History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

Facts,stories and jokes on parapsychology


Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House when he is said to have had an uncanny experience. Having had a long bath with a Scotch and cigar, he reportedly walked into the adjoining bedroom – only to be met by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Unflappable, even while completely naked, Churchill apparently announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.

His supposed contact with the supernatural puts Churchill in illustrious company. Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums, while Alan Turing believed in telepathy. Three men who were all known for their razor-sharp thinking, yet couldn’t stop themselves from believing in the impossible. You may well join them. According to recent surveys, as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal, in some form, while nearly one in five claim to have actually seen a ghost.

Intrigued by these persistent beliefs, psychologists have started to look at why some of us can’t shake off old superstitions and folk-lore. Their findings may suggest some hidden virtues to believing in the paranormal. At the very least, it should cause you to question whether you hold more insidious beliefs about the world.


Psychologists studying religion have long suspected that a belief in the paranormal can be a kind of shield from the even harsher truths of the world. The idea is that when something unexpected happens – a death, natural disaster, or job loss – the brain scrambles around for answers, looking for meaning in the chaos. “It’s such an aversive state that if it can’t gain control objectively, we will get it by perceiving more structures around us, even if they don’t exist,” says Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas.


Some paranormal experiences are easily explainable, based on faulty activity in the brain. Reports of poltergeists invisibly moving objects seem to be consistent with damage to certain regions of the right hemisphere that are responsible for visual processing; certain forms of epilepsy, meanwhile, can cause the spooky feeling that a presence is stalking you close by – perhaps underlying accounts of faceless “shadow people” lurking in the surroundings.




Q: Where did the ghost that was addicted to candy go after crossing over?

A: Caramhell.


Q: Why did the spirit go to the party alone ?

A: Because it had no body to go with.


Q: Where do spirits go swimming ?

A: The Dead Sea.


Q: Where do spirits refuel their vehicles?

A: A ghast station.






History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

Modern Era Parapsychology


images (1)

Despite many years of research and laboratory work, parapsychology still struggles to answer basic questions such as the nature of the psi experience and the development of a comprehensive theory that encompasses all psi phenomena. Due to the deductive nature of the studies and the strict barriers that are made between the researcher and the phenomena being experimented, laboratory techniques are limited.The research in this field is become more varied, more interdisciplinary, and more international than in the earlier period. Hence, there is a need to include various qualitative research techniques in the quest to help develop a theory on the psi and help parapsychology progress as a science.

Practical applications of parapsychology-

One of the outcomes of being attacked constantly by skeptics, being called a pseudoscience, accused of having bad controls and having multiple other flaws is that scientists have been extra careful in their study designs, knowing that they’re going to come under attack. 85% of parapsychology experiments are double blind ( an experimental procedure in which neither the subjects nor the experimenters know which subjects are in the test and control groups during the actual course of the experiments)

Parapsychology was responsible for introducing advanced statistics to science, especially the meta analysis and also for discovering the experimenter effect (irrespective of all other conditions, the intent of the experimenter can affect the study outcome)

Psychics are occasionally used to help locate promising sites for archeological digs and to help identify the origins of objects that are found. They save time by showing the archeologist where they should be looking for answers.

Dowsing is a kind of divination utilized in endeavors to find ground water, covered metals or minerals, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and numerous different objects and materials without the utilization of logical device.

Another significant application of parapsychology is remote viewing.


Science or not?

Parapsychology as a field of enquiry is still considered as pseudoscience by the scientific orthodoxy, however there is no justifiable or truly scientific reason why this is the case. There is a lot of compelling evidence that demonstrates that the human mind can and does impact and connect with the world around it.

The reason the phenomenon of psi experience is not taken seriously by scientific community is because of philosophical materialism.

For every scientific process, replication is very important. Most skeptics argue that, even if ESP experiments do yield significant results, they mean little, because often the experiments can’t be reliably replicated.

Also, psychic phenomena by nature is not completely constant or reliable. They might fail sometimes and vary from person to person.

Maybe the silliest approach is to expect that people have a goal and complete awareness of reality, and that there are no common laws or marvels or powers beyond those we can recognize or imagine. There is no reason why psychology cannot be ‘scientific’ at the same time as accepting this.

However, it does not seem likely that the field will be accepted as a part of any mainstream science any time soon.










History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

Parapsychology in the 1970’s and 1980’s

The year was 1968, and UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute was the new home for a controversial type of research “parapsychology”. In the 70’s, UCLA lab researched parapsychology. Though they were unfunded by the university, the group conducted experiments in clairvoyance and telepathy.

Dr. Thelma Moss, a late psychology professor, headed the lab, which conducted scientific experiments in clairvoyance, telepathy and haunted houses until 1978. After meeting Kendall Johnson, she totally changed her interest and orientation toward parapsychological research, since she erroneously assumed, as did (almost) everyone else, that Kirlian photography indeed showed the human aura.

What is Kirlian photography?


Kirlian photography refers to a form of contact print photography, theoretically associated with high-voltage. It is named after Semyon Kirlian, who in 1939 accidentally discovered that if an object on a photographic plate is subjected to a strong electric field, an image is created on the plate.

In controversial metaphysical contexts, Kirlian photography, Kirlian energy, and so on, are sometimes referred to as just ‘Kirlian’. Kirlian made controversial claims that his method showed proof of supernatural auras, said to resemble a rough outline of the object like a colorful halo.

Kirlian proposed and promoted the idea that the resulting images of living objects were a physical proof of the life force or aura which allegedly surrounds all living beings. This claim was said to be supported by experiments by the Kirlians that involved cutting part of a leaf off – the Kirlian images of such leaves, it was said, still showed the leaves as whole, as though the cutting had never happened.


Scope of Parapsychology

The scope of parapsychology expanded during these years. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson conducted much of his research into reincarnation during the 1970s, and the second edition of his Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation was published in 1974. The influx of spiritual teachers from Asia, and their claims of abilities produced by meditation, led to research on altered states of consciousness. American Society for Psychical Research Director of Research, Karlis Osis, conducted experiments in out of body experiences.

Robert Lyle Morris was an American psychologist, parapsychologist and professor at the University of Edinburgh, where he was the first holder of the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit. His academic interests include parapsychology in general, the psychological aspects of the conduct of science, anomalous experiences, deception, belief formation and maintenance, cross-cultural aspects of psi experience and research, sport psychology, and volition and human performance. In the past he has also been active in human factors and animal behavior research.

robert morris

Psi research

Looking at the psi hypothesis, several different kinds of ESP and PK studies have been conducted, but I will focus on a single example: ESP studies using the ‘ganzfeld technique’. The ganzfeld is a mild sensory isolation procedure that is thought to be conducive to ESP. It is is based on a noise-reduction model of ESP that hypothesises that ESP functions like a weak signal that is ordinarily drowned out by surrounding well-understood signals, such as somatic, visual, and auditory information. By reducing external and internal sources of distraction, parapsychologists reasoned that any ESP ‘signal’ would be more easily noticed. Two individuals are usually involved in this procedure: the sender will attempt to mentally communicate a randomly chosen ‘target’ to the receiver. The sender and receiver are placed in separate acoustically shielded rooms. The receiver wears translucent eye-shields and is bathed in red light. The receiver also reclines in a comfortable chair and wears headphones that play ‘white noise’. The aim is for the receiver to become mentally and physically relaxed, and for their eyes, ears, and bodies to receive unchanging and unpatterned stimulation (ganzfeld literally means ‘whole field’ and originates from gestalt psychology). Under such stimulation, thoughts and images become more salient to the receiver.

Ganzfeld Experiment



A computer is used to randomly choose a target (such as a one-minute video-clip) from a large selection of possible targets, and plays that clip repeatedly to the sender. At the same time, the receiver reports out loud any thoughts or images that come to mind (the ‘mentation’), and these verbal reports are recorded. Of course, neither the experimenter nor the receiver has any idea of what target the sender is viewing. At the end of the sending period, the sender remains in their room while the computer plays four video clips to the receiver – the target plus three decoys. The receiver’s task is to compare each clip to their mentation, and to select which of the clips most closely matches the mentation.

Criticism for Ganzfeld experiment-

  1. Isolation— Richard Wiseman and others argue that not all of the studies used soundproof rooms, so it is possible that when videos were playing, the experimenter could have heard it, and later given involuntary cues to the receiver during the selection process. It could even have been possible that the receiver themselves could hear the video.
  2. Randomization— When subjects are asked to choose from a variety of selections, there is an inherent bias to choose the first selection they are shown. If the order in which they are shown the selections is randomized each time, this bias will be averaged out. The randomization procedures used in the experiment have been criticized for not randomizing satisfactorily.
  3. The psi assumption— The assumption that any statistical deviation from chance is evidence for telepathy is highly controversial. Strictly speaking, a deviation from chance is only evidence that either this was a rare, statistically unlikely occurrence that happened by chance, or something was causing a deviation from chance.


History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

The Stargate project

For a great many years, we have been intrigued by the possibility of normal individuals having the capacity to do unprecedented things. Whether it is a story rooted in ancient philosophy or an account of the ‘supernormal’ abilities displayed by eastern monks, the possibility that there exist extended human capacities continues to capture our imagination. We have a wealth of literature and myth dedicated to this topic, and as a result, scientists are finally took notice. Various investigations and projects have been led, with huge factual outcomes, which show that these are genuine marvels, the ramifications of which are extensive.

One such program to verify the truth of these expanded human limits is the “Stargate” venture, a program built up by the United States Army, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and SRI International to think about “psychic” wonder. The program kept going over two decades, and the outcomes were declassified after the program was closed down.

This effort began, supposedly, because the CIA had concerns about Soviet investigations into psychic phenomenon, as the United States had gathered intelligence showing that the Soviets were engaged in “psychotronic” research.

Parapsychologists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff began testing psychics for SRI in 1972, including one who would later become an international celebrity, Israeli Uri Geller.

Uri-Geller-Painting-in-Japan Uri Geller

Uri Geller was subjected to a progression of strange mystery tests that intended to weaponize psychic abilities. The Israeli – really popular for his evident capacity to bend spoons with his brain – was taken to Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s to have his mystic talents examined.

During these experiments he was asked to sit in a sealed and monitored room.

One of the tests included illustrations. A word was chosen aimlessly from a dictionary. The first word chose was “fuse”. A sparkler was then drawn by somebody outside the bolted room. The picture was then taped to the divider outside Geller’s cell and he was told by means of radio the drawing was done.


Remote Viewing-

One project under the Stargate umbrella included remote viewing, which is the capacity of people to depict a remote topographical area up to a few hundred thousand kilometers away (in some cases much more) from their physical area.

The heft of this testing was directed on a “beacon and viewer” premise. A man going about as the sender, or “beacon,” ventured out to a remote area or analyzed a photo.

The remote viewer endeavored to portray, through visual depictions and illustrations, the beacon’s physical environment or what he was watching. In many examples, the beacons were basically taking a look at photos from National Geographic.

With the information gathered, a judge contrasted the viewer’s depictions with what the beacon was watching, and decided if sensibly rectify “hits” have been made. The quantity of recorded hits was coordinated against the number that could happen by irregular shot, giving an evaluated measure of the remote viewer’s prosperity.

Flaws in the Stargate project-

There were six negative features of the experiment. The possibility of cues or sensory leakage was not ruled out, no independent replication, some of the experiments were conducted in secret making peer-review impossible. It was noticed that the judge Edwin May was additionally the central agent for the venture and this made huge conflict of interest with collusion,  and fraud being possible. It was concluded that the venture was simply a “subjective dream” and following too many years of research it had failed to give any logical confirmation to the authenticity of remote survey.

History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology


The PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION was created in Durham, North Carolina, on June 19th,1957 . It is the international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of ‘psi’ (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, remote viewing, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The idea of such an association was proposed by Dr. J. B. Rhine (Director of the Duke Laboratory) at a Workshop in Parapsychology that was held at the Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University. Using the occasion afforded by this wide representation of the field, Dr. J. B. Rhine, Director of the Duke Laboratory, proposed that the group form itself into the nucleus of an international professional society in parapsychology. The time could not have been more opportune nor the audience more receptive.


robert a mcconelDr. R.A. McConnell

The association’s first president was Dr. R. A. McConnell, then of the Biophysics Department, University of Pittsburgh, and the first vice-president was Dr. Gertrude R. Schmeidler of the Department of Psychology, City College of New York. Miss Rhea White was named Secretary Treasurer. Four others were elected to the Council, bringing the total to seven: Miss (later Dr.) Margaret Anderson, Dr. Remi Cadoret, Dr. Karlis Osis, and Mr. (now Dr.) W. G. Roll.

They gave importance to the international and professional character of the association and on promoting better communication between scientists working in the field.

Aims of the association –

Advance parapsychology as a science.
Disseminate knowledge of the field.
Integrate the findings of parapsychology with those of other branches of science

Long before the PA came into existence, many of those active in this field felt the need for such an association to aid in better communication with their colleagues.

From the beginning, importance was given to the international and professional character of the association.  It had to be professional in order to attract well-trained and qualified scientists to the membership, and it had to be international to include scientific workers wherever they are. Hence, a special committee was established to draft a constitution which would reflect these intentions.

The Constitution characterized the obligations of the officers of the Association and set up its standing advisory groups. The term of office for Council individuals, first set at one year, was later reached out to two, with terms terminating in alternate years to ensure continuity on Council. Two main classes of membership were established, Member and Associate, and the professional and educational requirements were set for each. A third category, Honorary Member, was established for persons who had made special literary, philanthropic, or other contributions to the field.

The Constitution expressed that people who joined the Association amid the primary year were to be assigned Charter Members and Charter Associates. In June, 1958, there were 48 Charter Members and 55 Charter Associates. Toward the finish of 1964 there were 74 Members, 92 Associates, and six Honorary Members. This gathering, which is no bigger than a physics department at a medium-sized college, incorporates the vast majority of the dynamic parapsychologists on the planet. The guarantee that parapsychology holds for achieving a more extensive comprehension of man legitimizes a significantly bigger working power. It is the expectation of the Association that it can expand the quantity of research specialists by enhancing working conditions in the field and the lines of correspondence both inside it and with established researchers on the loose.


The PA held its first convention at City College in New York in 1958 where various research papers were displayed. Since that time a yearly convention has been a concentration of action for the PA. The principal convention outside the USA occurred in 1964 at Oxford University in England.

Role of Skepticism in Parapsychology

Parapsychology is supported by twin pillars: open-minded scientific study and rigorous doubt. Both are necessary.

Organized skepticism does a valuable service when it is focused on teaching the people to detect and reject deceitful professionals who go after simple individuals. Equally valuable is the unflinching and clear-eyed assessment of experiments in difficult frontier areas such as parapsychology. We must also be skeptical of some who call themselves skeptics. Most individual skeptics fail to do their homework and neglect or misapply the scientific methods they want to protect. This leads to arguments that fail when tested against facts that are available. A second opinion from someone not involved in the research is valuable. A dispassionate, objective critique can make the difference between a successful experiment from which we learn, and a failed attempt which wastes an opportunity.


PA students sit down with Diane Powell in between sessions of the 57th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association in Concord California.



History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

Rhine Era

In 1911, Stanford University became the first academic institution in the United States to study extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis in a laboratory setting. The effort and initiative was headed by psychologist John Edgar Coover, and was supported by funds donated by Thomas Welton Stanford. After conducting approximately 10,000 experiments, Coover concluded “statistical treatments of the data fail to reveal any cause beyond chance.”

In 1930, Duke University became the second major U.S. academic institution to engage in the critical study of ESP and psychokinesis in the laboratory. Under the guidance of psychologist William McDougall, and with the help of others in the psychology department- Joseph B. Rhine, and Louisa E. Rhine—laboratory ESP experiments using volunteer subjects from the undergraduate student body began. As opposed to the approaches of psychical research, which generally sought qualitative evidence for paranormal phenomena, the experiments at Duke University offered a quantitative, statistical approach using cards and dice. As a consequence of the ESP experiments at Duke, standard laboratory procedures for the testing of ESP developed and came to be adopted by interested researchers throughout the world. The publication of J. B. Rhine’s book, New Frontiers of the Mind (1937) brought the laboratory’s findings to the public. In his book, Rhine popularized the word “parapsychology”, which psychologist Max Dessoir had devised over 40 years earlier, to describe the research conducted at Duke. Rhine also founded an autonomous Parapsychology Laboratory within Duke and started the Journal of Parapsychology, which he co-edited with McDougall.

Parapsychologist, Eileen J. Garrett, was tested by Rhine at Duke University in 1933 with Zener cards. Certain symbols that were placed on the cards and sealed in an envelope, and she was asked to guess their contents. She performed poorly and later criticized the tests by claiming the cards lacked a psychic energy called “energy stimulus” and that she could not perform telepathy to order. The parapsychologist Samuel Soal and his colleagues tested Garrett in May, 1937. A total of over 12,000 guesses were recorded but Garrett failed to produce above chance level. In his report Soal wrote “In the case of Mrs. Eileen Garrett we fail to find the slightest confirmation of Dr. J. B. Rhine’s remarkable claims relating to her alleged powers of extra-sensory perception. In 1938, the psychologist Joseph Jastrow wrote that much of the evidence for extrasensory perception collected by Rhine and other parapsychologists was circumstantial, biased, doubtful and the result of “faulty observation and familiar human frailties”. Rhine’s experiments were discredited due to the discovery that sensory leakage or cheating could account for all his results such as the subject being able to read the symbols from the back of the cards and being able to see and hear the experimenter to note subtle clues.

Illusionist Milbourne Christopher wrote years later that he felt “there are at least a dozen ways a subject who wished to cheat under the conditions Rhine described could deceive the investigator”. When Rhine took precautions in response to criticisms of his methods, he was unable to find any high-scoring subjects. Another criticism, made by chemist Irving Langmuir, among others, was one of selective reporting. Langmuir stated that Rhine did not report scores of subjects that he suspected were intentionally guessing wrong, and that he felt, prejudiced the statistical results higher than they should have been. Rhine and his colleagues attempted to address these criticisms through new experiments described in the book Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years (1940). Rhine described three experiments the “Pearce-Pratt experiment”, the “Pratt-Woodruff experiment” and the Ownbey-Zirkle series which he believed demonstrated ESP.

In 1957, Rhine and Joseph Gaither Pratt wrote Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind. Because of the methodological problems, parapsychologists no longer utilize card-guessing studies. Rhine’s experiments into psychokinesis were also criticized.


The administration of Duke grew less sympathetic to parapsychology, and after Rhine’s retirement in 1965 parapsychological links with the university were fragmented. Rhine later established the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) and the Institute for Parapsychology as a successor to the Duke laboratory. In 1995, the centenary of Rhine’s birth, the FRNM was re titled the Rhine Research Center. Today, the Rhine Research Center is a parapsychology research unit, stating that it “aims to improve the human condition by creating a scientific understanding of those abilities and sensitivities that appear to transcend the ordinary limits of space and time”.

rhine1rhine 2

History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

Early Psychical Research

In 1853, the chemist Robert Hare conducted experiments with mediums and reported positive results. Other researchers such as Frank Podmore highlighted flaws in his experiments, such as lack of controls to prevent trickery. Over a period of five months in 1853 he declared the experiments a success being the result of an “ectenic force”. Critics noted that the conditions were insufficient to prevent trickery. For example, the knees of the sitters may have been employed to move the table and no experimenter was watching above and below the table simultaneously.

The German astrophysicist Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner tested the medium. Henry Slade in 1877. According to Zöllner some of the experiments were a success. However, flaws in the experiments were discovered and critics have suggested that Slade was a fraud who performed trickery in the experiments.

The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in London in 1882. Its formation was the first systematic effort to organize scientists and scholars to investigate paranormal phenomena. Early membership included philosophers, scholars, scientists, educators and politicians, such as Henry Sidgwick, Arthur Balfour, Rufus Osgood Mason and Nobel Laureate Charles Richet. Presidents of the Society included, in addition to Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick and William James, and subsequently Nobel Laureate Lord Rayleigh, and philosopher C. D. Broad.

Areas of study included telepathy, hypnotism, Reichenbach’s phenomena, apparitions, hauntings, and the physical aspects of Spiritualism such as table-tilting, materialization and apparition. In the 1880s the Society investigated apparitional experiences and hallucinations in the sane. Among the first important works was the two-volume publication in 1886, Phantasms of the Living which was largely criticized by scholars. In 1894, the Census of Hallucinations was published which sampled 17, 000 people. Out of these, 1, 684 persons admitted to having experienced a hallucination of an apparition. The SPR became the model for similar societies in other European countries and the United States during the late 19th century.

Early clairvoyance experiments were reported in 1884 by Charles Richet. Playing cards were enclosed in envelopes and a subject put under hypnosis attempted to identify them. The subject was accounted to have been successful in a series of 133 trials but the results dropped to fortuitous level when performed before a group of scientists in Cambridge. J. M. Peirce and E. C. Pickering reported a similar experiment in which they tested 36 subjects over 23,384 trials which did not obtain above chance scores.

In 1881, Eleanor Sidgwick revealed the fraudulent methods that spirit photographers such as Édouard Isidore Buguet, Frederic Hudson and William H. Mumler had utilized. During the late 19th century many fraudulent mediums were exposed by SPR investigators.

Largely due to the support of psychologist William James, the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) opened its doors in Boston in 1885, moving to New York City in 1905 under the leadership of James H. Hyslop.


History and Development Of Paranormal Psychology

An Introduction to Paranormal Psychology

Do ghosts exist? Do you all believe in them?

Are you all too confused to take this decision?

Here, paranormal psychology has an answer for it. Read through to know its origin and development and a few fun facts about it.

Parapsychology is a field of study concerned with the investigation of paranormal and psychic phenomena.

Para is from Greek, and means “beside, closely related to, beyond…” The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir It was adopted by J. B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research.

This field includes transpersonal psychology, which studies transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human mind, and anomalistic psychology, which examines paranormal beliefs and subjective anomalous experiences in traditional psychological terms.

In psychology, anomalistic psychology is the study of human behavior and experience connected with what is often called the paranormal, with the assumption that there is nothing paranormal involved. This explains subjects like hauntings, paranormal healing, psychokinesis and telepathy.


  • Telepathy: Transfer of information on thoughts or feelings between individuals by means other than the five classical senses.
  • Precognition: Perception of information about future places or events before they occur.
  • Clairvoyance: Obtaining information about places or events at remote locations, by means unknown to current science.
  • Psychokinesis: The ability of the mind to influence matter, time, space, or energy by means unknown to current science.
  • Near death experiences: An experience reported by a person who nearly died, or who experienced clinical death and then revived.
  • Reincarnation: The rebirth of a soul or other non-physical aspect of human consciousness in a new physical body after death.
  • Apparitional experience: Phenomena often attributed to ghosts and encountered in places a deceased individual is thought to have frequented, or in association with the person’s former belongings.paranormal psychology