Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L |M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X Y Z
(née Palladino, then Signora Raphael Delgaiz, 1854-1918) Born in southern Italy, spirit medium Palladino was accepted by many scientists, particularly those like Charles Richet and Schrenck-Notzing, who were devout believers in all spiritualistic claims. She specialized in levitation of tables.
A cantankerous, vain, difficult person, she became an international celebrity, and sometimes sat for tests, though she was often caught cheating on these occasions and on other non-controlled sittings as well. The prominent investigator Hereward Carrington (né Hubert Lavington, 1880-1958) brought her to America, became her manager, and took her on tour. In America she continued to be caught cheating, and Carrington came to the conclusion that she sometimes cheated (when she was caught), but that the rest of her performance (when she was not caught) was genuine.
Part of her success was probably due to her petulant attitude, which she used to discourage proper examination of her performances. As with others in her trade, she needed to control the circumstances around her and managed to do so very effectively, throwing temper tantrums and walking out of tests when things were not to her liking. She was also noted among investigators for her seeming lack of acquaintance with soap-and-water, being the source of a heavy variety of unpleasant body odors, especially in the closed séance room. She provided her examiners with plentiful reasons to regret having taken on such a formidable woman.In spite of all this, and her repeated exposures, Carrington remained thoroughly convinced for the rest of his life that Palladino was genuinely in touch with Summerland.
(also, chiromancy or chirognomy) An ancient notion that says a person's character, health, and destiny are portrayed in the folds, shape, size, and lines of the palm. In the nineteenth century, the writings of William Benham and Louis Harmon revived interest in the idea, which had somewhat waned since earlier times. William Warner, as Cheiro, was the great palmist at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lines, mounds and proportions of the hand, shown with zodiacal and planetary signs. Used in palmistry.
An interesting variation of the art, and every bit as accurate, is “podoscopy,” reading fortunes from the sole of the foot. It is popular in China.
In the same way that reflexology, iridology, physiognomy, and similar systems try to establish that information is available in physical features, palmistry satisfies the human need to find meaning in any sort of natural pattern.
(circa 1493-1541) He was grandly named Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombast von Hohenheim, a Swiss scholar/physician/mystic who called himself Paracelsus (para Celsus meaning “beyond” Celsus, an early Platonist and anti-Christian philosopher). Paracelsus was born to educated parents in Switzerland and was admitted to the University of Basel at age sixteen.
His life's work took him to Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia, Spain, and Turkey. His philosophy was a curious mixture of mystical notions and hard thinking. He added a few facts to chemical knowledge, made some of the earliest attempts to organize medical information, and was among the first to use nonorganic chemicals to treat disorders, but by most measures he was a superstitious, argumentative, offensive braggart who alienated everyone with whom he came in contact.
True to his calling as a physician of that day, he insisted upon applying his knowledge of astrological aspects to all healing processes. On a more realistic bent, he laid the basis for an understanding of psychologically based illness by teaching that negative attitudes and stress can invoke certain problems, while a positive attitude is more conducive to avoidance of those conditions and/or to recovery. That glimmering of the basic idea of psychological/psychosomatic causes and effects, widely accepted today, was expressed by Paracelsus thus: “A powerful will may cure, where a doubt will end in failure.”
Paracelsus favored the use of magnets in curing patients, and was in that respect the inspiration for Franz Anton Mesmer, the French mountebank who, two hundred years later, discovered the principles of what we now call hypnosis, or suggestion. Mesmer at first believed that magnets were necessary for his induction of the “trance” state, but soon found that what became known as Mesmerism worked just as well without such aid.
Paracelsus studied and recorded methods of discovering and recovering metals from the earth. In that time, diviners (dowsers) used their forked sticks, pendulums, and other devices to find not only water, but metallic ores. Then, as now, any success they enjoyed was due either to their knowledge of geology or just dumb luck.
A natural wanderer and vagabond, this scholar managed to lose every friend he ever made, and his superiority complex soon earned him a terrible reputation. That reputation was well earned, as indicated in the preface to one of his books. He wrote:
In this midcentury, monarchy of all the arts pertains to me, Theophrastus Paracelsus, prince of philosophy and medicine. For to this am I chosen by God that I may extinguish all fantasies of all far-fetched, false and putative works and presumptuous words, be they of Aristotle, Galen, Avicenna, Mesue, or any of their adherents.
As a result of this attitude, though he taught at various centers of learning, Paracelsus stayed at each for only short periods of time before his superiors and his students decided they'd had enough of him.
He tried to change even the primitive notions of what made up the basic elements of the Renaissance universe. He disallowed the four elements of fire, earth, water, and air, replacing them with sulfur, mercury, and salt. However, even in this matter he seems not to have ever made up his mind.
In 1536 he published his Prognosticatio, a book of thirty-two illustrations that very much resemble the well-known Tarot cards. He claimed that the line drawings were magical, and wrote accompanying captions for them which he said were prophecies. Allegorical and symbolic in nature, these drawings and texts are as enigmatic as the Nostradamus writings, and may well have inspired the French seer in his style, since they were available to him well before he even produced his first almanac. This work of Paracelsus was referred to by his great admirer, another mystic named Éliphas Lévi, as “the most astounding monument and indisputable proof of the reality and existence of the gift of natural prophecy.”
Paracelsus, the flamboyant early scientist who revolutionized the medical treatment of his day.
Along with descriptions of strictly magical procedures that he took as having some value, he made observations which indicated his grasp of both human nature and correct methodical thinking. Though he was inescapably subject to the superstitions of his day and the necessity of catering to popular prejudices — including a tendency to immolate those who doubted scriptural declarations — he was frequently able to rise above those burdens, as when he discoursed on medical matters and public attitudes. In his fourth book on diseases, A Paramiric Treatise, he closed with these words:
You have seen how natural bodies, through their own natural forces, cause many things [believed to be] miraculous among the common people. Many have interpreted these effects as the work of saints; others have ascribed them to the Devil; one has called them sorcery, others witchcraft, and all have entertained superstitious beliefs and paganism. I have shown what to think of all that.
One might believe those to be the thoughts of a thinker of this century.
An adjective referring to events, abilities, and matters not yet defined or explained by science. From the Greek, it translates as “beside/beyond normal.” All of what is popularly classified as psychic can be placed in this class, though serious parapsychologists may choose to exclude some, like spoon-bending.
(PA) Founded in 1957, the PA is a private international nonprofit organization of some three hundred scientists devoted to the study of psi and related subjects. The PA was admitted to membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1969. The Association seeks to increase knowledge and obtain a better understanding of the full extent of humankind's potential for awareness, communication and action. The primary emphasis of the membership involves the investigation of psi
A properly qualified scientist who works in parapsychology. More strictly, a full member of the Parapsychological Association.
Among all the sciences, there is one known as parapsychology. It studies certain reported but unsubstantiated events (such as ESP, psychokinesis, dowsing, prophecy) that have no presently known explanation. Like all other sciences, it develops theories to explain these claimed events and attempts to test those theories by experimentation. See also science.
However, unlike in other sciences, none of the parapsychologists' experiments have both shown positive results and have been replicated by independent researchers. Even the Guinness Book of Records, listing the single most astonishing performance in ESP, apologizes and reports that the episode fails to meet even their standards. Data in some important basic parapsychological experiments that yielded apparently positive results have been shown to be falsified — though parapsychology is not alone in this respect.
Some students of paranormal matters say that such claims cannot be examined rationally. If that is the case, then their studies do not belong with science, but in the same category as flat-Earth theories and perpetual-motion machines, none of which can have the slightest importance to anyone except, perhaps, students of abnormal psychology or editors of the sensational press.
Psychologist Dr. David Marks, who has done extensive investigation of the parapsychologists' work, has said:
Parascience has so far failed to produce a single repeatable finding and, until it does, will continue to be viewed as an incoherent collection of belief systems steeped in fantasy, illusion and error.
The U.S. National Research Council in 1988 concluded a well-funded two-year study by a special committee and published a report, Enhancing Human Performance, which concluded:
The committee finds no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years, for the existence of parapsychological phenomena. In the committee's view, the best scientific evidence does not justify the conclusion that ESP — that is, gathering information about objects or thoughts without the intervention of known sensory mechanisms — exists. Nor does scientific evidence offer support for the existence of psychokinesis — that is, the influence of thoughts upon objects without the intervention of known physical processes.
Nonetheless, courses in parapsychology are offered in more than two hundred colleges and universities in the United States alone, and degrees in parapsychology are offered at several schools, in particular at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California. Their Graduate School of Consciousness Studies offers a parapsychology master of science degree.
Aside from its usual meaning of “frugality,” this word expresses a very important philosophical and logical concept. Also known as Occam's (or Ockham's) razor, it is a philosophical principle usually credited to William of Occam (1285-1347/9), and Galileo used it when he preferred the heliocentric solar system over a geocentric one. Sir W. Hamilton (1788-1856) stated it:
The law of Parcimony [sic], which forbids, without necessity, the multiplication of entities, powers, principles, or causes; above all, the postulation of an unknown force, where a known impotence can account for the effect.
(The rule was originally stated by Occam as, “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.”)
In effect, this rule states that if there exists more than one answer to a problem or a question, and if, for one answer to be true, well-established laws of logic and science must be re-written, ignored, or suspended in order to allow it to be true, and for the other answer to be true no such accommodation need be made, then the simpler — the second — of the answers is much more likely to be correct.
Here is an example of a problem:
The claim: that a person can cause an ordinary spoon to bend merely by looking at it, using psychic powers that have not been established and which would violate many known rules (conservation and transfer of energy, etc.) and cause those basic laws of science to be rewritten.
There are two explanations available: one says that these basic physical laws have been suspended in this case — a unique event never before known in history — and the other says that the performer has employed sleight of hand and/or deceptive optical principles and/or psychological misdirection to provide the illusion of the spoon bending without the use of ordinary physical force.
The second of the two explanations is much more likely to be true.
To substitute another phenomenon for the previous example:
The claim: that a magician can saw a woman in two pieces and then restore her using special powers that have not been established and which would violate many known rules (physiological, biological, etc.) and cause those basic laws of science to be rewritten.
There are two explanations available: one says that these basic physical laws have been suspended in this case — a unique event never before known in history — and the other says that the performer has employed deceptive optical and/or mechanical principles to provide the illusion of the woman having been sawn in two and then restored alive.
In this case, which explanation is much more likely to be true? Is the likelihood not just as strong in both cases?
One method of divination uses a pendulum. A weight of any kind, the bob, is suspended at the end of a string or chain: crystals, real or fake, are currently popular. The device is held over a map or other object, and various movements of the bob are interpreted in different ways by different operators. Most pendulum swingers say that the bob swings clockwise over a person's right hand and counterclockwise over the left. They say that it swings to and fro over a male's body and in a circular pattern over a female's. But some of them say exactly the opposite.
In this phenomenon, it can always be seen that the subject moves his or her hand to set the pendulum swinging, though this will be vehemently denied. The event is a perfect example of ideomotor reaction. To-and-fro motions and circles are produced, often in answer to questions directed by the dowser at the pendulum itself. The operator speaks to the pendulum. Really.
The bob of the pendulum is often hollow so that diverse substances — solid or liquid — can be retained inside, the idea being that the device with thereby become more sensitive to the contained substance. The French, who dignify the process with by term radioaesthesia, produce a wide selection of screw-together pendulums in various colors made of metal, wood, or plastic.
See also dowsing and map dowsing.
Pentacle / Pentagram
A five-pointed figure used as a talisman, with magic symbols. Also, a figure chalked on the floor by a magician, inside which he stands while invoking a demon or other dangerous entity; since the entity cannot enter that space, the magician is protected. Not proven.
See also magic circle.
This is a pervasive notion that has probably cost more time, money, and mental effort for the crackpots than any other pursuit except for the philosopher's stone.
The idea that a device, machine, or engine can be designed whereby free energy or work can be obtained simply by setting it into motion has preoccupied inventors for centuries. While “free” power is available through such forces as solar radiation, ocean tides, changes in atmospheric pressure, and flowing water, no device can be constructed that will operate without energy input or that will generate an energy output greater than the energy required to operate it.
In 1678, the Abbé John of Hautefeuille (1647-1724) designed a machine that would perform continually as a result of the energy provided by warping pine boards subjected to natural changes in humidity, and in 1751 a St. Petersburg inventor named Kratzenstein came up with a thermal energy scheme. These, of course, did not come under the definition of perpetual motion machines since they depended on a natural energy source, in the same way that solar cells, hydroelectric, and various wave- and tidal-change systems do. Similarly, several kinds of timepieces such as the Atmos clock perform continually, powered by changes in barometric pressure.
By far the larger proportion of inventors of such devices are self-deluded. The rest are intentional frauds. Somewhere in between are those who sincerely believe that their ideas are workable, but are not averse to improving the performance of their creations by means of a little hidden support.
One of the most famous — and successful — of the fraudulent class of inventors was John Worrell Keely (1837-1898), a Boston man of no appreciable education who managed to raise vast amounts of money from investors who witnessed, at Keely's home, a model of his machine — the Hydro-Pneumatic-Pulsating-Vacuo-Engine — merrily whirring away without an apparent source of energy. Though he spent a short time in prison, he died wealthy and only after his house was torn down was it discovered that a flywheel in the basement connected to concealed tubes in the floors and walls had delivered compressed air to power this and several other models of marvelous machines he had designed.
The U.S. Patent Office, much to its shame, has actually issued patents on perpetual motion devices and systems, though these “inventions” have never been shown to work. This, in spite of a decision years ago that no patent for such a device would be considered unless a working model was submitted. Recently, a Mississippi man named Joe W. Newman actually obtained signatures from thirty scientists who said his “free energy” machine, which is in actuality a huge direct-current motor powered by a massive stack of batteries, is a valid invention. Newman himself says that when his creation is finally able to be put to work,
there will be no more pollution, no more Ethiopias. Deserts will become oases. People will work only one hour a week and have all the material goods they need. Children will have hope. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my machine is going to bring peace, prosperity and happiness.
Newman, who holds other valid patents for ideas that really do work — one is a cigarette-making machine, thus showing another of his contributions to mankind — refuses to accept the “perpetual motion” label for his design, insisting that it is a “free energy” idea. However, if the output of his machine is simply connected to the input, he should have an ever-running system. This he has apparently never managed — or tried — to do.
Perpetual motion/free energy remains a vain notion in the minds of eccentric folks who are intent upon wasting their time and other people's money on a dream. As Arthur Ord-Hume, in his fascinating book Perpetual Motion — the History of an Obsession, says:
There must be something in the make-up of the perpetual motionist which, while urging him on in his quest for the impossible, encourages him not to deviate from the well-trodden path to certain failure. . . . Even the alchemist . . . knew when he was beaten.
Petrie, Sir William Matthew Flinders
(1853-1942) A genuinely talented archaeologist who laid the foundation for much of today's methodology in excavation techniques, Sir William was also a mystic who believed that the Great Pyramid of Giza was constructed in the form of a prophetic message, with the entire past, present, and future of Earth represented in the structure and design. Some religious sects such as the Jehovah's Witnesses have adopted this notion as part of their philosophy.
Phantom Leaf Effect
See Kirlian photography.
(also, Azoth, Elixir of Life, Grand Catholicon, Lapis Philosophicus, Powder of Projection, Prima Materia, or Universal Alkahest) The substance, spirit, or symbol by which base metals — iron, lead, copper — can be changed into gold or silver. It also imparts immortality, cures disease, and performs other miracles. It is said to be the material from which all metals derive. A charming alchemical notion not supported by reality.
The search for the elusive substance has led to the discovery of several processes of variable merit: the German Bötticher developed the method of making what is now known as Dresden porcelain, Roger Bacon came up with an improved form of gunpowder, and Johann Rudolf Glauber invented Glauber Salts.
See also alchemy.
The German physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) invented the idea of studying the bumps on the human head, from which he believed character traits could be read. His theory of phrenology (meaning “mind system”) was first known as “organology” and was announced by Gall in Vienna in 1796, when he mapped twenty-six areas of the head that he said were assigned to certain aspects of human personality.
After a falling-out with Gall, Dr. Johann Kaspar Spurzheim, a disciple of Gall's, took his own version of phrenology to America, where it became very popular, now with thirty-five areas of the head marked out. U.S. President Martin Van Buren, Henry Ward Beecher, Walt Whitman, and Daniel Webster endorsed it. Horace Mann declared:
I look upon phrenology as the guide to philosophy and the hand maid of Christianity. Whoever disseminates true phrenology is a public benefactor.
Jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, known for his common sense, denounced the whole idea.
In 1836, the Fowler brothers, Orson and Lorenzo, started a publishing house for the American Phrenology Journal. The business was expanded to include instruction centers, a museum, and all manner of props and devices. It continued to flourish until 1932 under the name Fowler & Wells, and original phrenological busts in porcelain made by the firm are sought after by modern devotees of the idea.
A ponderous machine called the Psycograph was soon developed. It consisted of a huge hemispherical frame with thirty-two probes pointing inward at the victim's head. The contraption produced a printed tape that evaluated the character of the person whose head had been poked at. Several varieties of the machine are still in operation at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where genial proprietor Robert McCoy demonstrates a variety of admittedly quack devices.
The Psycograph, a quack device.
An exceptionally fatuous notion popular well into this century, totally unsupported by the most superficial examination of the evidence but therefore still quite popular among the uninformed, phrenology is another “science” that seems to satisfy the human need to solve the enigmas of character and fate.
The art of reading character and fate from the features of the face. It was once widely believed that one's true qualities were mirrored in the configuration, size, and condition of the facial features. Criminologists of the nineteenth century seized upon this possibility and squandered a great amount of study and money on the shape of the criminal ear.
The Oscar Wilde story The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) was based on the premise that a highly realistic painting of a young man, rather than the man himself, took on all the physiognomical changes associated with an evil life.
See also Adamantius.
Piddington, Sydney and Lesley
(1918-1991 and 1925- ) In their heyday during the 1940s, the Piddingtons had England thoroughly convinced that they were able to read one another's minds. Aside from their great skill, the fact that they were able to make use of radio exposure (in 1949) was a strong reason for their success. At a period when the notion of ESP was being referred to as “mental radio,” the Piddingtons were regarded by many as probably able to converse by telepathy. They were careful to disavow any such idea.
During their time, these performers were the subjects of much scientific controversy, though their attitude convinced most academics that they were entertainers and nothing more, which was exactly the case.
Pike, Bishop James A.
(1913-1969) Episcopalian Bishop James Pike became a devoted supporter of spiritualism, convinced by the spirit medium Arthur Ford that he'd been contacted by his deceased son Jim. In 1966, at age twenty, Pike's son had shot himself in a cheap New York hotel room. The bishop even wrote a book about the personal evidence that Ford had offered him to prove the contact, and various bits of “proof” he'd discovered himself.
Pike was deeply impressed by what he described as “evidential” events such as one day finding a safety pin on the floor which was open at an angle which he said was exactly the angle formed by the hands of a clock at the hour his son had died. It is little wonder that Pike accepted everything else offered him to establish the reality of survival-after-death. One wonders what would have happened had his son died at six o'clock.
Such persons often become interested in survival-after-death ideas when a loved one dies, as was also the case with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir William Crookes. Pike was unaware of such advantages as the Blue Book and Ford's own personal research files, which enabled the medium to produce all sorts of apparently evidential material of a personal nature to support his claims.
Pike died tragically in 1969 in Israel during a spiritual pilgrimage in the desert.
Padre Pio da Pietralcini (né Francesco Forgione, 1887-1968) was an Italian Capuchin monk famous for exhibiting the wounds known as “stigmata.” He first exhibited these at age 28, bleeding from the hands.
Piper, Leonora E.
(1857-1950) A Boston housewife who said she discovered her power as a spirit medium at age twenty-seven, Mrs. Piper told of an Indian spirit guide with the unlikely name of Chlorine who was aided by another guide named Dr. Phinuit, which she pronounced “finny.” Strangely, this French doctor knew only a little French and less about medicine.
The mediumship of Mrs. Piper, which involved dramatic teeth-gnashing, moaning, and thrashing about, was enthusiastically supported by the famous psychologist/philosopher William James. The fact that she regularly spoke with Longfellow and Bach (the latter spoke no German in Summerland) provided James with excellent methods for testing the medium, but such tests were not done.
Mrs. Piper began featuring automatic writing, and then in 1911 abandoned her séances altogether and concentrated solely on the automatic writing.
She was investigated by Richard Hodgson, a member of the American Society for Psychical Research, for eighteen years. He became convinced of her legitimacy, and he was very pleased when she told him that he would have a long life, would soon marry, and would have two children. Hodgson died a few months later, unmarried and childless.
Miraculous recoveries, unexplained cessation of pain, and termination of certain medical conditions in faith healing and other such procedures is often believed to be either due to occult forces or to divine intervention. More likely, this could be due to the well-known placebo effect.
Some recent studies indicate that in cases of neuroses and depression, almost any type of therapy is better than none at all. The word placebo is Latin and means “I shall please.” It is defined by Webster's as
a process or substance, of little or no known worth in itself, which is applied to a problem in order to produce an encouraging or “pleasing” result.
This phenomenon takes place when a patient is exposed to a satisfactory “bedside manner” and/or when medication, manipulation, passing of the hands, prayer, or other means (any or all of which may be entirely ineffectual in themselves, but are seen by the recipient as unique, special, or advanced) are applied to the problem. Such effects may also take place when the patient feels in control of his situation or when he has surrendered that control to another in whom he has confidence. This is a simple case of what is known as “transference.” Encouragement leads to hope, and hope to better self-care and self-interest.
Many types of chronic pain, because of the emotional condition of the sufferer, are associated with chronic anxiety. An efficient and caring physician, knowledgeable about the placebo effect, can largely alleviate that anxiety and thus improve at least the symptoms of certain ailments.
Even American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes had an opinion on this matter:
Healing is a living process, greatly under the influence of mental conditions. It has often been found that the same wound found received in battle will do well in the soldiers that have beaten, that would prove fatal in those that have just been defeated.
It is well to consider the possibility of this powerful psychological effect when evaluating some claims of miraculous healing.
The heart-shaped pointer device often said to have been invented in 1852 by a man named Planchette, but this seems highly unlikely, given that the French word planche means “board,” and thus planchette means “small board.”
This device is usually used with a Ouija board, the point of the heart moving over the board to indicate the letters or numbers. It is supported above the board or paper on three short legs equipped with tiny casters or other bearings. If equipped with a pencil at the pointed end as a support, it can be used over a piece of paper in automatic writing.
The planchette used as an automatic writing device.
The Daily News of London in 1896, describing in an obituary the life and work of a hare-brained socialite of the day, was well aware of the real value of the device:
For nine years, he toyed with the planchette, the turned tables, in short used the familiar, hanky-panky means of communication with the unseen world.
See also Ouija board.
(first see dowsing) These are dowsers who claim they assist the police by sensing the presence of bodies or murderers while consulting maps. This is only a variety of the police psychics phenomenon, but shows some specifically unique aspects. An example follows.
One of the most prominent serial killer mysteries ever to take place in the United States became known as the Hillside Strangler case. Over a long period of time, a number of women had been murdered in southern California and the police were baffled. California dowser Verne McGuire, who used a pendulum swinging over a map, confidently told a writer for the Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper how he had helped to solve that case. McGuire told the Independent that the police refused to listen to him at first, but that finally he and his dowser friends got the Los Angeles police and sheriff's department, the Marshall Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They told us that if we knew where the Hillside Strangler was, we must be involved with him. To prove we weren't involved, we had to find him in such a way that it was impossible we could be involved, so we moved in with some cops. Then he killed again. Because he would now be on the run, we thought this was the best time to look for him.
These amateurs proposed to find the strangler by using their pendulums over a map of the area. According to McGuire, they actually located him by this means and sent the police to a certain spot on the map, where he was found in his car sitting at a service station, and in the trunk of the car were articles of clothing and a purse belonging to one of his victims. When the murderer was arrested, said McGuire, “He knew they had him. We were vindicated.”
Not according to the police, who in fact solved the case by totally different means. First of all, the Hillside Strangler turned out to be two persons working together, not just one. The U.S. Marshal's Office was not involved at all in the investigation, nor was the FBI. As for the Los Angeles police, who actually solved the case, they reported that McGuire's description of how and where the killers were found is quite fictional:
McGuire's statements concerning the “Hillside Strangler” case and his involvement are in conflict with what occurred. One of the suspects was arrested in Bellingham, Washington, and the second was arrested at his place of business in the City of Glendale. No clothing belonging to any of the victims was ever found.
The case provides an excellent example of unchallenged claims uncritically published by the media, the kind of claims which unfortunately are usually not again examined and which thus go into the literature of the paranormal as factual. In this case, Mr. David J. Simmons contacted the editor of the Ridgecrest Daily Independent newspaper and informed him of the facts. The editor ignored this and neither acknowledged the contribution of Mr. Simmons nor published it. The Independent continues to promote belief in unproven claims.
(first see psychometry) There are some psychometrists who claim they can handle items connected with crimes, particularly violent crimes, and can obtain, by their powers, impressions that help the police in the solutions of these crimes. These people are sometimes called in by the police, but more often it turns out that they themselves have contacted the police, have said that they know something about a crime, and are thus invited to make a statement. The police, by the very nature of their duties, must choose to record any volunteered information.
In one case in the United States within recent years, police listened with more than usual interest to a psychic who told them about a serious industrial fire that he not only had predicted with great accuracy, but about which he had supplied important details after the event, details which it appeared he could only know as a result of his special powers. His account was so accurate that he was immediately arrested and an investigation soon revealed that he'd had no need of paranormal powers to produce his visions. His information was essentially firsthand: He himself was the arsonist.
If there is any ability on the part of a psychic to supply law enforcement officials with relevant data which might assist in obtaining the solution to a crime, that ability should be cultivated and used. To find out if psychics could assist the police, American psychologist Dr. Martin Reiser conducted two extensive investigations into the use of psychics by the Los Angeles Police Department for that purpose. After several years of research, his conclusion was that psychics could contribute nothing useful to police work. “Psychics come out of the woodwork during cases which the media become heavily involved in,” he says.
Part of Dr. Reiser's experimentation involved weapons used in homicide cases. These were mixed in with “virgin” items as controls, and it was found that the psychics were unable to differentiate among them.
Inspector Edward Ellison of the U.K.'s Scotland Yard, in response to statements by psychics that they regularly worked with them, reported that:
1. Scotland Yard never approach psychics for information.
2. There are no official “police psychics” in England.
3. The Yard does not endorse psychics in any way.
4. There is no recorded instance in England of any psychic solving a criminal case or providing evidence or information that led directly to its solution.
Inspector Ellison had canvassed his department to find out if any police officers had consulted psychics or were able to benefit from the use of psychics. In all of the eight districts of London that the Yard covers, he made inquiries, and he found that rather than the officers seeking out the psychics, it was the other way around. Said Ellison, “They've [the police] been approached, is the answer.
“I've had a psychologist and a statistician standing by since last August, and so far, nothing reported,” said the inspector. The inquiry ended in August 1991. The results were negative.
The famous Yorkshire Ripper case in the U.K. was a bonanza for the psychics, and for the sensational newspapers as well. The Sunday People newspaper asked Britain's then-leading psychic/medium who provided what she said were psychic drawings of the Ripper's friends, relatives, and even his car mechanic. All this information was not only useless, but was quite wrong.
Mr. Bob Baxter, chief press officer for the West Yorkshire police, made a statement about the hundreds of persons who offered clues in the Yorkshire Ripper case:
Many people contacted us during the Ripper inquiry. Many of them were mediums or people professing to have psychic powers. However, nothing that any of these people told us has any bearing on the outcome of the case. We certainly did not discuss our investigations with them.
This is in sharp contrast with the numerous claims made by psychics who said they helped solve the matter.
In 1980/81, a series of murders of young black men in Atlanta, Georgia, attracted the attention of psychics, who sent in more than nineteen thousand letters and over two thousand drawings that attempted to identify the killer. Most of those described or drawn were white men, but the murderer turned out to be a young Afro-American. None of the drawings or letters properly described the murderer or gave his correct name, though many names were tried.
Derived from the German words polter for “commotion” and geist for “spirit,” a poltergeist is a ghost of mischievous character, usually throwing things about and damaging the surroundings. Martin Luther referred to this type of manifestation and declared it to be the product of demons.
Poltergeists usually show up in homes where a discontented adolescent lives, and the phenomena seem to take place only when that individual is present. When the discontent is relieved, the mischief ceases. It is interesting to note that in a significant percentage of these cases, the child is also adopted or living in a foster home.
A modern case of such a haunting took place in Columbus, Ohio, at the home of the Resch family in 1984. SeeColumbus poltergeist.
Another name for the wax doll used in voodoo.
The literal occupation of a person's body by a devil, demon, or spirit is believed in by several religions, even today. It is said that the possessed person speaks in a different voice and often in an unknown tongue. The 1972 film The Exorcist popularized the idea and gave rise to dozens of suddenly popular exorcisms.
See also glossolalia and obsession.
A mixture or liquid, usually to be ingested, made to serve a magical function. Also known as a philter, especially when used to win the object of one's affection or to bring about an erotic or emotional effect on the subject.
See also ointment.
See Davis, Andrew Jackson.
Powder of Projection
See philosopher's stone.
See Hare Krishna.
A recited incantation designed to force or cajole a deity or deities into changing the normal, existing, or probable course of events in the universe, obtain an advantage, or avoid a divine penalty. Also an expression of gratitude or adulation, or an affirmation of continual fear, made to a deity.
A prayer is often accompanied by a promise or a sacrifice (the firstborn, money, giving up a favorite vice, not lying, a select bit of food the priests can eat) to seal or satisfy the agreement. A spell.X
Knowledge of a future event or circumstance not obtained through inference or deduction, but by paranormal means.
B. Premanand is a prominent leader of the Indian Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. He publishes the Indian Skeptic, a monthly journal of the committee. Premanand tours the subcontinent and around the world demonstrating how the Indian fakirs and “god-men” do their conjuring tricks, and he constantly questions claims of kundalini and other powers said to be possessed by the many Indian performers.
Beginning in 1840 with William Henry Harrison, and at twenty-year intervals up until 1960, each president of the United States elected or reelected in those years died in office. Fans of this notion choose to ignore the fact that President Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848 (not a twenty-year interval) died sixteen months after taking office, on July 9, 1850. He does not fit the expectation, so is excluded.
Those who search for cycles confidentially expected Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, to suffer the same fate. Reagan, it seems, has broken the “curse.” Thank you, Mr. President.
See also Jeane Dixon.
(1881-1948) A prominent British “ghost hunter” whose major investigation was of Borley Rectory, Price lived a life which was a strange mixture of fact and fraud. He claimed to be descended from an aristocratic family, to have inherited wealth, and to be an expert archaeologist, bibliographer, numismatist, and — most importantly — a psychic researcher.
Price organized the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in 1927, in direct opposition to the London-based Society for Psychical Research. He wrote on numismatics for a short time, and then extensively on his psychic interests. Among his books are Leaves from a Psychist's Case-Book (1933), Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter (1936), Fifty Years of Psychical Research (1939), The Most Haunted House in England (1940), Search for Truth (autobiography, 1942), and The End of Borley Rectory (1946).
Among the many rare books in Price's extensive library were several volumes dealing with conjuring, and a number that discussed specific techniques applicable to the spiritualistic type of trickery that can be used to approximate ghost phenomena. Price was well versed in conjuring, belonged to a well-known conjurors' organization, and served there as a librarian.
Even during his lifetime, Price was exposed as a charlatan. A brilliant and competent researcher, he apparently wished to add to his reputation by fraud. Following his death, investigations showed that Price had been more of an adventurer than what he had purported to be. He had faked, plagiarized, and bluffed his way into the confidence of his many and enthusiastic supporters, along the way accomplishing some valuable and genuine research.
To quote Dr. Eric J. Dingwall, who knew and collaborated with Price on various projects:
When I first knew him [Price] showed no signs of the ability to present psychic material in a way which appealed not only to the popular press but to the intelligent general reader who wanted to know what was being done in this field. At the end of his life he was by far the greatest master of this type of narrative. The most trivial incident or haphazard meeting could be made into an enthralling tale through the imaginative pen of Harry Price.
His very extensive and valuable library, amounting to 4,376 books and thousands of pamphlets, photographs, and periodicals, filled eighty-seven packing cases when it was accepted by the University of London, where it resides today.
See philosopher's stone.
This general term encompasses a wide range of claimed phenomena — prediction, premonition, prognostication — all of which can be defined as the ability to foretell events, more limited to an ability not related to induction or deduction from known facts. Many studies have been made to determine whether the ability exists, and if so, how accurate it might be. One of the most extensive is the Premonition Registry, where records are kept of thousands of predictions that are sent in. Not much has been heard from the registry in recent years.
Research in this matter is subject to the element of selective recall, whereby individuals tend to remember when a dream or hunch turns out correctly and forget it if it fails. Therefore, anecdotal reports are not of much value.
In 1983, an examination was made of the evidence offered by 127 persons who responded to a U.K. newspaper feature on premonitions. A questionnaire was accompanied by a personality test. Most who answered were female, average age was forty-six years, and 80 percent of them said that they were correct 70 percent of the time. The personality test showed that these persons were significantly more neurotic than average and scored high on a “lie scale.” Some 85 percent of their predictions involved death or other tragedies. The investigator concluded that the ability to have premonitions is important since it warns females and thereby provides a “survival advantage to the species.” No comment.
Large-scale studies of prophetic ability have failed to provide sufficient dependable data to support claims that it is valid. Mystics have offered strange rationalizations of this fact, as demonstrated in The Magician's Companion, a comprehensive volume by Bill Whitcomb dealing with magical formulas and systems. Mr. Whitcomb observes:
One point to remember is that the probability of an event changes as soon as a prophecy (or divination) exists. . . . The accuracy or outcome of any prophecy is altered by the desires and attachments of the seer and those who hear the prophecy.
The obvious paradox provided by these caveats is quite acceptable in the pursuit of magic, it seems.
The prophecy business was once fraught with danger. While modern practitioners are forgiven over and over again for failures, Henry VIII of England meted out a nasty death to Elizabeth Barton, the “Holy Maid of Kent” who predicted His Majesty's immediate death for having married Anne Boleyn. The punishment was for treason, not for having been wrong by fourteen years.
Of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, eighteen are ascribed to prophets. The Hebrews, Muslims, and Mormons all have strong dependence upon the teachings of prophets.
See also astrology, Edgar Cayce, I Ching, Jeane Dixon, Nostradamus, palmistry, and scrying.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare
(1940- ) President of the Church Universal and Triumphant, founded in 1958 with her husband, Mark Prophet (1918-1973). The church moved its headquarters from Malibu, California, to Montana, where a massive underground bunkerlike construction has been established, with tons of arms and food supplies saved against an Armageddon that has been promised several times but delayed. The dismantlement of the Soviet Union has essentially dampened Ms. Prophet's hopes for doom, since she had designated that political entity as The Enemy.
The church now claims that their chanting of mantras and use of “Violet Flame Decrees” has forestalled global disaster. Maybe. We'll see. If so, thanks, Liz.
The twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet (pronounced sy in America, but often p-sy in Europe) suggested by psychologists R. H. Thouless and W. P. Weisner in 1944 to denote paranormal events, abilities, and studies. Defined by the Parapsychological Association as the apparent ability of human beings and other species to acquire information about their environment and to affect it physically without the use of currently understood mechanisms.
One parapsychologist who expresses disenchantment with psi is Dr. Susan Blackmore. Perhaps her opinion is best expressed in her own words:
My ten years of research have left me an open-minded skeptic rather than a disbeliever, but I have come to one conclusion: The notion of psi is remarkably unhelpful. If we want to understand the higher potentials of human experience, we need a better notion.
Borrowed from such expressions as “technology gap,” popular during the Cold War to denote the discrepancy between an advantage obtained or held by the Soviet or by the Western powers, the “psi gap” was used as a scare technique by the parapsychologists and the psychics. It was largely fed by various hoaxes such as those perpetrated by a reporter working for syndicated Washington columnist Jack Anderson. He had “psychotechtronic weapons” such as the “hyperspatial howitzer” and “SADDOR” — a satellite-borne mechanical dowsing rod — striking fear into the public mind.
A leading psychic of the day, Uri Geller, was actively promoting interest in the psi gap, urging members of the U.S. Congress to invest in probing these mysteries as a defense mode, until the Soviet Union collapsed and relations between the powers relaxed. It has since been determined that neither side had anything even vaguely resembling a psi weapon, psi technology, or psi power.
As an adjective, describes a variety of supernatural forces, events, or powers. Telepathy, extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, spiritualistic phenomena, magical or divine healing, psychokinesis, levitation, prophecy, or fortune-telling could come under this label. As a noun, it designates a person said to be able to call upon any of many psychic forces.
In this encyclopedia, the word should always be viewed as if enclosed in quote marks.
See police psychics.
Some persons who believe they have psychic powers produce what they call “psychic portraits” of dead persons. They say that the evidence they have that the persons so represented have ever lived is the acceptance of the sitters for whom the images were produced, and they usually say that they are unable to produce a likeness of any specific person upon request.
Frequently a sitter will accept a likeness as representing someone they have known. Since these performances are usually done for very large audiences and all present are challenged to come up with a correspondence between the portrait and someone who looked like the artwork, it is likely that the attempt will be successful. Sometimes sitters who are interviewed admit that they “went along” with the artist in order not to cause any conflict. They are, after all, believers, otherwise they most probably would not pay to attend such a gathering. Having paid their money, they have an interest in the performance being successful and want it to be a positive experience. Going along with it seems harmless enough and moves things forward.
See also cold reading.
Every week, increasing numbers of people from all over the world arrive in Manila, capital of the Republic of the Philippines, seeking magical aid from the curanderos, who claim they can heal every sort of malady. Apparently by means of psychic — or divine — powers, these native healers can reach their hands into the bodies of clients, extracting deadly tumors and other substances, along with quantities of blood. In most cases, there is no trace of an incision on the body of the patient.
To any experienced conjuror, the methods by which these seeming miracles are produced are very obvious. But inexperienced observers quite naturally do not see the trickery, and if they are predisposed to believe in magic, they are prepared to accept that something supernatural has taken place.
There are two distinct classes of this performance, which is now known as “psychic surgery.” The most common form is relatively free of direct and immediate physical damage and risk to the person treated. It consists of cheating, secretly introducing the blood and other materials onto the surface of the body by means of sleight of hand. No incision takes place, and any infection which occurs does so through minor abrasions or scratches. The second form of “psychic surgery” is simply a direct invasion of the body by means of small, shallow incisions, often made unobserved, under cover of distraction — in exactly the way that a conjuror would perform.
This Filipino practice has spread worldwide now, and in the states of California and Florida, psychic surgeons regularly visit on tour, untroubled by law enforcement agencies under the protection of the principle of Freedom of Religion. Since actual incisions are seldom made, the risk of infection is small. These practitioners, often assuming the titles “Reverend,” “Brother,” or “Doctor,” typically charge $100 per minute for their services. In other cases, they make no formal charge, but accept sizable “donations” that are carefully suggested by them, in writing, to their victims.
One variety of “operation” performed by these people is actually a medieval procedure that involves actual invasion of the body. Known as “cupping,” it consists of first making a tiny incision with a knife, usually without any sterilization, anesthetic, or antiseptic. Then a bit of cotton wool soaked in alcohol is placed upon a coin near or upon the cut, and the cotton is ignited. A small glass is then quickly inverted over the site. At this point the area is often covered with a cloth, as if performing a conjuring trick and thus concealing from sight the process that now takes place inside the inverted glass.
As the oxygen is consumed by the flame, a partial vacuum is created, drawing the flesh up into the glass. This causes the wound to bleed, and when the partial vacuum is thus equalized, the cloth is removed so that one can see that about one-fifth of the volume of the glass is now filled with blood. This process will, to an uninformed person, appear as if some magical force had brought the blood from the wound.
See automatic writing.
(PK) Once known as “telekinesis,” PK is the claimed power to affect matter by mind alone. Such feats as spoon-bending, moving small objects, causing items to fall over or fly through the air, or changing the quality or quantity of any substance are included in this category.
Many explanations have been offered for such feats, including certain mythic energies such as “ectenic force,” said to come from the body of the spirit medium during a séance, resulting in table tipping and apports. (The wordectenic was coined by two Swiss scientists, Count de Gasparin and Professor Thury, who convinced themselves that table tippers were generating a special force, rather than simply pushing the table about. This postulation denies the existence of ectoplasm and its more divine origins.)
See also parapsychology.
A term for a gifted person who can produce psychokinetic effects, invented by parapsychologist Michael Thalbourne to describe two young subjects, Michael Edwards and Steve Shaw, who in 1982 convinced parapsychologists at the McDonnell Laboratory for Psychical Research (MacLab) in St. Louis, Missouri, that they could bend metal, impress images on photographic film, move objects, and use ESP.
The psychokinetes proved to be ringers, sent in to show that simple conjuring techniques were sufficient to deceive the scientists. The parapsychologists easily accepted the boys as genuine psychics and until the hoax was voluntarily exposed in 1983 by the boys themselves, the scientists were sure they had proven the existence of supernatural forces and prepared a scientific paper on their investigation.
Project Alpha, as the matter became known, was designed to show that scientists are easily deceived and that they usually have no adequate knowledge of conjuring techniques. Alpha cast no aspersions on the honesty of the researchers, but did question their competence. It was a great success and has resulted in some parapsychologists being more careful about their conclusions. Following the revelation of the hoax, the MacLab closed permanently.
Though Mike Edwards got a real, traditional job and only performs occasionally in magic, Steve Shaw (1960- ) has gone on to become a ranking professional mentalist. He has been “buried alive” on network television and escaped from six feet down in the ground. In 1984 he performed another such stunt, being dug up after three days. He has developed many new angles to standard methods of the mentalists, and as a result has traveled internationally with his very clever and entertaining act.
See also Dr. John Beloff.
Psychometry / Psychometristx
It is a common notion that “psychic vibrations” — of some unspecified and undefined nature — can be absorbed by places and by objects, particularly objects made of metal. This is referred to as “psychometry.” It was “discovered” by a Dr. J. R. Buchanan, who named it and called it a science.
Many persons have had the experience of returning to a childhood location and feeling the “chill” of returning memories from long ago. Standing before an ancient monument can bring on strange feelings that seem to be the result of the edifice itself, and not merely of an awareness of the history and the personalities involved with that monument. It would be difficult to walk through Westminster Abbey and fail to be stirred by the memories thus invoked of famous persons.
It is said that certain persons have an ability whereby they can sense vibrations taken up by objects, absorbed from persons and events that have been associated with those objects. If psychometry actually works, it should be possible for a practitioner (known as a “psychometrist”) to “read” vibrations from objects which have been intimately associated with a specific person, and to differentiate them from other similar objects owned by another person. The claim has been thoroughly tested and found false.
The psychometrists claim that by “reading” these vibrations, they can obtain information, and they also use it for diagnosing illness, with the same degree of success.
A “science” that includes dowsing, radionics, and the construction and, as of 1974, the use of various “machines” that are said to focus and concentrate psychic powers. This is currently a very popular fad in Russia, though scientists there insist that the devices cannot be tested because of their esoteric nature. For the same reason, they also cannot be demonstrated. All rests on faith.
See also Ruth Drown.
Puharich, Dr. Andrija
(Henry K. Puharich, 1918- ) A medical doctor who has never practiced except as an intern, Puharich served the U.S. Army in several functions.
In 1959, he wrote The Sacred Mushroom, Key to the Door of Eternity, about his adventures with peyote and other hallucinogenic substances. In Hawaii, he was appointed to be a “grand kahuna,” or mystical chief. Then, in the early 1970s, he met Uri Geller, and the result was another book, Uri: A Journal of the Mystery of Uri Geller. A very strange book relating highly unlikely events (dematerializations, disembodied voices, and teleportations), it was endorsed enthusiastically by its subject, who declared that “every word [of the book] is true!”
In Brazil, Puharich investigated the work of the psychic surgeon named Arigó and wrote a naive book on the subject,Arigó, Surgeon of the Rusty Knife.
A unit of measurement proposed by Charles Piazzi Smyth, a Scottish astronomer who was obsessed with the Great Pyramid of Giza, which see. The original outside “casing” layer of stones that had covered the Great Pyramid had been carted away over the ages, so that the true dimensions were unknown until investigators began finding a few of the stones buried at the foot of the structure. Smyth measured the first casing stone that was uncovered, divided the width by twenty-five (the reason for choosing 25 was never given), and obtained what he called the basic unit used in the pyramid's construction, the pyramid inch. This was just slightly greater than the English inch.
Though it was soon found that other casing stones measured different widths, Smyth's definition was retained by believers in the myth, and it is still used today by those who accept that the Great Pyramid is a tool of prophecy.
A book by author Pat Flanagan, Pyramid Power, citing unknown and untraceable sources, claimed that wonderful forces were at work in the Great Pyramid of Giza, forces that could be tapped by those who would purchase from him miniature replicas of the monument.
In 1973, U.K. author Lyall Watson told of placing a dead cat inside a model of the Great Pyramid and thus preserving it. He later endorsed a process discovered by a Czech engineer named Drbal whereby it was claimed that razor blades placed in a small pyramid remained sharp despite use.
The craze for pyramid devices lasted through the seventies, though simple tests of the claims easily showed them to be spurious.
(circa 580-500 B.C.) A prominent Greek philosopher/mathematician who developed intricate mystical theories involving the basic qualities of numbers. He taught that “number is all.”
Pythagoras contributed greatly to an understanding of musical harmonies and their mathematical sources, and this gave rise to his ideas of corresponding cosmic harmonies. “Harmony of the Spheres” is the term used to designate that notion. Those views, though they were expressed mystically by the philosopher, are basically sound. Unfortunately but understandably, the valuable elementary truths were smothered in abstract attributions such as good and evil, male and female, positive and negative.
The school he left behind him continued to generate ideas and formulations that have often been attributed directly to him. The famous Pythagorean theorem — that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal in area to the sum of the squares on the other two sides — is probably a discovery made well after his death, but using the methods he had advocated.