The world of Ted Serios : "thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind

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The world of Ted Serios : "thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind

The world of Ted Serios : "thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind

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Stephen E Braude (b 1945) earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Oberlin College in 1967 and as an undergraduate spent time studying at the University of London University College. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1971. These initial experiments were done with an ordinary camera and film. He finally bought himself a Polaroid camera and started working day and night, occasionally getting “hits.” He continued these exhausting experiments for many months but came up empty in the treasure department. Braude began by studying the laboratory evidence for psi and laid out his findings in his first book, ESP and Psychokinesis, published in 1979. At that time, he still ‘accept[ed] uncritically the received view that laboratory evidence was inherently cleaner, and more respectable and reliable, than the non-experimental evidence’. 4 But this was soon to change. A few years later, he had been ‘bowled over’ by the historical evidence for macro-psychokinesis (PK), 5 and he became one of parapsychology’s staunchest advocates for the importance of spontaneous psi phenomena. In Immortal Remains, Braude finds the best evidence for survival to be certain highly impressive cases of mediumship and reincarnation/possession, so he understandably focuses his analysis on these. His discussion of mediumship centers on trance mediumship, and in particular the well-documented historical investigations of Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard. His discussion of reincarnation and possession ranges over several historical cases investigated by Ian Stevenson and others, including the Thompson-Gifford case investigated by James Hyslop in the early twentiethcentury. It should be noted, however, that in his 2021 BICS essay, Braude reports no longer being as enthusiastic about the evidence from apparent past-life memories, which he says is plagued by the ‘Problem of Investigative Intricacy’, among other issues. 38

In 1967, Denver psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud published an account of his detailed investigations of demonstrations of ‘thoughtography’ by Ted Serios. 27 Randi claimed on the Today morning television program that he could reproduce these feats by sleight-of-hand, and under the same conditions that Serios had been subjected to in controlled conditions. It is not clear whether Randi understood that this would have meant being strip searched, including a thorough examination of body orifices, then clad in a monkey suit and sealed in a steel-walled, lead-lined sound-proof chamber. Pressed to make good on his claim, Randi subsequently declined to be tested, as correspondence – suppressed by Randi at the time – now clearly shows ( see here). 28 Tina Resch Braude also discusses a relatively recent phenomenon involving organ transplants that appear to transmit memories and preferences from donor to recipient. Braude argues that transplant cases cannot be neatly categorized as either cases of reincarnation or possession, but his provisional recommendation is to view them as ‘supplementing the evidence for possession’. 39 Yet aside from their parapsychology interest, and disbelief, the photographs are also worth looking at for their connection to the history of 20th-century art and the unconscious having a proclaimed role.“One approach within the movement of Surrealism, was to try to produce imagery by tapping into the unconscious mind. Based on Ted’s description of how he was making the images, he was working in a similar vein; his imagery came from his unconscious mind or at least passed through it,” Hauver says. In any case, suspicion over the gismo persisted. Granted, it’s understandable how people only casually acquainted with the evidence might think that concern over the gismo is warranted. But much of the well-publicized criticism of Ted and the gismo betrayed either gross ignorance of the evidence or outright dishonesty in reporting. There are several reasons for cynicism here. First, Serios often produced multiple images in one experimental session (e.g., as many as fifty separate images during a series of sixty to eighty trials, or ten to twenty images in a shorter series of trials). So even if Ted had been concealing images in the gismo, he would have needed to replace those hidden images many times throughout the session while somehow avoiding the detection of observers who watched him closely. At any rate, the gismo was usually examined before, during, and after shooting, and no images or other devices were found inside.

Archives Processing Manual: Description (2015): The processing manual used in Special Collections for all descriptive platforms, including John Sladek. (1974). The New Apocrypha: A Guide to Strange Science and Occult Beliefs. Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0812817126 Ted said that when making thoughtographs, he didn’t see the image in his mind or his imagination prior to making the exposure,” Hauver says.“He said that it was more akin to him being a kind of portal through which this information or imagery simply passed.” Braude calls his observations of Katie – aka the ‘Gold Leaf Lady’ – his ‘most fascinating paranormal investigation’. 14 He first learned about Katie in 1987 and investigated her abilities from 1988-1990. Katie was reputed to have many intriguing psychic capacities, including the ability to channel quatrains from Nostradamus in medieval French, but Braude focused on her most unprecedented ability: the materialization of gold-colored foil directly on her skin, as well as sometimes on her clothing or nearby objects. This phenomenon was not under her conscious control and was frequently embarrassing to her as well as physically uncomfortable.

The hypnotist began a series of sessions with Serios in which Serios produced numerous pictures. This therapist suggested that Serios point the camera at himself, which became his standard procedure from that point on. More importantly, hypnosis lost its effect on Serios during this time and he could only produce pictures in his waking state. Randi, J. (1983b), The Project Alpha Experiment, Part two: Beyond the laboratory. Skeptical Inquirer 8/1. [Internet Archive version; scroll down.] Braude maintains that living-agent psi has to be considered as a possible explanation for even the most impressive cases of apparent survival, including those in which mediums, or those claiming to be reincarnated, speak a language they have not learned in any normal fashion ( xenoglossy) or play chess in the manner of a particular deceased grand master. 30 He points out that ‘prodigies and savants (and even ordinary people) can display abilities without undergoing a normal process of learning and practice, and (perhaps more important) in the absence of other skills and capacities that we would normally expect to occur alongside them’. 31 The term ‘thoughtography’ was introduced in 1910 by Tomokichi Fukurai, a Japanese psychology professor who encountered the phenomenon accidentally, while working with a clairvoyant. 1 He conducted some interesting experiments, but his work was severely criticized, and eventually he was forced to abandon his research and resign his university position. Although thoughtographic experiments continued in America and Europe, allegations of fraud eventually helped snuff out this form of research for several decades.Eisenbud, J. (1977). Paranormal photography. In Handbook of Parapsychology, ed. by B. Wolman, 414–32. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Eisenbud (1967; 1989). The later edition, among other differences, contains responses to critics of the first edition. An excellent brief survey of the case can be found in Pilkington (2006). Braude also emphasizes that the ‘complexity’ of a particular task may be irrelevant to how easy it is for an incarnate agent to perform psychically. According to what he terms the ‘magic wand’ hypothesis, psi may operate without any underlying process: it may proceed straight from the need or intent of the psi agent to the production of the desired result, with no intermediate steps, much the way that psychosomatic symptoms can be produced without a person’s having any idea of their underlying physiological nature. 32 Thus incarnate agents could produce phenomena simulating survival merely by virtue of wishing for it, and without any effort, conscious or otherwise.

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