Poltergeist experiences and teleportation
There is an extensive literature(49) which describes what are known as ‘poltergeist phenomena’. Psychic researchers have sifted through firsthand accounts, judging them by the same criteria as those applied to historical, anthropological and forensic source material. Other psychic researchers have themselves been fortunate enough to observe phenomena, and have written careful or less careful accounts. On this basis most scholars have concluded that many strange physical phenomena have really occurred at intervals throughout history. The thinking public is less inclined to be sceptical about these events than it is about other psychic phenomena; there is a sense of ‘it doesn’t happen to me, but all the same it seems to happen to some people.’
The modern technical term for physical poltergeist phenomena is RSPK (recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis). In a poltergeist ‘case’, objects sometimes spontaneously fly about the house, apparently in a random way, without discrimination. But it is seldom that anyone is hurt by them. Sometimes their paths of flight are unnaturally crooked, and often the objects are not seen to leave their normal positions; sometimes they just appear in the air and gently drop. Sometimes they arrive warm and sometimes they arrive with spin, or angular momentum. Sometimes they ‘appear’ in motion, their flight starting from a position different from their normal place. Sometimes the origin of the objects is unknown, as in the cases where showers of stones are reported.
Furniture, heavy and light, can move spontaneously about the room, tip over, and even levitate and crash down again on the floor. Sometimes these movements are observed, sometimes they happen when no one is in the room, for example, during the night. A typical poltergeist case will last only for a period of weeks or months. The spontaneity of the movements has led to the opinion that the phenomena are caused by a ‘ghost’. However, the more usually accepted view is that one or more of the personalities involved, usually children, are unconsciously ‘responsible’ for the phenomena, in that they are physically present when they occur. Such personalities have been called ‘epicenters’ (although this term is also used to describe the area of the house in which events most frequently happen). When the subject reaises that he or she is ‘responsible’, and is thereby the centre of attention, he often adds to the effects by normal physical means.
Rarer and stranger events, including many quasi-physical as opposed to physical phenomena, have been reported in poltergeist cases, but the above are the most usual and the most relevant to metal-bending. In this chapter I shall not attempt an accurate generaised description of poltergeist cases, but instead shall concentrate on certain personal observations which have relevance to metal-bending and to physics.
I have had to live with poltergeist phenomena on several occasions, and the experiences are not easily forgotten. I have kept notebook records of nearly a hundred ‘movements’ of objects which I witnessed. I have records of many more reported to me by other observers of English cases.
It happens that the particular type of event I have observed most frequently is the travelling of an object from one location to another in a most abnormal way. It might best be described as the disappearance of the object in its original position, and its re-appearance somewhere else. This is the phenomenon known, as I subsequently found, as ‘teleportation’. It is likely that this phenomenon is of physical similarity and relevance to metal-bending, and therefore I shall discuss it in detail; I introduce it by way of a description of the poltergeist phenomena (rather atypical) which I had the opportunity to observe in my own home.
In November 1974 my wife Lynn and I had been in our house in Surrey for only two years. Our ten-year-old son John Andrew was away at boarding school. One Saturday afternoon Uri Geller and two friends paid us a visit. l had already met Uri on several occasions and had observed his metal-bending. But Lynn had never spoken to Uri and had never seen anything bend. She was strongly sceptical, and had never had the slightest interest in psychic phenomena; until my first observations of Uri, neither had I.
Lynn served us drinks in the lounge, and our guests commented on the carvings displayed on the piano and bookshelves. Lynn took Uri into her kitchen to get him an apple while the others stayed in the lounge. A plan of the ground floor of the house is shown in Figure 18.1 to indicate just where they were standing in the kitchen (g,l). Lynn had started to tell Geller that she was entirely sceptical about metal-bending, and I was just entering the kitchen (h). I saw clearly a small object appear a few feet in the air and fall to the floor in front of the back door. It was about the size of the lid of our vacuum coffeepot, and at first I thought that this is what it was, and that pressure had blown it out. Geller turned round to face it, and we saw that what had appeared in the air and had fallen was a small Japanese marine ivory statuette of an old peasant. This had been in its normal place on the bookshelf in the lounge, as in Figure 18.1(b).
Figure 18.1 Ground-floor plan of the Hasted house showing positions of appearance and disappearance of objects. L, lounge; K, kitchen; U. utility room; D, dining room; H. hall; T. toilet; S. study; FD, front door; BD, back door; b, bookcase; c, cooker; e and f, windows from which observers watched striking clock; s, kitchen sink; t, kitchen table; h, l, and g, positions of Hasted, Lynn and Geller at moment of appearance of statuette in front of locked back door.
Objects whose changes of location are shown include clock key, dining room door key and turkey liver.
I was certain that the statuette had not been thrown; it would have described a trajectory instead of dropping more or less straight downwards. Any ball-game player is quick to react to trajectories, and should be able to judge where a ball has come from. This object is rather smaller than a cricket-ball, but not far from spherical. It was probably made in the nineteenth century. If the statuette had been thrown by Geller, it would have bounced into the corner instead of dropping downwards. Moreover Geller had his back to its landing-place, and his hands were in front of him, with an apple in one of them. I was certain that Lynn had no physical part in it. If the statuette had been thrown from the hall by one of Geller’s friends, it would have had to pass me, standing in the doorway; I was sure that it had not. The statuette could not have come in through the back door, which was locked from the inside; all the windows were closed, and according to my notebook no visitor had been into the kitchen before Lynn and Geller.
It is true that I might not have been prepared to describe this event as a disappearance followed by a reappearance if I had not heard of strange events having taken place when Geller visited American laboratories. But the sudden appearance of the statuette was such a clear-cut phenomenon that I had no alternative but to accept it, although I was puzzled and tried in my own mind to explain it away. Lynn’s reaction was shock; she also believed it to be an inexplicable event and was frightened.
We did not touch the statuette until it had been photographed. Lynn used her Polaroid camera, and obtained nothing but black pictures, which in itself could possibly have been a paranormal effect (chapter 24), since she operated the camera perfectly well the same evening; but other explanations might also fit.
While we were all standing around looking at the statuette, a second object appeared in the air and dropped. This time we all observed it, and it was clear to us all that it had not been thrown. It was the key of a Buhl clock which stands next to the statuette on the bookshelf in the lounge. Normally the key is hung on the clock, although, since the clock had had no pendulum for thirty years, it was never used. However, I recognized it easily, since it is unique and well proportioned. If the statuette and the key had passed in normal parabolic arcs from the lounge bookcase straight to their destination in the kitchen, the arcs would pass through the wall (see Figure 18.1). Perhaps there could have been more complicated curved paths, passing out of the lounge door into the hall, and thence through the kitchen door and across the kitchen. But the observers would have been very likely to see the object moving in such a path; in particular, I myself was standing in the kitchen doorway when the statuette reappeared, and if it had simply moved all the way in a normal trajectory it must have passed close to me. If the movement of the objects had been in a single normal trajectory, then the objects would have had to pass through a wall to get to the place at which they reappeared.
Lynn and I were to find in the subsequent weeks that objects apparently reappearing on the other side of solid walls was a common feature of these phenomena; sometimes the objects would have had to pass through the wall of a container or wrapping to appear where they did. Our observations continually reinforced the presumption that the events were not to be described as objects flying about, but as objects disappearing and reappearing. We might suppose that the ‘ability’ had been induced in Lynn.
Uri Geller was due to leave for Italy next morning, which was Sunday. On Monday Lynn watched Geller’s (recorded) television appearance during which the statuette and key events were briefly described by me. She invited her friend and neighbour Liz Dobson, who left at 3.30 pm, some time after the viewing. Then Lynn went upstairs to have a bath, and came down about 4 o’clock. She was alone in the house, and the outside doors were locked. Lynn is of a nervous disposition.
At once she saw that the key was not on the clock where it had been half an hour previously. She found it by the back door, almost exactly where it had fallen two days before. Furthermore the objects on the bookcase had been disturbed; the ivory statuette was on its side, and so was its neighbour, a little jade Buddha. A magnetic toy was not in its equilibrium condition but in its metastable condition, and a carved ivory ball was no longer on its stand.
Lynn telephoned my laboratory, and I told her that I would come home as soon as possible, but that she was to leave the key exactly where it had fallen (I measured it to be 8 1/2 in. away from the kitchen wall and 2 in. from the back door (Figure 18.1)).
At 4.30 she telephoned me again, this time more frightened. The Buhl clock had chimed three times, each time striking five, and now the hands were not at their previous position of 5.30, but at 6.10. She had not seen them move. Although the clock had no pendulum and had remained static for many years, there was apparently energy stored in the clockwork mainspring and in the striking spring.
I went home at once, and reassured Lynn; we had supper. At 8.15 Lynn went into the lounge and started to approach the clock. Immediately it chimed three times, five strikes the first time, but then four and then four again. I heard the first one from the kitchen, quickly came into the lounge and observed the two remaining chimes. The sound comes from a small bell, and is both clear and pleasant; between each strike there is an interval of about a second. Lynn was not in a state of mind in which she was likely to have been tampering with the clock mechanism. She remained frightened, and I reassured her by telling her that I would replace the key in its normal position, and that everything would be all right.
But when I reached the back door and stooped down to pick up the key, another chime of five strikes was heard. I returned to find Lynn still standing in the lounge but now even more disturbed. She claimed that she had not touched the clock, and I attempted without success to produce strikes by percussion, tilting, etc., and by unfastening the front glass and adjusting the hands in either direction. But it occurred to me that the chime might take place if I went to get the key again; and so it did; five strikes.
Lynn was standing in front of the clock, so I tried the identical experiment again, and it worked again. Lynn could not see what I was doing in the kitchen, but of course she knew that l was going to fetch the key, and could hear me walking through the kitchen. Lynn and I found we could produce paranormal clock chimes by this ritual for a period of more than eight weeks. The strikes were heard whenever we underwent the curious routine. We invited several groups of observers – from my own physics department, from the Society for Psychical Research and from the editorial staff of the science journal Nature – to see and hear the evidence. More than eighty separate chiming events were obtained, and, more important, this was a harmless channel into which the ‘poltergeist energies’ could be steered. Later, with the assistance of a horologist, I studied the clock mechanism in detail to see just how the chimes and hand movements could have been triggered; it could not have been done manually without fabricating a long wire tool. As long as the chimes continued, no objects flew round the house; but eventually, when I removed the clock for examination, teleportations and other phenomena started up again. I kept detailed notes, but I will describe only one further event out of about forty.
On 23 December, despite the disturbances, preparations for Christmas were going ahead. We had ordered a turkey from our butcher and, in addition, a second one which would be purchased from us and taken away by our friend David Jenkins. David was living on his own and was faced with the prospect of cooking Christmas dinner for his visiting relations. His local butcher was unsatisfactory, whereas we had every confidence that ours would offer a good bird.
He arrived to collect his turkey during the evening, but it was past 11 o’clock when we all went into the kitchen to present it to him. It was wrapped in a plastic bag and was resting on a tray on the bare white plastic table-top. Beside the turkey, on the tray and wrapped in another plastic bag fastened with wires, were the giblets, liver, etc.
Suddenly a brown object appeared on the table in front of us, and I thought for a moment that it might be a leaf that had floated in through a window. But it was in fact a turkey liver, and we checked that one was no longer in the sealed plastic bag with the giblets. It resembled the other turkey liver, which we found to be safely in its own bag in the larder.
Lynn had at that moment told David that he could make the giblets into soup. But what appeared were not the giblets but only their near neighbour, the liver.
There was no smear of blood on the white table, such as the liver would have made if it had moved along the surface. There had been no sound. And there seemed to us no normal explanation of how the event occurred. I did not keep the liver for pathological examination, but I did check with our butcher that it was actually a turkey liver.
This event was one of the most significant I had observed, since the liver in all reasonable certainty started from its situation inside the sealed plastic bag, and finished outside it. All three of us saw first of all an expanse of white table, and immediately afterwards a piece of liver on it. There were no holes in the plastic bag, although it was not vacuum-tight.
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