PSYCHOKINESIS - NOVEMBER, 1971
In her lab at City College, Gertrude Schmeidler immediately began designing the protocols and physical set-up for the thermistor experiments. The physical set-up was examined by a number of electrical, thermistor, and computer and affiliated scientists -- all of whom finally approved of everything.
It took a number of preliminary and "informal trials" to iron out all of the details, major among which was that I had difficulty in "psychically locating" the thermistors sealed inside the thermos bottles in order to "probe" them.
After the preliminary trials, there was to be a "rest period" for me, because Schmeidler had to write up the protocols and controls step-by-step -- and then to submit them to an advance peer review process so as to discover and correct any loop-holes in the integrity of the experiments.
After all, there is no use in doing a "controlled experiment" only to find the experiment invalid because of some missed flaw.
Additionally, the sealed thermistors had to run by themselves for a long time so as to establish their base lines and ensure that no other errant temperatures were affecting them.
This involved miles of graph paper and computer analysis of the temperatures inside the thermistors to determine that they were working properly.
Meanwhile, I began responding to an invitation of Dr. Karlis Osis to become a test subject at The American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) -- which I'll begin narrating in the next chapter.
Also meanwhile, the gossip lines were running hot and heavy, and various complex situations were building up.
For one thing, my emergence as a "psychic" seemed to mean in the minds of the public that I WAS one. Via Buell Mullen's circle and Zelda's, many requests for "readings" came in. Both Buell and Zelda first took it as a matter of course that I would give such readings, if only to buttress my vapid economic circumstances.
And here we run across the equation that if one is psychic then one is expected to do everything science fiction attributes to them, which is to "know everything."
Both Buell, Zelda and others were somewhat confused when I declined across the boards. I had no idea of how to give readings, and didn't want to, anyway. As I explained, most people only want to know how to make more money, find a mate, get laid, communicate with their departed, or be made to feel good about their circumstances and their hopes for their future.
And, indeed, these are the traditional, long-standing interests of most people -- even in antiquity where, as I already knew, the SAME questions were preponderantly asked of the oracles.
I have never given readings.
For another thing, parapsychologists themselves have a fair share of fixed ideas about what a psychic is, and certain rather opinionated confusions were emerging along these lines.
I found, for instance, that some parapsychologists who had never talked with me were venturing to introduce opinions about me into the gossip lines.
Although I thought I understood the basis for parapsychology, I now began to discover that I didn't completely understand PARAPSYCHOLOGISTS -- who, as a group, can demonstrate a range of behavior some of which is quite remarkable and mystifying.
I decided that I needed an experienced and knowledgeable mentor to help me out. Schmeidler, of course, was one such mentor.
But I also had met the insightful Dr. Jan Ehrenwald, a prominent American psychiatrist born in Hungary, who was also a recognized and highly gifted parapsychologist.
I had also met Mr. Martin Ebon, author of over thirty books on the paranormal. Ebon had also once been, for twelve years, the administrative assistant of the Parapsychology Foundation. He had the long opportunity to work with its founder, the very famous and formidable medium and psychic, Eileen Garrett -- who had passed away just before I "entered parapsychology."
Both Ehrenwald and Ebon knew everything about parapsychologists, their foibles, stupidities, sexual orientations, mistakes -- and their successes, giftedness, and history. Martin especially knew "where all the dead bodies were buried."
Then there was my wonderful Zelda. She really didn't know a whole lot about the technical aspects of parapsychology. But she knew practically everything about parapsychological personalities.
However, she never condemned any of them even in her own mind. "All of them," she used to say, "are just people." And if Zelda loved anything, it was "people."
So when I was flummoxed and wanted to comprehend what the hell was going on, I had four wonderful mentors to help me out this way or that. I figured that all of this LEARNING was part of diplomacy.
But were it not for my mentors, I think I would have been dead and buried almost from the start.
The world of parapsychology may be a small one compared to the enormous vistas of science proper.
But it is a microcosm of the larger scientific worlds, overfilled with matters of status, who's who, competition, backbiting and backstabbing -- and, as well, the thefts of discovery. And, it may as well be mentioned, concern and jealousy regarding who gets what money for which purpose.
There were to be much beauty and wonder ahead, of course, but a dizzying variety of ugliness as well.
Between the beauty and the ugliness were to exist all sorts of circumstances and situations -- many of which caused one to roll on the floor laughing. Such types of circumstances are even on-going today regarding remote-viewing.
Once Schmeidler's experiment protocols had been approved by her peer review processes, considered stringent, the formal thermistor sessions commenced in the lab at City College.
There were to be five formal sessions on separate days with me as the "subject," plus two post-sessions in which student volunteers tried to influence the thermistors.
All of the sessions were held in the City College laboratory. The Dynograph (the chart recorder) connected to a computer was placed where I could see the read-out -- to see if I was on-target or not as a form of feedback.
One of Schmeidler's colleagues, Larry Lewis, took charge of all of the apparatus, including the computers which stored and counted the temperature-fluctuation information. At first he was somewhat dubious that the experiment would produce anything -- but was soon blown away as I was also to be.
There were four target thermistors plus additional non-target ones, the latter placed in direct line with the target ones.
I was supposed to influence only the targets selected by Schmeidler. Some of the target thermistors were placed behind glass to see if it acted as a "psychic shield." All of the thermistors, whether target ones or not, were sealed inside thermos bottles.
During the second session, both I and Schmeidler moved into a separate room so that a wall intervened between me and the targets. Some of the target thermistors were then twenty-five feet away, some closer, the closest being the thermistor five feet away in its sealed thermos bottle.
Unknown to me, Schmeidler utilized preselected sequences which would follow the counterbalanced order ABBABAAB, which equated to her various verbal commands of rest, hot, rest, cold, rest, cold, cold, rest, hot, cold, etc.
All I had to do was to try to focus on the selected thermistor inside its thermos bottle, and try to do what SHE commanded and IN THE ORDER SHE DID.
As to the results.
Only the target thermistors were influenced, albeit sometimes weakly so, but majorly so in the preponderance of the trials. Glass, walls, nearness or farness from the targets made no difference.
In the abstract of her formal paper, Schmeidler phrased the success as: "Significant PK changes in continuous, automatic recordings of temperature were repeatedly produced." Embedded in the paper's text is presented the fact that the experiment was repeatable at the direction of the experimenter. [See PK EFFECTS UPON CONTINUOUSLY RECORDED TEMPERATURE published in THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH, Vol. 67, October 1973, No. 4.]
Drafts of her paper were almost immediately in circulation in December 1971, since the paper was widely circulated for peer review and Xerox copies of which were distributed by the peer reviewers in all sorts of directions.
And a tremendous ruckus now ensued, one which reached from the bowels of parapsycholgy to the guts of science proper -- and from those venerable, if murky, realms -- into the guts of the MEDIA!
The focus of the ruckus had not much to do with the experiment itself. What the focus was can best be explained as follows.
A confirmed example of controlled psychokinetic effects had been demonstrated by a subject in a laboratory. If he can trigger a thermistor could he not also trigger a nuclear bomb?
Schmeidler's experiment didn't come even close to implying any such thing, of course. But this hysterical wave grew, as one might imagine it would.
I began understanding the gist of all this when so-called "investigative reporters" from TIME, NEWSWEEK, LIFE and lesser media, etc., began trying to get me on the phone for interviews -- as was likewise the case regarding the delightful Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler.
Affecting a thermistor inside a thermos bottle was NOT news, of course, but the imaginative, sci-fi potentials of doing so were. Psychokinetic powers, if they existed, were dangerous!
And therein was the story which could be pumped and hyped.
And, of course, the extensive gossip lines from and back into Buell Mullen Central and Zelda Central were overheated and smoking and blowing things out of all proportion.
Thus, barely six months after "entering parapsychology," I discovered, and very much to my amazement, that introverted little me needed a PRESS POLICY -- of all things!
Now, it was not for nothing that I had worked in the Office of Public Information at the United Nations. I understood quite well what press policies AND THE PRESS were -- including their pitfalls.
I hastily consulted all my mentors by telephone and chewed over the situation with them. All of them felt that I should grant media interviews because Schmeidler's experiment was an important one, and all of them felt that Schmeidler herself should issue a press release.
In the end I decided to go against their advice -- and that MY press policy would be NEVER TO TALK WITH THE MEDIA, and certainly never with mainstream versions of it.
Having thus decided, I telephone Schmeidler and pointed out my greatest suspicion -- that mainstream science, academe, and media were very ill-disposed to anything positive about psi. Therefore, to attempt to cooperate-operate with the media probably would turn out to be nothing more than shooting oneself in one's own feet.
After all, when the venerable magazine, TIME, reported on anything parapsychological, they put the report in their long-standing and disgusting FRAUD BOX occasionally published within black borders meaning "death."
Even the very great parapsychological luminary, Dr. J. B. Rhine (and his wife) had found himself featured in the infamous Fraud Box.
I don't remember that Schmeidler was planning to issue a press release, but I do remember asking that no one should. There was only one place one would end up -- either in someone's fraud box or victimized by skeptical "hit men."
Everyone felt that I should work to do my part in convincing our psi-negative culture that psi did exist. Alas for that. I had researched how psi, etc., had been treated during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Herein is one of the very ugly stories of "our times."
Only two people fully and immediately approved of my decision --Bill and Vy Bennitt. All of the rest learned to live with it. And here, perhaps for the first time, some few recognized two factors which were to play significant roles in the future. That I had a mind of my own, and that I could be STUBBORN.
Zelda, however, long accustomed to media exposure because of her nudist camps, said that any publicity IS publicity. "Just make sure they spell your name right."
Zelda found the whole of this absolutely wonderful and exciting. Said she: "I've never met anyone who DID NOT WANT media attention."
One evening while we were eating and playing Scrabble, I giggled to her: "I'm gonna to make TIME get rid of its god damned FRAUD BOX."
Her eyes widened in astonishment. "Don't be silly. You can't do that. No one can."
"Well, we'll see."
Inflated Ego? Probably. (This particular little story will be continued in chapters ahead.)