Darryll B.D. Walsh, President GPC

They are everywhere. You can’t turn on television or watch YouTube without seeing the latest video or hearing the newest recording from an abandoned asylum or lonely graveyard. And of course your family has its own favourite ghost story or two. If not, you probably live a stone’s throw from a stop on the local ghost tour or eat at a restaurant that plays up its unsavory past.

Polls differ slightly, but a strong minority believe in ghosts. That is up dramatically in the past decade, almost certainly as result of being bombarded by television and Internet sensationalism. And we want to believe. Sixty-one per cent of people believe in an afterlife. Still, after thousands of years and the utilization of cutting edge technology we still cannot definitively say what ghosts are.

The “proofs” offered on hundreds of websites all have normal, mundane explanations. Readings on many of the instruments dedicated to ghost hunting wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in other contexts. Yet, for all these proofs to be true evidence of ghosts would require a radical departure from the conception and behaviour of ghosts throughout history. Not to mention violate a plethora of known natural laws. But then we could console ourselves that they are the result of some unknown natural law. Are we fooling ourselves by chasing digital readouts from various pieces of mundane equipment instead of the one and only way to ascertain a ghost? If all the evidence for ghosts we can amass is just digital ones and twos, perhaps it isn’t too outrageous to wonder what happened to the ghost that used to be so widespread and unmistakable?

The nature of ghosts

The word ghost was coined in the late sixteenth century. It comes from the ancient Germanic term, gast, and is commonly believed to be the disembodied spirit of a deceased person. Though some foolishly think ghosts will disappear with more science teaching in schools, parapsychologists study two theories. The first is they are a disincarnate entity that once lived on earth in a human body. Others pursue the theory ghosts are internally generated hallucinations, ESP writ large. Whatever they may actually be, in one indisputable reality almost everyone needs to believe they are proof of an existence beyond death.

Depending on who you ask, the different types of ghosts vary from 3 to 5. For our purposes here there are three main types of manifestations that we call ghosts. The first is the aforementioned disembodied spirit of a deceased human or animal. It is self-aware and often appears at the time of death. In parapsychology they are referred to as Apparitions. The second type of ghost is often referred to as the “playback” type of ghost or Residual Haunting. They are a replay of past events, somehow imprinted upon the environment, and manifest themselves when certain conditions occur that we do not yet understand, though most would hazard a guess meteorology plays some part. Perhaps those old black and white movies with their raging storms and gliding ghosts along dark hallways were closer to the truth than they thought. Thus Anne Boleyn, the unlucky second wife of the worst king England ever had, Henry VIII, can be seen at various locations in the UK doing mundane, ordinary actions and seemingly unaware of the presence of witnesses. She is also seen being taken from the scaffold in the Tower of London, headless, and carried by four Footmen. Now, no one believes her spirit and that of the four Footmen have nothing better to do than reenact that sad phase of her tragic life repeatedly throughout time. Some believe these tragic events are somehow impressed upon the surrounding environment. But what about the mundane, ordinary, non tragic views of her?

The third type is the rare ghost of sensational television and publicity-seeking ghost/demon hunters. They are loud, dangerous and destructive. They are also always unseen. We know these spirits as poltergeists, German for “noisy spirit.” Nova Scotia has had two major poltergeist incidents and one, the Esther Cox or Amherst Mystery, is famous worldwide and featured in many books on the paranormal even though it pales in comparison to the Mary Ellen Spook Farm of Caledonia Mills. As with many things in the paranormal, good PR often trumps truth. Though most hauntings may be mistakes, most poltergeists are the result of purposeful fakery. But as with a small number of ghosts, there are some that challenge our beliefs.

Historical antecedents

Ghosts are mentioned in many ancient texts including the Bible. Matthew 14:25-27, Mark 6:48-50, and Luke 24:37:39 in the New Testament all refer to ghosts, but the most famous passage concerning a ghost is the one from I Samuel 28: 7-20 in which King Saul asks the Witch of Endor to conjure the ghost of Samuel, his former adviser. For this insolence, Saul is cut off from God’s favour for choosing to consult a spirit instead of trusting in God’s plan for him.

Historically, our belief in ghosts has remained constant, yet our interpretation of them and their corresponding behaviours, has changed. Ancient peoples believed the dead lived on in another form that required they be buried with many of their earthly belongings and some kind of sustenance to help them once they reached the other side. The most well known example of this, of course, is the burial rites of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

Also, many ancient cultures believed that improper funeral rites, lack of any kind of burial, accidental or malicious death where the body was not recovered, suicide or failure to resolve some unfinished business, would lead to a restless spirit. Often as a vampire in Eastern Europe. Folklore is full of stories of an unwary traveller who would be accosted by the ghost of someone who needed the assistance of the living. Often their body was not found or buried properly and thus this state of affairs must be rectified or they cannot rest. Owing money to someone was another reason for the restless dead. Often the required action or amount paid would seem insignificant to our modern eyes.


The appearance of restless spirits was rarely a welcome event. It often inspired intense fear, and sometimes still does. Though we enjoy ghost stories and welcome ghosts as a comforting reaffirmation of life after death, the actual experience of a haunting is another matter.

The dead are supposed to stay dead. This fear of wandering souls expresses itself in the modern phenomenon we call Halloween, which is based on the ancient Celtic celebration Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end’. Celebrating the harvesting of crops and marking the end of the Celtic year, Samhain also was a precautionary ritual to ward off the dead. They were thought to walk freely through the world during this time so the ancient Celts initiated the practice of wearing masks so as not to be recognizable by a spirit who may wish them harm. Fires in the hearth would be extinguished and people of the village and surrounding areas would walk to the top of a hill where a huge bonfire would be lit. Then people would light sticks from the bonfire and travel back to their homes to relight their hearths for another year. Since the dead would be attracted to the larger bonfire on the hill the Celts thought safe to relight the famil y hearth.

This ritual, along with the wearing of masks and costumes, would thwart the restless dead and keep the Celts safe. When Christianity became the dominant religion of the British Isles the church incorporated many pagan holidays into their calendar in an effort to make it easier for people to transfer their allegiance to the new religion. Instead of many Gods, now there was to be only one. Since Samhain was such a popular festival, it became All Saints Day or Hallowmas, November 1st. Thus the night before became All Hallows Eve (Halloween). And to seal the deal, November 2nd became All Soul’s Day. When the rituals of Samhaim persisted despite two special days dedicated to the dead, and the best efforts of local priests and bishops, Church teachings changed in an effort to link Samhain with demons and the devil. This was fairly successful to a degree in England, but elsewhere Samhain developed into Halloween and has flourished into the 21stCentury.

Ghosts in the Victorian Age

For as long as there is written history the ghost appeared as a full-bodied representation, solid and in full 3D. It would be very easy to mistake them as human beings, as some may have been, but most were accompanied by the rattling of chains or the sounds of groans and moans. The most famous depiction of this is in Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. On film there are delightful, fun depictions, or dark, brooding horror movie type renditions. The most famous are the 1951 Alistair Sim or 1984 George C. Scott versions that heavily reinforce the Victorian vision/belief of the classic ghost or haunting. The 2019 version with Guy Pierce is the most horrific in presentation, yet is also a fascinating character study any student of psychology would instantly enjoy. Victorians loved their ghosts and no Christmas was complete without ghost stories on Christmas Eve. This can be seen today on the various television channels with series having offbeat or paranormal themed specials at Christmas. Ghosts still cried out for absolution of sins or vengeance against perceived wrongs if you were unlucky enough to meet them on lonely roads or at a crossroads. 

Reality TV, the Modern Ghost, and Reality

The appearance and behaviours of ghosts in the modern age differ sharply from the classic ghost. Gone are the sounds of chains rattling in the night. No longer do the ghosts plead pitiably for redemption or wail loudly for revenge to unwary travellers. Today ghosts are mostly reported as a shadow, movement out of the corner of one’s eye, or simply felt as a presence. Not only has the ghost lost its pathetic voice pleading for help, its lost its looks as well. Whereas once many a ghost’s appearance was cyclical and predictable, now they seem random and uncontrolled. The ancient terror of low moans in the night has been replaced by indistinct garbled sounds on cheap recorders. The ghost has lost his traditional voice.

When they are not rummaging around damp, dark basements of old houses and abandoned asylums in green light screaming questions at nothing, ghost hunters spend a lot of their time complaining that scientists don’t understand them and won’t look at their evidence. What they are really saying is that science has looked at the evidence and seen that it is insufficient to prove anything, let alone a haunting is taking place. Let me be clear. There is no piece of technology anywhere that can tell you any place is haunted. None. Period. Full Stop. There is no such thing as a ghost detector. Technology may be marketed as such, but there is no equipment for that purpose. And none that can find a ghost. The amateur may say they are scientifically searching for ghosts but they are actually technologically searching for them instead. And as expected, this has been a total failure. Why is all this expensive technology useless in the pursuit of ghosts? 

Every piece of technology employed in the search for ghosts was developed for more mundane uses. Since the theory that disembodied spirits exist is assumed to be true, any apparently anomalous readings from these instruments are eagerly promoted to be conclusive evidence of such. But there is no reason to suppose that these anomalous reading are anything other than the result of badly calibrated or improperly used equipment.

The only way to ascertain the appearance of someone who is dead is to see them with one’s own eyes. To see someone who absolutely cannot be there, who is known to be dead by all and sundry, is the only way to conclusively prove something paranormal appears to be happening. This is one case where all the technology in the world is useless. There is no way to tell if technology is registering something paranormal, capturing regular variations in conditions being monitored, or simply being misused and misunderstood. It would be ideal be to find a haunting that is frequent, predictable and visual. Once the location of such a haunting is ascertained, then and only then, equipment can be brought in to see if there are environmental changes that occur simultaneously with the appearance of the ghost. This stage of the investigation has to be handled scientifically, without bias and with the participation of both skeptics and believers. Only with the accumulation of impartial evidence that is attested to by both sides of the argument will ghosts be proven to exist. 

Are ghosts extinct?

The classical ghost of old certainly is. They are now rarely seen in our busy modern world. Most reports of hauntings are of ambiguous phenomena that might or might not have anything to do with a ghost. They don’t interact with the living as they once did.

Whereas once the ghost would appear dramatically to family or strangers at will, now they are shy and often only experienced only via digital readout. The ghosts that used to comfort us with promises of eternal life even as they frightened us out of our wits exist now only in folklore and ghosts stories. As with other areas of life in our modern technological world, we have lost something poignant and romantic in our digital haste. 

A Critical Review of Dr. Osis’s Apparitional Case

A Critical Review of Dr. Karlis Osis’s “Leslie” Apparitional Case

Elliott Van Dusen

Rhine Education Center

A Skeptical Approach to Parapsychology

December 9, 2021


This article was completed as part of the requirements for the Rhine Education Center course entitled A Skeptical Approach to Parapsychology. It provides a critical evaluation of Dr. Karlis Osis’s article entitled “Characteristics of Purposeful Action in an Apparition Case” which was published in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, volume 80, in 1986. The purpose of this article is to provide a truly skeptical perspective.

Keywords: parapsychology, post-mortem apparition, apparition, extrasensory perception

A Critical Review of Dr. Karlis Osis’s “Leslie” Apparitional Case

Historical Background

In April of 1986, The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research published a single case study entitled “Characteristics of Purposeful Action in an Apparition Case” written and researched by parapsychologist Dr. Karlis Osis. In his article, pseudonyms are used for each individual. “Constance” brought these apparitional experiences (AEs) to Dr. Osis’s attention when she rejoined the American Society for Psychic Research (ASPR) in early 1983. She played a part in the AEs as detailed below.

On a Wednesday in 1982 at 11:30 p.m., a 36-year-old father and business man named “Leslie” was unexpectedly killed while piloting a private aircraft across the southern portion of the United States. Eighteen months prior to his death, his 1 ½ year old son “Ricky” had drowned. He had taken up flying as an outlet for his mental anguish.

Early Thursday morning, “Vivian”, who was married to one of Leslie’s cousins, told her mother, Constance, that Leslie had died in a plane crash.  Constance had only ever met Leslie once at Vivian’s wedding. Constance had not seen Leslie’s mother “Marge” except on several occasions, 13 years prior to Leslie’s death. Constance informed the researchers that she may have had a precognitive dream the day before Leslie’s plane crash. In her dream, Constance saw a plane coming down and heading toward her. She had made a note of it on her calendar.

Vivian asked Constance to pray for Leslie because “she thought, he died suddenly, unprepared, and he might be confused” (Osis, 1986, pp. 180). As a result of the tragic news and her possible precognitive dream, Constance felt compelled to do more. She found a photograph of Leslie in her daughter’s wedding album and began talking to him as if he was in front of her. Constance had suggested to Leslie that it would be comforting to his mother if he would find his little boy who had drowned, take him by the hand, and appear before her (Osis, 1986, pp. 180).

Leslie’s discarnate spirit reportedly obliged by making an appearance before Marge and his 6-year-old niece “Jennifer” on separate occasions and at different locations. Constance did not know Jennifer nor her parents. Two nights after Constance had suggested Leslie appear to his mother, he did. Marge told the researchers the following information:

There he was, Leslie, with the baby, and he was holding the baby’s hand … they were at the foot of the bed. They looked at each other. I was wide awake then. They were content; they were happy that they found each other, that they were together now. And they were letting me know that it is so; I got that feeling. (Osis, 1986, p. 181)

Vivian called Constance six days after Leslie’s funeral to inform her of Marge’s AE.

A couple of hours prior to Marge’s AE, Leslie had made an apparitional appearance to his 6-year-old niece Jennifer. Jennifer was aware of her Uncle Leslie’s death. She was fond of her uncle because he would visit often and she would play with his children. He would also take her flying on occasion. Dr. Osis describes Jennifer as being “a frail and sensitive child. Jennifer was raised in an atmosphere of appreciate for Eastern culture and beliefs, her parents having made repeatedly long stays in India, where they acquired Buddhist beliefs in afterlife and reportedly observed psychic phenomena” (Osis, 1986, p. 178). With respect to her AE, Jennifer stated: “I was up and awake when I saw like a cloud in my room and there was [sic] Leslie and Ricky holding hands … They looked just regular [life-like] … It looked almost exactly like him [Leslie]” (Osis, 1986, p. 182). Jennifer became aware of Marge’s experience approximately a day or so after her own experience, whereas Marge wasn’t aware of Jennifer’s experience for at least a month (Osis, 1986, p. 183).

Critical Analysis

Single Case Studies

This is a single post occurrence case study analysis of a spontaneous AE. Notwithstanding, the research was conducted outside of a laboratory environment which means that rigorous methodological procedures and guidelines were not in place. This has been identified as problematic when researching case studies (Yin, 2009, pp. 14-15). Albeit, working outside of a laboratory is a reality when it comes to apparitional research. Other issues which have been identified with single case studies include issues with reliability, replicability, external validity and generalisability (Willis, 2014, pp. 4-5). Unfortunately, AEs are difficult to validate and replicate in general as they occur at their own volition. One’s colleagues are limited when it comes to conducting an independent review and replication of the type of data collected with spontaneous AEs. The detail involved in the researcher’s generalization also becomes limited when an event is a single occurrence.

Memory and Recall

The core of this study, relies entirely on the memory and human experience of three independent individuals (with some corroboration from other individuals who did not witness the experience first-hand), and where subjectivity may have been involved. Dr. Osis acknowledges this by stating “these events depend solely on the memories of the experients and those in whom they confided” (Osis, 1986, p. 185).  As a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer of 15 years and a professional court witness, I am aware through lived experience that a plethora of issues surrounding ones memory, recall, external influences, biases, and difference in perception exist. Especially during highly stressful or spontaneous events. Dr. Osis notes that none of the three experients kept any written records detailing their experiences (Osis, 1986, p. 184). Therefore, all of the testimony collected relies solely on memory recall.

Dr. Osis highlights an important issue with regard to eliciting information from children, especially since this case study relies partly on the testimony of 6-year-old Jennifer. He states:

Additional reservation is usually called for when one obtains anecdotal material from children. This must have come to the reader’s mind when learning that one of the principal experients was a 6 year old, despite the fact that she told her parents of the event just after it occurred. (Osis, 1986, p. 185)

Speaking again from lived experience as a former police officer, investigators must be diligent in how they retrieve information from children. In Canada, police are required to have a special interviewing course which teaches investigators special interviewing techniques so that no leading information is gleaned and only the purest version of events are obtained.

Jennifer’s situation is further complicated by the fact that there are socio-cultural factors at play in her environment. Her parents are believers in the paranormal whom openly talk about life after death matters. This could have influenced Jennifer and created a bias. When one takes into consideration these facts, in addition to whether or not Dr. Osis conducted a proper child interview, and issues surrounding the degradation of memory over time, one should be extremely cautious of Jennifer’s testimony. Not because she is fabricating information, but because her perception of the experience may have been misunderstood by researchers or influenced by biases.

The AE undoubtedly had a lot of emotions involved for the experients. Marge, a distraught and grieving mother, witnessed the apparition of her deceased son and grandson. Jennifer, a vulnerable child, witnessed the apparition of her deceased uncle and cousin. Harvey et al. (2014) cautions that emotion can bias memory (p. 161).

 Dr. Osis (1986) states that the witnesses were interviewed over the telephone on a number of occasions. “The initial interviews were conducted in early 1983. Re-interviewing was done in late 1984; this produced some new information which was not available in the preliminary report” (p. 176). Dr. Osis eventually conducted an in-person interview with one of the experients (Marge). Marge estimated that her AE lasted approximately 15 seconds, whereas Jennifer was unsure of the duration (Osis, 1986, pp. 181-182). Furthermore, Dr. Osis conducted a follow up interview with Marge 2 ½ years after the AE occurred. I shall provide a forewarning with respect to human memory.

Cognitive psychologists have demonstrated that people’s recall of everyday events can be highly inaccurate. Human memory is not a device permitting literal replay of previously experienced incidents. Once a particular interpretation is placed on an event, features of the experience consistent with that interpretation might be recalled but inconsistent features will tend to be forgotten. (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 40)

Memory is a neuroplastic process in which the brain stores and retrieves changes that occur in response to experiences (Pinel & Barnes, 2018, p. 272). When Marge and Jennifer experienced their apparitional sighting, their short-term memory would have been activated which is believed to be able to record information for 20 to 30 seconds (Cherry & Block, 2019). Once the experience was no longer the focus of their attention, their experiences would have been encoded in their long-term memory (Pinel & Barnes, 2018, p. 521). Whereas Marge and Jennifer were able to recall their experience some time afterward during Dr. Osis’s re-interview, they were likely retrieving their memories from their conscious explicit memory, specifically their episodic memories (Pinel & Barnes, 2018, p. 123). Episodic memories stem from particular events or “episodes” in one’s life (Pinel & Barnes, 2018, p. 277). However, memory is susceptible to natural decay over time and can sometimes fail to encode information which in turn can result in recall difficulties (Cherry & Block, 2019, n.p.).

Belief in the Paranormal

Belief in the paranormal is a contentious topic that often arises when dealing with human experience. Parapsychologists have discovered the sheep-goat effect when conducting extrasensory perception (ESP) testing in laboratories. Believers (sheep) have been shown to score higher than non-believers (goats). Paranormal belief may also sometimes account for an individual’s misinterpretation of normal events. Gullibility is a psychological characteristic that has been shown to be correlated to believers of the paranormal. Humans are also prone to being “primed” which is when one is supplied with information which may influence their perception of a situation, task or location. For instance, when participants are told that the researchers have a skeptical belief in the paranormal, they tend to be reluctant to fully acknowledge their paranormal beliefs (Irwin & Watt, 2017, pp. 222-223).

With respect to the experients in this case study, Marge had no belief in the afterlife until after her AE, whereas Constance believed in the afterlife and anomalous phenomena. As for Jennifer, she was brought up in a socio-cultural environment of belief in the afterlife, reincarnation and psychical experiences. Jennifer’s mother told researchers that it would not be outside the range of expectations that Jennifer witnessed an AE because they believe in reincarnation and the family often discusses topics in relation to survival (Osis, 1986, p. 183). “The form of paranormal beliefs held by a given person is strongly influenced by cultural factors such as socialization within the family…” (Irwin & Watt, 2017, p. 224). In this instance, there is a correlation between Jennifer’s upbringing and her belief in the paranormal which could have impacted her AE.

Survival-of-personality or Super-ESP

Dr. Osis presents three psi-related hypothesis with respect to this case study. They are: survival-of-personality model, survival-of-fragments model, and Super-ESP. Survival-of-personality assumes that the AEs occurred as a result of Leslie and Ricky being deceased agents who actively participated in the experience (Osis, 1986, p. 186). The survival-of-fragments model “proposes that only fragmented images or thought, which were generated when the appearer was alive, are all that survive death” (Osis, 1986, p. 186). Super-ESP is the belief that the AEs were projections as a result of living agents involved to wit: Constance, Marge, and Jennifer (Osis, 1986, p. 186).

Dr. Osis highlights the work of other parapsychological researchers who believe in the plausibility of making an arrangement with a discarnate entity:

Gauld (1982), Hart (1959), Richmond (1938), and others have pointed out data that strongly suggest communications arranged in such a fashion. Nea Walker (1935) described how she requested a communicator to come to a specified mediumistic sitting days later, and, although the medium was not informed of the “appointment” the ostensible spirit seemed to comply and communicate. (Osis, 1986, pp. 187-189)

Dr. Osis discusses the possibility of Constance communicating with Leslie through telepathy whereas she had requested he appear before his mother. This would be possible whether the survival-of-personality or Super-ESP theories are correct. Although Dr. Osis felt that the Super-ESP theory becomes too strained and complex when applied to his case study, I believe that the Super-ESP theory is still a possibility for these AEs. Some forms of extrasensory perception are extremely difficult to classify.

Consider an example. From time to time I find myself thinking I have not heard from one of my professional colleagues for a while, and later the same day I receive a letter from that person. Perhaps this may be deemed to entail ostensible extrasensory awareness of the letter itself, in which case my experience would be considered clairvoyant. Or the experience might be construed as apparent awareness of the perceptions of the mail sorter, that is, an instance of telepathic experience. Or again it could be represented as a precognitive experience of the subsequent mail delivery or of my opening the letter, or perhaps even a retrocognitive experience of my correspondent writing the letter some weeks earlier. In practice therefore, the utility of the proposed categories of ESP may be doubtful. Much the same could be said for their application to the description of laboratory data. Thus it was felt necessary to devise the expression of general extrasensory perception (GESP) to refer to data that could have reflected unknown components of clairvoyance or telepathy or both. (Irwin & Watt, 2017, p. 5)

In this particular case study, the AEs commenced when Constance began picturing Leslie in her mind “as if I was talking to him and he was right there” (Osis, 1986, p. 180). Jennifer also makes an interesting comment to Dr. Osis when asked how the apparitions disappeared. She told him, “I stopped thinking about them and they went away” (Osis, 1986, p. 182). This comment is extremely fascinating as most experients report that the apparition(s) that they have witnessed simply vanish, dissipate, or walking through a particular area of a location prior to disappearing.

Irrelevant Information

It is interesting, yet puzzling, as to why Dr. Osis mentioned having three psi practitioners hold token objects in an attempt to receive impressions as to the cause of the plane crash while at the American Society for Psychic Research (ASPR) laboratory. This is known as psychometry, a type of clairvoyance in which a medium possesses the ability to receive relevant information and associations from an object (Barrington, 2016, n.p.). It is not the use of psychometry which is questionable, but the fact that he writes “Although these data were recorded and analyzed, they are not pertinent to the AEs and will not be discussed” (Osis, 1986, pp. 177).

While I agree that the mechanism of the crash is irrelevant to the fact that an apparition made an appearance before two independent witnesses, I question the relevance of why Dr. Osis would even mention this information in his article if it wasn’t pertinent. I appreciate the full, fair and frank disclosure process, however, this leaves the reader left wondering whether the psi practitioners had any hits (success) or misses while examining the token objects. This paragraph seemingly serves no meaningful purpose except to cast obscurity.

Sleep-Wake Disorders          

It is rather surprising that Dr. Osis didn’t consider or eliminate any medical and/or psychological conditions as a potential cause for the AEs. Specifically, any possible sleep-wake disorders. Generally, sleep paralysis is a medical condition in which elements of wakefulness and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep become intertwined. Sleep paralysis can be accompanied by visual, auditory and textile hallucinations. It can evoke strong feelings. Another common characteristic of sleep paralysis reported by some experients include the feeling of an intruder or a presence in their room (Van Dusen, 2021, pp. 138-140).

When Marge witnessed her AE, she was asleep before she was awoken by a “disturbance in her room” (Osis, 1986, p. 181). The second experient, Jennifer, reported that when she witnessed her AE, she was awake and meditating. Her family holds Buddhist beliefs, one of which is the importance of meditating.

In some modern formulations, the goal of meditation has expanded beyond relation and decreased arousal to include a state of consciousness that is deliberately half-asleep, a “physiological twilight condition between waking and sleep,” equivalent to sleep, or a form of sleep-like hibernation a “shallow torpor” that is reversed by (i.e., opposite of wakefulness). (Britton et al., 2013, pp. 64-65)

A paragraph regarding what steps were taken to rule out a sleep-wake disorder would have been more fruitful than the futile paragraph regarding the psi practitioners attempt at psychometry.

Upon review of Dr. Osis’s article, I discovered an inconsistency in Marge’s description of Leslie and Riley. Initially Dr. Osis’s writes, assumingely, in Marge’s own words:

They were solid. There was like grayness around, like a gray cloud around them. I would say there was a mist in the whole room, nothing you could touch, just the grayness all around. But they were solid, both of them. The room was dark; electric light was coming from outside through the venetian blinds…. But I didn’t need light to see them. There is a lot of traffic around my area. No matter at what time you got trucks and buses. Not one sound then, all was excluded at that moment, everything, as though the world had stood still. And there was nobody but us three in the world.  (Osis, 1986, p. 181)

Later on, Dr. Osis writes:

How does Marge’s description of the apparition of Leslie and Ricky fit the test findings? The exclusion of traffic noises and the reduction in clarity of her visual surrounds, for example, “like a gray cloud around them,” go well with her above-average ability to become absorbed in her experiences. In regard to vividness, she said that the apparitions were “like shadows,” which is far from what would be expected of someone who is constructing apparitions with an imagination as vivid as hers. (Osis, 1986, p. 184)

Nowhere in Dr. Osis’s article does Marge describe Leslie and Riley “like shadows”. The words are in quotes in Dr. Osis’s article and read as though Marge had said it. It is possible Dr. Osis was referring to his hand written notes or made his own interpretation that the “gray cloud around them” made them appear as shadows. Either way, it is an inconsistent description which stood out. The description of shadow like figures and the highlighted information surrounding the reduction of otherwise consistent traffic noises also lends credence to the sleep-paralysis hypothesis. Shadow figures are a common hallucination seen during sleep paralysis. The noise reduction in the room could also be attributed to a sleep-wake disorder. Sleep spindles are rhythms in the brain capable of influencing external stimuli while we sleep. “If spindles hinder the transmission of external stimuli from the thalamus to the cortex, a higher rate of spindle production throughout the night would be expected to preserve sleep stability in the face of noise”  (Dang-Vu, 2010, p. 626). In other words, sleep spindles allows us to block out noises in the environment so we do not interrupt our sleep state.

Rarity of Double Apparitional Cases

Dr. Osis discusses three points on how this case study is a rarity. First, double apparitions are rare outside of near-death experiences when two individuals have died separately. Second, it is rare for double apparitions to appear in different locations and in the same pose. Lastly, he references the rarity in responding to an apparition with soothing and beneficial feelings, and that it is infrequent outside of near-death experiences (Osis, 1986, p. 186). I concur with Dr. Osis’s second point as being rare. I have never investigated double apparitions whom have died separately and seemingly appear at multiple locations in the same pose. However, I have personally investigated a double apparition case where calming feelings were perceived by the experient.

A Canadian Department of National Defence civilian security guard had been arrested during a domestic dispute on July 18, 2005. She was taken to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ontario. At 5:55 a.m., she was awake in her jail cell when a correctional officer came through the cell block and began rousing the prisoners. As he walked past each cell, he clanged a tin cup against the steel bars. He was asking if any of the prisoners wanted a cup of coffee. The client sat up quickly after she felt someone touch her shoulder. It felt like a little tiny hand touching her. As she turned her head toward whatever was touching her, she saw a little hand resting upon her shoulder. She heard a voice say “You are going to be okay mom.” As she continued to turn, she saw a full apparition of whom she believed to be her daughter. Her daughter had passed away 19 years previous as a stillborn on August 29, 1986 at 11:11 a.m. Her daughter was being held by another man whom she described as looking similar to Jesus. She would later find out from her mother that the description matched that of her other, older brother who had passed away. Her brother stood silently in the jail cell smiling at her. This experience brought the client a sense of peace in what can only imaginably be a dark time in her life. Fortunately, there was a happy ending for the client. The prosecution did not have any evidence to proceed to trial and the charges against her were withdrawn. She is no longer in an abusive relationship and spends her time advocating against domestic violence and promoting equal parenting rights (Van Dusen, 2021, pp. 56-60).

Environmental and Natural Occurring Phenomena

Dr. Osis makes no mention whatsoever of making inquiries regarding any potential environmental or natural occurring phenomena which may have attributed to the AEs. To his defence, these AEs occurred in 1982 and weren’t investigated by Dr. Osis until early 1983 which even predates the release of the blockbuster movie Ghostbusters,released in the summer of 1984. Therefore, he was lacking some knowledge that modern parapsychologists now know. For instance, that magnetic fields can cause humans to experience fear and see apparitions, and that unusual experiences correlate significantly with environmental factors such as magnetic fields and lighting levels (Persinger et al., 2000, pp. 659-674; Wiseman et al., 2003, pp. 191-211).

However, there were some environmental and natural occurring phenomena already known to parapsychologists in 1983 that cause haunting-like characteristics in which he neglected commentary on within his article. Dr. Osis had access to very sophisticated equipment that most parapsychological investigators of the time did not. He was familiar with “strain-gauge plates to detect minute stresses and vibrations, such as footsteps as the apparition walks down a hallway … and infrared cells to detect a presence” (Auerbach, 2016, p. 274). He was using this type of equipment in his parapsychological research in 1980, three years prior to these AEs occurring (Blackmore, 1983, n.p.). However, there was no mention of any investigatory inquiry using equipment in an attempt to rule out natural occurring causes in this case study.

Hallucinatory explanations were also known to parapsychologists during Dr. Osis’s era. In fact, some argue that AEs are hallucinatory by nature, separate from mirages and perceptual illusions (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 193). Anderson and Anderson (1982) discuss knowledge of drugs and mental illnesses causing AE hallucinatory visions which existed during Dr. Osis’s time. (as cited in Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 193). Dr. Osis does consider the possibility that Marge and Jennifer had a  hallucination, but does highlight the difficulty in believing that they both hallucinated the two same decedents at different times and in separate locations. However, Williams (2015) highlights the fact that Marge was deeply grieved at the time of Leslie’s death:

(having recently lost both Leslie and her grandson), and it is quite possible that there was a strong personal motivation for her to want to see Leslie and her grandson again. Such a state of mind could have predisposed her to seeing a hallucinatory vision of them. (pp. 13-14)

Throughout his article, he doesn’t articulate any steps taken to rule out any medical or psychological conditions of the experients per say, even though he had prior experience pertaining to these matters. Dr. Osis & Dr. Haraldsson (1961; 1977) had extensive experience investigating deathbed visions in which the patient’s experiences weren’t attributed to “medication, sedation, high fever, delirium, and ill symptoms” (as cited in Williams, 2015, p. 4; Williams et al., 2010, p. 4). As discussed earlier, Dr. Osis also fails to discuss sleep-wake disorders such as sleep paralysis, hypnagogia and hypnopompia which were also known during his time.

Dr. Osis did administer some psychological tests, in which Marge scored the highest extreme on vividness of imagery and ability to become immersed in an experience. Williams et al. (2010) clearly suggests that Marge has such a capacity for imagination, fantasy and absorption that she can mentally immerse herself so deeply within an experience, that she can block out external stimuli occurring around her as described during her experience with the reported auditory distortion (p. 15).

Chance Coincidence

Dr. Osis himself advises that one cannot rule out chance coincidence in this case study. He states “chance coincident can never be totally excluded, but, in my estimation, the likelihood of it explaining this case is exceedingly small” (Osis, 1986, p. 186). Exceedingly small, but not impossible.


This article was written from a skeptical perspective. Overall, Dr. Osis did a thorough investigation of these spontaneous AEs given the knowledge which existed during his time period. The biggest criticism pertaining to his article would be the lack of a skeptical approach toward an attempt to truly understand and explain the AE experiences of Marge and Jennifer. Parapsychology is an ever evolving social science. There still remains many unknowns in this discipline. Dr. Osis summarizes this fact in his conclusion. “Let us remember that we operate in the domain of a very young science in which many uncertainties still prevail: One case alone cannot decide the survival issue” (Osis, 1986, p. 191). Thirty-five years later, this statement still holds validity. The mystery surrounding whether or not human consciousness can survive beyond clinical death remains hidden behind that dark veil of death.


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This article was completed as part of the requirements for the Rhine Education Center’s Theories of Psi course. It provides a brief historical background for the parapsychological phenomenon of psychokinesis (PK), explores the current theoretical and mechanical components of PK, discusses measurement and observational techniques used by parapsychologists, and suggests areas in which further study is required.

Keywords: parapsychology, psychokinesis, micro-psychokinesis, macro-psychokinesis, bio-psychokinesis, recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis, poltergeist

A Brief Review of the Parapsychological Phenomenon of Psychokinesis

Historical Background

The social science discipline of parapsychology consists of the study of extrasensory perception (ESP), mind-matter interaction, and survival after bodily death. This paper focuses on the phenomenon known as psychokinesis (PK) which is classified as a mind-matter interaction component of psi.

PK originated from the “Greek word psyche, “mind, soul,” and kinesis, “a moving, disturbance,” derived from kinein, “to set in motion” and is classified as psi-kappa or paranormal action (Parapsychological Association, 2015). Simply stated, PK is the ability of consciousness to affect the physical environment (Wahbeh, 2021, p. 1).

PK is sub-categorized into marco-pk, micro-pk, and bio-pk. Macro-pk is when the action of consciousness on the physical environment can be detected by one or more of our five senses, whereas micro-pk can only be detected through statistical means. Bio-pk, also referred to as psychokinesis on living targets (pk-lt), and direct mental influence on living systems (DMILS), is the effect that consciousness can have on biological systems (Wahbeh, 2021, p. 1; Parapsychological Association, 2015).

Theoretical Mechanism of Psychokinesis

The concept of PK, that human consciousness can directly influence the physical environment, dates back to ancient times (Jahn & Dunne, 1986, p. 722). The term itself was coined by Henry Holt in 1914 and later endorsed by parapsychologist Joseph Banks Rhine (Parapsychological Association, 2015).

Disappointingly, after a century of study, parapsychologists remain divided on the theoretic and mechanism of PK. Physicist John Taylor concluded that PK contains no possible physical mechanism and is a complete contradiction to established science (Taylor, 1980, pp. 27-30). Although PK does not follow any known form of physical energy presently known, it does result in some form of energy. The human mind or consciousness transfers energy of thought, into the goal of one’s intention. PK that occurs in a living human being is the result of energy in the form of thought transference and mind-moving matter (Brucker, 2001, p. 102).

One issue according to Irwin and Watt (2007), is the difficulty in discerning between normal operations of cause and effect, and the factor of chance involving PK events, which requires a strictly controlled observational environment (p. 98).

PK has been theorized to be “a displaced expression of extrasensorially acquired information” (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 97). Otherwise stated, subconscious psychological tension is released from a person resulting in PK effects on the environment. The theory stipulates that one or more individuals, referred to as living agents, are causing the PK activity as a way of relieving one’s stress through the physical expression of unconscious feelings. The activity usually ceases if the living agent(s) are not present. This type of PK activity is commonly seen in cases of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK), generally accepted amongst parapsychologists to be the root cause of poltergeist activity.

Poltergeist cases seemingly tend to produce macro-pk effects. This can include levitation, materialization and dematerialization, and the movement of objects with an unusual trajectory. The St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada poltergeist incident is a case in point. On February 7, 1970 the Niagara Regional Police attended 237 Church Street in response to a disturbance. Upon attendance, one of the police officers had witnessed a bed levitating approximately two feet off of the floor. Bewildered, he left the room momentarily to get his partner, and upon return two chairs had materialized in the room which were now seemingly supporting the bed. There was no known trickery or witness credibility issues of any kind in this case. However, even if one excludes the materialization of the chairs as potential trickery perpetuated by the two occupants present in the residence at the time of the incident, it still does not explain the police officer’s initial observation of levitation (Van Dusen, 2020, p. 39).

Another theory of mechanism for PK is the belief that it can affect the radioactive decay of materials. This theory stems from the use of electronic laboratory devices such as random event generators (REGs) in which an individual can impose their will upon the REG causing a signal to emit a particle (assisted by PK), from the radioactive source ultimately ceasing the spinning of the indicator on the counter (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 100). Metal or spoon bending has been associated to the vibration of molecules caused by one’s mind which in turn generates heat, which is a form of energy, that causes the metal to lose its structure (Brucker, 2001, p. 103). Hasted (1981), Randall, and Davis (1982) noted that certain PK subjects were able to destroy a type of wire known as nitinol, which contains shape memory and is designed to return to its original shape when bent by normal physical means (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 120). Metallurgical analysis of items exposed to PK have “suggested that macro-pk produces changes in the crystalline structure of the metal in many respects unlike that associated with deformation by normal means” (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 120).

Bio-pk, is also referred to as bio-energy therapy, Reiki, qigong therapy, laying-on-of-hands, spiritual healing and psychic healing. With respect to bio-pk, its physical mechanism remains unknown (Kokubo et al., 2012, p. 1). There are too many variables that exist when trying to rule out alternative explanations for the spontaneous healing and recovery from illnesses (Iwrin & Watt, 2007, p. 113). 

Measurement and Observation of the Phenomenon

Micro-pk is only observable through statistical methodology. In 1627, Sir Francis Bacon conceived the idea of PK effecting the casting of dice, but it wasn’t until 1935 during the J. B. Rhine era, that dice and dice rolling machines were utilized to test micro-pk (Kauffman & Radin, 2021, p. 12). The application of REGs in parapsychological studies have improved the methodology of testing PK significantly by eliminating human error and documenting runs automatically, although contemporary REG-PK studies still produce very weak results (Irwin & Watt, 2007, pp. 101-102). Random number generators (RNGs) are also “used to evaluate micro-pk or our ability to affect the physical world with our consciousness” (Wahbeh, 2021, p. 1). Alpha and theta brain waves have also been examined in human participants during PK experiments. Their brain waves were shown to have “more energy, broader awareness and focus abilities” (Brucker, 2001, p. 102).

In 2018, Etzel Cardeña conducted a meta-analysis of 1,700 psi experiments conducted at 40 universities on an international level. The meta-analysis involved cases of PK in which she divided into anomalous perturbation (micro-pk with unobservable events measured through statistical means) and anomalous force (marco-pk events with observable measures) (Cardeña, 2018, n.p.). She concluded that “The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms” (Kauffman & Radin, 2021, p. 6). Cardeña’s statistical meta-analysis produced significant results for all reported forms of psi, however, the significance was lower with anomalous perturbation when compared to ESP experiments.

The latest technology used to measure PK in parapsychological laboratories involves the use of optical double-slit interferometers. Participants are given instructions to “focus their attention toward or away from the double-slit apparatus to try to mentally gain information about the photons’ path (which cannot be seen with the naked eye), or alternatively, to intentionally alter their paths” (Kauffman & Radin, 2021, p. 15). There have been 28 PK studies using this technology with 11 experiments reporting statistically significant results (Kauffman & Radin, 2021, p. 15).

Macro-pk is much more difficult to observe because it tends to be more spontaneous in nature (Irwin & Watt, 2007, p. 98). Fortunately, some individuals experiencing macro-pk will contact reputable investigators who can properly document the incident. The late neuroscientist and parapsychologist Dr. Michael Persinger had a female student who possessed the ability to move a pen with her mind in front of him. Dr. Persinger believed that psi phenomena occurs, however, he believed it was the result of physical mechanisms explained through modern science and not paranormal means (Walsh, 2005).

A well-documented case of macro-pk was the 1977 poltergeist investigation involving Society for Psychical Research investigators Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair. During their investigation, they recorded a video of a slipper being thrown by an unknown force at Grosse’s head. Even more compelling, they recorded the knocking sounds on walls and furniture believed to be originating from poltergeist activity.

In 2010, Dr. Barrie Colvin converted the original Enfield poltergeist recordings from a reel-to-reel tape recorder to a wav sound file and analyzed it with Adobe Audition software (Colvin, 2010, pp. 17-18). Upon analyzation, he discovered that the poltergeist raps provided a different low frequency sound wave pattern and abnormal acoustic properties when compared to normal man-made raps recorded under scientific conditions (Smith, 2010, n.p.). With the advancement of science and technology, the future analyzation of spontaneous macro-pk evidence collected by professional parapsychological investigators may help demystify the PK phenomenon.

Bio-pk experiments have successfully used devices to record the electrodermal activity of recipients during studies in which the sender makes “direct willful attempts to induce momentary change in a labile autonomic physiological process” (Krippner et al., 2021, p. 21; Braud & Schlitz, 1983, p. 95). During another particular study, participants that were believed to possess laying-on-of-hands healing powers were asked to focus their energy on healing a cucumber which had been purposely given a cut. The bio-pk effects were successfully detected through fluorescence measurement of wavelengths, especially during the Spring season (Kokubo et al., 2012, p. 7).


Although the vast majority of modern parapsychological literature argues that there is weak to no scientific evidence of PK, the studies highlighted in this paper subtly indicate otherwise. Parapsychologists can no longer accept criticism that “Each and every claim made by psi researchers violates fundamental principles of science, and, hence, can have no ontological status” (as cited in Krippner, et al., 2021, p. 16). As technology advances, parapsychologists will perhaps find other ways of scientifically recording evidence of the PK phenomenon in their laboratories. PK experimentation has advanced from the manual dice throwing days of J. B. Rhine to the contemporary use of optical double-slit interferometers.

Parapsychology is not the only science struggling to find evidence of a theorized phenomenon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration currently has three theories pertaining to dark energy, none of which have yet to be proven. “We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery” (Nagaraja, 2021).

The same argument can be made for PK. We know that PK exists, but it is still shrouded in theoretical and mechanical mystery which requires future exploration in order to disrobe its scientific secrets.

For Further Study

Irwin and Watt (2007) highlight the fact that very few parapsychologists have studied macro-pk events such as metal bending in their laboratories which limits the parapsychological literature on the phenomenon (p. 120). Clearly this requires further study. As previously discussed, spontaneous macro-pk events can be difficult to scientifically examine, especially where it occurs outside of a laboratory setting. Although the stringent conditions and control methods of a laboratory will be lacking, it may still be advantageous for parapsychologists to develop an easily portable technological kit to take with them while on scene with individuals who are experiencing spontaneous macro-pk events.

With respect to micro-pk experiments, Wahbeh (2021) discusses other models of explanation when utilizing RNGs, rather than PK, which require further evaluation such as; “goal-oriented effects of the investigation, methodological errors or leaks which bias the formal replications; conventional perturbations of RNG due to ambient electromagnetic fields; a fortuitous selection of events and parameters through experimenter intuition and retroactive information” (p. 4).

Kokubo et al. (2012) suggest further study around the use of gas and the 562nm band length which could have the potential to detect bio-pk year round, but experimentation during the summer months is needed (p. 7).

Lastly,  Kauffman and Radin (2021) discussed the need for further experimentation in order to determine whether PK has a genetic component which would contribute to the debate about the evolution of one’s mind and what the role it plays in the modern world (p. 17).


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‘Maybe death isn’t the end’: can a TV series prove the existence of an afterlife?

In the Netflix docuseries Surviving Death, a ‘non-believer’ film-maker explores the possibility that something else might be waiting for us at the endRadheyan SimonpillaiThu 7 Jan 2021 07.10 GMT

  • The Netflix docuseries Surviving Death has no shortage of paranormal activity. Mediums call on the dead. Seances try to manifest them. People claim to be reincarnated actors, pilots or murder victims while others describe feeling a heavenly embrace during near-death experiences. Over six hour-long episodes, the series pores over signs and evidence that there is something to experience beyond our last breath.
A still from Surviving Death. Stern’s series builds a provocative case that our consciousness can and does continue beyond life as we know it.

Surviving Death’s director, Ricki Stern, is ready for your skepticism. Her show practically invites it.‘It’s not a question of belief’: the film examining government UFO recordsRead more

“I would call myself a sort of non-believer, but someone who was open to it,” Stern told the Guardian from her New York City apartment.

Stern, whose recent docuseries work includes Reversing Roe and Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, doesn’t shy away from cross-examining the mediums and witnesses who appear on-camera saying they speak to or have seen apparitions. The show never dismisses the possibility that a seance can use lighting tricks to conjure a ghost or a medium can dig up information on Facebook and pass it off as info from the great beyond.

But Stern’s series also builds a convincing and provocative case that our consciousness can and does continue beyond life as we know it. The director explained that she wanted to explore the possibilities of a great beyond through legitimate analysis.

To do that Stern followed the lead from journalist Leslie Kean’s book, Surviving Death, which the series is based on. Kean, who also appears in the series, brought a research-heavy scientific approach to discussing an afterlife, which can be a bit like using a stethoscope on a ghost. When the scientific world loves physical evidence, how do you build a persuasive argument for the metaphysical? Kean told the Guardian she enjoyed the inherent challenges of bringing investigative practices to find “truths that you can probably never get to”.

She also pointed out that she is simply following a distinguished lineage of people who have gone down this path for hundreds of years before her. Philosopher and psychologist William James, Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr Ian Stevenson, who founded the division of perceptual studies at the University of Virginia in 1967, are some of the people who produced papers and manuscripts on paranormal investigations.

“They’re not necessarily believers,” Kean said. “But they’re people that take it seriously enough to want to study it.”

Doyle’s popular Victorian-era creation, Sherlock Holmes, was a skeptical, scientific mind. In novels like The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes would pull back the curtain and disprove theories involving the supernatural and paranormal. But Doyle was surprisingly more open to the possibility that there are people who could communicate with the dead, and even manifest them.

Surviving Death tries to find the tricky balance between that Sherlock skepticism and Doyle’s openness to spiritualism. The series also addresses how finding evidence of an afterlife almost always requires an open mind. You have to be willing to accept that a visit from a persistent cardinal or flickering lights can be signs from the dead. But Stern admitted that such openness is also grounds for dismissal: “You could just say, people are who are looking for signs will see signs.”

“Everybody has to decide for themselves whether something has that meaning for them or not,” Kean added. “With signs, it’s not really objective.”

Leslie Kean
Leslie Kean. Photograph: Netflix

When investigating life after death, objectivity isn’t really in the cards. With this particular subject, absolutely everyone is personally invested. Journalists and academics, like Kean and Conan Doyle, who explored the subject scientifically can’t help but be affected. Conan Doyle was nudged towards spiritualism following his son’s death. While researching for her book, a close friend to Kean died, bringing her work closer to home.

“If you have these profound experiences in the process of [investigating], then you’re sort of joining your journalism with your personal experience,” Kean said. “But that’s really the only way to study it at the same time. It’s hard sometimes to separate the two.”

Stern’s series departs from Kean’s book by focusing on personal stories about encountering the afterlife. More often than not, the subjects in the series are motivated by a personal loss to find signs of an afterlife.

Mike Anthony is a particularly fascinating character in Surviving Death. After losing his father some years ago, he became a hobbyist of sorts, visiting different mediums who claim to be communicating with his father. These visits have two purposes. Anthony is continuing a relationship with his father. But he’s also vetting and rating these mediums on their abilities, with a willingness to admit that some are probably hustling and taking advantage of his trust. He puts himself through a heavy rinse-and-repeat cycle of emotions between skeptic and believer and back.

“It is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for him,” said Stern, who described Anthony as an audience surrogate. To discover the truth, he repeatedly made himself vulnerable to believing and often met with disappointment as a result.

Stern agreed that such emotional vulnerability is exactly what we “protect ourselves” from when we stay skeptical. Some of us are cynical about the possibility of an afterlife because we don’t want to set ourselves up for the most crushing disappointment.

 Photograph: Netflix

The other side of that equation is hope.

“I just hope the series is going to help people open up their minds and question the nature of consciousness,” said Kean.

Her book is the perfect litmus test for the response that can be expected for the series, which, given its universal subject matter, has undeniable appeal for a wide audience. Readers reached out to Kean to express how they or someone they know found solace in the book while dealing with grief. Others reached out to talk about how they too experienced possible signs that they were never able to speak openly about before, because there’s a stigma around rational minds believing in an afterlife.

“I think the book opens a door for people to feel more comfortable talking about all this,” Kean explained. “I’m framing it in a way that’s extremely credible and research oriented.”

“We can’t answer the questions,” Kean added. “We don’t try to do that in the series. But it’s about [the possibility that] there is something that happens after we die. Maybe death isn’t the end.”

  • Surviving Death is now available on Netflix

Biases Continue to Haunt Parapsychological Research

By Elliott K. Van Dusen

December 26, 2020

A recent study published in the November-December 2020 issue of Explore (Volume 16, Issue 6) highlights one of the many contemporary challenges faced by parapsychological researchers. Dr. Bethany Butzer’s study “Bias in the evaluation of psychology studies: A comparison of parapsychology versus neuroscience”, explores how confirmation bias can easily undermine and discredit parapsychological research. Confirmation bias is the “tendency to seek and pay special attention to information that supports one’s beliefs, while ignoring information that contradicts a belief” (as cited in Goodwin & Goodwin, 2017, p. 6).

In her experiment, 100 participants with a background in psychology were presented with two virtually identical abstracts and asked to read and evaluate the article. 50 participants were provided with an abstract which discussed findings from a parapsychological aspect, whereas the other 50 participants were presented with abstract findings from a neuroscience aspect. Not surprisingly, participants came to the determination that the neuroscience abstract had stronger findings and were more valid and reliable compared to the parapsychological abstract. 

Dr. Butzer discovered a correlation between belief in transcendentalism and the rating of the abstracts. Those who had a higher belief or experience in parapsychology, consciousness, and reality, provided a more favourable rating toward the parapsychological abstract.

Although parapsychology research remains to be haunted by the misconception that it is a pseudo-science, this is simply not true. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has recognized parapsychology as a social science since 1969. There are many great examples of respectable scientists conducting and contributing valuable work in the field of parapsychology. A Canadian example is demonstrated through the work of the late Laurentian University neuroscientist, Dr. Michael Persinger. His research led to the discovery of the impact Earth’s geomagnetic activity can have on precognitive experiences. 

Dr. Butzer’s study is important because it remains a stark reminder to all that well educated and respectable researchers can consciously or unconsciously impose potential biases during their review and evaluation of parapsychological research based on personal belief and experiences. 

Anyone researching or investigating paranormal phenomena must strive to maintain an open and unbiased mind. After all, the very area you are working in appears to transcend the laws of nature as we presently understand them and operate outside the realm of human capability.


Butzer, B. (2019). Bias in the evaluation of psychology studies: A comparison of parapsychology versus neuroscience. Explore, 16(6). doi:10.1016/j.explore.2019.12.010

Goodwin, K. A., & Goodwin, C. J. (2017). Research in psychology: Methods and designs (8th ed.) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ghost Project Canada: The Value of Phenomenological Research Design Projects

By Elliott K. Van Dusen


Ghost Project Canada is a phenomenological research design project managed by parapsychologists Dr. Darryll Walsh and Dr. Elliott Van Dusen. Ghost Project Canada is mandated to collect encounters of the supernatural and other mysterious phenomena. Geographical and statistical analysis will be conducted including the extrapolation of trends, hotspots and classification of phenomena. Explication of the lived human experience surrounding the phenomena will also be examined from a psychosocial and cultural perspective. The results will be published and made available to the general public and submitted to Federal and Provincial Archives.

Parapsychological phenomenological studies are not a modern revelation. Eleanor Sidgwick of the Society for Psychical Research began conducting phenomenological studies involving apparitions as early as 1882. Sidgwick analyzed hundreds of ghost reports and through statistical analysis, was able to determine that apparitions could be seen inside, outside, in daylight, artificial light, at dawn, at dusk, and in various parts of a residence or structure. Conducting such studies helps enlighten one’s understanding of parapsychological phenomena and dispel fallacies. For instance, due to Sidgewick’s phenomenological study, we have known for almost 140 years that darkness does not draw out apparitions. Investigating ghosts with the lights turned out has absolutely nil advantage, except to increase the dramatic effect for television viewers.

Although parapsychological phenomenological studies are not unique, the objectives of Ghost Project Canada’s mandate is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. Other Canadian academics have participated in separate and unique parapsychological phenomenological studies. The field of parapsychology is eagerly awaiting the final report of Simon Fraser University associate professor of human geography, Dr. Paul Kingsbury. Dr. Kingsbury conducted a four-year-long study which examined why people pursue the paranormal. The growth of paranormal investigation cultures were examined through a study of the lived spaces of field work, conferences, and community events. His research focuses on those who investigate ghosts, those who study the UFO phenomena and those who partake in the search for cryptozoological animals. The project was funded throughtheSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant and was in its final phase of research in late 2019.

If you are interested in contributing stories to Ghost Project Canada, please visit our website at, or you can e-mail Confidentiality is assured. Ghost Project Canada is not a paranormal investigative agency. You can however, visit Paranormal Phenomena Research & Investigation at or e-mail and an investigator will contact you seeking for further information.

Scientific Exploration of Anomalous Aerospace Phenomena. (2019). Dr. Paul Kingsbury.

Simon Fraser University. (2020). Paul Kingsbury – Department of geography.

Van Dusen, E. (2019). Evil in Exeter. La Vergne: TN. Ingram Content Group LLC.

Will Covid-19 finally kill off the non-reality realty ghost show?

Prior to mid March there was an overabundance of supposedly true or real ghost hunting shows, which encouraged amateurs, (not the ones on TV; regular people), to go around imitating the ridiculous antics of the supposed ‘experts’ which populated each show.  The fact that prior to their being on tv most were plumbers, cooks, truck drivers, etc., none of whom were/are in any way trained as proper investigators as demonstrated in their antics in the overpopulated locations they are supposedly investigating.  Dozens of people are often crammed into tight spaces, usually damp basements or crumbling buildings which serve as proper background visuals for the show.  This is a perfect way to spread the disease.

Social Distancing is not possible in the way these shows are designed.  The host has to be in tight places in order to interact with the crew, other investigators or the ‘ghosts’, usually by yelling at them to speak to him.  The ghosts, not the humans, though in outtakes not shown there is a fair number incidents where the more exciting ‘happenings’ occur accompanied by prima donna shouting, shoving and the usual negative and over emotional reactions to technical matters that may be interfering in the smooth running of the show.

The only way the shows could proceed is by remote viewing and recording any incidents in the house, asylum, jail, etc. from a remote location. The house or institution would be wired for sound and visuals.  This is actually closer to the proper scientific method that should be applied, but it is also the most boring and tedious method for the medium of TV.  Also, the location where the various feed comes in from the location will have to be specially designed and sanitized so the hosts can be safely filmed being bored out of their mind  while trying to enlarge some natural occurrence like a creak or static sounds into voices and the movements of the spirits.  It would be a thorough boring show that accidentally shows how tedious the real job of parapsychologists is. This however, is death to ratings and hopefully many of the ghost shows will not survive the pandemic and those who are specially trained to actually do the investigations will be left in peace and perhaps regain some of the respect they once had before Reality TV came calling.

Is Covid-19 Leading to more ghosts?

We should perhaps take this with a grain of salt since the ‘paranormal investigator’ is associated with a show called ‘Ghost Stalkers‘, and reality shows are anything but real and designed to be artificial, planned and as a form of entertainment not a source of real information about ghosts, hauntings, parapsychology, true investigations, etc. This article from the CBC News site is covered under the “Fair Use” principle since the subject matter and statements therein are being critiqued and analyzed for their social/cultural importance. Should CBC disagree or requires a different disclaimer please contact us at

Haunted house reports on the rise during pandemic, says paranormal researcher

John E.L. Tenney says more people are at home and taking notice of their environment

Reports of haunted houses are on the rise while more people are stuck at home during the pandemic, says a paranormal researcher. (Julie/


The new normal is bringing out the paranormal, says John E.L. Tenney.

Tenney, a paranormal researcher and former host of TV’s Ghost Stalkers, says he used to receive two to five calls a month from people convinced their homes are haunted.

But since the COVID-19 restrictions started, he says he gets five to 10 calls a week.

The New York Times also noticed the uptick. The newspaper interviewed Tenney this week for a feature about the many people around the U.S. who are stuck at home with what they believe are roommates from beyond the grave.

“There is no scientific evidence for the existence of ghosts,” the newspaper helpfully notes.

Tenney spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about what’s got people so spooked. Here is part of their conversation.

What kind of stories are you getting?

Everything from typical knocks and footsteps in the hallway, to some very new, strange occurrences, like people hearing whispered voices through their television sets or getting text messages from long deceased friends and relatives.  (Highly unlikely that these phenomena, if real, are suddenly exploding into our consciousness)

And what do you make of this?

If we’re going to allow or believe that ghosts exist, then people are seeing an uptick of ghosts.

They’re in a heightened emotional state. They’ve been sequestered. They’re spending time in their house, which they normally don’t do at certain hours.

Most people are gone at work and so they’re not used to hearing the pops and creaks in their house normally. But if there are ghosts, perhaps they’ve had a ghost in their house all along and they’ve just never noticed that.

Perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too.

Is it possible that the ghosts themselves are getting more active, given that these people are at home all day long?

If ghosts are the way that we traditionally think about them, which is, you know, were once people, then perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too, and they’re making themselves a little more known to the people that they’re not commonly used to seeing at all hours of the day and night. (Bored ghosts? It is a stretch and very unscientific to assign emotions to an ethereal entity, should it even exist, sine they possibly occupy a location in time and space we know little about.  I’m sure if they were bored they could easily move on to somewhere else on their plane of existence or leave us altogether.)

Maybe they don’t want that company. I mean, some of the reports that I was seeing in this New York Times article, this sounds quite annoying — like little petty things of doors slamming and towels on the floor and rattling the shades and things. I mean, maybe it’s a message that they just want to be left alone in these houses.

It’s possible. (But unlikely. Doors slamming and towels on the floor are common everyday occurrences and not directly correlated to hauntings/ghosts.)

As human beings, we have difficulty communicating and discerning the motives of other living human beings that are right in front of us. So for us to try and divine what the intention is of an ethereal, invisible being that we can’t really see?  (Psychological studies have show we are very good at ‘determining’ the motives of other humans and we bitch about them everyday in our coffee houses or at the pub over a cold beer.  He is right in that determining motives, if there are any , which is highly unlikely, is an impossible task in this modern age.  In the history of ghostly lore over thousands of years ghosts had a purpose and were not shy in expressing it. Since today we have trouble determining any motivation, this could mean that: (a) ghosts are less communicative for reasons we do not understand, (b) reality TV shows are incompetent in locating true hauntings, (c), ghosts are a social construct which has changed over time, and (d), we are not looking for them in the right way.)

They might just be trying to get attention, and they’re doing it the only way they know how, which is slamming a door or pulling a window shade or slamming a window.

Is it possible … that people, being confined and seeing no one, are just going a little nuts?  (GPC Ed: We would not use the word nuts to explain this, but the question is certainly valid and boredom and imagination combined with stress, which is the main ingredient in any haunting, is the probably reason for the alleged uptick in reports. We are trying to validate his claims.)

I tell people to kind of take copious notes, journal about it, keep track of when it happens, because the majority of cases that I investigated over the past 30 years have had a natural solution to them. (Almost all.)

There might be something happening in your house, whether it be your furnace turning on or a truck driving down the street every day at the same time, that you never noticed before. But once you start to take notes, you’ll notice that it’s a repeating pattern or something that’s very familiar.

How often do you actually … find something that’s there?

I’ve investigated thousands of cases and there are probably maybe less than a hundred where something really unique and strange is happening.

What was the strangest?

I’ve been in a situation where I was in a room with 13 people and we had the lights off and this room was allegedly haunted. And so we were sitting in the dark and everybody was saying their name, kind of introducing themselves to the ghost, for lack of a better word. ( A very unscientific way to investigate ghosts)

And one woman in the corner refused to say her name. And that’s fine, but when I asked if she could say where she was from, she didn’t respond.

So I turned the light on, and that’s when everybody in the room realized that that woman that we had all thought was with us had never been there. There was an empty spot where we thought she had been sitting. (Since true  ghosts appear as solid, three-dimensional entities indistinguishable from real people, this could be a true case of a ghost since human sight is the only way to locate them, ie, all the equipment int the world is useless in locating them. Assuming this is true as related to the reporter of course.)

I have had, you know, situations where I’ve seen strange coloured mist floating around a room or through a cemetery.

But sometimes it’s almost so typical that it’s hard to believe you’re looking at something that’s cloaked with a skeleton-like face. Your mind just says, “Oh, that’s gotta be something from a movie. It’s got to be something I’m imagining. (Ah, no. Didn’t happen)

When you have an experience where someone says, “Oh, I’m seeing a very spooky movie-like ghost” … you have to wonder how much their mind is playing into how they perceive their reality.

So that brings us back to this quarantine thing. I haven’t heard anyone say that they’ve experienced something paranormal, but lots of people saying that since they’ve been locked in lockdown, they’re having a lot of … strange dreams. So [is] a lot of this in the imagination, do you think?

I saw a spike like this before, right at the Y2K in 1999. There was another minor spike around 9/11.

Times of stress really do something to human psychology, and so you see people having deeper, stranger dreams. You have people reporting a higher amount of ghosts in their house or haunted houses. (Very true!)

I have even had an increase in UFO reports since the quarantine. And that might just be because people, you know, go outside and look up at the sky and have time to reflect. (Also very true)

It doesn’t mean so much that they’re going crazy, but perhaps they’re just becoming a little more introverted and perhaps getting to know themselves a little better.

Would you tell people to be receptive to these experiences?

I would. I think that our world is so strange, you should have as many weird experiences as possible. I also think that once you open yourself up to a weird experience, you start to have more of them. (That is something we call the Kitchen Sink Phenomena. When a paranormal even occurs, normal events, as well as unusual but innocent events are suddenly being classified as supernatural and often falsely related to the original event when they are not.  Or the person begins to believe that the supernatural follows them around and becomes paranoid or accepts the false believe and treats it as almost a religious revelation and ‘honours’ this ability accordingly. It is not acceptable parapsychological practice to encourage this. )

The majority of cases that I’ve ever investigated, people don’t get hurt. It’s not scary. It’s startling, but it’s not scary. If someone does get hurt, it’s because they are startled and fall off of a ladder or run down the steps and trip on their own feet. (Correct)

But I think that if ghosts are here, they’re a part of our environment and we should get to know them. (And thus the reason for the scientific work of Ghost Project Canada)