Piddington, Sydney (1918-1991) and Lesley(1925-)

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Piddington, Sydney (1918-1991) and Lesley(1925-)

A husband-wife team who gave one of the most famous stage telepathy acts of modern times. Sydney Piddington was born in Australia in 1918. During World War II he served in an artillery regiment in Singapore. After the fall of Singapore he was imprisoned for four years in the dreaded Changi Camp, immortalized by fellow prisoners Russell Braddon, author of The Naked Island (1952), and artist Ronald Searle, who drew illustrations of his life in the camp.

As a relief from harsh treatment, forced labor, malnutrition, and disease, the camp prisoners staged theatrical entertainments. An article by Dr. J. B. Rhine on parapsychology in a stray copy of Digest magazine stimulated Piddington and Braddon to experiment with telepathy, and they devised an act which became a notable feature of the prison camp entertainments. After his release from the camp, Piddington returned to Australia where he met and married radio-actress Lesley Pope in 1946. The couple worked up a telepathy act based on Sydney's experience in Changi jail, and the Piddingtons became a successful show on 2UE in Sydney and 3K2 in Melbourne, followed by live stage shows.

In 1949 the couple went to England, where they appeared over eight weeks on BBC radio programs, which were a sensational success. The Piddingtons became a household name almost overnight. In one remarkable program, twenty million listeners waited with bated breath while Lesley Piddington, sequestered in the Tower of London, correctly stated the difficult test sentence "Be abandoned as the electricians said that they would have no current" relayed by Sydney telepathically from a BBC studio in Piccadilly, several miles away. The line had been chosen independently of the Piddingtons, and it was only revealed to Sydney when he was asked to concentrate upon it in the studio.

Throughout the BBC shows, the tests were rigorously controlled, and if there was a code (as so many theorists suggested) it would have to have been independent of aural and visual signals and able to operate at a distance. The possibility of concealed electronic devices (in a period long before micro transistor techniques) was also ruled out by searching the Piddingtons. One by one each ingenious "explanation" of trickery was eliminated under conditions that precluded codes and confederates. Everyone had his pet theories about how it might be done, and part of the success of the shows was the challenge issued to the public by the Piddingtons: "You are the judge." Some psychical researchers (including Dr. S. G. Soal ) objected to the shows, presumably on the ground that telepathy should be restricted to laboratory investigation. However, the Piddingtons made telepathy a topic of conversation throughout Britain, and years later there has been no revelation of trickery. Skeptics have not offered a viable explanation, other than a staged hoax by the BBC that could account for the Piddington's performance.

Russell Brandon later wrote a book about his former camp-mate and his wife and the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research provided lengthy discussion of their work (vol. 35, pp. 83-85, 116-19, 187, 244-45, 316-18; vol. 42, p. 250).


Braddon, Russell. The Piddingtons. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1950.

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Piddington, Sydney (1918-1991) and Lesley(1925-)

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