Chapter 15

Electromagnetic phenomena

On various occasions during our researches into metal-bending there have occurred paranormal phenomena which might be classified as ‘electromagnetic’. Electric currents or magnetic fields have been observed when so far as we know there was no normal cause for them. We shall describe these occurrences, and discuss distinctions between them and normal electromagnetic disturbances. The question must be posed: are these effects primary or are they secondary – that is to say, symptoms of a more significant physical phenomenon? If no such phenomenon is observed simultaneously, this does not necessarily mean that the electromagnetic phenomenon is primary; important additional phenomena may have taken place but escaped observation or measurement.

As an example of what I mean by primary and secondary phenomena, consider the case of a manually fractured spoon. In a normally produced fracture, the two pieces of metal take on opposing electric charges, just as do droplets of water subdivided in a spraying process. Yet it is clear that the manual action is the primary phenomenon and the electric charge a secondary phenomenon. If, on the other hand, a flash of lightning strikes the metal, causing it to melt and fracture, we would be correct in regarding the electric current as the primary phenomenon and the fracture as secondary.

We must also address ourselves to the problem of whether when we instrument what we believe to be a primary phenomenon, namely dynamic strain pulses, there may be paranormal electrical phenomena which become confused in the electrical circuitry with the strain data. We shall need to know just how common and just how large such paranormal effects can be.

As will be recalled from chapters 14 and 4, we do this in two ways. First, we substitute a dummy wire gauge or even a small stabiised resistor for one of the resistive strain gauges, re-balancing the bridge if necessary. We expose the dummy together with real gauges and await signals; but there have not been significant numbers. Any strain gauge signal recorded synchronously with a signal in the dummy channels must be discarded. Dummy channel signals usually indicate that the electrical screening is inadequate; the existence of the dummy is not normally known to the subject.

Second, we devise other instruments capable of showing whether the minute paranormal extension or bending pulses in a piece of metal do really exist; the optical lever method was described in chapter 4.
Quite early in these researches there took place some events which made me suspect strongly that I was recording paranormal electrical effects; on this occasion the subject was touching a piece of metal. It was an experiment conducted with Uri Geller in order to test whether he was able to produce paranormal effects on a Geiger counter. I described the session as follows in ‘My Geller Notebooks’,(39) a manuscript written directly afterwards.

We had originally planned that only myself, Bohm, O’Regan, Bastin, Nicola and Birkinshaw be present, but three other people were added to this number: Arthur Koestler, Jack Sarfatt, and a friend of Ted Bastin, by the name of Mr K.A. Appiah. Thus the fifteen foot by fifteen foot square room was a little crowded, although with discipline we managed to avoid too many difficulties. I had been fending off the press all day; we needed all the peace and quiet we could get. I arranged for the telephone to be disconnected lest it should disturb my observation of Geller. The short periods during which Geller would be available must not be wasted.

When Geller arrived after lunch we showed him the equipment we had set up, and he asked to make a start with the radiation monitor. This was a commercial instrument made by Messrs Mini-Instruments, consisting of a Geiger counter enclosed in a stainless steel sheath, and connected by cable to a control panel which registers the nuclear radiation pulses both on a ratemeter and as audible clicks on a loud-speaker. The counter is sensitive to gamma rays through the metal sheath, but for use with beta-radiation a part of the sheath could be slid open to allow the less penetrating radiation through.

Alpha, beta and gamma rays are emitted by radioactive sources when the nuclei of the atoms decay spontaneously. Although the average number of decays in a given time is well-known for each radio-active source, the precise moment at which each beta or gamma ray is emitted cannot be predicted from physical theory. It is a truly random event. Thus if these moments could be changed by mental concentration, and an unusually large number of beta or gamma rays counted, then we might have a clue to the understanding of this apparent randomness. Of course there are ways in which a Geiger counter might be activated normally — for example by concealing a radioactive source about one’s person. I used the Geiger counter itself to search Geller for such a source, and none was found.( * A press release made without my knowledge omitted this important fact. It is no difficult matter to detect a radioactive source, concealed about the person, by means of the radiation monitor. I can recall an occasion when a journalist purporting to be from Time Magazine visited my office and was shown the monitor, which was clicking away to random cosmic ray and other background counts. When he put his hand to it, a little burst of clicking was heard, and I immediately suspected that the journalist was trying to play a trick on me. But the burst could, of course, have been nothing more than a random increase in cosmic ray events, and I explained this patiently. The journalist, who later turned out to be a famous conjuror, half-heartedly claimed he was producing the effect himself, but I politely declined to comment, and he scuttled away in ignorance of my very strong suspicions of him.)

When there is no radioactive source near the Geiger counter, only a few counts are registered in each second; under our laboratory conditions, about one every two seconds. Most of this radiation reaches the earth from extra-terrestrial sources and is known as cosmic radiation. Thus the instrument records the time-variation of the background count-rate due to laboratory pollution and cosmic radiation. One must recognize that the weakness of the experiment lies in the fact that it is the actual instrument intended to be influenced by the psychic which is used to search for hidden radioactive sources.
The pulse counts from the control panel of the Geiger counter were taken to a Harwell 2000 series rate-meter whose output was chart-recorded (Figure 15.1). When the time constant is set at 1 second, pulse counts appear as small individual ‘noise’ peeks on the chart, provided that their rate is sufficiently slow. But when the count rate reaches, say, ten or a hundred per second, and remains there for several seconds, then much larger peaks appear on the chart, as is also shown in the Figure.

The correct operation of this system was checked by exposing the counter close to a radioactive source; readings of the order of 25 counts per second were recorded (Figure 15.1 a, Test pulse). Care was taken to check that in the absence of the source the background was not excessive, and that false pulses could not be produced by rough handling of the Geiger counter or its cable. Twenty minutes of constant background were followed by a test pulse from the radio-active source, then by a further ten minutes of constant background.

Figure 15.1 Chart-record of ratemeter output from Geiger counter held by Uri Geller. Key to schematic diagram: G. Geiger counter; L, loudspeaker; R. rate-meter; CR, chart-recorder. insulating parts of the Geiger counter are shown cross-hatched.
Test pulse obtained with beta source. Pulses a-k apparently paranormal; k is the large one witnessed only by A.K., Nick Nicola and myself. Part of the simultaneously running gaussmeter chart record is also shown, and two peaks in the milligauss range appear synchronous with ratemeter output pulses.
Then l handed the counter to Geller, who held it in both hands and tried to concentrate. We drew on the blackboard a picture of a mushroom cloud to help him to think of nuclear radiation. All the outward signs were that Geller was concentrating as hard as he could.

Within two minutes, two count rate pulses, one of about 25 counts per second, were recorded (Figure 15.1 a,b). Geller said that he felt some sort of shock, which l thought might have been electrical. But he did not see the chart-record at this stage; we made no attempt to use ‘biofeedback’, that is, to allow him to learn by watching the chart-recorder. I was attempting to watch both Geller and the chart-recorder. After sixteen minutes there was another pulse (c), and after a further five minutes a large pulse (d), during which Geller reported feeling a prickly sensation. We then allowed the apparatus to run without Geller holding the counter for a further ten minutes. There was only background radiation recorded, and the apparatus was switched off.

During the experiment the gaussmeter and its chart recorder had been kept running, with the probe fixed to a table about two feet away from Geller. Nick Nicola had been supervising the chart-record, but I did not watch it myself. There had been small movements in the gaussmeter chart-record, as there sometimes are when people do not keep quite still. But there were two larger pulses which Nicola told me corresponded exactly in time with the two count rate pulses (c) and (d).

I was already beginning to suspect that the origin of the Geiger counter pulses could be electrical rather than nuclear; we conducted further experiments on the following day. During a twenty-five minute session, four count rate pulses (e-h) were recorded, reaching maximum rates of about 10 per second. A second Geiger counter was also exposed, but it was not touched by Geller, and it did not register either audibly or visibly during these pulses. Only the counter which Geller actually held in his hands registered. A tape-record of the loudspeaker clicks from this counter was also made, and whilst there were clicks corresponding to the first two chart record pulses, there were very few corresponding to the last two. The effects on the Geiger counter were not quite those which bursts of nuclear radiation would have produced.

After twenty-five minutes all the witnesses except A.K. and myself were sent out of the room, and Geller was asked to make an extraordinary effort to produce a large pulse. Within three minutes he produced a count rate pulse (k) which was well off the scale of the chart, and may have been as high as 200 counts per second (Figure 15.1 b). What is interesting about this pulse was that it arrived before Geller intended it. The transcription of the audio-tape reads as follows:

Geller: I’m gonna shout! . . . All right . . . (knocking) . . . (deep
breath out) . . . I’m gonna count to ten and
Geller: on ten it’s gonna go, l,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9
Hasted: It’s going already. (Simultaneously)
Geller: ten!
A.K.: -um-ho . . . Did you see that? (both shouting)
Hasted: I saw nothing, but it was ten times harder than anything
we’ve had yet.
The peak on the chart-recorder started when I said, ‘It’s going already.’ No clicks were audible. The pen stayed off-scale until ‘Did you see that?’, when it returned to zero, and some clicks were audible. Geller felt some sort of shock, and Koestler also experienced a shock. They both were temporarily exhausted.
I verified that the Geiger counter was still operational, and was still proof against mechanical effects such as pulling the cable or knocking the counter. Everyone came back into the room and Geller relaxed. My conviction was growing that the pulses were electrical in origin, but I did not see how electrical pulses could have entered into the circuit. Next day I reaised that the shielding was incomplete; I tried the effect of short-circuiting a 90 volt battery along the screening case. Even though its window was closed, so that the case completely surrounded the counter, a count rate pulse was produced every time I passed current through the case.

A Geiger counter is essentially a metal cylinder with a fine wire mounted axially. It contains gas at a pressure of about 5 torr (about 1% of atmospheric pressure), and a steady voltage is maintained between wire and cylinder, just insufficient to cause spontaneous electrical breakdown. The entry of nuclear radiation is sufficient to trigger such breakdown by collisional ionization. The electrical energy of the breakdown is rapidly dissipated, but the counter produces an electrical pulse which is registered at a suitable amplifier. The counter quickly returns to pre-breakdown conditions and awaits the next pulse.

The Geiger counter circuit is shown in the insert to Figure 15.1. The cable connecting the counter to the electronics is screened, but the stainless steel Geiger counter screen is not connected to the screened cable; it is mounted on an insulating bush and is electrically floating. An electric transient in the screen will couple both inductively and capacitatively to the input of the sensitive amplifier and produce a pulse on the count rate record. Such transients are apparently what Geller was producing.

These electrical transients are more than a thousand times stronger than normal; typical potential differences that develop, for example between the left human wrist and the right, are several hundred microvolts, but they vary in time with heartbeat, breathing and muscular work. Local areas of skin hardly show any time-varying potentials; there is usually the equivalent of a high impedance separating these areas from the physiological conduction regions, which show time-varying potentials. But it follows that such a high impedance would protect the source, that is, the interior of the body, against shocks from surface effects. It therefore seems likely that the source of Geller’s potentials lies at the surface of the body.

Let us consider the possibility that the effects Geller produced on the Geiger counter were simply due to static electricity at the skin surface. Friction on very good electrical insulators produces a static charge which can sometimes be discharged, producing a spark. But it would have to be a powerful static charge to produce a potential on the stainless steel case sufficient to trigger a low impedance amplifier. Frictional production of static charge acts by the removal of surface electrons from the insulator or their addition to it. Nevertheless, Geller had no cloth to produce the friction, and he was squeezing rather than rubbing the Geiger counter case; he held it quite still in his hands. His feet were not moving on the carpet. Those of us who have tried in my laboratory to produce static on metal surfaces without friction have had no success. There must be some mechanism by which the charge was produced, and since normal subjects cannot produce it one can legitimately call it paranormal. There have been reports from the USSR of subjects who have been able to produce static charge without friction and use it to apply forces to objects without touching them. Geller’s Geiger counter pulses seem to have been phenomena of the same sort.

Just as the paranormal production of dislocations in the metal lattice results in metal-bending, so we might look for the origin of these electromagnetic phenomena in the local movements of charged particles; but there is at present no evidence to identify the carriers. Interference on video-tapes is sometimes encountered during recording of metal-bending and psychokinesis sessions. We have several times suspected that the origin of this may be paranormal. Following more recent experiments, described below, it does seem that the paranormal production of electric charge at a certain location might be a possible primary event.

These experiments came about almost by accident. In chapter 4 we noted that in no-touch strain gauge sessions precautions should be taken against touching. We therefore developed an electronic detector, similar to those in use in manual contact switches. lts circuit is shown in Figure 15.2. The metal specimens on which strain gauges were mounted were themselves connected to the input of the amplifier. A manual touch would produce a sharp signal, arising from a combination of body electrostatic charge, change of input impedance and, possibly, increased mains pickup. Note that the electrode impedance is to earth is low (typically 100-300 Ohms).

Figure 15.2 Circuit of detector for electrical effects
We conducted several sessions with Stephen North, but no touch signals were recorded at first. One evening David Robertson and I were watching closely, when suddenly a substantial signal was recorded; but it was clear to both of us that Stephen’s hand was about eight inches from the metal, and was quite stationary. There was no question of touch or of dynamic capacitative coupling of manual electrostatic charge during movement of the hand. We made no comment, but subsequent no-touch signals appeared, and one of these, which fluctuated in polarity, evoked a cry of ‘Ow’ from Stephen. He felt a sharp prick in his thumb, and I was able to squeeze a minuscule amount of blood from a tiny red mark. I can characterize the event only as a paranormal pin-prick, possibly related to the pricking sensations sometimes reported in hauntings, poltergeist cases and in the literature of witchcraft. One of the witches in Macbeth was supposed to cry: ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.’ We repeated this type of experiment several times, concentrating our interest on the question of whether the electrical pulses were synchronized with strain pulses or not. No consistent generalizations could be made; some were synchronous and some were unique to one or the other action; no variables that we changed seemed to make significant differences.
At this point l became aware of the early (1901) experiments(40) in France and elsewhere on the ability of physical mediums, particularly Eusapia Palladino and Stanislava Tomczyk, to discharge gold leaf electroscopes without touch. Physically, this is a more or less identical experiment to the one we had been attempting. The discharge occurred in jerks and the subject felt a tingling sensation. Langevin took part in these experiments, as well as other scientists such as Marie Curie and d’Arsonval. They agreed that the phenomenon was genuine, but could find no explanation, and they were particularly concerned with the question of whether atmospheric ionization was produced; they concluded that there was none. In more recent times, table-lifting experiments(41) also turned up some unexplained electrical signals.

If there were atmospheric ionization between the hand and the electrode (with a potential maintained on the electrode), then the passage of a current would be detectable by magnetic induction. We attempted such detection by interposing a 5-in.-diameter ferrite torus surrounding the direct hand-electrode line. The torus was wound with a caduceal coil connected to an amplifier, and the system was calibrated by applying a current pulse to a wire aligned along the hand-electrode line; such a pulse was recordable on the chart-record output of the amplifier.
In several sessions we obtained signals on the torus system, and sometimes these were synchronous with signals on the electrode system. We were beginning to believe that there was an atmospheric ionization path. Then it occurred to us that the secondary coil was electrically unscreened (although insulated); it might be that paranormal electrical charges were being induced directly on the secondary coil, which was in fact closer to Stephen North’s hand than was the electrode.

We then surrounded the secondary coil with a metal screen, constructed with insulation in such a way that the screen did not constitute a single turn around the torus. Immediately, the secondary coil signals ceased, although the electrode signals were unaffected. The conclusion had to be drawn that atmospheric ionization currents had not been detected; direct paranormal electrical charges on the visible secondary coil seemed to be an explanation. These could not be induced when the coil was inside a metal screen; instead, presumably, a charge would be induced on the screen itself. We abandoned experiments with the ferrite torus and continued with the electrode system alone. It seemed that both Stephen North and Julie Knowles spontaneously produced electrical charge, of either sign, at visible metal electrodes. We have not taken this work very far yet, but it appears to be interpretable as a paranormal ‘primary phenomenon’, comparable with the paranormal movement of atoms in metal crystal lattices or at grain boundaries. Sometimes both occur simultaneously. In our recent experiments, a screened room has been used.
In essentials our experiment on the placement of electric charge on an electrode remote from the body is the same as that conducted by physicist Hans Betz; in his experiments, well known in West Germany, the psychic demonstrated effects in a resistor which was exposed to him.

One caution is necessary to researchers intending to investigate the paranormal production of electric charge at low impedance electrodes. No movement of the hand close to the electrode should be permitted. Rapid movements can induce signals by capacitative coupling when the hand is electrically charged (e.g. from muscle contraction). Since the differences between the skin charges of different people can vary enormously, the psychic can appear to produce dynamic signals (synchronized with his movements), whereas the experimenter fails to do so. But when the hand is held motionless, dynamic signals cannot appear by normal mechanisms. The rapid movement of static charge along a motionless arm would have to be assumed, and this would appear to be a phenomenon itself to be classed as paranormal or at least inexplicable. The precautions against electrical interference to the equipment in the absence of the psychic subject must of course be stringent. As with dynamic strain experiments, many hours of quiet running are mandatory.

Our recent experiments with Stephen North on paranormal electric effects have unexpectedly implied that the primary action is the touchless placement of a burst of ionization in a very small region close to a metal electrode. The experiment is conducted with parallel plate electrodes, each connected individually to its own amplifier but with an applied (saw-tooth ramp) potential difference between them of 20V, which automatically changes sign every 11 seconds; the electric field is balanced with respect to earth. The polarities of the signals, typically of 0.1 sec duration, almost invariably follow the potentials; signals are sometimes obtained at both electrodes, sometimes at one only. This is consistent with the hypothesis that carriers of either sign are formed simultaneously, and are separated and drift to the electrodes in the applied field. The collection efficiency is reduced by diffusion and recombination processes; the variation of proportion of synchronized signals with inter-electrode distance is consistent with conventional particle swarm analysis.

Since electrodynamics and magnetic fields are inextricably coupled in physical theory, one cannot exclude the production of static or dynamic magnetic fields as a possible primary paranormal phenomenon. The magnetic fields produced in our laboratory by Geller would appear to have arisen from electric currents. The paranormal movements of ships’ compasses (chapter 20) seem to take place by some mechanism other than the production of magnetic field. Possibly the same arguments could be applied to the Stanford Research Institute experiments of Dr Puthoff on Geller in which a magnetometer within a super-conducting shield was perturbed. And finally, the paranormal wiping of magnetic memory tapes by Geller, which was reported by Dr Hawke of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, could be classified as a magnetization effect arising from structural change rather than as the production of an external magnetic field.

(It should be noted that since the publication of the book J.B. Hasted has published a paper in which he describes this phenomena in more detail. A 40 kHz 40 volt signal was applied to S. North capacitatively due to his proximity to a metal plate in the screened room. The signal was detected in bursts at a low impedance amplifier connected to a metal sensor. Synchronous bursts were detected from the ferrite torus with caduceal winding. The coil was screened with a metal cladding in two halves that did not form a complete loop around the ferrite. A phase sensitive detector connected to the winding picked up signals consistent with a conduction path from subject to metal target. Similar results could only be produced by an experimenter holding a resistor of about 100 K Ohms and passing the end through the toroidal detector to touch the target. The high frequency, low voltage, conduction rules out conventional atmospheric ionization and drift. [D. Robertson, OCR Editor])

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