The amazing reality of psychic phenomena




The objective phenomena of mediumship

While in the case of NDEs and non-ordinary states of consciousness we have dealt with psychic experiences of a purely subjective nature, mediumistic phenomena are a real puzzle for the interpretation of the reality of the physical world: in fact the ascertained objectivity of a good number of them, combined with the need to find a link between the experienced effects and the causes that can determine such effects, induces at least the suspicion (if not the certainty) that in particular circumstances the psyche can directly affect physical reality. Alternatively, we should hypothesize the existence of alien, intelligent and even personalized energies whose existence is usually out of our human sensory perception, but which can act, through our mind, on physical reality. In any case, the functioning of the human mind and the activation of particular psychic tunings play a crucial role, since mediumistic phenomena only occurs in certain circumstances in which a person with some unidentified yet indispensable mental requirements (called medium or psychic) must be involved.

The golden age of spiritism

In the second half of the nineteenth century, mediumistic phenomena were in great vogue. From the United States, where it originated in its modern form, spiritism had rapidly spread to Europe and South America. The mediums (in the vast majority more or less fraudulent) counted in thousands, and the so-called spiritualistic churches were hundreds, with a total number of believers estimated at over three millions. I do not intend to retrace here the history of the spiritualist movement, for a deepening of which a considerable amount of texts are available (some of which can be downloaded from the Library page) in addition to various websites. However, it may be useful – for the purposes of the research on human psyche – to present a selection of the most important mediumistic phenomena, as reported by scrupulous researchers, not easily inclined to be misled by the fascinating and supernatural features of the events being investigated. Then, in the section on psychical research, we will examine some aspects of the investigations, confrontation and debate that developed at the end of the nineteenth century and during the twentieth century among the researchers of these phenomena, regarding the interpretation of the causes that determined them.


The indispensable figures to get true mediumistic phenomena are the mediums: without them cannot be established the communicational channel with the paranormal dimension and so nothing extraordinary happens. The mediums themselves can be more or less gifted, and the ways in which the phenomena manifest vary significantly from one medium to another, and even at different times of the life of the same medium. In most cases, the mediums go in trance, entering into a state where the consciousness of the waking state fades away, to be replaced by a complete blackout or a dreamlike consciousness unrelated to what is happening during the séance. However, in the history of mediumship, there are not a few mediums that have participated in a watchful and active way to the sittings, as is well exemplified in some of these pages. The exit from trance and the return to ordinary state of consciousness may take some time and some precautions, and the literature reports several examples of physical events that involve the body of the medium during trance, such as noticeable weight loss, cataleptic state, wheezing or guttural breathing, decreased body temperature. However it does not seem that there are physical alterations worthy of importance in the mediums that do not fall into trance. Since trance mediums are not aware of what is happening during the séance, the only way they can get to know it is through testimonies, records and reports from other participants: this is the paradoxical condition for which the most important person for the occurrence of mediumistic phenomena is at the same time the one that is less consciously involved.

In most cases the mediums are classified in the incorporation category, because it is assumed that the communicating entities use the body of the medium to write (automatic writing) or to speak. In the case of automatic writing, the penmanship and the way in which the scripts are executed can be very different from those commonly used by the medium, and the voice communicating may have a tone, an emphasis and a pitch completely different from those of the medium, in some cases even outside the acoustic spectrum of the human voice. However, as it is understandable, the interest in the incorporation mediums lies almost exclusively in the content of the communications and not in the physical features of the phenomena. Very different is the case of direct writing or direct voice. In direct writing a script materializes without any of the present, and much less the medium, touching a writing tool (such as a pen, a pencil or a chalk), which is usually prepared for use but which can also be totally missing. Direct voice is a voice with precise personal characteristics (male or female, of a young or elderly person, hoarse or shrill, etc.), that comes from a point of space within the environment in which the sitting takes place, changing position more or less quickly in the three spatial dimensions (and therefore even in height). Direct voice may also change volume, and there are cases of multiple direct voices being heard simultaneously. For this rare phenomenon to occur, a particularly gifted medium is needed: the voices generally emit low audible whispers the first time they communicate, and then improve the quality of their speech with practice, so as to be able to speak with a normal volume, and in some cases very high, clearly audible to all those present.

Controls and entities

Spiritualists believe that some of the communicating entities play the role of guides or controls, helping other entities to manifest themselves, or acting as intermediaries and interpreters on behalf of those entities that are not able to communicate directly. Although being well aware of the fact that, speaking of entities or spirits as if they were objective and real personalities, I expose myself to the criticisms of those who attribute a predominantly psychic nature to all mediumistic phenomena (not to mention the host of skeptics who feel the need to deny in toto the possibility that such phenomena may happen), I can not find a way to express more effectively and adequately: in fact, in a classical mediumistic séance, everything happens as in a staging where characters introduce themselves declaring their identity, even if one can have more than one doubt about the seriousness and the reliability of the actors who play the roles. The examples reported in the pages in this section can better explain what I mean, as some cases are also considered and examined, that raise more than a doubt about the alleged identity of the spirits. However, from the point of view of the description of facts, the reference to entities living in another dimension seems suitable and relevant.

Apparitions and materializations

Among the most important physical effects that have occurred during the séances with particularly gifted mediums, may be included the apparitions of entities, sometimes full-bodied but more often with some clean-cut body parts or dresses, and others just sketchy. The theory that these apparitions may be due to a state of collective hallucination involving all the participants, aside from not being scientifically proven, is not sustainable in those cases where the apparitions are materialized, and therefore tangible, or when during the séances certain objects are formed or transferred (the so-called «apports»), whose existence persists in time even when the séance is over. Often the materialized entities are also able to talk with the presents. Among the hypotheses advanced to explain materializations, especially noteworthy is the one of so-called «ectoplasm», a substance whose nature remains elusive or ambiguous, which would be produced (or to be more precise extracted) from the body of the medium to be then molded by the entities to form the ghostly or materialized figures perceived by the spectators. The ectoplasm was visualized and even photographed during the formation phase, while leaking from the medium's body, giving rise to all sorts of elucubration about its nature, especially by the most skeptical researchers, always engaged in the effort to locate the fraudulent source of this amazing phenomenon. Another commonly occurring phenomenon is the levitation, both of very heavy objects (such as large solid wood tables or other furniture), and of persons, including the medium herself. Movements of furniture and objects can also occur, with more or less intense noisy effects, cold or chill air streams, well-perceived by the present, or the appearance of light effects, mostly in the form of floating globes.

Well-documented experiments

Experiments and controls of all kinds have been conducted on the mediums, sometimes reaching the limits of true torments. Among the researchers and the planners of the experiments there were not only those who, convinced of the reality of the investigated phenomena and their exceptional nature, wished to provide the culturally more evolved skeptics with an irrefutable evidence of the truth of what was happening under their eyes, but also the skeptics to the bitter end, never willing to stop in front of the evidence of a test passed and always ready to devise a new test that provided even tighter control conditions, until the poor medium, exhausted, did not end up throwing in the towel! Yet a minimum of study of the historical evolution of mediumistic phenomena is sufficient to understand how the psychic orientation of the participants in the sittings play an important role in relation to the extrication of the phenomena, since the energies and the psychic tunings used in our dimension are primarily those of the medium, and secondly those of the participants. Some of them said they felt empty or exhausted at the end of the séances, with a strong need to rest and recover their energies (as witnessed, among others, by Admiral Moore). It seems to me, therefore, not appropriate to apply to the investigations of mediumistic phenomena the same research criteria used in laboratory in relation to ordinary physical phenomena.

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Robert G. Bolton
Experiments & spirits
Harry Price's case
Samuel G. Soal
Gordon Davis case
The alien spirit
The end of an era?
A  new interest
A  medium's life story