by Marinus Jan Marijs
With the arrival of photography a number of people came to ask themselves whether it was possible to photograph psychic influences. Inquiries in relation to psychic photography that had the purpose to photograph spirits go back to 1861. This field of enquiry however was full of fraud, the so called “spirit photography” was mainly based upon the double exposure of photographic emulsion to light. The frequent fraudulent behaviour of those who were active in the field made parapsychologists very reluctant to investigate it. In the nineteen sixties this changed with Ted Serios.
Ted claimed that he could ‘think’ images onto ordinary photographic film. A report:
One man Dr Jule Eisenbud was intrigued by Ted’s claim, and did fly to Chicago to conduct a series of experiments with him. Dr Eisenbud was a sceptic, and was convinced he was about to witness a hoax. Dr Eisenbud thought that by using Polaroid cameras, he could get results quickly, but also ensure that the resulting exposures could not have been tampered with before they entered the camera. When Dr Eisenbud pointed the camera at Ted Serios and pushed the shutter, what emerged was not a picture of a face, but the unmistakable lines and shapes of a tower. The tower was later identified as the distinctive Chicago Water Tower. Another ‘thoughtograph’ featured the image of a shop front in Chicago. The shop in question was, at the time named ‘The Old Wells Fargo Express Office’ but many years before had been known as ‘The Old Gold Store’ – Serios’ image was of the store in it’s past guise. Serios was also tasked with producing images of something from the distant past. What appeared was astounding; an apparent image of a Neanderthal man leaning over what looked like a fire. Future examination of the photo revealed that it bore a striking resemblance to an exhibit in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Initially, Serios produced his ‘thoughtographs’ using nothing but a Polaroid camera. Later on in the experiments however, Serios insisted on using a cylindrical device that he dubbed ‘The Gismo’. Some believed that Serios was using the ‘gismo’ to somehow project images using very small slides, but this does not explain his previous success without using the device. In a further experiment volunteers were asked to attend the experiment with a photograph sealed in a cardboard backed manila envelope. Ted was then tasked with reproducing the image with no prior knowledge.
One of his most notable successes was the image he produced of a hangar used by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. The image was conspicuous not just by it’s accuracy, but also by the characteristic misspelling of the word ‘Canadian’ – in Serios’ ‘thoughtograph’ the word was spelt incorrectly as ‘Cainadian’
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Several professional stage magicians have been asked to duplicate the results of Ted Serios his, but they said they didn’t see it possible. Although there are some unverified claims, there doesn’t seem to be a replication of the phenomenon under conditions similar to those imposed on Ted. The protocol used during the series of experiments with Ted has been clearly and meticulously written down, so any skilled stage magician can still give it a try.
If the mind can by produce images by telekinesis on a photographic emulsion, than this has a number of important philosophical consequences. One can for example think of the philosophical problem if the supernatural world is spatially extended, a question that occupied Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes. If the higher worlds are modulated by ideoplastism (shaped by mental concentration), then experiments described above could be relevant in this matter.