Observed Effects of the Unconscious Mind and the Unknown World. 4: Acoustic and Other Physical Effects

Some ghostly apparitions seem to have been accompanied by noise: footsteps, door-handle rattlings, raps. Such noises suggest some sort of impact on two different senses at once: that of sight and that of sound. They make little obvious sense: a weightless apparition should not make audible footsteps, and one that can go through a door would not have to rattle the handle. Poltergeists also produce raps. The whole social phenomenon of spiritualism developed from a rapping poltergeist in the household of Mr Fox in Rochester in the USA, in 1848.

Many raps have been recorded by sound equipment. In 1972 the Toronto Society for Psychical Research,29 encountered rapping noises (Chapter 6) during their extraordinary experiment of ‘inventing’ a ghost. A group

Why Are We Conscious? A Scientist's Take on Consciousness and Extrasensory Perception David E. H. Jones

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ISBN 978-981-4774-32-1 (Hardcover), 978-1-315-16688-9 (eBook) www.panstanford.com of investigators in that Society set up a completely fictional character, ‘Philip’, and fitted him out with an equally fictitious background. He was imagined as an English nobleman of the 1600s. He played a part in the English Civil War of that time, featuring King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. He was given a tragic domestic life, and killed himself at the age of 30 by throwing himself from the battlements of his castle. The buildings he was imagined to inhabit exist in England, but the Toronto group gave them structural elements that never existed.

The group initially had 14 people, but some members withdrew, leaving eight ‘regulars’. They met every week for a year and indulged in a joint meditation about Philip. After about a year with little success, the group ultimately found that Philip could rap on the table. During such sessions, nobody in the Toronto group made any attempt to rap on the table by himself or herself. The group could even ask Philip questions by means of those raps. To simplify the exchanges, they only asked questions that could be answered by one rap for yes and two raps for no. Questions that Philip did not want to answer (such as ones about his sexual life) produced scratching noises from the table. The group did not know at that time that poltergeists sometimes also produce scratching noises. The ultimate aim of the group was to create a visible apparition of Philip, but this ambition failed. Those raps, however, seemed real and not of human origin. They were able to record many of them on sound equipment, and later had them analyzed sonically. The raps recorded by the Toronto group are scientifically well authenticated and very convincing, but other paranormal raps have also been recorded and studied sonically. They all seem to show that such raps die away faster than ones created by normal physical knocking.

The Toronto raps appear to have been originated by movements of the table surface. Thus the group often noted that a weak rap could not be heard, but could be felt by the fingers as some sort of vibration of that surface. Furthermore, the raps were usually spatially localized. Philip could produce a rap that seemed to be directed at the person who asked him a question, and often seemed to answer the question before the questioner had completed the verbal sentence. This suggests that Philip was reading the mind of the questioner, and reinforces my speculation that an entity in the unknown world may be able to ‘read’ an idea in a conscious mind before it gets translated into language. There might be other indications that Philip’s response was personal—thus the questioner often felt that the responding rap originated under his or her fingers. Other members of the group usually heard it, but did not have the impression that it was specifically directed at them. Philip once created a joint rap that went to every member of the group. If asked, he was able to create raps which seemed to originate from a region on the plastered wall of the room, but most of his raps came from the table.

The Toronto group tried to imitate Philip’s raps by knocking on their table with fingers, rings, pencils, and so on. They used several sorts of object, and indeed several tables, but never got anything to sound right. I have great respect for the subtle awarenesses and sensitivities of the human ear (which is why, in my opinion, old-fashioned vinyl recordings continue to be sold and to have value. They sound different from, and more pleasing than, modern digital recordings). Accordingly, I pay a lot of attention to the way things sound to the ear. Any sound is a pattern of movement of the molecules of the air. It travels at the speed of sound (of course) and is usually launched into the air by some sort of disturbance of a solid object—such as the cone of a loudspeaker, or our own vocal cords. A sharp pulse of sound is often called a ‘rap’. It is frequently made by physically hitting a wooden sounding-board with a solid object used as a striker. A sound made in this way starts suddenly at the moment of impact and dies away relatively gradually as the vibrating board loses energy. Philip’s raps were not like this. Sonic analysis revealed that his raps differed from physical ones by decaying more sharply. The finding makes me feel that during a rap the wood of the table altered its physical character. It became momentarily more flexible, easier to bend, and absorbed more energy with each movement.

Another interesting sonic effect has been claimed by Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian who lived in Germany. He has claimed that a radio tuned to the ‘white noise’ between stations may pick up soft extraneous voices. He even claimed to get voices from blank tape, or from the random noise generated by solid-state electronic diodes. In 1971 a major recording company used its own equipment and engineers to make an 18-minute recording under his direction. Nothing was heard during the session, but on playback the tape appeared to carry many voices. Every recording system has its own form of ‘noise’, and the human ear specializes in hearing human voices even when they are not there (just as the human eye is good at seeing human faces in completely non-human objects). Still, if an expert hearer can recognize some of the voices, and regards at least one of them as a genuine speaker from a past time, Raudive’s electronic effect might be incorporated into an element of a machine to acquire information from the unknown world. It might form part of the ‘front end’ of a computer with an unconscious mind (Chapter 16).

Yet another acoustic oddity, but one which has resisted several attempts to prevent it or investigate it, is the ‘direct voice’ sometimes heard during seances or paranormal investigations. It is a human voice, but one whose timbre, character and style of speech differ greatly from of that of any human being present. One such voice claimed to be that of the Devil. Later it changed its style and claimed to be an angel sent to send the Devil away. During World War I, when many bereaved relatives went to mediums in the hope of making contact with those who had died, many mediums seemed to speak ‘ventriloquially’ by such a direct voice, and claimed that this voice was that of the dead person. I suspect that much of this was clever trickery. Kipling, who lost his own son at Loos in 1915, later wrote a disturbing poem, ‘En-dor’ (Chapter 15), which may have been based on a real encounter with this trade.

One interesting feature of some reports is the voice often spoke a foreign language: one unknown to the medium in the case. Indeed, almost all the ex-human entities ‘on the other side’ should speak such a language. The phenomenon of ‘xenoglossy’, as it has been called, seems to be a powerful instance of the display of knowledge not possessed by the medium, and is therefore evidence for its origin outside that medium—perhaps as information from the unknown world. One such entity apparently claimed to be ancient Egyptian, and appeared able to converse in that language. The written xenoglossy I discuss in Chapter 15 adds to the authenticity of the story. This seemingly related to medieval Glastonbury, whose apparently dead monks and construction workers spoke Low Latin or Medieval English.

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