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(What is Parapsychology)


What is Parapsychology? 


     Parapsychology is the study of mental phenomena which are excluded from or inexplicable by orthodox scientific psychology (such as hypnosis, telepathy, etc.). 

     Parapsychology is the study of alleged psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, as in telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, a.k.a. telekinesis, and psychometry) and other paranormal claims, for example related to near-death experiences, synchronicity, apparitional experiences, etc. It is considered to be pseudoscience by a vast majority of mainstream scientists, in part because, in addition to a lack of replicable empirical evidence, parapsychological claims simply cannot be true "unless the rest of science isn't." 


Parapsychology as a Science 


     Parapsychological theories are viewed as pseudoscientific by the scientific community as they are incompatible with well-established laws of science. As there is no repeatable evidence for psi, the field is often regarded as a pseudoscience. 

The philosopher Raimo Tuomela summarized why the majority of scientists consider parapsychology to be a pseudoscience in his essay "Science, Protoscience, and Pseudoscience". 

  • Parapsychology relies on an ill-defined ontology and typically shuns exact thinking. 

  • The hypotheses and theories of parapsychology have not been proven and are in bad shape. 

  • Extremely little progress has taken place in parapsychology on the whole and parapsychology conflicts with established science. 

  • Parapsychology has poor research problems, being concerned with establishing the existence of its subject matter and having practically no theories to create proper research problems. 

  • While in parts of parapsychology there are attempts to use the methods of science there are also unscientific areas; and in any case parapsychological research can at best qualify as prescientific because of its poor theoretical foundation. 

  • Parapsychology is a largely isolated research area. 

     The methods of parapsychologists are regarded by critics, including those who wrote the science standards for the California State Board of Education, to be pseudoscientific. Some of the more specific criticisms state that parapsychology does not have a clearly defined subject matter, an easily repeatable experiment that can demonstrate a psi effect on demand, nor an underlying theory to explain the paranormal transfer of information. James Alcock has stated that few of parapsychology's experimental results have prompted interdisciplinary research with more mainstream sciences such as physics or biology, and that parapsychology remains an isolated science to such an extent that its very legitimacy is questionable, and as a whole is not justified in being labeled "scientific". Alcock has written "Parapsychology is indistinguishable from pseudo-science, and its ideas are essentially those of magic... There is no evidence that would lead the cautious observer to believe that parapsychologists and paraphysicists are on the track of a real phenomenon, a real energy or power that has so far escaped the attention of those people engaged in "normal" science." 

     The scientific community considers parapsychology a pseudoscience because it continues to explore the hypothesis that psychic abilities exist despite a century of experimental results that fail to conclusively demonstrate that hypothesis. A panel commissioned by the United States National Research Council to study paranormal claims concluded that "despite a 130-year record of scientific research on such matters, our committee could find no scientific justification for the existence of phenomena such as extrasensory perception, mental telepathy or ‘mind over matter’ exercises... Evaluation of a large body of the best available evidence simply does not support the contention that these phenomena exist." 




     Named after its founder Franz Anton Mesmer, the actual term 'Mesmerism' was first used from about 1780. Prior to that Mesmer himself developed the theory of 'Animal Magnetism'; that being an unseen energy flowing between all living and even non-living objects. Mesmer practiced techniques that would realign and manipulate this energy connection (not dissimilar in some ways to Reiki) to help bring positive change in his clients. This was across all types of areas and issues. He built up quite the following doing this. 

     Mesmer's process would involve the use of strokes (or passes) to influence the energy field around his client/s. Often this would involve trance like states brought on by what we would now call non-verbal hypnosis methods. (more on this shortly) He believed that the energy (or unseen magnetic fluid), when unbalanced, was the cause for many types of problems people experienced. By being able to re-balance this energy, the client would experience significant shifts sometimes instantaneously as their energy flow was brought back into harmony and balance. 

     There is much we still do not know about the mind, energy and how everything interacts. There is also much that we know now that was not known back in Mesmer's days. In searching for explanations or reasons for the many results Mesmer reported and since other practitioners have too for these methods, it is important to consider the nature of energy and mind. We know that a calm and stress-free mindset is conducive to better health. We also know the benefits of other practices like yoga, reiki, kinesiology, energy healing, and other types of energy work. It is all about releasing the negative and bringing everything back into balance. This is how Mesmerism works and why it is especially very effective when used in conjunction with hypnotherapy too. 

     Mesmerism is not technically hypnosis - but - it had a very influential role in the events that shaped the beginnings of hypnosis. Hypnosis as a term was first coined by James Braid in 1843 for a trance phenomenon derived from early Mesmerism/Animal Magnetism practice. Of course, there are other roles at work here, but Mesmer was indeed a very large influence on the first people who began using the word hypnosis and practicing it as a trance therapy. (the use of hypnosis can actually be traced back to the early Egyptians, but the word hypnosis was only used from 1843 onwards) There were elements used in Mesmerism, mostly non-verbal, that are also shared when doing a hypnosis induction. These include things like fascination, gaze, the touching of positions on the client's hands etc. Many of these used are used in rapid hypnotic inductions to instate trance quickly in a client. So even though Mesmerism is not technically hypnosis it does share some similarities and was heavily influential in its development. 




     Spiritualism is an informal religious movement based on the belief that the spirits of the dead exist and have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. The afterlife, or the "spirit world", is seen by spiritualists, not as a static place, but as one in which spirits continue to evolve. These two beliefs—that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits are more advanced than humans—lead spiritualists to a third belief: that spirits are capable of providing useful knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about the nature of God. Some spiritualists will speak of a concept which they refer to as "spirit guides"—specific spirits, often contacted, who are relied upon for spiritual guidance. Spiritism, a branch of spiritualism developed by Allan Kardec and today practiced mostly in Continental Europe and Latin America, especially in Brazil, emphasizes reincarnation. 

     Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. By 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes. 

Spiritualists believe in the possibility of communication with the spirits of dead people, whom they regard as "discarnate humans". They believe that spirit mediums are gifted to carry on such communication, but that anyone may become a medium through study and practice. They believe that spirits are capable of growth and perfection, progressing through higher spheres or planes, and that the afterlife is not a static state, but one in which spirits evolve. The two beliefs—that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits may dwell on a higher plane—lead to a third belief, that spirits can provide knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about God and the afterlife. Many believers therefore speak of "spirit guides"—specific spirits, often contacted, and relied upon for worldly and spiritual guidance. 

     According to Spiritualists, anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séances) are held by mediums, who claim thereby to receive information about the afterlife. 


Society for Psychical Research 


     The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) is a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal. It describes itself as the "first society to conduct organized scholarly research into human experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models." It does not, however, since its inception in 1882, hold any corporate opinions: SPR members assert a variety of beliefs with regard to the nature of the phenomena studied. 

     The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) originated from a discussion between journalist Edmund Rogers and the physicist William F. Barrett in autumn 1881. This led to a conference on 5 and 6 January 1882 at the headquarters of the British National Association of Spiritualists which the foundation of the Society was proposed. The committee included Barrett, Rogers, Stainton Moses, Charles Massey, Edmund Gurney, Hensleigh Wedgwood and Frederic W. H. Myers. The SPR was formally constituted on 20 February 1882 with philosopher Henry Sidgwick as its first president.  

It was a visit to New York in 1884 by William F. Barrett that led to the formation of the American branch of the society. Today it’s known as the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) 





     Extrasensory perception or ESP, also called sixth sense, includes claimed reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses, but sensed with the mind. The term was adopted by Duke University psychologist J. B. Rhine to denote psychic abilities such as intuition, telepathy, psychometry, clairvoyance, and their trans-temporal operation as precognition or retrocognition. 



     Clairvoyance (/klɛərˈvɔɪəns/; from French clair meaning "clear" and voyance meaning "vision") is the claimed ability to gain information about an object, person, location, or physical event through extrasensory perception. Any person who is claimed to have such ability is said accordingly to be a clairvoyant (/klɛərˈvɔɪənt/) ("one who sees clearly"). 

     Pertaining to the ability of clear-sightedness, clairvoyance refers to the paranormal ability to see persons and events that are distant in time or space. It can be divided into roughly three classes: precognition, the ability to perceive or predict future events, retrocognition, the ability to see past events, and remote viewing, the perception of contemporary events happening outside of the range of normal perception. 


Remote Viewing 

     Remote viewing (RV) is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target, purportedly "sensing" with the mind. Remote viewing experiments have historically been criticized for lack of proper controls and repeatability. There is no scientific evidence that remote viewing exists, and the topic of remote viewing is generally regarded as pseudoscience. 

     Typically, a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object, event, person or location that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance. 


     Mediumship is the practice of purportedly mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings. Practitioners are known as "mediums" or "spirit mediums". There are different types of mediumship or spirit channeling, including seance tables, trance, and Ouija. 

Mediumship gained popularity during the nineteenth century, when Ouija boards were used by the upper classes as a source of entertainment. Investigations during this period revealed widespread fraud—with some practitioners employing techniques used by stage magicians—and the practice began to lose credibility. Fraud is still rife in the medium/psychic industry, with cases of deception and trickery being discovered to this day. 

Belief in psychic ability is widespread despite the absence of objective evidence for its existence. Scientific researchers have attempted to ascertain the validity of claims of mediumship. An experiment undertaken by the British Psychological Society led to the conclusion that the test subjects demonstrated no mediumistic ability. 

     Several different variants of mediumship have been described; arguably the best-known forms involve a spirit purportedly taking control of a medium's voice and using it to relay a message, or where the medium simply "hears" the message and passes it on. Other forms involve materializations of the spirit or the presence of a voice, and telekinetic activity. 

The practice is associated with several religious-belief systems such as Shamanism, Vodun, Spiritualism, Spiritism, Candomblé, Voodoo, Umbanda and some New Age groups. 


     Telepathy (from the Greek τῆλε, tele meaning "distant" and πάθος/-πάθεια, pathos or -patheia meaning "feeling, perception, passion, affliction, experience") is the purported vicarious transmission of information from one person to another without using any known human sensory channels or physical interaction. The term was first coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Frederic W. H. Myers,[5] a founder of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), and has remained more popular than the earlier expression thought-transference. 

Telepathy experiments have historically been criticized for lack of proper controls and repeatability. There is no convincing evidence that telepathy exists, and the topic is generally considered by the scientific community to be pseudoscience. 

Out of Body Experience 

     An out-of-body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE) is a phenomenon in which a person perceives the world from a location outside their physical body. An OBE is a form of autoscopy (literally "seeing self"), although this term is more commonly used to refer to the pathological condition of seeing a second self, or doppelgänger. 

     The term out-of-body experience was introduced in 1943 by G. N. M. Tyrrell in his book Apparitions, and was adopted by researchers such as Celia Green, and Robert Monroe, as an alternative to belief-centric labels such as "astral projection" or "spirit walking". OBEs can be induced by traumatic brain injuries, sensory deprivation, near-death experiences, dissociative and psychedelic drugs, dehydration, sleep disorders, dreaming, and electrical stimulation of the brain, among other causes. It can also be deliberately induced by some. One in ten people has an OBE once, or more commonly, several times in their life. 

Near Death Experience 

     A near-death experience (NDE) is a profound personal experience associated with death or impending death which researchers claim share similar characteristics. When positive, such experiences may encompass a variety of sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. When negative, such experiences may include sensations of anguish and distress. 

     Explanations for NDEs vary from scientific to religious. Neuroscience research suggests that an NDE is a subjective phenomenon resulting from "disturbed bodily multisensory integration" that occurs during life-threatening events, while some transcendental and religious beliefs about an afterlife include descriptions similar to NDEs. 


     Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, "spirit, soul" and μέτρον, metron, "measure"),[1] also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object's history. 


     Psychokinesis (from Greek ψυχή "soul" and κίνησις "movement"), or telekinesis (from τηλε- "far off" and κίνησις "movement"), is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to influence a physical system without physical interaction. 

The word psychokinesis was coined in 1914 by American author Henry Holt in his book On the Cosmic Relations. The term is a portmanteau of the Greek language words ψυχή (psyche) – meaning "mind", "soul", "spirit", or "breath" – and κίνησις (kinesis) – meaning "motion" or "movement". The American parapsychologist J. B. Rhine coined the term extra-sensory perception to describe receiving information paranormally from an external source. Following this, he used the term psychokinesis in 1934 to describe mentally influencing external objects or events without the use of physical energy. His initial example of psychokinesis was experiments that were conducted to determine whether a person could influence the outcome of falling dice. 

     The word telekinesis, a portmanteau of the Greek τῆλε (tēle) – meaning "distance" – and κίνησις (kinesis) – meaning "motion", was first used in 1890 by Russian psychical researcher Alexander N. Aksakof. 

     In parapsychology, fictional universes and New Age beliefs, psychokinesis and telekinesis are different: psychokinesis refers to the mental influence of physical systems and objects without the use of any physical energy, while telekinesis refers to the movement and/or levitation of physical objects by purely mental force without any physical intervention.  


     In ghost lore, a poltergeist (/ˈpoʊltərˌɡaɪst/ or /ˈpɒltərˌɡaɪst/; German for "noisy ghost" or "noisy spirit") is a type of ghost or spirit that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed. Most claims about or fictional descriptions of poltergeists show them as capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. They are also depicted as capable of the movement or levitation of objects such as furniture and cutlery, or noises such as knocking on doors. 

     They have traditionally been described as troublesome spirits who haunt a particular person instead of a specific location. Some variation of poltergeist folklore is found in many different cultures. Early claims of spirits that supposedly harass and torment their victims date back to the 1st century, but references to poltergeists became more common in the early 17th century. 

     Poltergeist activity has often been believed to be the work of malicious spirits by spiritualists. According to Allan Kardec, the founder of Spiritism, poltergeists are manifestations of disembodied spirits of low level, belonging to the sixth class of the third order. Under this explanation, they are believed to be closely associated with the elements (fire, air, water, earth). In Finland, somewhat famous are the case of the "Mäkkylä Ghost" in 1946, which received attention in the press at the time, and the "Devils of Martin" in Ylöjärvi in the late 19th century, for which affidavits were obtained in court. Samuli Paulaharju has also recorded a memoir of a typical poltergeist, the case of "Salkko-Niila", from the south of Lake Inari in his book Memoirs of Lapland (Lapin muisteluksia). The story has also been published in the collection of Mythical Stories (Myytillisiä tarinoita) edited by Lauri Simonsuuri. 


     In parapsychology, an apparitional experience is an anomalous experience characterized by the apparent perception of either a living being or an inanimate object without there being any material stimulus for such a perception. 

     In academic discussion, the term "apparitional experience" is to be preferred to the term "ghost" in respect of the following points: 

The term ghost implies that some element of the human being survives death and, at least under certain circumstances, can make itself perceptible to living human beings. There are other competing explanations of apparitional experiences. 

     Firsthand accounts of apparitional experiences differ in many respects from their fictional counterparts in literary or traditional ghost stories and films (see below). 

The content of apparitional experiences includes living beings, both human and animal, and even inanimate objects.  



     The word "reincarnation" derives from Latin, literally meaning, "entering the flesh again". The Greek equivalent metempsychosis (μετεμψύχωσις) derives from meta (change) and empsykhoun (to put a soul into), a term attributed to Pythagoras. An alternative term is transmigration implying migration from one life (body) to another. Reincarnation refers to the belief that an aspect of every human being (or all living beings in some cultures) continues to exist after death, this aspect may be the soul or mind or consciousness or something transcendent which is reborn in an interconnected cycle of existence; the transmigration belief varies by culture, and is envisioned to be in the form of a newly born human being, or animal, or plant, or spirit, or as a being in some other non-human realm of existence. The term has been used by modern philosophers such as Kurt Gödel and has entered the English language. Another Greek term sometimes used synonymously is palingenesis, "being born again". 

     Rebirth is a key concept found in major Indian religions, and discussed with various terms. Punarjanman (Sanskrit: पुनर्जन्मन्) means "rebirth, transmigration". Reincarnation is discussed in the ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, with many alternate terms such as punarāvṛtti (पुनरावृत्ति), punarājāti (पुनराजाति), punarjīvātu (पुनर्जीवातु), punarbhava (पुनर्भव), āgati-gati (आगति-गति, common in Buddhist Pali text), nibbattin (निब्बत्तिन्), upapatti (उपपत्ति), and uppajjana (उप्पज्जन). These religions believe that this reincarnation is cyclic and an endless Saṃsāra, unless one gains spiritual insights that ends this cycle leading to liberation. The reincarnation concept is considered in Indian religions as a step that starts each "cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence", but one that is an opportunity to seek spiritual liberation through ethical living and a variety of meditative, yogic (marga), or other spiritual practices. They consider the release from the cycle of reincarnations as the ultimate spiritual goal, and call the liberation by terms such as moksha, nirvana, mukti and kaivalya. However, the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain traditions have differed, since ancient times, in their assumptions and in their details on what reincarnates, how reincarnation occurs and what leads to liberation. 


(Proof of Famous Cases)



     Shanti Devi (11 December 1926 – 27 December 1987) was an Indian woman who claimed to remember her past life, and became the subject of reincarnation research. A commission set up by the Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi supported her claim, while another report by researcher Bal Chand Nahata disputed it. Subsequently, several other researchers interviewed her, and published articles and books about her. 

Shanti Devi was born in Delhi, India. As a little girl in the 1930s, she began to claim to remember details of a past life. According to these accounts, when she was about four years old, she told her parents that her real home was in Mathura where her husband lived, about 145 km from her home in Delhi. 

     She also shared three unique features about her husband – he was fair, wore glasses, and had a big wart on his left cheek. She also stated her husband’s shop was located right in front of the Dwarkadhish temple in Mathura. 


Famous Mediums 


Monica the Medium 

     Monica the Medium is one of the youngest mediums the world has ever seen. According to her website, Monica realized her natural mediumship abilities at the young age of 15. 

     A humble and sweet soul, Monica uses her gifts to pass along messages from the Other Side, providing comfort to those who have lost loved ones. You can catch Monica Ten-Kate on her television show, “Monica the Medium” on Freeform. 


Theresa Caputo  

     Theresa Caputo is a New York born and raised medium and author of the book, There’s More to Life Than This:  Healing Messages, Remarkable Stories, and Insight About the Other Side from the Long Island Medium.  People love this lady so much, that she had a waiting list two years out before she even became famous! 


Chip Coffey 

     Gifted since birth, Chip Coffey is a psychic medium who was born in New York and has spent much time in front of the camera.  In addition to countless television interviews, he has worked with real life ghost hunters on the series Paranormal State. 


Maureen Hancock 

     Maureen Hancock is quickly becoming one of the most famous mediums in the US.  Her ability to communicate with the dead began after a devastating car accident in 1992. 

     In Maureen’s hometown of Massachusetts, she is known for her great sense of humor.  Her accuracy and detail are so amazing that her Postcards from Heaven show sells out almost as soon as tickets are offered! 


John Holland 

     Boston native John Holland makes spirit communication seem like an art form. In addition to being one of the most famous mediums in the world, John Holland is a best-selling author of several books including Born Knowing, and Power of the Soul. 

He’s also a spiritual teacher and shares his expertise helping others learn how to tune into their own intuition. 


John Edward 

     One of the most famous mediums in the world is John Edward (his name is often mistaken for John Edwards – medium). 

A New York born and raised psychic medium and best-selling author; he conducts his readings with a no-nonsense style. 

This famous medium has starred in Crossing Over with John Edward, a television show in which he would give messages from those on the other side to audience members. 


James Van Praagh 

     James Van Praagh is one of the most famous mediums on earth, and the best-selling author of many books, including Talking to Heaven.  He has also produced shows for television. 


Michelle Whitedove 

     Michelle Whitedove proved her genuine psychic abilities on the reality television show America’s Psychic Challenge where she was named America’s #1 Psychic. 

     The honor is well deserved, because this lady does it all. Her gifts include; spirit medium, psychic detective, health intuitive. 


Lisa Williams 

     Lisa Williams is a gifted English medium, and one of the best-known psychics worldwide.  She became famous with her popular television shows Life Among the Dead, and Voices from the Other Side. 

     Lisa’s website states that she has seen spirits since she was a young child, and that her grandmother was also a medium.  She also talks about how she never sought out do to readings for people, but word of mouth about her abilities spread like wildfire. 


Poltergeists and Apparitions 


     The Enfield poltergeist was a claim of supernatural activity at 284 Green Street, a council house in Brimsdown, Enfield, London, England, between 1977 and 1979 involving two sisters, aged 11 and 13.[1] Some members of the Society for Psychical Research such as inventor Maurice Grosse and writer Guy Lyon Playfair believed the haunting to be genuine, while others such as Anita Gregory and John Beloff were "unconvinced" and found evidence the girls had faked incidents for the benefit of journalists. Members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, including stage magicians such as Milbourne Christopher and Joe Nickell, criticized paranormal investigators for being credulous whilst also identifying features of the case as being indicative of a hoax. 

     The story attracted press coverage in British newspapers, and has been mentioned in books, featured in television documentaries, and dramatized in a horror film. 

     The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. The lady in question was Dorothy Walpole, sister to the Prime Minister of England in the early 1700’s. She was a child of wealth and privilege and had almost anything she wanted—save the choice of a husband.  

Lady Dorothy Walpole was born in 1686 and died in 1726. Her brother was Sir Robert Walpole, considered England's first Prime-minister. She married Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend, also a statesman and business partner to her brother Robert Walpole. 

She died under mysterious circumstances at Raynham Hall, possibly of smallpox, and is said to be the ghost that haunts Raynham Hall, Houghton Hall and also Sandringham House. 

     A Photograph claimed to be of the Brown Lady, was taken by Indre Shira and Captain Provand on 19 September 1936. It was taken on a stairway in Raynham Hall. 



Fraudulent Techniques 


     Medium Techniques 

  • Making claims that could apply to anyone 

  • Getting them to tell you the important info 

  • Saying things that will be true for at least someone 

  • Keeping it vague lets you backtrack when you miss 

  • Watch for subtle reactions that reveal major details 

  • Looking for minor clues that reveal important info 

  • Just learning everything they need to know ahead of time 

Telepathy Techniques. 

Use of two people, Communication in code relaying messages to the person claiming to have the telepathy ability are some ways they fake the claim of telepathy. It's more of an illusion and done swiftly. 


Famous Fraud 

     Callas, France — The gate opened slowly, offering a glimpse of overgrown gardens, weathered statues of naked mythical figures and a large white house with pale green shutters. We tried to soak it in quickly, not knowing whether the gate would snap shut as it had once before. 

This time, we were allowed inside. 

     At the top of stone stairs leading to the house stood an elderly blonde woman we recognized right away: Maria Duval, the woman we had been investigating for more than two years. 

 Tracking the mysterious psychic Maria Duval 

     We had never before laid eyes on her. But we’d seen her face many times. In old news articles about her miraculous rescue of missing people. In videos of her talking about her psychic abilities. On letters sent around the world. 

It was the letters that brought us here. 

     They were written to elderly, sick and lonely people, and they promised that Maria Duval would use her powers as a world-renowned psychic to help solve their problems. They could recover from ailments, avoid terrible misfortune, win the lottery. 

All they needed to do was send money. 

     At least 1.4 million Americans fell for the scam, as did countless others around the world. Some wiped out their retirement savings. Others lost money they had hoped to leave to their families. 

     On its face, this ruse sounded like so many others that prey on the elderly and take advantage of people with conditions like dementia. 

But there was something special about Maria Duval. 

The letters appeared to be handwritten and signed by the psychic. They contained personal details, like a recipient’s name, age or hometown. It seemed as if the psychic had intuited this information. It had actually been pieced together from “suckers list” sold by companies known as data brokers and from information the victims themselves unknowingly provided in the past. 

     Seduced by Duval’s promises, US investigators say, people paid around $40 each time they corresponded with her in exchange for her guidance, lucky numbers and talismans. This seemingly simple scheme became one of the longest-running mail frauds in history – infiltrating more than a dozen countries, spanning more than 20 years and raking in more than $200 million in the United States and Canada alone. In America, it ensnared 60 times more victims than Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme. 


Scientific Study 


The Scientific Approach:


     The scientific consensus is that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of psi phenomena. Scientists critical of parapsychology state that its extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence if they are to be taken seriously. Scientists who have evaluated parapsychology have written the entire body of evidence is of poor quality and not adequately controlled. In support of this view, critics cite instances of fraud, flawed studies, and cognitive biases (such as clustering illusion, availability error, confirmation bias, illusion of control, magical thinking, and the bias blind spot) as ways to explain parapsychological results. Research has also shown that people's desire to believe in paranormal phenomena causes them to discount strong evidence that it does not exist. 


Potential Pitfalls:


     In 1974 Rhine published the paper Security versus Deception in Parapsychology in the Journal of Parapsychology which documented 12 cases of fraud that he had detected from 1940 to 1950 but refused to give the names of the participants in the studies. Massimo Pigliucci has written: 

Most damning of all, Rhine admitted publicly that he had uncovered at least twelve instances of dishonesty among his researchers in a single decade, from 1940 to 1950. However, he flaunted standard academic protocol by refusing to divulge the names of the fraudsters, which means that there is unknown number of published papers in the literature that claim paranormal effects while in fact they were the result of conscious deception. 



     Organized skepticism does a valuable service when it is focused on educating the public to detect and reject unscrupulous practitioners who prey on gullible people. Equally valuable is the unflinching and clear-eyed assessment of experiments in difficult frontier areas such as parapsychology. But we must also be skeptical of some who call themselves skeptics. Unfortunately, some organizations and individual skeptics fail to do their homework and neglect or misapply the scientific methods they want to protect. The result is arguments that fail when tested against facts that are readily available. We need a clear-minded look at frontier research by observers willing to give it serious attention. A second opinion from someone not involved is valuable. A dispassionate, objective critique can make the difference between a successful experiment from which we learn, and a failed attempt which wastes an opportunity. 

     The concept of skepticism (or skepticism to use the British spelling) is often misunderstood in common parlance. Much to their consternation, it is not at all uncommon for those who self-identify as skeptics to be referred to as cynics by others. This reflects the fact that, for most people, the word “skeptic” has very negative connotations. Skeptics are often viewed as general naysayers, dismissing the cherished beliefs of others without a second thought. As the confusion with cynicism indicates, skepticism is also often thought to be associated with a distrustful attitude to others and a belief that ultimately everyone is motivated purely by self-interest and greed. It may appear somewhat paradoxical, then, that since the 1970s, a growing number of people around the world have embraced the label and become actively involved in what is sometimes referred to as “the skeptical movement.” Of course, most of those who think of themselves as skeptics would completely reject the negative view of skepticism described in the preceding paragraph. For them, skepticism is a virtue. It has nothing to do with a negative view of humanity as a whole and instead relates to the application of critical thinking to controversial claims such as those relating to, for example, complementary and alternative medicine, cryptozoology, astrology, conspiracy theories, and, most relevant for the current volume, the paranormal. Ideally, skepticism requires all claims to be evaluated upon the bases of the quality of the evidence put forward in their support and the application of rigorous reasoning in the interpretation of that evidence. It is emphatically not the simple rejection of claims prior to such evaluation (French, 2005b) 


Becoming a Parapsychologist 


Become a Parapsychologist: 


     There are no undergraduate courses for Parapsychology. Best you can do is minor in parapsychology and major in psychology. The U.K. is the leader in parapsychology with some schools available in the U.S. 


Jobs in the Field:


     Finding a parapsychology course is difficult, but finding a job is almost impossible. The parapsychology field is small and select. If you are going to find a job, it will most likely be in one of the universities doing academic research or with one of the few private research facilities. Funding for parapsychology has dwindled over the past few decades. It peaked in the USA in the 1970s, at which time the establishment became disillusioned with the lack of progress and funds were diverted elsewhere. 

     The chances are that you might have to take a job in a mainstream scientific area and use this to finance your parapsychology research on a part-time basis. Your best chance for success is to get a good degree, bolstered by a post-graduate degree from a recognized institute. If you can build up a network of contacts, so much the better. If you are lucky, you will have a fascinating career! 

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