In 1960, parapsychologist Anthony Donald Cornell donned a bed sheet and attempted to scare an audience watching an X-rated film in a movie theater. Why? Cornell, a believer in ghosts himself, wanted to understand how people reacted during "apparitional experiences." Today at the BBC, University of Oxford experimental psychologist Matthew Tompkins explores Cornell's strange experiments and considers how his methods may have contributed to the study of "inattentional blindness." Indeed, the ghost in the movie theater experiment is not unlike Daniel Simons and Christopher Chablis's classic "Selective Attention Test" from 1999. If you're not aware of that experiment, the video below is a must-see. From the BBC:
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For Cornell, the experiment was another failure. None of the audience reported anything remotely paranormal. Many saw nothing unusual at all: 46% of the respondents had failed to notice the Experimental Apparition when Cornell first passed in front of the screen, and 32% remained completely unaware of it. Even the projectionist, whose job was to watch for anything unusual, reported that he had completely failed to notice the apparition. Those that did see ’something’ were not particularly accurate in their descriptions....
For me, these failures to see are by far the most exciting part of the experimental series. The pleasure of reading Cornell’s original reports, which were published in 1959 and 1960 in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, is that he writes in matter-of-fact academic prose. He dutifully reports numbers and exact quotes from participants, and walks the reader through the details of his experimental designs without a glimmer of apparent irony.
Last week, a motorcyclist tragically died on a highway near Stanton, Kentucky. A fellow nearby, Saul Vazquez, snapped a photo of the scene from his truck and was surprised to see what appears to be an apparition floating above the deceased. Vazquez posted the image on Facebook but when reached by Lex18 news reporters would only say that "the photo has not been altered."
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Brandon Hodge has a world-class collection of ouija board planchettes and other devices for talking with the dead. My favorite Fortean filmmaker Ronni Thomas shot this mini-documentary about Hodge and his magical museum. (Morbid Anatomy Presents)
And below, my favorite Ouija Board scene from a movie, "The Exorcist" (1973). Captain Howdy!
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In the early 1990s, Harvard psychiatrist John Mack studied hundreds of people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens and wrote multiple books about his research. He invited Chris Carter to sit in on one of Mack's regression hypnosis session with a self-proclaimed abductee, an experience that Carter says informed his vision for the X-Files. Read the rest
Winona Ryder signed on as star of a forthcoming Netflix drama about the high weirdness, conspiracy theories, and paranormal reports around the Montauk Project, alleged US government experiments on Long Island involving time travel, psi-ops, and teleportation. Read the rest
Search "haunted" on eBay and you'll find a slew of junk that its owners claim is spooked in some way. Usually, that invisible something extra will significantly bump up the asking price. Read the rest
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!"
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Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, known for kidnapping hundreds of school girls, are fleeing their forest hideouts to escape "mystical bees" and "mysterious snakes" that are physical manifestations of the people they have killed. Read the rest
At The Awl, Matthew Phelan created something wonderful: the text to go with a fake cover article from The Atlantic, "The Politics Of The Next Dimension: Do Ghosts Have Civil Rights?", that appeared for barely a moment during a montage during 1984's Ghostbusters.
Until the beginning of the current fall semester—when Columbia University abruptly shuttered its psychology department's program in paranormal studies—Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz and Dr. Peter Venkman had been conducting research into extra-sensory perception and recurring manifestations of what they call vaporous apparitions and psychokinetic activity. "Psychics, ghosts, floating stuff, to the lay person. But to us it's way more technical," Dr. Venkman explains, half ignoring me as he rifles through the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet, then fixing me with a cold stare. "Stuff floats for a lot of different reasons."
It'd be neat if The Atlantic quietly slipped this into their archives. Read the rest
Bruce Sterling has written a new paranormal romance (!), Love is Strange, and in honor of its publication, many hands have been recruited to ask weighty questions of the wise fellow:
Cory Doctorow: Do you feel that the world is, on balance, improved by technology?
Well, if you ask that question from the point of view of almost anything in this world that's not a human being like you and me, the answer's almost certainly No. You might get a few Yea votes from the likes of albino rabbits and gene-spliced tobacco plants. Ask any living thing that's been around in the world since before the Greeks made up the word "technology," like say a bristlecone pine or a coral reef. You would hear an awful tale of woe.
Love is Strange
Bruce Sterling: The Complete Interview, 2013 « 40kBooks
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