Paranormal movement has been given various names, among them, parakinesis, which refers to movement with some contact but not enough to explain the motion. Movement without perceptible contact is called telekinesis. It was a frequently reported séance-room phenomenon during the first century of Spiritualism. Telekinesis, in its apparent simplicity, is the most important, and Spiritualists have hypothesized that an invisible intelligence performs complicated operations and exercises a directive influence over mysteriously generated and frequently tremendous forces. Popularly called "mind over matter," the generally accepted modern term for paranormal movement is psychokinesis or "PK." This term includes the claimed phenomenon of paranormal metal bending.
In the heyday of psychical research, through the 1930s, physical phenomena in the séance was a major focus. It was among the most controversial of phenomena, the object of severe debate, resolved only after numerous mediums were caught in fraud and the mechanics of that fraud delineated in detail. Such fraud centered upon the production of materializations but included apports and various extraordinary movements. PK continues as an element of parapsychology and the reported production of such has periodically excited researchers. However, the continued discovery of fraudulent activity by individuals claiming psychic abilities requires constant vigilance, as the 1984 confession of prominent Japanese metal bender Masuaki Kiyota to trickery amply demonstrated. The presence of fraud (widespread in Spiritualism) by no means explains physical phenomena, but, it raises the standards any phenomena must pass before it moves from the status of séance-room folklore to established fact.
Shaking of the House
In its initial stage in the séance room, physical movement phenomena commonly begin with the vibration of objects by the sitters; the séance table, upon which sitters have placed their hands, begins to tremble, shake, or jerk. This motion is not always restricted to the table; it may spread over the entire room.
P. P. Alexander, in Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion (1871), writes of a séance with the medium D. D. Home in Edinburgh: "The first hint or foreshine we had of the phenomena came in the form of certain tremors which began to pervade the apartment. These were of a somewhat peculiar kind; and they gradually increased till they became of considerable violence. Not only did the floor tremble, but the chair of each person, as distinct from it, was felt to rock and—as we Scots say—dirl under him."
Rev. Maurice Davies in the Daily Telegraph and a Dr. Gully in the Morning Star describe the trembling of the floor during Home's levitation as reminding them of an earthquake. In a similar record, Lord Adare, author of Experiences in Spiritualism with D. D. Home (1870), states: "We soon felt violent vibration of the floor, chairs and table—so violent that the glass pendants of the chandelier struck together, and the windows and doors shook and rattled in their frames not only in our room but also in the next."
Such phenomena, not limited to Spiritualism, can, for example, be found scattered through religious literature, such as the incident reported in the journal of George Fox, the Quaker founder: "At Mansfield, where was a great meeting, I was moved to pray, and the Lord's power was so great that the house seemed to be shaken. When I had done, some of the professors said, it was now as in the days of the Apostles, when the house was shaken where they were."
The levitation of John Lacy, as described in Warnings of the Eternal Spirit (part 2, 1707), made the chamber shake. The Wesley family, during physical manifestations known collectively as the Epworth phenomena, heard vast rumblings and clattering of doors and shutters.
Felicia Scatcherd writes of a séance with Etta Wriedt in Light (August 3, 1912): "We all felt the floor, walls and windows vibrating. I have twice experienced earthquake shocks in the Ionian Islands. The sensation was similar." In the case of Mary Jobson, "a rumbling noise was heard like thunder, the tenants downstairs thought that the house was coming down." An excess of power held the room in which William Stainton Moses sat in séance in constant vibration. Gambier Bolton writes in Psychic Force (1904):
"On several occasions when sitting in my own room with Mr. Cecil Husk, the whole place, floor, walls, and ceiling, have commenced to tremble and vibrate strongly, table and chairs all responding, and glass, china and pictures swaying to and fro, some of the lighter articles eventually falling over; the motion being similar to that experienced when the screw of a steamer, during a gale of wind, and owing to the pitching of the vessel, comes nearly or quite to the surface of the water, and 'races'; or like the tremble of the earthquake which, as I know by experience, when once felt is never forgotten again. So decided was this tremble and vibration that several of the experimenters present not only stated that it made them feel very ill, but their appearance proved to anyone used to ocean travel, that this was not an exaggeration."
Movement of Objects
The telekinetic phenomenon reported from the séance room is varied: a séance curtain sways and bulges out; a table moves, slides or rotates; weights are lifted; small objects stir, jump into the air, and drop slowly or heavily. According to reports, such objects do not follow straight lines but move in curves, as if under the influence of an intelligent mechanical force. Their speed is sometimes alarming. They may come within an inch of some one's face, then suddenly stop. There is no fumbling, no exploration, no accidental collision. If one puts out his hand in the dark for the reception of an object it neatly drops into his palm. The sitters may change seats or posture, yet the objects will seek them out perfectly. The invisible manipulator behind the phenomena seems to have cat's eyes. A table may incline at a considerable angle, yet the objects may remain unmoved on the leaf or they may glide up the slope. A switch may be thrown, gas or electricity turned off, the flame of a candle depressed, cords and handkerchiefs knotted, bonds untied.
Much of the reported phenomena occurred in a darkened séance room. Sitters also reported evidence of the operation of "invisible" hands, whose presence was often felt through touches; frequently the disembodied hands were said to have been seen in operation. The very nature of the reports suggest that much of the phenomena was produced by the mediums and their accomplices.
Lord Adare saw, in a séance with D. D. Home, a hand stretch over the jet of gas. At the same moment eight jets of gas went out in the house. Psychical researcher Hereward Carrington wrote of the Naples séances with Eusapia Palladino:
"In one of our séances, a white hand appeared, remained visible to all, and untied both Eusapia's hands and one of her feet.
"Once a gentleman seated to the left of Eusapia had his cigar case extracted from his pocket, placed on the table in full view of all of us, opened, a cigar extracted, and placed between his teeth."
Sir William Crookes in his Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism (1874), gives a good description of the average type of telekinetic phenomena:
"The instances in which heavy bodies, such as tables, chairs, sofas, etc., have been moved, when the medium was not touching them are very numerous. I will briefly mention a few of the most striking. My own chair has been twisted partly around, whilst my feet were off the floor. A chair was seen by all present to move slowly up to the table from a far corner, when all were watching it; on another occasion an armchair moved to where we were sitting, and then moved slowly back again (a distance of about three feet) at my request. On three successive evenings, a small table moved slowly across the room, under conditions which I had specially pre-arranged, so as to answer any objection which might be raised to the evidence. I have had several repetitions of the experiment considered by the Committee of the Dialectical Society to be conclusive, viz., the movement of a heavy table in full light, the chairs turned with their backs to the table, about a foot off, and each person kneeling on his chair, with hands resting over the backs of the chairs, but not touching the table. On one occasion this took place when I was moving about so as to see how everyone was placed."
Julien Ochorowitz recorded some very curious telekinetic phenomena in his experiments with Stanislawa Tomczyk. In good light, before a commission composed of physicians, physiologists, and engineers, the medium placed her hands at a small distance on either side of an object. Between her extended fingers, the object rose into the air and floated without apparent support. In fact, the support appeared to be a thread-like, nonmaterial line of force of which Ochorowitz stated,
"I have felt this thread in my hand, on my face, on my hair. When the medium separates her hands the thread gets thinner and disappears; it gives the same sensation as a spider's web. If it is cut with scissors its continuity is immediately restored. It seems to be formed of points; it can be photographed and it is then seen to be much thinner than an ordinary thread. It starts from the fingers. Needless to remark that the hands of the medium were very carefully examined before every experiment."
When these photographs were projected enlarged upon a screen, the psychic structure became visible. There were swellings and nodes along it, like the waves in a vibrating cord. A whole number of filaments surrounded, like a net, a ball that Tomczyk lifted.
With Eusapia Palladino, a marked synchronism was noticed between her movements and that of the objects. She could attract and remove pieces of furniture, cause them to rise into the air or drop to the floor by a corresponding motion of her hands. However, this was an exceptional phenomenon at her séances. Usually mediums profess an inability to account for the movement of objects because they do not know in advance what is going to happen.
In the cases of both poltergeists and apparitions, spontaneous telekinetic phenomena have been witnessed. Joseph Maxwell obtained good phenomena with nonprofessional mediums in public restaurants in daylight. A Miss Cleio made pictures swing out on the wall in the rooms of the Hellenic Society for Psychical Research in full light before dozens of invited guests.
The effect of these telekinetic manifestations is often a very complicated one. Pistols were fired in the dark séances of the Davenport brothers against a minute mark which was always hit with marvelous precision. The same phenomenon was witnessed earlier in the house of Jonathan Koons, under the control of "John King."
In the presence of the Davenport brothers, a billiard room at Milwaukee was darkened. After a few moments the balls were heard to roll and click against each other as if propelled by expert players. The cues moved, the game appeared to be regularly played, and it was marked and counted. The Davenports did not claim to be Spiritualist mediums, however, and are now generally regarded, as is Koons, as clever stage performers.
In the séances of the Bangs sisters, the typewriter was held in the hands of the sitters above the table and was heard operating in rapid motion. The operators also inserted paper, addressed the envelopes, and sealed them. The Posthumous Memoirs of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1896) is claimed to have been produced by this technical means. The machine, according to J. M. Wade's introduction, typed nine paper sheets per hour.
Of a sitting with Franek Kluski on November 23, 1919, the Polish Society for Psychical Research recorded: "The typewriter on the table, fully illuminated by the red light, began to write. The sitters remarked that it wrote very quickly, the keys being depressed as if by a skilful typist. There was no one near the machine. The persons holding Mr. Kluski's hands noticed that they twitched during the writing."
In Tullio Castellani's record of a sitting on July 6, 1927, in Millesimo Castle, there is a description of an artistic exhibition:
"After a little while we heard in perfect rhythm with the music, a dance of two drumsticks upon the floor. Then the rhythm of the drumsticks was heard in the air. On being questioned Cristo d'Angelo described it as the dance of a celebrated American negro upon the ground and in the air. The same phenomena occurred later in the presence of Bozzano, and has been described by him. I think, however, it is useful to emphasize so that the reader may form some idea of how these phenomena took place, and the effect which this dance produced on me also, habituated though I am to spiritistic phenomenology. The dance took place upon the rug but the resonance was like that of wooden drumsticks which were dancing in the void. There was observable all the weight of a normal man dancing with vigour. Thus in the dark, by only the slight spectral light of the phosphorescence from the trumpet, one is reminded of a dance macabre. "
Many are the mediums in whose presence musical instruments were played by invisible hands (see Music ). Other forms of artistic expression through telekinetic movements are on record in independent direct drawing and painting.
In volume 14 of the automatic scripts of Stainton Moses, there is a description of the carving of two cameo heads by the spirit entities "Mentor" and "Magus." Magus produced his own likeness. Mentor's artistic efforts are thus narrated under the date August 27, 1875:
"A long message was rapped out by Catherine. She said they had brought a shell and were going to cut a cameo. A light was struck, then Dr. and Mrs. S. saw a shell in the middle of the table. Then Mentor came and Imperator. After he left light was called for and in the centre of the table was a cameo and a quantity of debris of shell. Noises had been heard as of picking, and I saw a hand. The shell is more clearly cut than the first, and shows a head laurel-crowned. It is polished inside and shows plain marks of the graving tool."
According to a letter from Moses' unpublished correspondence (Light, May, 1902), "Owasso," one of Henry Slade 's controls, extracted, without actual pain, a bad tooth of his suffering medium. A reader of Light related in the following issue a similar incident, in the presence of several witnesses, in the history of the medium Miss C. E. Wood.
The Question of Scientific Verification
Levitation of a table in the full blaze of sunshine was witnessed by Charles Richet in front of his Chateau de Carqueiranne with the medium Eusapia Palladino. Again, Ochorowitz, working with Tomczyk, saw a garden chair raised in full light.
An ancient instance of table levitation is described in Samuel Brent's Judischer agestreifter Schlangen Balg (1610), and in Zalman Zebi's reply, Judischer Theriak 1615). Zebi admits the levitation but argues that it was not caused by magic since "beautiful hymns are sung during the production of the phenomena and no devil is able to approach us when we think of the Lord."
Count Gasparin, Baron Guldenstubbe, Marc Thury, Robert Hare, and James J. Mapes were the first investigators of table turning. Hare devised special scientific instruments. William Crookes repeated his experiments and improved upon them.
Experiments with an electric bell in a locked and sealed box were successfully carried out with the mediumship of William Eglinton by the research committee of the British National Association of Spiritualists in January 1878. The bell sounded twice and the armature was depressed with so much force that a spring was strained and an electromagnet disarranged.
Professor Johann Zöllner 's famous knot-tying experiments on an endless cord were successfully repeated with Eglinton by a Dr. Nichols in his own house. Mina Crandon ("Margery") also rivaled Zöllner's experiments by demonstrating the paranormal linking of two rings made of different woods (see Matter Passing through Matter ).
The "fraudproof" trick table of Harry Price was lifted by "Margery" in sittings in London. The telekinetoscope and the shadow apparatus of the same researcher provided some extraordinary phenomena in the presence of "Stella C." in the National Laboratory of Psychical Research.
The first demand that a Scientific American Committee submitted to "Walter," Margery's control, at the time of this well-known investigation was to produce movements inside a closed and sealed space. For this purpose a sealed glass jar with a brass hook projecting down into the bottle was used. Walter was set the task of opening the snap of the hook and hanging upon it the wooden, brass, or cord rings also enclosed in the jar. Two days later the cord ring was found on the hook. A day after its examination by Prof. Daniel F. Comstock, the ring was found removed.
Another experiment with sensitive scales under a celluloid cover produced satisfactory results. With one of the pans weighted and the other empty, Walter held the scales in balance and sent up the weighted pan. This dynamic feat was achieved in good visibility. Similar results were achieved with a bell box, physically operated first by the depression of a key or by throwing a switch, and later (with the instrument revised) by the depression of contact boards. Held in the lap of Walter Franklin Prince, Research Officer of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), the instrument was operated in daylight.
The voice-cutout machine of Dr. Richardson apparently established the independence of Walter's voice (see Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, vol. 19, no. 12, 1925). Modern psychical research laboratories may boast of a number of other instruments that detect or prevent the slightest movement in the séance room and afford opportunities for observation under strict scientific conditions.
Display of Strength
Occasionally the power that accumulates for telekinetic phenomena is so great that astounding feats of strength are exhibited. At Warsaw, in Ochorowitz's experiments, a dynamometer marked a force three times as great as Eusapia Palladino's and in excess of that of the strongest man present.
The medium of Elizabeth d'Esperance recorded that during a séance in Breslau the strongest man in Silesia, a veritable Hercules, vainly tried to prevent the movements of the table.
Zöllner recorded this incident from a séance with Henry Slade:
"A violent crack was suddenly heard as in the discharging of a large battery of Leyden jars. On turning, with some alarm, in the direction of the sound, the before-mentioned screen fell apart in two pieces. The wooden screws, half an inch thick, were torn from above and below, without any visible contact of Slade with the screen. The parts broken were at least five feet removed from Slade, who had his back to the screen; but even if he had intended to tear it down by a cleverly devised sideward motion, it would have been necessary to fasten it on the opposite side."
Zöllner estimated that the strength of two horses would be necessary to achieve this effect. He mentioned that one of his colleagues seriously suggested that Slade carried dynamite about him, concealed it in the furniture, and exploded it with a match.
In a sitting with Countess Castelvitch in Lisbon, a small table, strengthened with sheetiron, was rent into 200 pieces. The fragments were found piled in a corner of the room.
This incident is found in the record of a séance with Eusapia Palladino, in which she was supervised by several Italian researchers:
"Dr. Arullani asked that the hand behind the curtain should grasp his. The medium replied in her own voice: 'First I am going to break the table, then I will give you a grasp of the hand.' This declaration was followed by three fresh, complete levitations of the table, which fell back heavily on the floor. All those who were on the left of the medium could observe, by a very good red light, the various movements of the table. The table bent down and passed behind the curtain, followed by one of us (Dr. C. Foà) who saw it turn over and rest on one of its two short sides, whilst one of the legs came off violently as if under the action of some force pressing upon it. At this moment the table came violently out of the cabinet, and continued to break up under the eyes of everyone present. At first its different parts were torn off, then the boards themselves went to pieces. Two legs, which still remained united by a thin slip of wood, floated above us and placed themselves on the séance table."
The astronomer Porro reported from his séance with Palladino in 1891: "Next a formidable blow, like the stroke of the fist of an athlete is struck in the middle of the table. The blows are now redoubled and are so terrific that it seems as if they would split the table. A single one of these fist blows, planted in the back, would suffice to break the vertebral column."
Moses recorded sledgehammer blows in one instance and stated, "The noise was distinctly audible in the room below and gave one the idea that the table would be broken to pieces. In vain we withdrew from the table, hoping to diminish the power. The heavy blows increased in intensity, and the whole room shook with their force."
From the Livermore séance with Kate Fox, February 15, 1862, came these notes: "I asked for a manifestation of power; and we at once received the following message: 'Listen, and hear it come through the air; hands off the table.' Immediately a terrific metallic shock was produced, as though a heavy chain in a bag swung by a strong man had been struck with his whole power upon the table, jarring the whole house. This was repeated three times, with decreasing force."
In slate-writing experiments with Henry Slade, the slates were often pulverized. Paul Gibier reports in Le Spiritisme (1887): "At ten different trials the slate held by Slade under the table was broken into several pieces. These slates were framed in very hard wood. We endeavoured to break them in the same way by striking them against the table, but never succeeded even in cracking them."
Writing of a visit to a Shaker village with the mediums Miss King and H. B. Champion, the Reverend J. B. Ferguson said of the latter: "Although a man of most delicate physical organisation, he was, to my knowledge, without food for ten days, and during that time seemed to possess the strength of three men, when under direct spiritual influence; but when not he was as feeble as an infant, and needed all the care I had promised."
Lifting of Heavy Tables and Pianos
There was a frequent display of great force in the paranormal lifting of heavy tables or pianos. Sir William Crookes saw on five separate occasions a heavy dining table rise from a few inches and one to a half foot off the floor under special circumstances that rendered trickery impossible (R. G. Medhurst, K. M. Goldney, M. R. Barrington, Crookes and The Spirit World , 115). D. D. Home testified before the committee of the London Dialectical Society: "I have seen a table lifted into the air with eight men standing on it, when there were only two or three other persons in the room. I have seen the window open and shut at a distance of seven or eight feet, and curtains drawn aside and, in some cases, objects carried over our heads. In the house of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall a table went up so high in the air that we could not touch it."
At a supper party attended by 30 persons, including Florence Cook, the heavy dining table, with everything on it, rose in full light into the air, until the feet of the table were level with the knees of those sitting around it; the dishes, plates, and glasses swayed perilously but came to no harm. (Gambier Bolton, Psychic Force 1904) Florence Marryat also writes of this incident in her book There Is No Death (1891). Robert Dale Owen claimed to have seen in Paris, in broad daylight in the dining room of a French nobleman, the dinner table seating seven persons, with fruit and wine on it, rise and settle down, while all the guests stood around without touching it.
In another séance, with Katie Cook, a piano was carried over the heads of the sitters. One of the ladies became nervous and broke the chain of hands; the piano dropped to the floor the two carved legs were broken and the sounding board smashed.
The levitation of two pianos in the presence of an 11-year-old child was described as early as 1855 in Marc Thury's Des Tables Tournantes. The phenomenon of a levitated piano was witnessed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
Mr. Jencken, the husband of Kate Fox, said in a paper read before the London Dialectical Society, "As regards the lifting of heavy bodies, I can myself testify I have seen the semigrand at my house raised horizontally eighteen inches off the ground and kept suspended in space two or three minutes."
The Master of Lindsay, before the same body, said, "I was next to him [D. D. Home]. I had one hand on his chair and the other on the piano, and while he played both his chair and the piano rose about three inches and then settled down again."
Dr. John Ashburner, author of Notes and Studies in the Philosophy of Animal Magnetism and Spiritualism (1867), recorded the following personal experience: "Mr. Foster, who is possessed of a fine voice, was accompanying himself while he sang. Both feet were on the pedals, when the pianoforte rose into the air and was gracefully swung in the air from side to side for at least five or six minutes. During this time the castors were about at the height of a foot from the carpet."
Sergeant E. W. Cox, in What am I? (2 vols., 1873-74), writes: "As Mr. Home and myself were entering the drawing room lighted with gas, a very heavy armchair that was standing by the fire, thirteen feet from us, was flung from its place through the whole length of the room and fell at our feet. No other person was in the room and we were crossing the threshold of the door."
Arthur Lévy writes in his report on Eusapia Palladino, November 16, 1898: "Just as if she was defying some monster, she turns, with inflamed looks, toward an enormous divan, which thereupon marches up to us. She looks at it with a Satanic smile. Finally she blows upon the divan, which goes immediately back to its place" (Camille Flammarion, Mysterious Psychic Forces, 1907).
In the reported incidents of apports and human teleportation, and frequently in the phenomenon of matter passing through matter —still among the most controversial of phenomena—there is often reported an intermediate stage in which the objects in question or the human body apparently disappear. Sometimes nothing further than disappearance and subsequent reappearance is accomplished. How it occurs—if it occurs—is the object of speculation. Some have suggested it is accomplished by a great increase in the vibratory rate of the objects or by dematerialization. Instances to demonstrate the claimed phenomenon are abundant.
A small table disappeared from underneath a larger one in Zöllner's séance with Slade. They searched the room without result. Five minutes later it was discovered floating in the air, upside down. It dropped and struck Zöllner on the head. The vanishing and reappearance of a book was similarly observed. It struck Zöllner on the ear in its descent (J. C. F. Zöllner, Transcendental Physics, 1882).
The records of Stainton Moses dated November 27, 1892, read:
"As Dr. S. and I were pacing up and down the room a whole shower of Grimauve lozenges (the remainder of the packet out of which the cross had been made on Friday last) was violently thrown on to my head, whence they spread over the floor round about where we were standing. There were thirteen or fourteen of them, and that number, together with the nine used in making the cross, would just about make up the two ounce packet which I had. I had looked in every conceivable place for these lozenges (which were missing after the cross was made) but could find them nowhere."
"Lily," the guide of Katie Cook, asked Florence Marryat whether she could take the fur coat that the authoress had put on her shoulders. She was given permission under the stipulation that she return it when Marryat had to go home. Lily asked that the gas be turned up. The fur coat disappeared. During the course of the séance, the coat was flung, apparently from the ceiling, and fell right over the owner's head. The coat had gone through an ordeal for, although it was quite new, all the fur was coming out and an army of moths could not have damaged it more than "Lily's" trick.
Gladys Osborne Leonard, in her book My Life in Two Worlds (1931), tells of a control named "Joey," a famous clown in mortal life, who as proof of his power made things belonging to her husband disappear in daylight in the house and reappear days later in exactly the same place. "Yolande," d'Esperance's control, often performed similar feats.
In the presence of Eleonore Zügun, objects vanished for an indeterminate period. Her patron the Countess Wassilko-Serecki coined the vivid phrase "holes in the world" to describe the effect (Harry Price, "Some Accounts of the Poltergeist Phenomena of Eleonore Zügun" Journal of the American Society of Psychical Research, August 1926).
The disappearance usually involves no injury. In experiments with the medium Thomas Lynn at the British College of Psychic Science, watches frequently vanished from sight without showing harm or stoppage on their reappearance (Psychic Science, vol. 8, no. 2, July 1929). With the Austrian medium Maria Silbert it was noticed that she seemed to know intuitively a few minutes beforehand what articles would appear, as if the "cloud of invisibility" that surrounded the objects had been of ectoplasmic nature.
The objects that vanish are not necessarily solids. The invisible operators seem to have the same power over liquids. Lord Adare recorded that brandy was invisibly withdrawn from a glass that the medium D. D. Home held above his head. When Lord Adare held his hands above the glass the liquor fell over and through his fingers into the glass, dropping from the air above him. Home explained that the spirit making the experiment was obliged to form a material substance to retain the fluid.
Dr. Eugene Crowell, author of The Identity of Primitive Christianity with Modern Spiritualism (2 vols., 1875-79), took a small vial filled with pure water to a séance with the medium Henry Slade to have it "magnetized." He writes:
"We were seated in a well-lighted room, the rays of the sun falling upon the floor, and no one present but us. Twice the medium said he saw a spirit hand grasping the vial, and I supposed the spirits were magnetising it and kept my eyes directing towards it, but I saw nothing, when suddenly at the same instance we both saw a flash of light apparently proceeding from the vial and the latter disappeared. I immediately arose and inspected every part of the room which from the beginning had been closed, under the table, chairs and sofa, but the vial was not found. Then resuming my seat and questions, in about fifteen minutes, while the two hands of the medium were clasping mine upon the table, I felt something fall into my lap, and looking down I observed the vial rolling off my knees on to the floor. Upon my taking it up we both remarked that the water had acquired a slightly purple tinge, but otherwise its appearance was unchanged."
Max George Albert Bruckner describes in the July 1, 1931, issue of the Zeitschrift für Metapsychische Forschung, a sitting with Maria Silbert in which a bottle filled with water and sealed was transferred from the top of the table to the undersides of it. On examination it was found that the water had completely disappeared. The seal and the cord remained intact. Not a drop of water was visible on the floor.
Vice-Admiral Usborne Moore noticed that the ink in his bottle disappeared in a séance with the Bangs sisters (Glimpses of the Next State, 1911).
Theories of Explanation
Since the first days of modern Spiritualism, speculation has been rife as to the mechanical agency by which movement without contact takes place. Animal magnetism was first thought to furnish a clue. Many theories were formulated. All of them (deriving somewhat from the " od " of Baron Karl von Reichenbach ) were more or less similar to the "odylo-mesomeric" theory of E. C. Rogers. Rogers defined a medium as "a person in whom the conscious and personal control of the higher brain centres was for the moment in abeyance leaving the organism open to be acted upon by the universal cosmic forces."
J. Bovee Dods (Spirit Manifestations, 1854) posited an electromagnetic cause. He suggested rapping was caused by "an electro-magnetic discharge from the fingers and toes of the medium." About table tilting he stated that "the millions of pores in the table are filled with electro-magnetism from human brains, which is inconceivably lighter than the gas that inflates the balloon." However, the agency of human magnetism or electricity was quickly disproved when no instrument could detect the slightest trace of electromagnetism and neither the smallest iron filing nor the tiniest pith ball was attracted by the charged table.
More mundane explanations—chance, fraud, hallucination, or a composite of these suppositions—fail to account for all reported data. The other extreme—that spirits were responsible for the movement—also explains little. It was a comparatively early claim that the contribution of the spirits was at most a directive influence and that in some mysterious way the bodily organism of the medium played a dominant role.
The spirits themselves reportedly described people who act as physical mediums to Allan Kardec in the following words: "These persons draw from themselves the fluid necessary to the production of the phenomena and can act without the help of foreign spirits. Thus they are not mediums in the sense attached to this word; but a spirit can assist them and profit by their natural disposition."
The "fluid" mentioned to Kardec at this early period was later replaced by the " ectoplasm " of psychical research. The claimed existence of this substance facilitated the idea of a bridge between telekinesis and ordinary mechanics. W. J. Crawford 's cantilever theory represented a sophisticated attempt in this direction. It essentially claimed that out of ectoplasmic emanations psychic rods so strong as to become semimetallic are formed; that this extrusion acts as a cantilever; and that the phenomena are produced by an intelligent manipulation on the part of unseen operators of these rods.
In his early observations of the Goligher Circle, Crawford found that if the object to be levitated was heavy, the psychic structure beside the medium's body found support on the floor. He made many exact measurements claiming to discover that the objects were usually gripped in a manner resembling suction. He supposedly proved the presence of the psychic rods by their pressure on a spring balance and measured their reaction on the medium's body with scales. Crawford said he photographed psychic structures. He claimed he noticed that if an object was lifted or glued to the floor, the medium's body showed a nearly equivalent increase or decrease in weight. The difference was distributed among the sitters (W. J. Crawford, Psychic Structures in The Goligher Circle, 1921).
Crawford's observations were paralleled by others. German zoologist Karl Gruber reported experiments with the medium Willi Schneider in 1922:
"A rigid body seemed to emanate from the right hip of the medium. At about three quarters of a yard from the floor it traversed the gauze partition, enlarging some of its interstices, and moved objects 80 to 100 centimetres distant from the medium. It seems that the medium has to make a certain effort to cause this fluidic member to traverse the screen. By using luminous bracelets we have verified that during the levitation of a small table a dark stump like that of a member could be distinguished, that it rose up under the table, raised it, and replaced it on the floor and showed itself afresh underneath it."
The advantage of the cantilever theory is its simplicity. For that very reason it only explained an initial stage of telekinetic phenomena. But the theory has many weaknesses, chiefly the later discovery of the fraudulent production of the phenomena in the circle in which he made all of his initial observations. Also, Crawford's theory does not explain movement without contact in haunted houses or in poltergeist cases, and the levitation of the human body, all of which apparently demand a different theory.
Charles Richet suggested that telekinetic phenomena constitute the first stage of materialization which may be called mechanization. When phantom hands or whole bodies are formed, the presence of a separate dynamic organism is suggested. Such a body would be created at the expense of the medium and the sitters. By calculation Julien Ochorowitz announced the finding that the dynamometric energy which a circle lost corresponded to the average energy of a man.
If the theory of a separate dynamic organism were accepted, it could account for experiences like that reported by Lord Adare:
"[D. D.] Home … told me to go into the next room and place outside the window a certain vase of flowers. I did so, putting the vase outside the ledge and shutting the window. Home opened the window of the room in which we were sitting. The flowers were carried through the air from the window of the next room in at our open window. We could all hear the rustling, and see the curtains moved by the spirit standing there, who was bringing in the flowers; Lindsay saw the spirit distinctly."
Many psychical researchers refused to accept Ochorowitz's ideas. They did not like to diminish the medium's physical participation in the occurrences. Theodore Flournoy suggested an alternative theory,
"It may be conceived that, as the atom and the molecule are the centre of a more or less radiating influence of extension, so the organised individual, isolated cell, or colony of cells, is originally in possession of a sphere of action, where it concentrates at times its efforts more especially on one point, and again on another, ad libitum. Through repetition, habit, selection, heredity and other principles loved by biologists, certain more constant lines of force would be differentiated in this homogeneous, primordial sphere, and little by little could give birth to motor organs. For example: our four members of flesh and blood, sweeping the space around us, would be but a more economic expedient invented by nature, a machine wrought in the course of better adapted evolution, to obtain at the least expense the same use full effects as this vague, primitive spherical power. Thus supplanted or transformed, these powers would thereafter manifest themselves, only very exceptionally, in certain states, or with abnormal individuals, as an atavic reapparition of a mode of acting long ago fallen into disuse, because it is really very imperfect and necessitates, without any advantage, an expenditure of vital energy far greater than the ordinary use of arms and limbs. Unless it is the Cosmic power itself, the amoral and stupid 'demiurge,' the Unconsciousness of M. Hartman, which comes directly into play upon contact with a deranged nervous system and realises its disordered dreams without passing through the regular channels of muscular movements."
Edmund E. Fournier d'Albe, author of several books on psychical phenomena, wondered if living principle of the cells that die could in some way still be attached to us. If so, we would be actually living half in this world and half in the next, he theorized. Could not then telekinesis be explained by a resumed embodiment or materialized activity of the disembodied epidermal cell principles? he asked.
Cesare Lombroso suggested: "I see nothing inadmissible in the fact that, with hysterical and hypnotic subjects the excitation of certain centres which become active in proportion as all other centres become paralysed, may cause a transposition of psychical forces, and thus also bring about a transformation into luminous force or into motor force. It is thus conceivable how the force of a medium, which I may nominate as cortical or cerebral, might, for instance, raise a table or pull someone's beard, or strike or caress him, phenomena which frequently occur under these circumstances."
Joseph Maxwell verified a correlation between the intensity of the muscular effort and the abnormal movement. The movement could sometimes be provoked by shaking the hand at a certain distance above the table. Rubbing the feet on the floor, rubbing the hands, the back, the arms—any quick or slightly violent movement—appeared to liberate this force. The breath appeared to exercise a great influence, as though in blowing on the object the sitters emitted a quantity of energy.
Maxwell had the impression that, within certain limits, the quantity of force liberated varied in direct proportion with the number of experimenters:
"There is a close and positive connection between the movements effectuated by the medium and the sitters, and the displacement of articles of experimentation; there is a relation between these displacements and the muscular contractions of the experimenters; a probable relation, whose precise nature he is unable to state, exists between the will of the experimenters and paranormal movements" (Joseph Maxwell, Metapsychical Phenomena, 1905).
Exteriorization of motricity was postulated in the case of Eusapia Palladino by Enrico Morselli, Theodor Flournoy, Gustav Geley, and Hereward Carrington. Essentially the same theory was advanced earlier, in 1875, by Francis Gerry Fairfield in Ten Years With Spiritual Mediums, suggesting a nerve aura that surrounds every organic structure, capable of receiving sensory impressions, acting as a force and assuming any desired shape. The nerve aura, however, suggests something different from ectoplasm. It suggests the presence of a third factor, a nervous force to which both the medium and the sitters contribute.
During the levitation of a table in the "Margery" séances on June 23, 1923, the sitters felt cold, tingling sensations in their forearms. Dr. Crandon at the same time observed faint, auroralike emanations from the region of Margery's fingers.
F. W. H. Myers suggested, as a correlative to telepathic effect, a "telergic action," by which he meant the excitation of the motor and sensory centers of the medium by an external mind. He said that in the case of possession the external intelligence may directly act upon the body and liberate unknown energies. This theory goes far, as the external mind appears to dwell in the spiritual world, although it is of frequent observation that the sitters' thoughts exercise a certain influence upon the phenomena.
M. Barzini, journalist for Corriere della Sera, wrote about his séances with Palladino in Genoa, 1906-07: "It was obvious that our conversations were listened to, so as to yield a suggestion in the execution of the strange performance. If we spoke of levitation the table would rise up. If we began to discuss luminous phenomena instantly a light would appear upon the medium's knees."
If one considers the world of spirits in the search for the agency in psychokinesis, Baron Lazar de Baczolay Hellenbach 's suggestion, from his Birth and Death as a Change of Form of Perception (1886) might provide a starting point: "I am convinced that the unseen world has first to learn how to act, so as to make themselves accessible to our senses somewhat in the same way that we have to learn how to swim in water, or communicate with the deaf and dumb."
In the weighing-scale experiments of the Scientific American Committee with "Margery," the photograph of a curious, semitransparent cylinder was obtained (with flashlight and a quartz lens). The cylinder looked as if it was made of glass or celluloid. Seven of twelve exposed plates showed the cylinder. It was five or six inches long and three inches or a little less in diameter and stood on a base. When it was photographed on the scale, the pan that carried it was up; when it was photographed on the platform of the scale, the pans balanced. The deduction was that the cylinder acted as a sort of suction pump to keep the lighter pan up. The control "Walter" said that if the cylinders had been taken under long exposure they would have looked as though filled with cotton wool.
There were also observations to suggest that threads finer than a strand of spider's web, may connect the medium with objects in the room. Elizabeth d'Esperance often complained of a feeling of cobwebs on her face. "Margery" and many of her sitters had the same experience.
With Stanislawa Tomczyk, Ochorowitz photographed a balance that was supernormally depressed by fine, hairlike threads. The method must have been similar when Palladino performed the same feat. In fact the thread was seen as it made a glass of water dance. Slowly and cautiously, a sitter drew the thick, white thread to himself. It resisted, then snapped and disappeared with a nervous shock to the medium.
Ernesto Bozzano observed such threads 20 times in the same year. Juliette Bisson detected them with the medium " Eva C. " Dr. Jorgen Bull, of Oslo, found them instrumental in an invisible state in producing direct writing on wax tablets in the presence of Lujza Linczegh Ignath.
In some of the excellent photographs obtained by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton with "Mary M." of Winnipeg, slight threads can be seen reaching up to a bell fixed high above the curtain. A similar attachment of threads to "apported" objects was observed in photographs taken by Major Mowbray with the medium Thomas Lynn.
The spirit guide of a Frau Ideler explicitly stated, in the experiments conducted by a Professor Blacher of the University of Riga (Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, October 1931), that she spun threads to accomplish telekinetic movement. In red light and later in blue light these attachments were observed and the medium seemed to pull the threads from the inner side of her hand with her fingertips. The threads seemed to be of a doughy, elastic substance, then pulled fine, and felt soft and dry. Even while being handled they diminished perceptibly. A piece was secured and subjected at once to microscopic examination in an adjoining room. An enlargement of the microscopic photo showed that it was composed not of one strand but of many fine but not organized threads. In its chemical composition the structure was not that of the known textile fabrics. Curiously, fire had no power over these threads. They made the flame withdraw. But they were conductors of electricity. The alleged unusual nature and action of such "psychic threads" makes it necessary to be cautious in hastily assuming fraud with ordinary threads.
If the thread connection with the medium is accepted, it would be easy to understand what the medium subconsciously may feel and could indicate in advance what objects are going to be moved. Such an approach proved useful in Eugen Osty's work with the medium Rudi Schneider at the Institut Métapsychique. The experience was also well known to sitters with Maria Silbert.
Modern Experiments in Psychokinesis
The bulk of past observation and theory relating to paranormal movement belongs to a period when physical mediums dominated both Spiritualism and the attention of psychical research. Consideration of such phenomena is influenced by the fact that much of the evidence is purely anecdotal or belongs to a period of psychical research less sophisticated than in modern times. Much of the phenomena upon which researchers speculated is now, like that of the Golicher Circle, considered to have been produced deceptively.
In the modern era of parapsychology, movement of objects without contact is now studied experimentally under the general term psychokinesis or "PK." Parapsychology has attempted to construct more simple laboratory experiments that to demonstrate psychokinetic effects without the complicating and often questionable environment of the séance room. The first important experimental studies of this kind were initiated by J. B. Rhine in 1934 after he had encountered a gambler who claimed that he could influence the fall of dice by willpower.
Rhine, who had been involved in investigation of the controversial "Margery" mediumship, was anxious to find some type of phenomenon that could be studied under the exacting conditions in a laboratory, thus avoiding the endless arguments about fraud and faulty observation involved with spontaneous phenomena. Dice-fall experiments could be controlled, and they were also repeatable and subject to statistical assessment. Rhine and his associates duly set up classic experiments at Duke University in North Carolina in which subjects attempted to influence the fall of dice by willpower.
Over the years other parapsychologists verified the successful scores of Rhine and others. Eventually one of Rhine's associates, W. E. Cox, introduced interesting variations, such as "Placement PK," in which subjects attempted to influence movement of various objects in a target direction.
Another interesting direction in scientific PK tests was the introduction of the Minilab, a glass tank containing various small objects as targets for PK. The Minilab can be sealed and locked, and is monitored by a video camera that is activated by a switching apparatus connected to the objects; thus, object movement is automatically recorded.
The Minilab has been used by parapsychologist J. D. Isaacs, who has investigated the phenomenon of paranormal metal bending, introduced by the Israeli psychic Uri Geller, whose feats in bending spoons and keys became world-famous, both stimulating imitators and new experiments, and providing accusations of fraud.
Geller produced phenomena for scientists under laboratory conditions that led many of them to back his claims of being psychic with psychokinetic powers. Some later withdrew their enthusiastic endorsements. In the meantime, critics, like stage magician James Randi, denied the possibility of paranormal metal bending. Randi questioned the validity of the laboratory tests partly because of the inability of the scientists to detect stage tricks. He backed up his observations by carrying out an experiment in which he sent two amateur magicians into a parapsychological laboratory. They were able to fool the members of the staff of the McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research in St. Louis.
Project Alpha, as Randi termed his experiment, was embarrassing to researchers in parapsychology and called attention to the ongoing need to double-check methodological controls, but it did not speak to the large body of data on psychokinesis accumulated during the last half century.
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Bolton, Gambier. Psychic Force: An Experimental Investigation. London, 1904.
Carrington, Hereward. Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena. New York: B. E. Dodge, London: T. Werner Laurie, 1909.
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——. The Psychic Structures at the Goligher Circle. London: John M. Watkins, 1921.
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"Movement (Paranormal)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/movement-paranormal
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move·ment / ˈmoōvmənt/ • n. 1. an act of changing physical location or position or of having this changed: a slight movement of the upper body| the principle of the free movement of goods between member states. ∎ an arrival or departure of an aircraft. ∎ (also bowel movement) an act of defecation. ∎ (movements) the activities and whereabouts of someone, esp. during a particular period of time: your movements and telephone conversations are recorded. ∎ the general activity or bustle of people or things in a particular place: the scene was almost devoid of movement. ∎ the quality of suggesting motion in a work of art: the painting was a busy landscape, full of detail and movement. ∎ the progressive development of a poem or story: the novel shows minimal concern for narrative movement. ∎ a change or development in something: movements in the underlying financial markets. 2. a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas: the labor movement. ∎ [usu. in sing.] a campaign undertaken by such a group: a movement to declare war on poverty. ∎ a change in policy or general attitudes seen as positive: the movement toward greater sexual equality. 3. Mus. a principal division of a longer musical work, self-sufficient in terms of key, tempo, and structure: the slow movement of his violin concerto. 4. the moving parts of a mechanism, esp. a clock or watch.
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"movement." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/movement
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