ESP Researchers


The Netherlands' Gerard Croiset (1909–1980) was claimed to be a gifted clairvoyant. Perhaps the most remarkable of the many experiments conducted with Croiset was an endless series of chair tests that had been devised for him by Professor Tenhaeff of the Dutch Society for Psychical Research. From the outset of the tests in October of 1947, the results were startling and Croiset repeated the experiment several hundred times in front of scientists in five European nations.

The test itself was conducted quite simply. Croiset was taken to a theater, an auditorium, or a meeting house, where a chair number was selected completely at random by a disinterested third party. Croiset then predicted, anywhere from one hour to 26 days, who would sit in the chair. The descriptions given by the paragnost (as such sensitives are called in Holland) were never vague and generalized but quite exact and astonishingly detailed. Often, not only was the individual's appearance described but also characteristics of his or her personality and even certain emotional difficulties that the subject may have been experiencing at the time. Sometimes Croiset saw the subject's past and was able to predict things about the person's future.

In June of 1964, Croiset was consulted in the murder case of the three Mississippi civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Via transatlantic telephone wire, Croiset accurately described the area where the three young men's bodies would be found and correctly implicated the local law enforcement officers as participants in the slayings. Although the FBI later made no formal acknowledgment of the clairvoyant's aid in the case, according to writer Jack Harrison Pollack, the federal agents actively sought information from the Utrecht sensitive.

Another famous Dutch clairvoyant, Peter Hurkos (1911–1988), manifested latent powers after he had suffered a fractured skull in June of 1943. After the Second World War (1939–45), Hurkos began to devote most of his time to psychic crime detection. In one of his first cases as a psychic sleuth working with police, Hurkos had only to hold the coat of a dead man to be able to describe the man's murderer in detail that included the assailant's eyeglasses, mustache, and wooden leg. When police admitted that they already had such a man in custody, Hurkos told them where the man had hidden the murder weapon.

Clairvoyants have been cooperating with law enforcement agencies for years, but usually in an unofficial capacity, the Dutch police being among the few official agencies who openly consult clairvoyants for assistance in crime detection. In the United States, England, and Canada, in spite of some astonishing results achieved with the help of such psychics as Irene F. Hughes, Dorothy Allison, and Bevy Jaegers, the official policy is to discuss such important cooperation only in "off the record" interviews and unofficial statements.

In an attempt to determine the amount of clairvoyance the hypnotic state might produce, extensive laboratory tests have been deliberately designed to allow the subject to achieve a hypnotic state amenable to manifestations of ESP. In one experiment Dr. Jarl Fahler, a Finnish psychologist, had four subjects go through 360 runs of an ESP deck, performing half of them in a waking state, and the other half in a hypnotic state.

The results of this experiment showed scoring at chance level in the waking state with significantly higher scoring in the hypnotic state. The subjects did much better on the part of the experiment that tested clairvoyance than on the precognition portion.

Experiments combining clairvoyance and hypnosis go back for centuries. In 1849 the famous mathematician, Augustus de Morgan (1806–1871), wrote of his first experience with what came to be known as "traveling clairvoyance." The early mesmerists (hypnotists) carried out many experiments during which the subjects would be asked to "go somewhere" mentally and to describe what they saw. In the particular experiment of which de Morgan wrote, the mathematician told of dining at a friend's house that was about a mile from his own. De Morgan's wife was not present, having remained at home to treat a young epileptic girl with mesmeric therapy. When de Morgan returned to his home, his wife greeted him with the words: "We have been after you." While in a hypnotic trance the girl—whose clairvoyant abilities had been demonstrated on numerous previous occasions—had been instructed to "follow Mr. de Morgan."

When the girl's mother had heard the name of the street on which the mathematician could be located, she told Mrs. de Morgan that her daughter could never find her way there, for she had never been so far away from home. But in a moment, the girl announced that she stood before the house. Mrs. de Morgan told her that she should knock at the door and go in. The hypnotized clairvoyant answered by saying that she could not knock at the door until she had entered the gate. Mrs. de Morgan was puzzled at this, and it was only upon Mr. de Morgan's return that the mystery was explained. Having never been to this particular friend's house, Mrs. de Morgan was not aware of the fact that the house stood in a garden and that the front door was reached only after one had entered at the garden gate. But the hypnotist bade her subject to simulate entering the house and continue in her pursuit of Mr. de Morgan.

The girl said that she was inside the house and could hear voices upstairs. She "walked" up the stairs and gave a detailed description of the people assembled, the furniture, objects, pictures in the room, and the colors of the drapes and curtains. De Morgan, admittedly awed by the clairvoyantly gained information, verified that each detail was precise and exact. He was even more astonished when the girl repeated the conversations she had overheard and described the dinner menu.

Dr. Milan Ryzl, a Czechoslovakian chemist and physicist who became interested in the field of parapsychology in the 1960s, developed the working hypothesis that if a hypnotic trance could produce the proper level of consciousness for manifestation of ESP, then these extrasensory abilities could be not only induced hypnotically but eventually brought forth spontaneously by the subject without the aid of hypnosis. Ryzl's experiments involved three major phases: 1) achievement of the proper level of consciousness through hypnosis; 2) perfecting the manifested ESP by a long and intense training period; 3) self-induction by the subject for the state of consciousness receptive to psi manifestation, with encouragement for the subject to use his other ESP faculties independently of the experimenter who trained him or her.

Ryzl originated his experiment with 463 subjects, mostly university student-volunteers between the ages of 16 and 30. Out of this large group only three individuals had sufficient patience and diligence to complete the extensive training period with any degree of proficiency. The parapsychologist's most talented subject was Pavel Stepanek, a man who came to Ryzl's laboratory at the age of 30 and who had the tenacity to stay with the program for three years.

When he began the experiment, Stepanek demonstrated no extrasensory abilities and was evaluated as psychologically normal. Stepanek was given a standard test throughout the experiment. He was asked to tell whether the green or the white side of a two-color card was facing up. Under these conditions a chance score would have been 50 percent.

To test the repeatability of Stepanek's above-chance scoring and to confirm to visiting researchers that the subject was free from any dependency on Ryzl, the testing procedure involved three phases. In the first, or control, phase of the experiment, Ryzl handled the proceedings with the visitors observing. In the second phase, Ryzl was present to stimulate the subject with the procedure in the hands of the guests. The third phase was conducted entirely by the visitors, with Ryzl in no way present or participating.

In the actual procedure of the experiment, Pavel Stepanek was to ascertain the color of the face-up card from a series of ten two-color cards completely enclosed in opaque covers. As the experiment progressed, even more precautions were taken. The cards were shut up in packs of opaque cardboard and wrapped in layers of blue wrapping paper. Enclosed in the pack was a strip of sensitive photographic film, which was examined after each test for further assurance that the deck had not been opened.

In an adjoining room Mrs. Ryzl prepared the cards, determining their order by astronomical data available for the day of the experiment. She handed the cards to Ryzl, then sat in a corner of the room. Ryzl and Stepanek were separated by an opaque screen through which there was no possibility of seeing the cards or the envelopes.

The first test of 200 sets was run, giving a total of 2,000 individual cards. For this test Stepanek performed under hypnosis, not having achieved a high enough degree of proficiency to function without it. He scored 1,144 hits and 856 misses. In all successive tests the subject brought himself to the level of consciousness in which ESP manifests.

Several parapsychologists began accepting Ryzl's invitation to come to Prague to take part in the experiments. Among those who came were British psychologist John Beloff, American parapsychologist John Freeman, Indian parapsychologist B. K. Kanthamni, and American parapsychologist J. G. Pratt. Each of these men suggested variations of the test; and from these variations, additional observations were devised for the steadily growing body of research. Stepanek consistently scored above chance.

At one point, however, his abilities did begin to deteriorate. To help him regain his ability, Ryzl gave Stepanek a deck and told him to go home and try to rebuild his psychic powers himself. Ryzl suggested that he return when he once more felt confidence in his abilities.

This Stepanek did, and eventually he returned to the lab, stating that he once more felt assured of successful high scoring. The tests were resumed and Stepanek immediately regained his former high level of accuracy. Ryzl interpreted Stepanek's ability to retrain his ESP ability by himself, without any outside help, as indicative of the fact that the subject exerted at least some conscious control over his extrasensory process.

In a review of the total experiment, Ryzl concluded that there had been a number of obstacles to be overcome. The first of these obstacles occurred during the initial phase of the experiment, when the subject was first brought to a hypnotic trance corresponding to the proper level of consciousness in which ESP manifests. At this stage the subject was in an extremely suggestible state. Unfortunately, the maintenance of such a state requires the suspension of critical thinking. Without this discriminatory aid the subject makes mistakes, as he or she is unable to determine the difference between true impressions and other sensory impressions. To overcome this difficulty, Ryzl juggled the different levels of hypnosis. Thus, while the subject was in deep sleep, he was more receptive to extrasensory impressions, and while in the lighter stages, he could use his critical faculties and memory. In this way the subject was able to progress by correcting his own mistakes and by learning to rely upon, and trust, his own judgment.

An interesting difficulty that arose concerned the resistant aspect of psychic impressions. Psi impressions do not seem to occur in the same set patterns and symbology as do sensory impressions. Extrasensory perceptions are usually perceived subjectively and manifest most frequently through the physical senses as hallucinatory experiences. This means that a color may manifest itself as a texture, sound, or temperature.

Ryzl learned that one of the difficulties in testing for ESP lies in the fact that psychically received impressions, manifesting as false sensory hallucinations, are frequently indistinguishable from conventional hypnotic hallucinations. ESP subjects must double their energy for they must constantly be assessing their impressions against what they know to be reality.

In addition to tests for clairvoyance and other manifestations of ESP conducted under hypnosis, numerous experiments have been conducted with the subjects under the influence of various psychotropic or psychedelic drugs. In 1966 R. E. L. Masters, a psychologist, and Jean Houston, a philosopher, were running LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin experiments at the Foundation for Mind Research. While engaged in this study, a number of subjects reported instances of telepathy and clairvoyance. These consistent reports were responsible for Houston's and Masters' inauguration of a specific ESP experiment. Their goal was to elicit extrasensory impressions during the psychedelic sessions.

The original setup of the experiment required 27 subjects to run through a Zener ESP deck (five cards for each of the symbols circle, square, cross, wavy line, star) ten times. The cards were reshuffled after each run of 25. This procedure proved boring to the subjects, who were more interested in following the subjective impressions being triggered in their minds by the drug. The majority of the subjects, 23 of the 27, scored consistently at chance or below-chance levels. They averaged a score of 3.5, which is below chance. The other four subjects averaged a score of 8.5—considerably above chance—and were personal friends of the guide. They were cooperative throughout the test, providing additional indication that attitude influences psi performances.

Masters and Houston learned from this experience to make their tests more compatible to the psychedelic state. The testing further revealed that a subject was more likely to manifest ESP during the leveling-off segment of his "trip" than during the core of the experience. The attention span was much greater and more easily motivated toward taking part in the experiment.

On the basis of these developments, Masters and Houston designed a test utilizing 10 emotionally charged images of historic or aesthetic content in place of the ESP cards. These pictures attempted to trigger the subjective, visual impressions a subject would receive while in the drug state. The agent opened the envelopes containing the target images in an adjoining room. In the room containing the subjects, an assistant attempted to elicit verbal responses from the 62 individuals who had volunteered for the test. Of the 62, 48 described approximate images at least two times out of 10. Of the 62, only 14 were unable to give descriptions corresponding to at least two of the images, and these poor performers were either unknown to the experimenter, anxiety-ridden, or "primarily interested in eliciting personal psychological material." The full results of this experiment were published in 1966 by Masters and Houston in their The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience.

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