Chapter 12


While I worked with Dr. Schmeidler on the thermistor experiments, I was also continuing to poke around with Cleve Backster in his lab.
We tested "psi probes" on gasses pressurized in small metal containers into which electrodes had been inserted. If the gasses were affected by the probes, then the atoms of the gasses might move in ways which were called "excited."
This kind of set-up is standard and familiar science. The use of excitable gasses in measuring devices is well understood.

For example, gasses are utilized in Geiger counters which measure radioactive waves. In this case, the gasses may be amyl acetate, ether or alcohol, etc. When the Geiger counter is in the presence of x-rays and gamma rays, those rays penetrate the tube containing the gas excite it. The electrode devices which within the tube measure the electron excitement of the gas.
Thus, the only unconventional aspect of our experiments was that "mind-rays" or something like them were being used to excite the gasses.

Cleve also suggested we move on to BIOLOGICALS. These first consisted of one-celled animals purchased from standard biological supply houses. Cleve also scraped up some biologicals from the bottoms of the urinals in his building which were seldom cleaned or sterilized.

Then, with a sense of rather high drama and daring, we moved on to testing the psi probes with regard to two very important biologicals -- human blood and seminal fluids.

Sometimes the experiments were NOT very successful. But at other times the probe effects were pronounced and undeniable. The frequency of the effects increased as I got "more psychically familiar" with the targets. Almost everything, though, showed some kind of electric potential shifts, but some of them were not repeatable.

I found that my own blood (harvested from a sterilized pin prick in my finger administered by myself) was VERY sensitive to my own projected probes and continuously reacted until the blood cells weakened and died.
If you think carefully now, you might realize the "psychic threat" potentials of this particular kind of phenomena. Cleve and his small circle of friends certainly did. We mused these over while eating junk food in the Times Square area.
If anyone knew what was going on in the world regarding things like this, Cleve certainly did because of his extensive network of contacts in law enforcement agencies and within the CIA.
"Well," he suddenly blurted out through a mouth stuffed with frankfurter, "you've just done something the Soviets have been working on for a long time."
I didn't quite make the connection and asked him to explain.
"The potential of invading someone's body by mind alone."

Seminal fluids, however, reacted in a very strange way. As we described, they seemed "too faint" if the probe was one of making it cold or making it hot. Which is to say, it seemed to lose its electric potential activity and the chart displayed a straight, or "dead" line.
This seemed to mean that psi probes would have impact on the vital nature of the spermatozoa within the seminal fluids.

I suggested to Cleve that no papers be provided regarding those experiments. "Not to worry," he replied.
However, all of this made for very good conversation at the Bennitt's dinner parties -- at which I was now sometimes the guest of honor -- and such also excited Buell Central and, above all, Zelda Central whose lines of gossip were always fascinated by anything even remotely having sexual implications.
Soon the gossip lines were aflame and blowing out all sorts of exciting information, sometimes ludicrous in nature.

At some point during these adventures, Dr. John Wingate thought that I should go to the American Society for Psychical Research and "get tested there."
Without thinking much about it, I now made a very important statement: "I don't get TESTED, I only work with researchers on well-designed experiments." And so the matter was dropped, or at least so I thought.

As it turned out, the ASPR did have a well-designed experiment, and Dr. Karlis Osis was busy setting it up and seeking volunteer subjects.
I said that I couldn't consider APPLYING to participate, that I worked only as a result of firm invitations to do so. After all, I was not job hunting.

In Early October, 1971, in consultation with other members on the ASPR, John took the initiative to have this invitation extended to me. He was a member of the ASPR board of Trustees, and without telling me anything about it, he had called up several other board members and discussed the "invitation."

Although I completely adored the two wonderful Wingates, I was not amused. The functionaries of the ASPR believed their Society to be traditionally important as the top of the parapsychology system.
On the other hand, other groups interested in psi phenomena felt differently. Buell Central considered the ASPR a stinking cesspool of intrigue, palace coups, vendettas, and other demoralizing whatnot. Even Zelda Central, typically condemning no one, somewhat agreed.

The American Society for Psychical Research, more briefly called the ASPR, was founded in 1885 largely by the efforts of the British physicist, Sir William Barrett (1844-1925), and one of America's foremost psychologists, William James (1842-1910).
The new Society was meant to be the American counterpart of the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR) founded in 1882.

Prior to the founding of those two Societies, psychical phenomena and other mysterious events were generally treated in two particular ways.
As it was put, people seemed to be in contact with "levels of reality beyond time and space." This was then believed either to be natural or was rejected without investigation. The latter option was the prevailing scientific one.
Although numerous efforts to research the phenomena had arisen, the whole was disorganized and often full of counterproductive conflicts with little in the way of organizing scientific standards.
The two Societies emerged to bring order, hopefully, and to try to find an organizing basis for investigating the phenomena.

This purpose, however lofty, was only the idealized basis -- and thereafter both Societies soon experienced various ups and downs, sometimes departing afar from the idealized basis.
My survey of the histories of the two Societies shows that all went well at first. The disruptions, when they came, were the result of who was to have power over whom, and for what reason.

John Wingate telephoned me to advise that the board members of the ASPR had agreed that I should be "invited" to take part in new experiments starting up at the ASPR.
The invitation was to be a firm one and that I therefore need not petition to be included in the experiments, nor did I need to strut my stuff beforehand.

I would also be given ample opportunity to study the experimental protocols in advance -- a thing very unlikely in many other experimental set ups where researchers prefer that the subject is kept completely in the dark about everything.
I would, Wingate said, be contacted by Dr. Karlis Osis, Director of Research (who, indeed, telephoned the next morning), and that he hoped I would see more of the merits of the Society.

When I marched into the ASPR sanctum, located on West Seventy-third Street just behind the famous Dakota apartments, I had no idea at all that I was also entering the first portal to international espionage.
Who could have thought it? I certainly didn't.
I had been at the ASPR many times earlier, to use its library which was quite good -- but not as good as the one at Eileen Garrett's Parapsychology Foundation then still on Fifty-seventh Street near the Plaza Hotel. Everyone at the ASPR seemed snobbish, but friendly and helpful at the Parapsychology Foundation.
I'd long decided that the ASPR was housed in the dumbest building conceivable for such an organization. It had once been an elegant townhouse, a residence.
It's rooms were inefficient regarding both the library and the research needs. And someone had painted the entry hall (most of the first floor) a mixture of Schiaparelli pink and white to cover the original darkness of the fine mahogany wall panels. The whole effect resembled the interior of a lady's rest room in several fine hotels in New York.

But the building had been a gift of Chester B. Carlson, the inventor of Xerox and that organization's CEO, who had also endowed the Society with a principal fund of $2 million.
The Carlson gifts had been bestowed largely by the efforts of Dr. Karlis Osis, the Director of Research -- who, nevertheless, was never to be a Board member, but only a paid employee.

I had earlier met Dr. Osis back in 1962 when the Society was yet in an apartment on upper Fifth Avenue, before the Carlson gifts.
At that time, Osis was interested in artists and if they also possessed some kind of psychic aptitudes. Somehow he had found out about me as an artist and had invited me in with a group of about fifteen other artists.
Artists, however, tend to articulate themselves through their works -- not through their words. And so the whole thing was something of a scramble to comprehend what anyone was saying.
Including the words of Osis -- who, born in Latvia in 1917, spoke a form of English which needed a translator standing by. None of the artists could understand most of what he said, including me. And few of the artists could understand each other -- and probably didn't want to, if you intimately know what artists are regarding each other.
I didn't go back to the next meeting, and heard that few did.

Now, nine years later in October of 1971, I stepped into the ASPR not merely and anonymously to use its library, but as an INVITED test subject, and, moreover, one with something of a track record.
This time no one was snobbish and everyone was agreeable and nice -- at least here at the start-up.

Something now needs to be interjected because it has a slight importance on the one hand and inspires a very great misunderstanding on the other.
The American Society for PSYCHICAL Research had long since abandoned interest in PSYCHICS, and certainly did not "test" them. Neither did it recommend or identify psychics. It did not hire as staff workers anyone known to be psychic. And, as we will see ahead, it forbade any psychic consulting on its premises, especially regarding its employees.
In effect, the Society had been converted into a parapsychological establishment -- but had retained the term "psychical" because of the long tradition of the Society and direct links to the eminent founders who WERE psychical researchers, not parapsychologists.
At some convenient point ahead, I'll work you through all of these subtle, but important distinctions.

One thing in my favor which might have aided my entry into the ASPR was my voluminous protests that I was NOT "a psychic." If anything, I was a consciousness researcher who sometimes had experienced "altered states of consciousness."

Osis had a great experiment going, indeed.
In a chamber on the third floor, actually one half of someone's former bedroom, was a tray suspended about two feet from the high ceiling. One needed a ladder to get up to it and place "targets" on the tray, completely out of sight from anyone on the floor of the room.
Just beneath the tray was a chair and a lot of wires (electrodes) leading through a small hole in the partition into the other side of the former bedroom.
This was the kingdom of Janet Lee Mitchell, then Osis's research assistant.
The electrode wires led into a Beckman Dynograph, a brainwave recorder.

The procedures and the goal of the experiment were thus. The subject was to sit in the chair and have the numerous electrodes attached to the scalp. A blood-pressure instrument was attached to one finger, and this, too, fed information into the Dynograph.
Hooked up this way, the subject had very little in the way of freedom of movement. He couldn't stand up, or all the leads would become disconnected. The head had to be kept still, or the muscle movements of the neck and head introduced artifacts into the brainwave recordings.

In this position, the subject was supposed to go out of body, float up the fourteen feet or so to the ceiling and then look down to discover what the concealed tray targets were.
After, or while, doing so the subject was to narrate the sightings into a tape recorder in Janet's kingdom but with the small microphone attached to some place near the mouth.
The decor of the room was bland, and of such ugliness that it wouldn't have served as suitable chamber in the most disgusting brothel in the world. The partition dividing the former bedroom also divided the former bedroom's window in half. That half was securely covered with a bilge-colored drape.

I suppose there are far uglier rooms in the world. But it was in this one that remote viewing began -- and whose beauteous wonders far exceed any rooms anywhere.

There were two basic ideas involved in the experiment: the perceptions of the subject and the brainwaves manifesting while the perceptions were taking place.
This was during the period when it was assumed that psi perceptions coincided with alpha brainwaves, alpha also being characteristic of a state of slight drowsiness and/or reverie -- such as during meditating, in daydreaming or in de-focused intellectual states. Alpha states occurred in both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and Janet monitored both of those hemispheres.
Rather, did so IF the Beckman Dynograph worked as it should. This piece of equipment, quite expensive back then, was very disposed to throwing snits.

I wanted to know how the results would be judged. The verbal transcripts of the subject would be compared to sketches of the targets by an independent judge. The judge was to be a conventional perceptual psychologist outside of the ASPR, who also would NOT know that out-of-body perceptions were the topic of the experiment.
The judge was to match the transcripts with the most likely target.

My only remaining question concerned how one was to know if the results were obtained by OOB perceptions, or by some kind of clairvoyance or telepathic contact with the mind of the person who had set up the targets.
This was to be accounted for because the subject in the out-of-body state was supposed to indicate whether the sighting was from the south, north, east or west. Sometimes certain aspects of the targets could be seen only from one of those direction.

The first sessions of the experiment would permit a lot of "trial runs" so that the subject could get used to the affair, and which would also permit Janet to accumulate a lot of baseline brainwave data.
Osis also hoped that I would participate in a number of other kinds of experiments.

I asked if the subject would have feedback immediately at the end of each session, so that a learning curve, if any, could be noted. Yes, that was possible -- although no one had thought about the possibility of a learning curve.

Here, by far and large within my knowledge of psychical research and parapsychology, was a simple, common-sense experiment -- and a rather brilliant one, all things considered. The OOBE hypothesis was a little weak, but what the hell.
My estimation of Osis rose quite considerably -- and ultimately I became a great admirer of his body of work, now largely forgotten.

My only reservation was that I did not have the least idea of how to float up to the ceiling. I was well aware of the famous OOB phenomena reported world-wide and since antiquity.
I had gotten all of the appropriate books, tried everything suggested in them, to little apparent avail. Although many, including some of Osis's other subjects, claimed they could "go OOB at will," evidence of this was quite slim.
Indeed, if anyone could go OOB at will, then the world would certainly be a different place, and psychic spying in the OOB state would have already been incorporated into you know where. In 1971, out-of-body experiencing had not yet been hysterically hyped as it was soon to be.
I told Osis that I believed OOB to consist only of spontaneous factors, and usually within some kind of unusual situation, and that I did not know how to do it.

Osis then invited me into his office upstairs. Once closeted there he waved aside all of my concerns. He then said the magic words.
The experiment would require many weeks to conduct, and if I agreed to work on other perceptual experiments my presence would be required at least two days a week, or more if circumstances warranted.
The ASPR would pay me $50 per day! Money! Yes! I'd try anything Osis wanted.

I promptly asked to try an experiment right then. After a scramble to get a target ready, and after the laborious procedure of getting glued to the electrodes, I tried to float up.
To my surprise, the first result was (almost) a very good match for the target.
This first result, however, was disposable because it was just a practice session.

Go Back