.

Note that the APRU only wants people who genuinely believe that they often have this experience to take part as the "receivers" in this study. Obtaining null findings from a bunch of skeptics wouldn't really prove anything...

If you might be interested in taking part (or know someone who might be), further details can be found at

You can sign up for this and other projects at

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Review of The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations

Spending a quiet winter afternoon with the written memoirs of an investigator of parapsychological phenomena can be a real treat. Over the past few years, I've read and reviewed several books in this genre, which when written well, can provide the public with a behind-the-scenes look at the real work of parapsychologists. Stephen E. Braude's The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations[Photo] is a recent release that I eagerly awaited, not just because it was the latest addition to the genre of memoirs in this field, but because throughout his career Braude has provided much scholarship on the nonexperimental evidence for psi. This latest book, which recounts five cases he has investigated over the last 30 years, was written with the goal of presenting "the appearance - and sometimes only the appearance - of psychic or paranormal events in everyday life" (p. xii). Simultaneously, The Gold Leaf Lady presents the everyday challenges of a scholar who dares to take seriously areas of research that are scorned by much of academia.

Stephen E. Braude is a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and past president of the Parapsychological Association. I had the pleasure of meeting him while a student at the Rhine Research Center in the summer of 2001, where he gave several guest lectures and a luncheon presentation during his brief stay in Durham. I remember Professor Braude as one of the most dynamic lecturers of that summer. During one of his presentations at the Rhine, he shared a video from his own case material containing some rather bizarre footage. I can still visualize it: a melancholy woman, stiff, uncomfortable and seated quietly with a camera trained on her. She keeps rubbing her eye and looking at her finger. A tiny speck of gold foil becomes visible near her eye. She rubs it again and the golden speck grows to the size of about a quarter inch square.

As parapsychology students at the Rhine Research Center, we were learning a variety of methods to investigate extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis on a microcosmic scale, and even a thing or two about haunting investigations. But a woman who spontaneously breaks out in gold (actually brass) foil? How does one even begin to study such a thing?

The first chapter of The Gold Leaf Lady is devoted to the successes and failures of studying Katie, who appeared to have other strange abilities in addition to her rather burdensome affliction. Following a chapter outlining a history of physical mediumship, Braude recounts his exasperating attempts to study the alleged psychokinetic superstar Joe Nuzum. Later, readers are introduced to Dennis Lee, a subject in California who seemed to produce observable psychokinetic effects in more informal settings, but whose formal testing was difficult to complete. Next Braude discusses K.R., a police officer in Annapolis, who believed he could transfer images from photographs onto other objects, a case that become a cautionary tale about how even presumably trained observers can be the victim of self-deception. Then Braude devotes another chapter to his own investigation of the paranormal photography of Ted Serios. The final two chapters of the book describe Braude's own apparent encounters with the paranormal. Here he takes a look at Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity and explains in terms of a refined and dramatic form of psychokinesis. Then he discusses the activities of his wife Gina, an academic and clinical psychologist who is also a successful astrologer.

Those who have read Braude's previous books, The Limits of Influence: Psychokinesis and the Philosophy of Science or Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life After Death will not be surprised at his conclusion that after examining the best evidence "we're left with the reality of at least some of the phenomena reported throughout the history of parapsychology" (p.177). However, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations differs from his previous works by demonstrating just how difficult it is to obtain the best evidence. Those who research parapsychological topics face a variety of challenges - personally, professionally, politically, and financially. How Braude navigates these challenges becomes part of the case material, providing the public and would-be researchers with a closer look at how a university professor goes about investigating the most extraordinary of claims.

Annalisa Ventola