by Marinus Jan Marijs
The Pauli effect is a term referring to the apparently mysterious ‘anecdotal’ failure of technical equipment in the presence of certain people. The term was coined using the name of the Austrian theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli. many theorists have earned a reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment. Pauli was exceptional in this regard: it was said that he was such a good theorist that any experiments would self-destruct simply because he was in the vicinity. For fear of the Pauli effect, the experimental physicist Otto Stern banned Pauli from his laboratory in Hamburg despite their friendship.
An incident occurred in the physics laboratory at the University of Göttingen. An expensive measuring device, for no apparent reason, suddenly stopped working, although Pauli was in fact absent. James Franck, the director of the institute reported the incident to his colleague Pauli in Zürich with the humorous remark that at least this time Pauli was innocent. However, it turned out that Pauli on a railway journey to Copenhagen switched trains in Göttingen rail station about the time of failure. The incident is reported in George Gamow’s book, Thirty Years That Shook Physics, where it is also claimed the more talented the theoretical physicist, the stronger the effect.
The Pauli effect, if it were real, would be classified as a “macro-psychokinetic” phenomenon. Pauli was convinced that the effect named after him was real. As Pauli considered parapsychology worthy of serious investigation, this would fit with his thinking; to this end, Pauli corresponded with Hans Bender and Carl Jung on the concept of Synchronicity. In 1934, Pauli saw a failure of his car during a honeymoon tour with his second wife as proof of a real Pauli effect since it occurred without an obvious external cause. In February 1950, when he was at Princeton University, the cyclotron burnt, and he asked himself if this mischief belonged to such a Pauli effect, named after him. The Pauli effect at the foundation of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zürich 1948, caused Pauli to write his article “Background-Physics”, in which he tries to find complementary relationships between physics and depth psychology. (Wikipedia)
The belief in macro-psychokinetic effects is rejected by many people as primitive magical thinking. However here we find a number of theoretical physicists that claimed to have observed these effects, among them was Otto Stern who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1943 “for his contribution to the development of the molecular ray method and his discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton”, and Wolfgang Pauli who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 “for the discovery of the Exclusion Principle, also called the Pauli Principle”. Both where eminent physicists, and capable of much more than primitive magical thinking.
The poltergeist, which means noisy spirit, suggests that there is an external influence, an diseased entity, that generates all kinds of telekinetic phenomena. Throughout the centuries there have been hundreds of reported cases of this kind but many of them where anecdotal. It is hard to evaluate these reports who don’t meet the standard of evidence. And in most of the cases there is a natural or psychological explanation or even fraud.
However there are some cases which have been seriously investigated under controlled circumstances by competent investigators. As the phenomena are generally recurrent, an investigation that meets a high standard of evidence is possible. The centre of the occurrences is usually a living person, an adolescent.
One of the best investigated cases was the Rosenheim case. During 1967 and 1968, in the small West German town of Rosenheim some seemingly telekinetic phenomena took place at the office of a reputable and prominent lawyer. There were persisting and unexplainable telephone calls and random detonation of main fuses. The lawyer suspected sabotage or disturbance in the power supply to the building. The post office and power station maintenance staff were called in to look in to the problem. They brought in monitoring equipment, automatic counters and an emergency power unit. The engineers saw that the monitoring equipment registered large and inexplicable power transients, while the post office equipment registered impossible high frequencies for the number of calls to the local speaking clock service. Parapsychologist professor Hans Bender and two physicists from the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics in Munich were called in. They brought in their monitoring equipment and Bender installed cameras and recorders. It became clear that the seemingly telekinetic events only occurred when a 19 year old girl was in the building. In her proximity, lamps hanging from the ceiling would start to swing, with increasing force. Bender was able to get this on film, and checked meticulously for trickery like hidden wires. The two physicists found the same strange electrical surges as the power station workers and the post office people. They checked thoroughly for normal mechanisms for the interferences that were detected by their equipment, but couldn’t find one. Next to this instrumental registration there were 40 witnesses interrogated by the police. It is clear that the telekinetic phenomena were not generated by some “geist” but by the subconsciousness of the adolescent girl. But most remarkable was the impossible high frequencies for the number of calls to the local speaking clock service, by the subconsciousness with extreme accuracy and speed by someone who was completely unaware of it. The purposiveness of this unconscious process is very remarkable.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Rosenheim Poltergeist
The case of the Rosenheim Poltergeist is that of reports of a poltergeist haunting in Rosenheim in southern Bavaria (Germany) in the later 1960s. Equipment in the office of the lawyer Sigmund Adam allegedly operated itself from summer 1967 to January 1968, which was investigated by local journalists, police, physicists, and engineers. The parapsychologist Hans Bender tied the events to the presence of the secretary Annemarie Schaberl. The phenomenon’s media coverage did little to settle allegations that the paranormal activity was faked, as no clear proof was offered either way.
Phenomena reported during the incidents
The lights in the office are reported to have turned themselves off and on again (i. e. under the influence of a power-input), telephones to have rung without anybody apparently calling (i. e. under the influence of a silent caller), photocopiers to have spilled their copier fluid, and desk drawers to have opened without being touched. Post clerks installed instruments that recorded numerous phone calls which were never made. Within five weeks the instruments recorded roughly 600 calls to the speaking clock (often more than six per minute) even though all the phones in the office were disabled and only Adam himself had the key required to enable them. In one 15-minute period the speaking clock had been called 46 times, sometimes at a rate that appeared impossible with the mechanical dialling system of 1967. In October 1967 all light bulbs went out with a huge bang. Pictures were filmed rotating around their hooks, this being regarded the first filming of a psychokinetic process under convincing control. Moreover, a heavy filing cabinet is reported to have been pushed across the floor by some invisible force, as well as paranormal noises are said to have been heard.
Traditional and paranormal investigations
The police, the electric company, and others tried to find an explanation for the events for weeks. The engineer Paul Brunner of the public services of Rosenheim made use of all his technical skill to isolate the bug. After all this didn’t bring a result, a team of scientists, including the renowned parapsychologist Hans Bender and the two Max Planck Institute physicists Friedbert Karger and Gerhard Zicha began investigating the case. After installing cameras and voice recorders they were able to discover that the events only took place when the 19-year-old Annemarie Schaberl, a recently employed secretary, was present. Bender was able to document on video how the lights immediately started to flicker once Ms. Schaberl entered the office. It was claimed that a lampshade would swing violently when she walked beneath it.
After questioning Ms. Schaberl, it was discovered that she had recently gone through a serious personal relationship trauma. It was also noted that Ms. Schaberl suffered from non-specific neuroses. Once she was sent on vacation the poltergeist activity stopped. Ms. Schaberl was dismissed from the company when the events began anew after she returned. There are no records of any further poltergeist activity since then.
The Rosenheim Poltergeist case has become an extremely contentious issue. While some claim that it proves the existence of paranormal phenomena, critics maintain it was set up and faked, or simply an attention-seeking prank developed by the emotionally disturbed Ms. Schaberl. There is also no evidence on video that matches the more extreme (and, therefore, paranormal) events said to have occurred. However the police officers present and others unconnected with the company, such as Karger and Zicha, did give official statements claiming to have witnessed unexplained object movements, and Annemarie Schaberl was never actually caught faking the phenomena.
The Rosenheim Poltergeist is counted among the cases of office spook, which have only unfolded later than the spook in manses, kitchens, and barns. The lawyer and London judge Lister Drummond († 1916) reports of quirky events in a London office in 1901, where utensils are said to have flown around on strange trajectories, a whole shiver of objects to have been poured out over some employees from the ceiling, and also penetrations to have occurred.
- Hans Bender 1968: Der Rosenheimer Spuk – ein Fall spontaner Psychokinese. In: Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie. Aurum, Freiburg im Breisgau, 11: p. 104-112
- Hans Bender 1969: New Developments in Poltergeist Research. In: Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association 6 : p. 81
- Hans Bender 1974: Modern Poltergeist Research – A Plea for an Unprejudiced Approach. In: New Directions in Parapsychology, ed. John Beloff, London
- Paul Brunner: Revisionsbericht Stadtwerke Rosenheim, Abteilung E-Werk, 21.12.1967
- John Fairley, Simon Welfare 1984: Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers. In: Noisy Spirits Chapter
- Friedbert Karger, Gerhard Zicha 1967: Physikalische Untersuchungen des Spukfalls in Rosenheim. In: Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie. Aurum, Freiburg im Breisgau