In my friend Ronni Thomas's latest short documentary, meet parapsychologist Dr. Stanley Krippner, who in the 1960s ran the sleep lab at Brooklyn's Maimonides Hospital where he tested whether sleeping subjects could experience a form of dream telepathy.
Krippner is loved by paranormal researchers, believers, and skeptics alike. He's been honored with lifetime achievement awards from the mainstream American Psychological Association yet ESP researcher Charles Tart says "Stan belongs on the Mount Rushmore of parapsychology. Krippner famously conducted experiments with Timothy Leary and the Grateful Dead. In fact, in 1971, he enlisted the help of the Dead's audience in trying to mentally transmit an image to a sleeping psychic 45 miles away. Irvin Child, the late former chair of Yale's psychology department, wrote in the American Psychologist journal that he believed "many psychologists would, like myself, consider the ESP hypothesis to merit serious consideration and continued research if they read the Maimonides reports for themselves." Krippner's career is mind-bendingly weird and amazing.
"Transmitting Thought: The Maimonides Dream Lab: A New Film by Ronni Thomas for Morbid Anatomy Museum Presents!"
Over at Scientific American, a fascinating, civil, and open-minded conversation between psi-doubter John Horgan and psi-researcher Rupert Sheldrake about morphic fields, psychic dogs, and other high weirdness.
The Ganzfeld effect is a kind of sensory deprivation caused not by cutting off stimulation like in an isolation tank by rather delivering unstructured stimulation like a total wash of unchanging color or white noise. (The word "ganzfeld" comes from the German for "complete field.") Starting in the 1930s, psychologists have studied how the Ganzfeld effect can trigger hallucination. It's also been used to interesting effect in art, like in James Turrell's light installations. For decade, parapsychologists have also tapped into the Ganzfeld effect to test for ESP. Riffing on that high weirdness (and its connection to art), the avant-electronica duo Matmos have released The Ganzfeld EP. From the album page:
"Instead of sending and receiving simple graphic patterns, test subjects were put into a state of sensory deprivation by covering their eyes and listening to white noise on headphones, and then Matmos member Drew Daniel attempted to transmit “the concept of the new Matmos record” directly into their minds. During videotaped psychic experiments conducted at home in Baltimore and at Oxford University, test subjects were asked to describe out loud anything they saw or heard within their minds as Drew attempted transmission. The resulting transcripts became a kind of score that was then used by Matmos to generate music. If a subject hummed something, that became a melody; passing visual images suggested arrangement ideas, instruments, or raw materials for a collage; if a subject described an action, then the band members had to act out that out and make music out of the noises generated in the process of the re-enactment."
Whether it was technology, telepathy, talent, or a combination of the three that brought these sounds to life, the result is as compelling as the concept. The Ganzfeld EP is available in various editions, including one that ships with Incase headphones and custom blinder goggles to continue the experiment on your own.
Matmos: The Ganzfeld EP (Amazon)
Matmos: The Ganzfeld EP (Thrill Jockey)