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The Scole Experiment

Said to be the best evidence yet for the afterlife -- but how good is that evidence?
Filed under Paranormal
Skeptoid #179
November 10, 2009
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
Turn out the lights and link your hands, for today we're going to hold a seance and contact the dead, and
have them perform parlor tricks for us in the dark. We're going to look at the Scole Experiment, a large, wellorganized series of seances conducted by members of the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1990's in
Scole, a small village in England. Reported phenomena included ghostly lights flitting about the room, images
appearing on film inside secure containers, reports of touches from unseen hands, levitation of the table, and
disembodied voices. Due to the large number of investigators and sitters involved, the number and
consistency of paranormal episodes observed during the seances, and the lack of any finding of fraud, many
believers often point to the Scole Experiment as the best scientific evidence that spirits do survive in the
afterlife, and can and do come back and interact with the living, demonstrating an impressive array of
conjuring powers.
There were a total of six mediums and fifteen investigators from the SPR. The Society for Psychical Research,
or SPR, is based in London and is more than a century old. Its membership consists of enthusiasts of the
paranormal. The authoritative source for what happened in the Scole Experiment is a report several hundred
pages long, called The Scole Report, originally published in the journal Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research, and written by three of the lead investigators who were present at the sittings, all
current or former senior officers of the SPR: plant scientist Montague Keen, electrical engineer Arthur Ellison,
and psychologist David Fontana. I have a copy here on my desk. It goes through the history of how the
experiments came together, details each of the many seances, and presents analysis and criticism from a
number of the SPR investigators who observed.
Unfortunately, the Scole Experiment was tainted by profound investigative failings. In short, the investigators
imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the
restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators.
What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any
reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any
scientific investigation of the phenomena.
The primary control offered by the mediums was their use of luminous wristbands, to show the sitters that
their hands were not moving about during the seances. I consulted with Mark Edward, a friend in Los Angeles
who gives mentalism and seance performances professionally. He knows all the tricks, and luminous
wristbands are, apparently, one of the tricks. There are any number of ways that a medium can get into and
out of luminous wristbands during a seance. The wristbands used at Scole were made and provided by the
mediums themselves, and were never subjected to testing, which is a gross dereliction of control by the
investigators. Without having been at the Scole Experiment in person, Mark couldn't speculate on what those
mediums may have done or how they may have done it. Suffice it to say that professional seance performers
are not in the least bit impressed by this so-called control. Tricks like this have been part of the game for
more than a century. Since hand holding was not employed in the Scole seances, the mediums effectively had
every opportunity to be completely hands free and do whatever they wanted to do.

Believers in the Scole Experiment are likely to point to specifics in the Scole Report and say something like
"But according to the detailed notes, the medium never moved his hands," or something like that. But we
have to remember that, assuming the Scole mediums were using trickery, the authors of the Scole Report
were merely witnesses who were taken in by the tricks. Of course their report is likely to, and does, state
that they could not have been fooled. This is a perfect example of confirmation bias. These Society for
Psychical Research fellows firmly believed they were witnessing genuine spirit phenomena, and desired a
positive outcome. They followed the mediums' instructions to the T and acted as an audience only and not as
investigators. The Scole Report details the authors' perceptions of what happened in the room; no reader has
cause to believe it describes what actually happened in the room.
Repeatedly, throughout the Scole Report, the authors state that no evidence of fraud or deception was found.
For example:
There is a further complaint: that we made little mention of the views of people like West or Professor
Robert Morris, "who expressed reservations on the basis of their experiences." That is partly because no such
reservations were expressed to us at the time... We were looking for evidence of deception... We looked in
If I go to Penn & Teller's magic show to look for evidence of deception, but I impose the rule that I have to
stay in my seat and watch the show as presented, and I'm not allowed to go onstage and examine the
performers or the equipment, or watch from behind, or observe the preparations, I guarantee you that I also
will find no evidence of deception. Placing illuminated wrist cuffs on the seance mediums, and allowing no
further controls, is perfectly analogous to having Teller show you his arms "Hey, look, nothing up my sleeves,"
then allowing him total control over everything that follows. It can reasonably be argued that the Scole
Experiment investigators (whether deliberately or through near-total investigative incompetence) created
the conditions of a stage show designed to fool an audience.
The phenomenon most commonly reported in the Scole Experiments were small points of light that flitted
about the room, often striking crystals and illuminating them from within, or causing disconnected light bulbs
or a small glass dome to light up. Since the mediums banned video gear, there's no way we can really
evaluate these claims, other than by reading the Scole Report, which only tells us the perceptions
experienced by a few true believers who were present. Mark Edward said these tricks have been commonly
performed in seances with laser pointers since the 1970's when they first became available: Strike a light bulb
or rock crystal with a laser pointer and it lights right up. An advantage of laser pointers is that the tip can be
easily cloaked, obscuring the orifice from anyone whose eyeball is not the target of the beam. We have no
evidence that the Scole mediums used such techniques, but their rules also prevented us from establishing
that they didn't.
The next most impressive feat was the spontaneous appearance of images on film. During the seance,
factory-sealed film cartridges were placed inside a padlocked box. The spirits were then asked to imprint
images upon the film. The locked box was then taken and the film developed in the strict constant
supervision of the investigators. This feat was repeated many times. One of the investigators, Alan Gauld,
wrote critically of how he discovered this locked box could be quickly and easily opened in the dark, which
allowed for easy substitution of film rolls. This box was provided by the mediums. Whenever any other sealed
container was used, no images ever appeared on the film. Yet even while acknowledging these facts, the
authors of the Scole Report still maintain that the film images are most likely evidence of the supernatural.
Perhaps the biggest red flag in the Scole Experiment is the venue in which the sittings took place: a room in
the basement of the house in Scole where two of the mediums lived, Robin and Sandra Foy. Rather than
controlling the environment, the investigators ceded total control over the room and conditions to the
mediums. The seances were held about once a month, which gave the Foys ample time to make any desired

alterations to the room. There's no evidence that they did so, but granting them unrestricted opportunity
pretty much torpedoed any hope for credibility. The Scole Report states that the room was available for
examination before and after every seance, but there's no reason to believe that any truly thorough
examination was ever performed; and in any event it's a poor substitute for what the investigators should
have done, which was to provide their own room over which the mediums had no control at all. (A few
seances were held at other locations, but the Scole Report describes the results from those as "variable".)
The next biggest red flag was the mediums' insistence that the seances be held in complete darkness and
their refusal to allow any night-mode video cameras or light enhancement equipment. The mediums'
explanation was that they felt such equipment would distract the investigators! That's like telling a pilot that
having instruments might distract him from flying. Astoundingly the investigators agreed to this, though they
did express dismay, as if their desire and good intentions alone validate their conclusions. Audio recordings
only were permitted, but since the claimed phenomena were primarily visual, the audio tapes are of
essentially no value.
A third red flag is the fact that there's been no followup. If amazing phenomena truly did happen at the Scole
Experiment, it would have changed the world. Mainstream psychologists and other academics would have
gotten in on it, it would have made worldwide headlines, and it would be repeated in labs everywhere and
become mainstream science. They did have the opportunity: skeptical psychologist and author Richard
Wiseman sat in on one seance, taking charge of some photographic film, which failed to be imprinted while in
his control. But rather than coming away impressed and spreading the word, he summed it up to me in six
words: "It was a load of rubbish!"
This same principle explains why we don't see articles from the Proceedings of the SPR, like the Scole Report,
republished in scientific journals. A scientific investigation of a strange phenomenon assumes the null
hypothesis unless the phenomenon can be proven to exist. But the authors of the Scole Report, with complete
credulity, did the exact opposite: Their stated position is that the lack of disproof means their seances were
real supernatural events. But a primary feature of good research is the elimination of other possible
explanations, at which the Scole investigators made no competent effort. Many of the investigators expressed
that they were not very convinced by what they witnessed, and it is to the credit of the Scole Report authors
that they fairly reported this. But this raises the question: Why then write such a lengthy and credulous
report, making such obvious conclusions that these phenomena were real? The lesson to take away from the
Scole Experiment is a simple one. Although we all have preconceived notions, we have to put them aside and
follow the evidence when we investigate.
Follow me on Twitter @BrianDunning.

References & Further Reading

Keen, M., Ellison, A., Fontana, D. "The Scole Report." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. 1
Nov. 1999, Volume 58, Part 220.
Mellenbergh, G.J. Advising on Research Methods: A consultant's companion. Rosmalen: Johannes van Kessel,
2008. 143-180.
The Seybert Commission. Preliminary Report of the Seybert Commission for Investigating Modern
Spiritualism. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1887.
Troy Taylor. "How to Have a Seance: Tricks of Fraudulent Mediums." The Haunted Museum. Dark Haven
Entertainment, 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 5 Nov. 2009. <http://www.prairieghosts.com/seance2.html>

Wiseman, R., Greening, E., Smith, M. "Belief in the paranormal and suggestion in the seance room." British
Journal of Psychology. 1 Aug. 2003, Volume 94, Issue 3: 285297.
Wiseman, R., Morris, R. Guidelines for testing psychic claimants. Hatfield, UK: University of Hertfordshire
Press, 1995.
Some months before his untimely death in 2004, Monty Keen, who led the Scole investigation and who was the senior
author of the subsequent Scole Report, considered that as it was nearly four years since the publication of the Report the
time had come to bring those interested up to date by writing a paper detailing any fresh criticisms or supporting evidence
relative to the Report that had come to light during these years. I welcomed the idea and Monty wrote the paper, adding with my agreement - my name to his. In the event referees proved dissatisfied with certain aspects of the paper, and Monty
and I agreed to re-write it. His death changed matters, but I know he would nevertheless wish me to complete the project. I
have now done so, taking account of all the points raised by the referees (although honesty compels me to say that neither
Monty nor I were happy with them). Taking these points on board has meant a major re-drafting of much of the paper, and I
have had to ask myself whether or not Monty would give his approval to the result. On balance I feel confident that he
would. Naturally, in his direct and forceful way, he would want some of the language to be more trenchant, and he would
probably disagree with my omission from the paper of things with which the referees disagreed instead of including them in
my rewording. Doubtless he would be correct in this, but at the same time I think he would be the first to acknowledge that I
have kept to the spirit of what he wanted to say.
David Fontana
When accounts of investigations into psychic phenomena have been in the public domain for some time it is often incumbent
upon the investigators concerned to publish a follow-up paper discussing the observations made by critics in the intervening
time and any fresh evidence that may have come to light. The Scole Report (Keen, Ellison and Fontana) was published in
1999, and in the light of the interest it aroused at the time we as authors consider the time for such a follow-up has arrived.
Unfortunately, due to the decision by the Scole Group to discontinue their activities, it has been impossible for us to have
further sittings with them, so we must confine ourselves in this paper to fresh criticisms of the Report and to any new
evidence arising from the details it contains.
Fresh criticisms
In the event, fresh criticisms have been conspicuous by their absence. This has surprised us. Whatever view readers may
have taken over the essential issue of authenticity of the phenomena reported by us in The Scole Report, there can be little
doubt that it marked an important milestone in modern psychical research in the sense that it detailed an extensive range of
anomalous phenomena and focused renewed attention upon an area of investigation - that of physical mediumship - which
has featured extensively in the early history of this Society, but which has been largely neglected for well over half a century.
In our view the Report presented readers with a series of challenges that tested the limits of normal explanation, and we
offered to provide every assistance to anyone (particularly professional magicians or parapsychologists with expertise in
illusion) wishing to attempt replication of the phenomena by normal means and under the precise conditions obtaining during
our investigation. We had no takers (or even a single show of interest) in this offer, and five years later changes in
circumstances' mean that the opportunity to act upon it has been lost.
Magicians' verdict
The result is that the magicians' verdict on the Scole phenomena must rest with the three magicians who have already
commented upon them. The first of these is James Webster, who has the advantage of actually having been present at three
sittings with the Scole Group. It is interesting that although magicians were welcome to attend sittings at Scole only James
Webster availed himself of the opportunity. Fortunately he is uniquely well-qualified to act as an observer of the phenomena
and deliver this verdict. An Associate and Silver Medal Holder of the Inner Magic Circle (the premier echelon for magicians in
the UK), and a man with over 40 years of professional experience as a stage magician and as a psychical researcher, he is
fully versed both in illusion and in the various tricks used by fraudulent mediums in the past. On the strength of his
experience and of his observations at Scole he is unequivocal that the phenomena witnessed there by him could not be
duplicated by professional magicians, even had they prior access to the room in which the sittings were held and were able
to import into it the tools of their trade. James Webster's testimony to this effect was published in the Scole Report, but
subsequent to the Report he was one of the platform speakers at the SPR Study Day on the Scole investigation and was
able to confirm his verdict and his reasons for it in person.
James Webster was present at Scole, but what of magicians who have had to go solely on their reading of the Report?
Those who were present at the Study Day on Scole will remember that Dr (now Professor) Richard Wiseman, who is an
experienced magician as well as a rigorous and well-informed critic of psychical research, went on record at the time with
the judgement that the Report is `very impressive', and offered no suggestions as to how the phenomena could be replicated

by normal means (which must not of course be taken to imply that he necessarily accepted their paranormality). A more
extensive verdict, and the third of those delivered on the Scole Report by magicians, is by Professor Arthur Hastings of the
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in California, USA. In addition to being a leading psychologist with a long-standing
interest in psychical research, Professor Hastings is a highly accomplished magician who has worked professionally in that
capacity and continues to give talks and demonstrations on the subject. In his written verdict submitted to us he insists that
the phenomena at Scole could not be produced by sleight of hand or trickery. In his own words: The behaviours described
in the Report are not ones which can be produced by magicians under the close conditions of the Scole investigation, and
some can't be produced under any conditions".
These then are the three magicians who have taken the trouble to be present at Scole or to study the Report and to
comment upon it to us. Given that in addition no magician took up our invitation to replicate the phenomena under the
conditions operating at Scole we are left with the conclusion that the phenomena witnessed there by us cannot, in the light of
present knowledge, be dismissed as trickery, no matter how clever.
The bundle of sticks principle
In addition it seems that the sum total of reasonable theoretical criticisms of the Scole phenomena (and it is important to
remember that these criticisms were in fact theoretical - none of those who attended sessions at Scole reported any
evidence of trickery of any kind) remain those put forward at the time of our investigation by three senior members of the
Society. These were-published in the issue of the Proceedings devoted to the Scole Report (Keen, Ellison & Fontana, 1999),
and were answered by us in the same issue. There is no need to refer back to them as nothing further has been added to
the arguments concerned to date. However, it is worth saying that the correspondence we have received in the years since
the publication of the Report has demonstrated virtually unanimous support for our conclusion that the phenomena were
genuine, and represent an important landmark in the history of psychical research. No one has challenged what is
sometimes referred to as the `bundle of sticks principle' which one of us (MK) described at the Scole Study Day and insisted
has special relevance to investigations such as that at Scole, where the phenomena observed are so varied and so
numerous (for example at Scole we observed more than 30 different versions of the light phenomena).
When applied to Scole the bundle of sticks principle has it that even though it may be theoretically possible that one or other
of the effects witnessed by us could have been accomplished by trickery (although in the light of our own experience and the
testimony of two experienced magicians this seems doubtful), it is inconceivable that the whole wide range of them, many of
which took place repeatedly and many of them simultaneously with each other, could have been effected by this means. It
may be possible to break a single stick (i.e. explain away a single effect), but place a large number of sticks together in a
bundle (i.e. produce a wide range of spectacular effects during each of the sittings) and their combined strength becomes
unbreakable. In terms of Scole, the bundle of effects surely resist the strength of even the most far-fetched criticisms.
Further evidence in favour of Scole
If no further arguments have been advanced against the Scole phenomena, has anything further emerged in their favour?
Three pieces of evidence merit placing on record. The first is the identification by Guy Playfair of an anomaly in the recording
of the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto which we received - on an audio tape supplied and secretly marked by ourselves apparently by paranormal means at Scole. The incident is fully described on pages 297-300 of the Scole Report, and we
were told by the communicators that the composer was `going to play it himself ... as a projected memory'. We were also
told that the music was a gift to one of us (MK) as a special treat, and MK, who was deeply moved by the music, confirmed
subsequently that it had been a mainstay of his inner life during a lonely period of his childhood, a fact he had never divulged
to his fellow investigators or to the Scole Group.
The controls operating when the music was received are described in the Report, but the anomaly identified by Guy Playfair
is unlikely to be identified by anyone without his familiarity with the piece concerned. It is the erroneous repetition of a
cadenza, an error that is unlikely in the extreme to occur in any recording of the piece. Taken together with the controls
operating at the time and the fact that the music was announced in advance by the communicators, this rules out the notion
that the music was the result of a stray radio transmission captured by chance by the audio tape recorder.
Although concerned with mental rather than with physical phenomena, another valuable piece of evidence to emerge
concerns a sance given by the Scole Group - at which one of us (MK) was present - in Los Angeles, USA. In the course of
the sance one of the two mediums in the Scole Group, Diana, speaking to 20 unknown sitters in unfamiliar surroundings,
gave very precise and easily recognisable details of the recently deceased partner of one of them, George Dalzell, a senior
social worker in the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, along with the circumstances of the partner's death. These
details were not given in the Scole Report, but the evidence concerned was readily susceptible to confirmation and
evaluation, and was fully accepted by Dalzell. So impressed was he by it that, at his own expense, he attended the SPR
Study Day on Scole (a review of which, by Chris Roe, is in PR issue 15) where he described the whole incident and his own
confirmation of its accuracy. Subsequently he further confirmed this in his book, Messages, written shortly afterwards and
available both in the USA and the UK (Dalzell, 1999).
The third piece of evidence concerns one of the supposed apports that appeared at Scole. As it was received by the Scole

Group before we began our investigation and we were therefore not present at the time, we made only brief references to it
in the Report, but one of us (MK) decided to carry out some subsequent research into the incident. The apport concerned
was a pristine copy of the Daily Mail dated April 1st 1944, the front page of which carried the account of medium Helen
Duncan's 18month gaol sentence handed down at the Old Bailey under the Witchcraft Act. The Scole Group received it after
being told by one of their communicators that Mrs Duncan would bring them something as evidence of her interest in their
work. A natural objection advanced by one of our colleagues to the authenticity of the apport was that the pristine condition
of the newspaper indicated it was no more than a modern facsimile reproduction of the original. Accordingly MK took the
paper to the Print Industries Research Association, a world authority on paper and printing, who informed him in due course
that their detailed examination of the typeface demonstrated that it had been printed by letterpress, a long-since obsolete
technique. Furthermore, their chemical analysis of the paper on which the apport was printed revealed it to be Second World
War newsprint, long since unavailable. In his further investigations MK ascertained that the apported version differed from
the copy of the Daily Mail for April 1st 1944 kept in the British Library only in that it was an earlier edition of that day's print
We therefore have in the apport a tangible piece of evidence (a so-called permanent paranormal object) for which there is no
normal explanation. Even if a devout spiritualist had kept a copy of the newspaper back in 1944 as a memento of the legally
martyred Helen Duncan, it would hardly have been in pristine condition 60 years later. Even careful vacuum packing and
secure sealing against the intrusion of light and air, although it might have helped delay the yellowing of the wartime
newsprint, would hardly have maintained it in this condition for such a lengthy period of time. In addition, the notion that
someone would have had access to the necessary technology and expertise for doing this back in 1944, with the Second
World War still at its height, surely stretches the bounds of credibility to breaking point.
The challenge still facing critics five years after the publication of the Scole Report is by no means peculiar to the Scole
phenomena. It is to advance credible alternative explanations for so many effects investigated under careful conditions and
reported in appropriate detail. We are often told that the inability of critics to explain how a convincing piece of evidence can
be explained by conjuring in no way detracts from the fact that those reporting it must nevertheless somehow have been
deceived. But if this argument is taken to its extreme limit it permanently precludes acceptance of anything as paranormal
because it merely arises from the a priori view that nothing can be paranormal because paranormality contravenes the rigid
laws of normality. Those who subscribe to this view resort all too often to postulations of fraud or of self-deception on the part
of investigators or of those they have been investigating - fraud or self-deception on a scale and to a degree that frequently
affronts common sense. Alternatively, they may insist that the critic has no duty to explain by normal means how phenomena
could have occurred or to replicate them under the same conditions on the grounds that it is the responsibility of the
paranormal claimant to prove beyond doubt that all conceivable normal explanations have been exhausted. And if and when
they are exhausted, the same people can always fall back upon the argument that although normal explanations have so far
eluded everyone, they will doubtless turn up one day.
These responses to the challenge of advancing credible alternatives to reports of well-conducted investigations into psychic
phenomena are not only unscientific, they actively inhibit the publication of such reports and perhaps even the motivation to
conduct the investigations concerned. It is no inducement to spend time and money on an investigation only to be met with
responses of this nature, often accompanied not by a careful examination of all the evidence but by reference to the few
snippets that, taken out of context, can be made to appear vulnerable. This is not a plea for an end to criticism of
investigations such as that at Scole. Far from it. Extraordinary events require extraordinary scrutiny and extraordinary
justification before they can be accepted as fact. It is simply to suggest that more people might become involved in
researching and reporting these events if they knew that their results would be evaluated on their own merits and not in
terms of a priori convictions that cannot possibly be true.
What next?
An objection of a very different kind that can be raised against investigations such as that of Scole is what do we do with the
evidence they produce even if we find it acceptable? Unlike laboratory work in parapsychology, where the outcome of each
experiment can in theory at least be used to help design improved protocols and contribute towards the development of an
identifiable subject discipline, each of these investigations tends to be isolated and self contained. Even replication is often
impossible since the conditions associated with success the first time around may no longer apply. Thus although the
evidence produced by investigations of this kind has built up impressively over the years we yet seem no further forward in
knowing how to use it. No matter how convincing an individual investigation appears to be at the time, it is usually quickly
forgotten, helped on by the myth of eternal progress. The myth has it that we always do things better than our predecessors,
and that earlier evidence should be dismissed on the grounds that the investigators involved were not as astute or as wellequipped as we are. Those who are given to studying our published Proceedings from the early years onwards should have
little difficulty in recognising how wrong this is. Many of our predecessors in this Society and in comparable groups abroad
were every bit as meticulous and knowledgeable as we are, and no evidence should be dismissed simply on the grounds of

Nevertheless, the problem remains, what do we do with this evidence? Certainly it is valuable in itself in that it may convince
readers of the reality of the paranormal, but are there other ways in which it can be used? One possible answer is that it can
help us develop what may loosely be called the philosophy of parapsychology. Over the last half-century the philosophy of
the physical sciences has grown rapidly as a discipline, and enabled us to understand better the meaning of science as well
as its purpose and methodology and the theoretical constructs that drive scientific exploration and influence the
interpretations put upon its discoveries. The philosophy of parapsychology has not kept pace. Professor Hornell Hart (1959)
and noted philosophers such as Professors Broad (1962) and H. H. Price (see Dilley, 1995) among others made important
contributions to the subject in the past, but in recent years there has been little attempt to advance it further by exploring the
relevance of its findings and of its theoretical constructs to the explosion of scientific interest in the nature of consciousness,
the mind-brain relationship, the fundamental nature of matter, models of space-time, and the influence upon physical health
and well-being of inner states such as meditation, visualisation and positive/negative thinking. In all these areas a philosophy
of parapsychology has potentially useful contributions to make.
The most obvious of these contributions may be to theories of mind, in particular theories to do with its nature and with its
relationship to the material world. At Scole for example we witnessed macro physical effects, and equally if not more
impressive effects have been reported elsewhere. If these effects are indeed a direct product of mental energy, whether from
the deceased or from the living, the implications for our understanding of mind could hardly be more profound. At a practical
level we may never be able to measure this energy, but at a theoretical level its very existence surely suggests we might
entertain once more modified theories of dualism or even the vitalism espoused by Professor William McDougall, one of the
fathers of parapsychology who founded Rhine's laboratory at Duke University and who was the first psychologist to become
a Fellow of the Royal Society (e.g. McDougall, 1928 - a classic text that still has much to say to us). And if we accept that the
communicators at Scole really were the deceased, not only may this throw light on which aspects of the mind may survive
physical death, it may suggest that even during our lifetime these aspects are not due solely to physical processes. At Scole
we found that the communicators showed humour and other emotions, intelligence of a high order, significant powers of
memory, and what seemed a genuine and continuing compassion towards others. In addition they manifested consistent
signs of individual identity throughout the two years of our investigation, and never varied in terms of accent, use of words,
mannerisms and interests.
Five years after the end of the Scole investigation the need for a philosophy of parapsychology is as evident as ever. One of
us (DF) discussed this on occasions with the late
Professor Bob Morris, and sought to encourage him to turn some of his attention to the subject. No one was more suited to
the task than Bob, and he indicated that he had indeed been thinking of involving himself in it when his Departmental duties
at Edinburgh University became less onerous. Sadly, for this among so many other reasons, Bob's death has left an
enormous gap in our subject.
Broad, C. D. (1962). Lectures on psychical research. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Dalzell, G. E. (1999). Messages: Evidence for life after death. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads.
Hart, H. (1959). The enigma of survival. London: Rider. Keen, M., Ellison, A. & Fontana, D. (1999). The Scole report.
ProcSPR, 58, 220.
McDougall, W. (1928). Body and mind. London: Methuen. Dilley, F. B. (Ed.). (1995). Philosophical interactions with
parapsychology: The major writings of H. H. Price on parapsychology and survival. London: Macmillan.

Mental mediumship
From subconscious or external sources? by Montague Keen
Monty kindly allowed us to publish these extracts from his speech for the S.P.R. Scole Debate, which took place on the 11th.
December 1999 at Kensington Library, LONDON.
This is the nub of the issue. Some of us - certainly I my self - have tended to regard as a lamentable waste of time and
resources the concentration on fraud or non fraud, even where that issue is dressed up as "adequate or inadequate
controls?" it comes to the same thing.
I for one felt that the accumulation of evidence was such as to overwhelm all reasonable doubt. Of course it would not have
done had we been invited to attend a demonstration by Paul Daniels or David Copperfield. We would have been perfectly
well aware of the years of training, accumulation of skills and the abundance of specialist effects required. But we were
going by invitation into someone's private home to participate in what six ordinary people obviously believed they were
privileged to experience, and for which they appeared to have been willing to sacrifice a great deal of their time and energy
not to prepare for a public show and rich rewards, but for the enlightenment and satisfaction of themselves and a small
group of those who had enjoyed a similar experience.

That being so, ought we not now to get on with the more important and challenging question: from whence do the messages
emanate: can we eliminate the role of the mediums' sub-conscious?
What follows is based on the assumption that we are dealing with something genuine. The issue is whether that evidence
points to discarnate intelligence or whether we are entitled to go no further than to argue that it may be attributable only to
subliminal activity on the part of human beings. Do our experiences with the Scole Group take us any further into these
treacherous waters of speculation and deduction: deeper than we have previously felt justified in venturing from earlier
evidence. And how, if at all, does it differ from earlier evidence?
Although this part of our discussion day is billed as 'mental mediumship", it must be apparent from the Report that the
mental and physical are interlocked. Those who may in the future have the privilege and opportunity to read through the
verbatim transcripts of some of our sittings will see that, once a rapport had been established between sitters and
communicators, much of the talk relates to forth-coming, current or recent demonstrations of physical phenomena, if that
term can for this purpose be applied equally to the performance of lights and accompanying ethereal forms, and to the
breezes and touches, table vibrations, trumpet blasts, drum-beats and occasional bangs and scratchings, as well as to the
more spectacular and durable physical effects in the form of films.
Likewise much discussion is found to revolve around the production of the films themselves, the conditions relating to their
creation, their contents and meaning, our efforts to interpret them or under-stand the occasional clues etc. So we can't
isolate the oral messages from the physical.
It became apparent quite early on, and especially when there were references to Frederic Myers and the founding fathers of
the Society (SPR), that the intention of the communicators - and indeed the whole point of the exercise - was to provide
better evidence of posthumous communication than had hitherto been obtained. Although what follows must to some extent
be deduction, or inference, it was implicit that the communicators acknowledged the failure of what must now be accepted
as the principal effort to provide proof of survival in a calculated, organised form rather than through the sporadic, ad hoc
messages from individual mediums to individual sitters impressive though a good deal of that evidence had proved to be.
This may be familiar meat and drink to old SPR hands, but I don't think the Scole exercise can be intelligently interpreted
except by looking at the historic background; because this fits in neatly with so much of what we heard and discussed.
By the beginning of this century, those members of the SPR who had not already drifted off towards the spiritualists' camp
were broadly divided between those who found the evidence from, in particular but not exclusively, Mrs Leonore Piper to be
clear enough proof that the information she was transmitting could have come only from beyond the grave; and those who
thought that proposition not proved, since all the communications were capable of an alternative explanation, one based on
the knowledge that the extra-sensory capacities of the human psyche might well in some exceptional cases, like Mrs Piper's,
be such as to enable her subliminal mind to pick up information not just from similar recesses of the sitter's mind, but from
those of the minds of unknown third parties.
This belief, later to become known under the generic title of the Super-ES P hypothesis, was what the authors of the crosscorrespondences clearly set out to falsify. If, from beyond the grave, they could beam intelligible messages in a form which
with no imaginative stretch could be attributable to a single human intelligence, that should put paid to the Super-ESP.
Unless, that is, one extended it further by postulating an ability on the part of the medium to dip into the everlasting pool of
universal knowledge stored up in the Akashic records, and by a careful process of selection pick out the coloured threads
which would assemble to form a garment of radiant hue.
It is well known that the start of these cross-correspondences occurred at the beginning of this century, shortly after the
death of Frederic Myers. Fragmentary and essentially meaningless messages or words were transmitted to various
mediums usually via automatic writing. They made sense only when assembled by independent and usually highly intelligent
third parties, as with some complex verbal jigsaw puzzles. Later generations of psychical researchers, dedicated to
laboratory-type, statistically based experiments of the sort that attracts official funding and sometimes even demonstrates a
marginally discernible anomaly, have tended to lose sight of this formidable array of evidence. Or else they will dismiss it, as
several eminent SPR leaders have done, as so replete with ambiguity and complexity, and demanding of familiarity with
classical literature or poetic allusion, as to try the patience of the most dedicated scholar.
Be that as it may, the fad is that these efforts at communication effectively ended over 60 years ago. Great volumes of
scripts and learned analyses gather dust today. Those in the celestial realm who appear to have been at such prolonged
pains to show that they are still around seem until now to have confined themselves to soliloquies through mediums
attended by such authors as Sir Oliver Lodge, Maurice BarbanelL Geraldine Cummins and Paul Beard.
If, as we have reason to suspect, the Scole experience was an effort to present fresh evidence which would be simpler,
more direct, and more tangible than even the most ingeniously impressive of the cross-correspondences, then it was far
from being a failure. We need not be too fussed about the apparent meaningless of the lights, touches, noises and so on:

they could reasonably be regarded as a necessary means to convince sitters to take the communications seriously, and to
show they were not the victims of human deception. And the jokes and puns and laughter? Well, they might reasonably be
regarded as means both to encourage the right attitude of warmth and participation which, for all we know, may be an
important ingredient in the mix of energies required for the production of phenomena; or they may simply indicate that the
next world is not all fear and gloom as we prepare for judgement day and accustom ourselves to the sound of dragging
chains and wailing voices.
It is easy to overlook the fact that these sittings differed fundamentally from the normal sittings with mediums, where the
sitter is there primarily either to contact some deceased person or, no less frequently, for advice and guidance on matters
troubling them. Although from time to time one or other of us might ask after a particular person, a missing colleague or a
former professional associate, for example, this was not the object of our visit; nor did it appear to be the purpose or
intention of the communicators. Nevertheless it is noteworthy that Emily, the chief communicator, speaking through Diana as
ever, and with an almost entirely new audience gathered in a room several thousand miles from home territory, suddenly
identified and described a recently dead young man, his driving accident, his blue-coloured car, his occasional pot-smoking
and his habit of doodling.
Another spirit visitor for whom eight correct identifying features or relationships were provided immediately followed this.
However, these seemed to be no more than occasional' and apparently spontaneous, examples of odd appearances in
Emily's presence. There did not seem to be anything premeditated or orderly about them.
They came into the same category as many of the seemingly throwaway remarks by Emily Bradshaw, who appears to have
carried on into the next world her earthly role as a society hostess as various deceased members of the SPR's turn of the
century notabilities dropped in for a drink or a capdoffing. But it is when we come to examples like the Ruth films that the
subliminal notion begins to come apart at the seams. It presupposes that both the mediums, because both contributed to the
several discussions we had about these two films - had carefully studied the introductory explanation and the reproductions
of Dorothy Wordsworth's hand-written amendments to the poem Ruth, having fortuitously come across a copy of the
catalogue of a Christies miscellaneous book sale 30 years earlier, and then forgotten all about it: forgotten that either of them
had ever seen it. And yet the conversations we record in Chapter VII show very clearly that, whoever is communicating had
a pretty good idea of the origin and history of the amendments which form the subject of the Ruth puzzle. We can ascribe a
great deal to the subliminal mind, but hardly something as memorable as this feat.
But before probing further into the sort of messages which were conveyed during our sittings with the Scole Group, and
whether they were all platitude and generalisation, let us look more closely at the alternative posed in the title of this session.
Does the evidence fit the hypothesis of subliminal origin, no matter whether it emerges from the mind of the medium or from
the Group, or the Group plus the collective investigators, or from the whole lot of them plus humanity in general. Is there a
necessary extraneous element1 something which could not possibly have originated from humankind?
I think the answer which I would give, and I believe this represents the considered view of my colleagues too, is that there is
nothing which absolutely proves anything, certainly not survival. But there is a great deal which places what many will
consider almost intolerable strains on any form of purely terrestrial interpretation, which I believe to be the only viable
alternative to survival.
We must also accept that there is respectable evidence that the human mind can project thought-images onto plates of
films. If admittedly exceptional human beings can somehow imprint thought-images on films, could we not push it one stage
further by suggesting that this is precisely what happened at Scole?
Well we could, but it would have to be an exceptionally vigorous push. Previous thought-images have gone straight on to flat
plates: admittedly one of a stack of plates in Mita's case, but still flat. At Scole we have the phenomenon of a thought-image
getting on to a rolled-up film almost invariably in its plastic container, and usually concealed either in a plastic security bag or
in a locked box or held in an investigator's hands. That's one difference. The second, and more significant one from our
viewpoint, is that the earlier examples were all of images of existing scenes projected onto a sensitised plate, as determined
by an experimenter or chosen by a psychic. At Scole we had a disparate range of objects which it would be difficult indeed to
attribute to the psyche of one of the mediums, or, less still, to the collective thought-wishes of a Group.
We had actually invited the spirit Team to produce a film of something we would think of there and then. But they made it
clear that their aim was to get their thoughts, not ours, nor those of the Group, on to films. They had a point. The question is
whether the films, taken as a whole, can be regarded as unlikely at the least, or impossible at the best, to have emerged
from the human mind.
Well, look at the pictures and judge for yourselves. There can be no definitive conclusion. One can reasonably contend,
however, that if these are all from the Group's subconscious, or in the video version from subliminal gropings into the
Akashic records, then we have a fresh and formidable new assemblage of attributes to pile on to our subliminal minds, not

helped by the absence of any positive evidence. Here we have a number of pictures about which the Group - and we are
now assuming honesty on their part - share our bewilderment, and sometimes our excitement.
It was members of the Group themselves who eagerly rushed to inform us of how and where they had traced the origin of
one of the hermetic references, the Perfectio film seen in Plate S in the Proceedings, and more clearly explained in the
Exhibition outside. Likewise I was roused around midnight after Diana had found the Ruth poem of Wordsworth, which was
the subject of so much subsequent research and speculation.
If we have reached the stage of accepting that all was not invention and deception, then we have no alternative than to
conclude that it is pushing improbability beyond reasonable limits to argue that something as obscure and emotionally
charged as was the Ruth amendment, was likely to have originated from the subliminal minds of any or all of the Scole
Then take the Schnittger poem. No one has yet found who wrote it and where it comes from. It's regarded as pretty good
German, and fairly characteristic of the language and style extant about a century and a half ago, although the handwriting is
more modem. What extravagant assumptions must we make to attribute this, too, to the Group psyche!
The plain truth is that any theory of subliminal activity, no matter how extensive one assumes the field of that activity to be,
simply does not square with the fact that careful research and artistic preparation are required for physical effects like
apports or, more relevantly, film strips. It is a theory based entirely on mental evidence, not physical.
Let us grant that the phenomenon of psychokinesis has been established. [I note that a paper published in our Journal as
long ago as 1945 by our present President considered the case to have already been made out, on statistical grounds,
although he and most others have been discussing very marginal movements apparently controlled by the mind operating at
a distance.] But since there's also plenty of evidence that quite massive movements can occur, especially and notoriously in
poltergeist cases where heavy pieces of furniture can be moved around, and household articles can be made to disappear
and re-appear in different places, then it is possible to argue that the psyche can exercise this powerful force. But one
cannot therefore conclude that the force is in no way sponsored or organised by some form of non-human agency.
There is ample evidence to show that it is. What sort of purely psychic influence is it that can not only illuminate then
dematerialise and then rematerialise crystals, but also dematerialise rolls of virgin film inside plastic tubs, work on them and
return them to their capped tubs to await processing.
A few weeks ago in this hall, when we were considering the question of what constitutes evidence of the paranormal
acceptable to the scientific mind, I broadly endorsed the dictum of David Hume, that only if the alternative explanation was
less plausible than the apparent miracle it purported to explain would he accept the miraculous.
If you put the messages and manipulations of discarnate entities in the category of miracles, and then consider the
alternative explanations I have explored, you can perhaps see why I am somewhat reluctantly and cagily, on the side of the

Convincing the scientific mind

by Piers Eggett
People I meet are often surprised to learn that I am both a government scientist and a committed Spiritualist. Somehow, the
two don't seem to go together, but I am by no means unique. I think of myself as following in the footsteps of the pioneers,
some of them far better scientists than I will ever be, such as William Crookes and Oliver Lodge, to name but two. These
people had reputations at stake, which I do not; yet they were not afraid of making their views known, so why should I worry
about what people think of me? My career has reached its peak, more of a plateau really, so I have nothing to lose. Also, I
am pleased to say, there is a growing number of young scientists who are showing great interest in psychic phenomena and
spiritual matters. Scientific people, however, are notoriously sceptical, so what can be done to help convince them of the
Perhaps the best place to begin is to look at what finally convinced me that Spirit really exists. Admittedly, I was already part
way there, since from childhood I had been aware of spirit people and occasionally had clairvoyant flashes, but awareness is
a feeling, and not tangible proof. What I needed was something more definite.
I was sitting in bed, reading, one night in 1987, when I was suddenly aware of a man's presence in the room. This, as I have
said before, was not unusual in itself, except that the feeling was particularly strong. I thought no more of it and finished my
book, turned out the light and went to sleep. Suddenly I was awoken by something, and as I lay there, wide-awake, the
feeling of a presence was quite intense. The atmosphere was electric and highly charged. Although the room was quite dark,

I looked around me, and was startled to see beside me, no more than a foot away, a small cloud of what looked like white
The cloud swirled around as it grew in size and intensity, and then, suddenly 'locked on' to a form. It was the face of a man,
and was perfectly detailed, with every hair and wrinkle clearly visible. He was grinning at me, and I remember thinking what
lovely even teeth he had! He then leant over, and although I couldn't see his arms, I could clearly feel them as he embraced
me in a hug. His arms were strong and absolutely solid; without doubt, he was real! I asked him for his name, and in a soft
but audible voice, he told me. He spoke a few more words, and then kissed me on the cheek before drawing back, and
gradually he faded away.
Now I can say that in all honesty that Spirit is real; I don't just believe it, I know it! I have since that night had many similar
meetings with my spirit friends, and each occasion is a wonderful experience. Sometimes the electric field is so powerful
that, when I reach out to touch the person, I am stopped by sparks dancing on my finger tips and an electric shock travelling
up my arm. While on other occasions I am able to hold them by the hand, and feel the fabric of their clothing. Once, the
'smoke' was bright green!
We rely on our senses to tell us about the world around us, and although I know they can be fooled, I would say that if our
senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell simultaneously indicate that someone is present in the room with us, then it must
be a fact. We normally accept a person's presence with less sensory input than this, after all. We don't have to touch
someone to prove they really are there. This proof, however, is personal to the recipient, being specifically tailored to their
particular need, and obviously does not constitute proof to anyone else.
Similarly, the small gifts apported to us either in circle or directly into our homes, are quite meaningless to those not present
at the time, no matter how precious and undoubtedly cherished they are to those who receive them. I have been privileged
to receive a number of gifts this way, and my scientist friends are always keen to see them and examine them closely, but at
the end of the day, they have only my word as to where they came from. In any case, what exactly do they prove? They
show that it is possible to dematerialise an object in one location, and re-materialise it somewhere else, but do they prove
the existence of Spirit?
Incidentally, we are told that since time does not exist to Spirit, this is no barrier and things can be transported from the past
as well as from the present. It is, though, more difficult to bring items from the future. The only way in which apports offer any
evidence of Spirit, is in the significance of the article to the recipient. In fact, when we have received more than one item at
the same time in circle, the nature of each gift has made it plain which belongs to which sitter, thus indicating the work of a
Spirit mind, which knows each of us well enough to be able to select a relevant gift.
One of the main ways in which a scientist verifies a theory is by testing it repeatedly with a suitable experiment. When we
put Spirit to the test in this way, we immediately run into difficulty. Firstly, many effects have been observed, but do we really
have any idea of why and how these things are brought about? Secondly, results are not consistent. For example, it is a well
known feature of physical circles that a fall in temperature occurs, but the size and speed of the change depends on various
factors such as the place, the sitters and their energy levels, and of course, the intention of the spirit workers on that
particular occasion. Also, temperature changes tend to be much more marked below knee level, so it is important to site the
thermometer correctly, and to use an instrument with a sufficiently rapid response.
It is important, therefore, to have experimenters who have at least some experience of the work. Even then, results are likely
to be very variable, since no two circles are ever the same. Sitters would soon lose interest if the circles repeated
themselves every week, and Spirit too would not tolerate such a waste of time. These precious moments we are able to
spend in the company of our spirit friends are far too valuable to waste; after all, it takes effort and commitment on both
sides. There is work to be done, such as healing, and teaching and so on. Care must also be taken not to influence the
results. I was aware of this possibility as a young experimentalist, over twenty years ago, when I used to ask not to be told
what results to expect, because I knew that if we were looking for a subtle effect, I could sometimes influence it just by
thinking about it. How, then, do I go about convincing my sceptical colleagues? The best proof of all is, of course, the kind of
personal proof, which I have had, and I am sure that anyone who is genuinely seeking conclusive proof, will eventually be
given it. Meanwhile, there must be something I can do to whet the appetite of the scientific mind.
I put this problem to spirit one day, and was immediately shown the inside of a library. The walls were covered with
bookshelves to the ceiling, and in the foreground stood a group of scientists from the past. One or two faces were familiar,
but most of them I didn't know at all. One man stepped forward and explained that they understood my desire to help, and
the problems I was facing. He went on to say that they would impress my mind from time to time, with thoughts about
various experiments and measurements, which could usefully be made. He indicated the books behind him and said "Look,
we have all this knowledge to work from, and there is no shortage of ideas over here". Needless to say, I was tremendously
encouraged by this, and look forward to working with these fine people. They have already given me some ideas, which I am

eager to try out. I think it is so important to work with Spirit, if we can, as their task is difficult enough without having us
against them.
One of the major problems with physical phenomena, at least to the sceptical mind, is that of light, or should I say, the lack of
it. Most work of this sort takes place in complete darkness, which it must be said, if you don't have complete confidence in
the integrity of the medium and sitters, can appear highly suspicious to an already critical investigator. Equally, from a
spiritualist point of view, it can be argued that if you distrust others in the group, you should not be in circle in the first place,
and in any case, phenomena are unlikely to occur under such conditions. Spirit tells us they are well aware of this problem,
and are as keen to work in light as we are. The trouble is, working in the dark is much easier for them, and to develop a
medium to work in light conditions takes much longer. It has been done in the past, and I am confident that before long, we
will, once more, have physical mediums working in, perhaps not daylight, but certainly subdued light. Once people are sure
that they are not being deceived, an enormous degree of scepticism will be removed. I'm afraid though, that many scientists
will still have their doubts.
When it comes to scientific investigations, the reader may conclude that I am in favour of physical mediumship only. This,
however, is not so. I believe that mental mediumship has a vital role to play, since it works on a mental level in more ways
than one. In short it makes us think, and this is an essential part of breaking down the resistance of a stubborn mind. We
cannot force people to believe as we do, but if we can prompt them to think about our words and the evidence given by high
quality clairvoyance, then we have done them an enormous service. If they can just admit to themselves that the existence
of Spirit is a possibility, then when they are ready for their own personal proof, they are. less likely to turn their backs on it or
to look around for signs of trickery. They are much more likely to say to themselves '"This really is true!"
It is my view that a big stumbling block in the minds of sceptical scientists is that of fear. They have been trained to believe
that everything is measurable and understandable, to the extent that they think that anything, which can't be tied down and
understood by physics, cannot possibly exist. This blinkered and arrogant way of thinking has led to a scientific community,
which is afraid of being shown up as not knowing all the answers. I can see nothing wrong in saying "I don't know". After all,
there is so much that we don't know, and where is the shame in admitting it? The most sceptical people' will not have their
comfortable world turned upside down, and will deny the very best of proof. For them, it would mean having to rewrite the
science books and the laws of physics. Well, why not? As spirit has said to me, "You will never be able to convince
everyone, and as a result, you will suffer much scorn and ridicule, and you will need to be strong to withstand it. We will be
there to support you. Be thankful for those you are able to convince".

Memorable moments and meanings at Scole

by Montague Keen
I have hesitated to respond to an invitation to note some of my more memorable experiences during the 26 sittings I was
privileged to have with the Scole Group. Not that there werent any. Far from it! But I had long schooled myself to observe
the Society for Psychical Researchs tradition of detached observation, devoid of emotion or involvement, knowing full well
that subjective experience is widely regarded as valueless.
No matter how powerful the impression or profound its influence, spectacular the occurrence or dramatic its impact on the
audience, the sceptical outside world will write it off as the product of a mind over-eager for proof, gullible to wonders, and
too close to the subject to be trusted as an objective investigator.
You may think that attitude irrational. So it is. Not merely that. Its the bread and butter explanation of every statutory TV
sceptic or sneering reviewer. But it explains, or helps to, why the Scole Report, which eventually emerged from the lengthy
study my colleagues and I made of the Scole Group, wanted from the outside to have evidence which would convince not
just us but the millions who could not themselves experienced a sitting, and who would know little beyond their prejudices
about mediumship and still less about physical phenomena. Thats why our report concentrated on the essentially prosaic
business of reciting the evidence and then crawling over it to see where anyone might detect a theoretical hole. To conform
to the convention of clinical detachment, we may have given the impression of being mere desiccated calculating machines,
as Nye Bevan once observed of a dear colleague.
But no: we were perfectly well aware of the fact that in some unknown way we were ourselves part of the phenomena we
were examining: our energies, whatever that means, were in some degree and in some unknown manner helping to
facilitate some of the remarkable things we experienced. Had we been wholly negative and resolutely sceptical, I doubt
whether the rewards would or could have been so spectacular, or important. But we were not. And this wasnt because we
were credulous believers, ready to swallow anything.

All three of us were familiar with the vast wealth of literature documenting earlier evidence of mediumistic communication,
but we were only too well aware of the remorseless criticisms which had been directed, sometimes by members of our own
illustrious society, at claims of physical phenomena associated with mediumship. Hence our sometimes over-zealous efforts
to provide a belt-and-braces protocol to forestall those who will argue that any conceivable defect in the security procedure
must necessarily disqualify all other acceptable evidence related to the same phenomenon, or the conditions in which it was
None of this means we remained unaffected by essentially unprovable experiences. In some cases they were profoundly
moving. At one sitting I both felt and saw, even to the fingernails, a normal size male hand gently grasping mine. There was
a sensation of infinite compassion and love in that quite extended moment. At the same time another part of me was working
out whether there was any possibility that a hand so positioned could possibly belong to any of the human beings who
constituted the Group, however great their physical contortions. But there was not; and the experience was made the more
memorable when I was told to which distinguished but long since departed entity the hand belonged. But there was no
verifiable evidence of this, nor could there have been.
More startling, however, was an event, which took place in what was, alas, to prove our last sitting with the Group. It took
place in August 1997, and it came a few weeks after our highly successful couple of sittings in the Ibiza villa of our worthy
and generous colleague, collaborator and friend, Dr Hans Schaer.
There the two simultaneous experiments had been the production of images on blank Polaroid film plates in complete
darkness, and the recording of spirit voices on an equally blank tape which I had placed in a cheap recorder from which the
microphone had been removed: an experiment which certainly produced unnatural recordings, but which was qualitatively
During the chit-chat which accompanied one of these sessions, I was asked how I was getting on with the Wordsworth
puzzle. This referred to the lengthy investigation of two strips of film on which were reproduced what were later found to be
some amendments in script to one of Wordsworths early poems. Some mystery attached to the circumstances in which
these amendments had been written. I confidently said that I thought I had now pretty well wrapped up the investigation (as
readers of Chapter 7 and Appendix M of our Report will find). Mutual exchanges of thanks followed.
Hence it was gratifying, but not altogether surprising, to be told a few weeks later that those on the other side had a present
for me. David Fontana sardonically complained that I was always getting presents, and that I had been given a half crown
coin, as an apport, in payment of a discarnate debt incurred from the new world by Emily Bradshaw after an experiment had
gone awry. But this was to be less tangible, and more moving. "Hell know why," said Edwin.
Professor Fontana was holding the Panasonic tape recorder containing his carefully marked blank tape. Professor Ellison
had duly checked to ensure that there was no microphone in it. We knew the aim was to try to record something paranormal
on this tape, but without reproducing any of our own or the spirit voices.
We were told it was to be music; then (in tones of delight) that the composer himself was to transmit it. After a few minutes,
clearly heard through much white noise, as though coming from an infinite distance, were sounds which I soon recognised
as one of the first pieces of classical music I knew and loved as a boy. It had always had a uniquely strong association with
an emotionally stressful period of my youth. The taped record of what was heard at that sitting (as distinct from the tape
which David was holding) is eloquent testimony to my startled reaction and profound emotion.
How could they possibly have known? Marvellous enough to produce what is popularly if erroneously called Electronic
Voice Phenomena (EVP) on tape; but to have produced a substantial chunk of Rachmaninoffs second piano concerto,
orchestra and all, from the discarnate mind (whence else?) clearly meant that they must somehow have divined my buried
I was also considerably shaken by a minor episode, which does not figure in our report, and which seemed to come, as did
so many messages, almost as after-thoughts or throw-away lines, apropos nothing in particular. Addressing Professor
Fontana, Emily said, to my astonished ears, "Oh, theres a blackbird here who wants to be remembered to you, David." To
which the no less phlegmatic response was "Oh yes, I well remember that bird." David subsequently described to me how
he had befriended and fed a blackbird which had built a nest at the bottom of his garden and had later become almost a
family pet.
Why should I have been so astonished? I had come across several accounts of pets, mainly cats, seen in their familiar
fireside seats, weeks after their death; and I had been more amused than startled by the occasion during one of the Groups

Los Angeles sittings when we all experienced the characteristic tail-brushing of a non-existent cat as it walked round the
room. Perhaps the western mind is too deeply impregnated with the belief that only humans have souls ...
Looking back on those memorable two years I find that what chiefly resides in my memory is not so much the brilliance of
the light phenomena, and the clear intelligence which animated each light form - striking though that was: it was the clarity
and confidence with which conversations took place with the communicators, and the struggled efforts of the direct voices to
transmit their thoughts.
After all, the physical phenomena. extraordinary though it was by any standards, and impossible to fit into the limited
framework of any materialistic belief system, could be accounted simply a device to demonstrate not only the survival of
consciousness beyond death, but the ability of those on the other side to influence existing and create fresh physical objects.
More than that: to look into our minds and dredge forgotten memories. What has been substantially ignored in our Report, in
our desire to concentrate on the evidence and its defeat of the theory of deception, is the content of those discussions.
Perhaps that was the most humbling of my experiences: the not entirely comfortable thought that they knew what was going
on independently of each sitting. Hence the taps or knocks while we chatted away upstairs, indicating that they were ready
and didnt want to be kept waiting.
Likewise the confession of amusement at apparently overhearing a conversation we had been having when driving to Scole
for another sitting. Ah, to recapture that unique experience!

The Scole Experiments

by Rosalind Oliver
Introduction and Overview
Readers are reminded of the article 'Physical Mediumship: An Old Friend in New Clothes' by Professor David Fontana in
LIGHT vol. 117 No.2, Autumn 1997, pp.25-30, which includes background information about Robin Foy, the psychical
researcher under whose aegis the experimental work discussed in the present article took place.
In early 1993, in Scole, Norfolk, members of a small established psychic circle, led by experienced psychic researcher Robin
Foy and using the highly-developed mediumistic powers of sensitives 'Alan' and 'Diana', were given the message that
conditions were now right for an important and extended experimental project to begin. This project, apparently formulated
nearly 50 years earlier; was intended to provide a sophisticated and scientifically literate public with irrefutable proof of
human survival, and a significant part of the plan behind the work was to be the holding of special sittings at which respected
assessors - scientists and intellectuals -would be present in order to provide validation of the experimental results. The
impetus, agenda, and planning for this work all ostensibly came to, and not from, the group.
From February 1995 leading members of the Society for Psychical Research and their associates began to be involved as
observers. Sittings begun in Norfolk were extended to carefully screened (experimentally controlled) sites in the
Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and California. Hundreds of meetings took place, all recorded on audio-tape
under Robin Foy's direction. 'The SPR was represented at 37 of these meetings, and in November last year their Report, a
dense and meticulous account and critical assessment of the Scole Experimental Group's work, jointly authored by Mr.
Montague Keen and Professors Arthur Ellison and David Fontana, the three principal SPR investigators, was finally
published. Preceding their Scole Report by one month came The Scole Experiment by journalists Grant and Jane Solomon,
a book which covers the entire five-year period of the experimental work and was written for a popular audience, (Indeed,
readers may have seen excerpts serialised in the Daily Mail of 23 and 25 October.) The Solomons' book, for all the
shortcomings of its popular style, is, in the broadest sense, a very valuable part of the project, targeting as it does a far wider
audience than The Scole Report.
Nevertheless, the focus behind the work was validation of post-mortem survival by the scientific and philosophical
community, and it is for this reason that this article addresses only The Scole Report. Archives of psychical research
societies throughout the world, not least the SPR's and the CPS's own, are already brimming over with supportive data of a
highly phenomenal kind - the kind that could, or should, make publishers' fortunes - the 'Cross Correspondences' (complex
and sophisticated evidential messages received by mediums across the world between 1901 and c.1930) being a notable
example. The minds behind the SEG's work, as was made clear to the group and its investigators, did not have it as the
focus of their intentions to add to this body of evidence. In this sense this is somewhat of a disappointment for readers of the
Scole Report because the phenomena reportedly witnessed over the course of the SPR's 37 sittings (the sittings to which
the Reports authors confine their remarks) are extraordinary in the extreme.' First, highly intelligent, witty, informed and

technically-precise dialogue, the transcripts of which it is impossible to read without feeling one is eavesdropping on
conversation among established friends and professional colleagues, firmly twentieth-century in disposition and sufficiently
at ease with themselves and one another to inject playful and skilful banter into otherwise serious and careful comment and
instruction. Second, a number of established voices with their own highly distinctive characters, accents and mannerisms,
for the most part embodied in the group's two sensitives but at times disembodied in specific locations in mid-air. And further;
moving lights of a fantastic nature (whose movements responded to investigators' requests) - globes and pin-pricks of light,
in some cases dense and tangible, capable of penetration of solid objects and observers' own bodies, and flashes akin to
lightning; levitations; displacement of objects; a huge array of apports; materialisations of moving and walking forms and
parts of bodies; taps, raps and sustained touches from materialised fingers and hands, full handshakes, light kisses,
brushings by materialised clothing and cat and dog forms, trumpet sounds from an instrument which had had its mouthpiece
removed and to which no group member could physically gain access, drum beatings.... (Oh, to have been there!)
But the design of the SEG's work took us beyond this. The intention was to establish durable material evidence, of a kind
that could be independently assessed and was not dependent on first-hand reports, however sincere and serious-minded
their authors. For one of the salient features of this five-year experiment is the quantity and quality of recorded personal
testimony generated not only from SPR investigators and their associates but from the many other observers invited to take
part in sittings over the years. There is no shortage of this testimony from educated professional individuals who have a
reputation at stake should the work not be what it claims to be.
A 'Study Day' was held in December 1999 in London by the SPR to make room for; among other things, just this aspect of
the group's work, and it was very moving, as a member of the invited audience, to hear individuals address the meeting and
deliver their testimonies in sober and forthright language. I leave it for you to share my amazement at hearing Professor
Fontana recount his experience during one of the sittings. Under typical protocol conditions the sitting took place in complete
darkness, in a pre-searched and secure room, all participants wearing luminous wristbands to provide investigators with a
continuous record of their movements. Asked to lean forward and put his hand into the Pyrex bowl in the centre of the table,
he did so and felt a medium-sized crystal. 'Take your hand out of the bowl and give us a few moments,' he was told, and
then: 'All right, now put your hand back into the bowl.' He did so, and there was no crystal - simply no crystal. 'Give us a
moment again,' and, after a short pause, 'Put your hand back into the bowl': he found the crystal again there. This is the
testimony, among numbers of such testimonies covered in the Report, of a serious-minded academic with nothing
apparently to gain and arguably a great deal to lose by making these things up, or allowing himself to be the object of an
elaborate duping, speaking at a gathering of equally serious-minded academics and informed parties ready, as he knew, to
seize any opportunity to discredit his recounted experience.
For however delighted present readers may be to hear of or access for themselves these first-hand reports (and the
Solomon's' book happily contains much such material taken directly from the Report) and to marvel at just how good the
reported phenomena were, it was not, with respect, your approval that those behind the Scole work had as their priority.
What was first and foremost in their sights was the approval of the orthodox scientific and philosophical community, an
audience whose position can be summed up as follows: But why should we believe in these things? They don't fit our model
of what is possible, and no amount of pleading for the honesty, sincerity, probity, intellectual rigour, and dispassion of SEG
members, SPR investigators and other observers is of itself going to dispose us to take on board a rival model. We would
rather say: But you may have been mistaken; or; if you were not mistaken, you were duped, and we can in each case
propose an explanation of how you might have been duped using our preferred materialist model. Little was to be gained,
therefore, on the view of this section of the Study Day's panel and audience from the presence of invited speaker Mr. James
Webster, member of the Magic Circle and associate of the Inner Magic Circle, and full-time professional magician, who
attended three of the Scole sittings as observer and who spoke to represent the views of professional hoaxers to state
emphatically that under the prevailing controlled conditions of that group's experiments he "would not be prepared to attempt
to duplicate the observed phenomena". For even if Mr. Webster could not produce the lights, voices, materialisations,
dematerialisations, nothing, so critics would say, has so far been shown, in rigorous scientific terms, to say that no-one else
could not.
Let this critical disposition be articulated with perhaps more eloquence and force by a professional in the field, Dr. A.S.
Mann. Following his contribution I take up my account again to show to what extent his criticisms have been addressed by
Report authors, and in fact anticipated by the project's authors themselves.
Scole and Science
by A. Scott Mann
Dr. A. Scott Mann has taught Philosophy at the universities of Sussex, Sydney, and Western Sydney. He was lecturer at and
director of the Centre for Liberal and General Studies at the University of New South Wales and currently teaches at the
University of Western Sydney. His research interests include analogical reasoning in natural science. He has been asked to
provide a succinct philosopher of science's response to the Scole experiments.

In their book The Scole Experiment G. and J. Solomon refer to "the [Scole] group's willingness to invite stringent scientific
scrutiny" (The Scole Experiment p.70). They qualify this by observing that "individuals with credible academic, specialist and
scientific knowledge were welcomed to sessions". But the presence of scientists in no way implies "stringent scientific
scrutiny". As the Society for Psychical Research investigators acknowledge in their report (Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research, Vol.58, Part 220), "critics have argued that lawyers [can be] more suitable [observers] than scientists,...
investigative journalists would be shrewder in detecting duplicity than psychologists" (PSPR, p.312).
Scientific scrutiny implies effective isolation and control of the systems under investigation. And no matter how critically alert
trained scientific specialists might be, they are not functioning as scientists if they are prevented from exercising such
control. It is simply not good enough to maintain that no amount of control would "satisfy resolute critics" and that "clever
illusionists can outwit any form of surveillance" (PSPR, p.309). There can never be complete control. But a good experiment
is distinguished by aiming for the best that is possible under the circumstances. And, as the SPR investigators admit,
standards fell very far short of what was possible in this case (see e.g. PSPR, pp.308-13).
Broadly speaking, scientific theory testing involves either testing explanatory causal theories or models through
observational confirmation or refutation of predictions derived from the theory, or testing statistical hypotheses - of various
kinds - through appropriate procedures of sampling, controlled experimentation, and data analysis. Here we are concerned
with observational testing of an explanatory theory relating to the existence and causal powers of spirits of the dead. The
most crucial point in this sort of observational test is that the predictions in question be unexpected or improbable except on
the assumption that the theory in question is true. It must not, in other words, be possible to derive similar predictions from
other theories already known or believed accurately to describe aspects of the world. Observational confirmation of a
prediction that is equally derivable from an established theory merely tells us that the new theory has not been refuted, but
provides no solid verification of that theory.
To take an example: the observed fall of an unsupported object fails to verify my theory that there are such things as invisible
spirits which suck all such objects down to earth precisely because we already expect such objects to fall - on the basis of
well-established ideas of gravitational attractive forces. If, on the other hand, our theory predicts that spiritual intervention will
prevent such a fall in some specific case - without the intervention of any other recognised physical forces - and this
prediction is confirmed, then, indeed, we have good grounds for taking the new theory very seriously.
As Alan Gauld points out, in his Comments on the Scole Report (PSPR, pp.4C4-24), all of the Scole phenomena can be
explained by reference to well-established principles of human motivation and action - without any necessary appeal to
spirits of the dead. And, in broad terms, on the basis of previous experience of hoaxing in this area, we can see the sorts of
'physical manifestations' in this case as precisely the sorts of things that might have been expected from contemporary
The importance of improbable predictions is recognised - at least implicitly - by the SPR investigators when they address the
questions of why the Scole team could not create some object not possibly available to human hoaxers, nor give information
that could not have been known to anyone (PSPR, pp.307-8). The fact is that the team did neither of these things. Nor do the
members of the team or the SPR investigators provide any independently testable explanation of why this was the case. On
the contrary, there are suggestions that the spirits can somehow manipulate matter at the subatomic level in ways that would
presumably allow them to produce truly strange and unexpected artefacts (like the PPOs [permanent paranormal objects]
referred to by the SPR investigators).
In the absence of proper verification of the spirit hypothesis, scientific method requires a critical sifting of all possible
hypotheses capable of explaining the observed phenomena. And the fact that the hypothesis of human hoaxing is very much
more plausible than any other we can think of in itself constitutes some degree of confirmation of that hypothesis.
Concluding Remarks
by Rosalind Oliver
Two important points are highlighted by Dr. Mann: the lack of rigorous controls and the absence of improbable predictions.
As he says, the first weakness is properly acknowledged by the Scole Report writers. With few exceptions, all experimental
work took place in complete darkness, and investigators had indeed pressed for the introduction of infrared image
intensifying equipment to allow for monitoring of an altogether superior kind to that provided by the chosen method of
luminous Velcro-fastened wristbands (too noisy and awkward for the hoaxer to remove without detection, it was thought) and
fluorescent tags attached to table, tape-recorder buttons, and experimental objects. This repeated request had, however;
been flatly turned down by those behind the scenes: infrared light, of however low an intensity, would disturb the
experimental work, they were told. No explanation was given, and no movement on the subject was possible, although, as
Report authors note (p.3C9): "We have no means of knowing what limitations the Team was under." To this extent, then, a
great part of the phenomena at Scole and elsewhere are rendered scientifically insignificant. You will not think so, perhaps,

because you will want to believe that when people of integrity say they did not cheat or; as vigilant observers, did not
observe others to cheat, that is the end of the matter. (Note: Report, p.3l4: "In an investigation extending over two years in
three countries, and involving varying levels of thoroughness and depth and a dozen senior members of the Society for
Psychical Research in their private capacities, no inadvertent, off-guard remark which might be thought to reveal a deception
has been noted by any of the principal investigators or reported to them.") But the critical position demands hard,
independent proof. So, in short, the monitoring process used let down a great deal of what was produced by the group.
However; as for improbable predictions, I think the SEG's work can more than meet Dr. Mann's requirements. For; while it is
granted that results included nothing to match the classic, textbook PPO - the pair of unbroken but interlocking rings of wood
made of two different types of wood (what the Report writers call the Holy Grail of PPOs(!)), there was in fact plenty to stand
as permanent and abnormal to the point of the deeply improbable. And here the significance of the tangible, durable result
comes into its own. After the voices (available as they may still be on audio-tape), after the lights, after the displacements,
the handshakes, the materialisations and dematerialisations, and the pile of left-over apports, there remains the collection of
camera-film and video-film images which were produced under truly improbable circumstances.
Space limiting me to only a sketch of one example here, readers are directed to the appendices of the Report which
describe in painstaking detail the procedures adopted for obtaining, on 22 November 1996, the images on the "Wie der
Staub in [...] Wind" film. Briefly put, the SPR's associate Dr. Walter Schnittger took complete control of all arrangements for
the purchasing, storing, unpacking, making secure (locking up in a specially-made box), unlocking, retrieving, and
processing of the film used in that sitting. The film, still in its sealed inner wrapping, was thus placed in a specially-designed,
padlocked box (keys stored off-site) and held by Dr. Schnittger throughout the experiment in a fashion that defied all
tampering. Just over three years later he came from Germany to the Scole Study Day to give an eloquent and concise
(under-five-minute) account of the exact design of the box (he is a leading engineer) and the exact way in which he had held
it during the experiment: three fingers pressed against one side; his thumb against another; his index finger on the top face;
his palm covering the lock; the base resting firmly on the table. Only the side facing away from him (the base excepted) was
uncovered by any part of his hand, and this side was slotted into the box from above and could not be removed without first
dismantling the box from the top. What emerged from the box was conclusively what went into the box, and this was a new,
sealed roll of camera film, which when processed was found to carry some lines of poetry in the style of a known Romantic
German poet, preceded by various glyphs, designs, and squiggles (see Report plate 6, and The Scole Experiment plates 18
& 19).
How had these images got onto the film? There is much such film evidence among the Scole experimental results. All of this
evidence is recognised to be vulnerable to a combination of established theory - (1) hoaxing, combined with (2) Super-PSI
activity (that is, the unconscious accessing on the part of Foy and/or other group members, via some sort of super-mind, of
data used to produce the messages or codes or images on film) - until or unless the protocols used can be established to
have been faultless. But this is the distinction of, among others, the "Wie der Staub..." film: the protocol was "perfect", say
Report writers. Limitations of space prevent me from mentioning them here, but readers of The Scole Report and The Scole
Experiment will find a significant number of other such experimental results that correspond to the most improbable of Dr.
Mann's "improbable predictions": voices recorded (e.g. during a 20-minute communication on 21 January 1997) on a
microphone-less tape-recorder; via equipment using the semi-conductor material germanium, made to instruction by those
behind the scene (see Report Ch. 8 and Appendix I); and images captured on Sony factory-sealed, investigator-marked and
monitored Polaroid video-film (see Report Ch. 11 and Appendix J), most spectacularly among them the distinct profile of a
middle-aged man wearing gold-rimmed glasses (said by Dr. Mann to look "frighteningly like" himself(!)).
Together the two books give a wealth of detail about the communications, messages, and images produced during these
final three years of the SEG's work, and I can only hint at this in these remarks. Throughout, there were allusions direct and
indirect to the person of F.W.H. Myers and to previous evidential work. The Scole group's work thus appears to be an
extension of work begun earlier; which has now had new life breathed into it by technological advances. The communication
equipment built to order was described by its discarnate designers as "an experimental communication system [enabling the
production of] work of the utmost importance to mankind". An abrupt and definitive halt to the SEG's work was called in late
1998 to the dismay of experimenters and investigators alike. But the group's work has been 'permitted' to continue in the
form of smaller units of original members, and many other (currently some one hundred) amateur groups have now formed,
using guidelines produced for this purpose.
In the view of the CPS Council what the SEG has succeeded in producing well justifies the call for a new, non-materialist
paradigm: the data are quite extraordinary, their production, using a materialist theory of explanation, quite improbable, and
they and I wholly endorse the Report's referee Dr. Crawford Knox in his carefully-worded conclusion (Report, p.450): "...It is
likely that it [the Report ] will mark an important step in attempts to place on a firm footing evidence for the existence of a
spirit world and its impact on our everyday world and for survival of death."

The Scole Debate

An Unbiassed Report from a Christian's point of view by David Christie-Murray

Some stir has been caused in psychical research circles by activities which began in 1993 at the Norfolk village of Scole.
These resulted in a dedicated book, The Scole Experiment; a 300 page account in the Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research; the issue of a quarterly journal, The Spiritual Scientist, from 1994; and a Study Day on December 11th
1999 of talks, discussion and debate by the S.P.R., attended by a larger audience than most such days attract.
Following is a summary of the bare facts of the case, omitting such usual qualifications as 'alleged' or 'supposed'
A group of seven friends headed by a married couple, Robin and Sandra Foy, who - although veterans in the holding of
seances - do not label themselves Spiritualists in any religious sense, was prompted by spirit scientists and other spirit
entities (the Team) to form the Scole Experimental Group (the Group). They were to initiate a series of experimental spiritual
science sessions. The moving spirits (literally!) included scientists who had benefited in their earthly lives from the
acceleration of scientific knowledge and technology that has so changed the modern age and were intent on developing new
scientific approaches 'on the other side' in experimenting with 'creative energy' - a more advanced and safer spiritual agent
than the old ectoplasm - and pioneering new forms of tangible paranormal phenomena. Their aim was to prove conclusively
once and for all that death does not exist and that there are other dimensions of being.
The Group was reduced to four, the Foys and two sensitives, Alan and Diana Bennett, through whom the spirits
communicated. Although its sessions began with prayer, it was non-religious and non-sectarian and its work was to be
universal. Its activities were directed by the Team, who planned its progress, including, in due course, the opening of its
sittings to visitors. These included a number of S.P.R. investigators (the Guests -my name for them).
The Team decreed that the sessions should take place in a completely blacked out cellar, except for luminous arm-bands
worn by the sitters and luminous tabs on the table and some props. The Team would provide its own light, since electric
current dissipated the spirit energy, a subtle blend of earth, human and spiritual energies, its effects akin to those of an
electromagnetic field. Their intention was eventually to provide enough light for all phenomena to be clearly seen. They
partially achieved this by illuminating a glass dome, which they had instructed the Group to get, like a giant electric light bulb,
for 52 minutes. The Team
was not omniscient and obtained their progress by experimenting, like human scientists. In some 500 sessions over a period
of five years, they developed a wide range of physical phenomena, including some 70 apports; extremely complex patterns
of dancing light, strong enough to illuminate faces, which could pass through solid objects and enter human bodies,
sometimes with healing results; levitation of objects, some solid and heavy; 'energy voices' from mid-air; changes in room
temperature; strong breezes; and partial materializations of spirit limbs with once, several times during one session, the
head and shoulders of a Team member.
To students of psychical research, these phenomena will appear more redolent of the nineteenth than the twentieth century,
and the insistence on complete darkness invites suspicion. More, however, followed. Cameras were introduced into the
sittings which worked by themselves, snapping and winding on and producing copies of photographs of views, street
scenes, First World War participants and St. Paul's Cathedral during the London blitz (memories of Team members?). From
September, 1994, cameras were not required. Photographs would be originals imprinted directly on sealed film. More of this
The Scole activities became known. They were opened to visitors to the Foys' cellar, then demonstrated to various
audiences, first in this country, then abroad, (in Ibiza, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Eire and
Germany). Robin Foy lectured at a number of conferences and other venues and when The Spiritual Scientist appeared, it
was bought by subscribers in at least 14 countries. Invitations were given to men of science and letters to investigate the
phenomena and it was in reply to these that the Guests (as individuals, and not in the capacity of official representatives of
the SPR) appeared.
Their names are almost a roll-call of today's most eminent psychical researchers, including five past and present Presidents
of the SPR, its then Hon. Secretary (now deceased) and at least five other SPR members very highly qualified in their own
fields and researchers of many years' experience. There was at least one member of the Magic Circle, who thought the
phenomena genuine. There were among the scholars sceptics who remained unconvinced and pointed out weaknesses,
touched on below. It should, however, be pointed out that the integrity of the Group has remained unquestioned and has
been vigorously upheld by all who have known them, some for many years.
As the spirit scientists developed their skills, faces, glyphs, handwriting, diagrams (some of apparatus to be used for
communication from that side of life to this), romanised Sanskrit, German poems, Latin and much else, appeared on rolls of
unopened films still in their factory-sealed packaging. Some Polaroid films were used, which were developed as soon as
possible after they were opened at the close of sittings. Some of the literary puzzles that appeared on the films were
reminiscent of F. W. H. Myers' cross-correspondences at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is not possible in an

unillustrated summary to give an idea of the richness and variety of the contents of the films - The Scole Experiment is
fortunately lavishly illustrated - and readers interested in physical phenomena are referred to the book itself. If they are
sceptics, they can amuse themselves by devising means of showing 'how it was done.'
There were weaknesses in the procedure, acknowledged by believers as well as sceptics. The Team forbade the use of
infrared viewing, whereby body-heat shows where people are during sessions and any movements of theirs involving
trickery. An SPR specialist in the psychology of deception provided a fraud-proof bag for unopened film, which seemed partly
to inhibit its development, though even so the results 'indicated paranormality.' Some of the film came from stock owned by
the Group, who therefore could have doctored it but how?). It was alleged by one sceptic that the small padlocked box in
which films were enclosed could be opened (this has not been proved). On the other hand, an entire German poem was
imprinted on the film when a German visitor had complete control of the box grasped in his hand from beginning to end of a
session. The investigators continued to tighten their control procedure to meet every possible criticism but, regretfully, the
experiment had to be brought temporarily (it is hoped) to an end. (See below).
Other phenomena that may be mentioned included the manifestation of a crystal that could be seen and touched, then seen
and not touched, then seen and touched again, its physical attributes and 'essence' separated in a 'hologram' form. A
'germanium receptor' was constructed under instruction from the Team, which enabled dear conversation to take place with
a copious number of otherworldly personalities, finally culminating in a conversation which lasted for more than twenty
minutes. Electrical experts said there could be no normal explanation for this - the device contained nothing to make it work
(this will put mediums out of business!).
But the most striking experiment was Project Alice (through the looking-glass) by which mirrors and a video were used to
create an 'inter-dimensional doorway 'through which 'many different types of beings were able to enter the cellar, passing
between dimensions as they did so.' The Guests were not admitted to these experiments on the grounds that the energies of
the four members of the Group could be balanced without the intrusion of those of visitors who might vary from time to time
and the work therefore proceed rapidly. But the evidence for the claims of Project Alice is presumably on videotapes.
(Correct - Editor).
Unfortunately, the very powerful vortex of energies within the 'doorway' attracted the attention of 'a group of experimenters
from the future, (whose) motives were not entirely benevolent' causing an 'interference contrary to the strict laws of time and
space.' The Group activities had to cease forthwith.
Scole brought about the creation of a number of other groups, working on the same principles, and there was no reason why
these should not continue. So all is not lost.
The Scole Experiment, by authors favourable to the Foys' philosophy
and activities, is attractively written, moderate and objective. The chapter on 'Spiritual Philosophy' contains nothing to which
a Christian could take exception -unless he were of the sort who regard all psychical phenomena as 'of the devil.'
The SPR Proceedings is, as one would expect, a more scholarly covering of much the same ground as the book but in
considerable detail and giving much space to the doubts about the phenomena and the contentions of sceptics. The two
publications together make fascinating reading, as gripping as any detective story.
The Study Day (which I attended) was partly spoiled by the absence through illness of two leading protagonists, one on
either side of the debate. It was largely a repetition of the Proceedings, the 'pros' vigorously defending the genuineness of
the Scole phenomena, the 'antis' remaining unconvinced. What was striking was that none of the arguments seemed to have
the slightest effect upon the embattled attitudes of either side; although not the slightest doubt was thrown upon the integrity
of the members of the Group.
What concerns Christians more is the significance of Scole, if the phenomena are genuine (as it seems to me, trying to be
objective, that they mainly are). Are they delusions, luring believers away from truth about the after-life and its conditions? If
they are a true picture, they would seem to support a Spiritist view that we wake up on the other side of life with the
characteristics, qualities and interests which we have cultivated here, and that we continue in the other life the pilgrimage of
which this existence has been a part. There is also more than a hint that there are hierarchies of higher beings who can
help, advise and warn, and that the postmortem dimension of existence has access to realms in which entities dwell that
have not known terrestrial life - angels, archangels and all the hosts of Heaven.
Christian belief about the afterlife has evolved, though very slowly, down the centuries. It began with stark Heaven and Hell
for righteous believers and - the rest. Common sense seemed to indicate that border-line cases existed in which opportunity
should be given for lesser sinners to undertake spiritual discipline which should purge them and fit them for the holy

presence of God. Limbo, a state of beneficent shadowland, received the good people who had died before Christ brought his
salvation to earth, together with babies who died before baptism.
The Reformers introduced justification by faith, which promised instant and complete salvation at the moment of death when
the believer entered the presence of God clad in the wedding-garment of the righteousness of Christ that replaced the filthy
rags of his own pitiful attempts at goodness. Rejection of this belief belittled the grandeur of the sacrifice on the Cross.
Many Christians feel that this is too simplified a picture to be satisfactory and sense that they need more preparation in the
antechambers of heaven before being plunged into the searing presence of the Almighty. The symbols of heaven in our
hymns, mostly taken from gevelation, golden crowns, glassy seas, myriads of the righteous waving palms and conducting
everlasting church services, eternal rest, and so on are mostly meaningless, even if some of them are fun to sing. It is not
surprising that some Christians altogether reject the belief that we survive death.
It could be that in the fullness of time, for all its false prophets in the shape of charlatans and cheats and the triviality of much
of its vision, the Spiritist movement with its emphasis on survival of human beings as they have become in their lives is
something that Christians should study seriously (as many individuals in our Fellowship already do). If post-mortem
existence is a stage, perhaps one of many, in which we learn to discipline ourselves into spiritual progress, that is the basic
idea of Purgatory - which need not all be misery.
Is Scole important or just another psychic flash-in-the-pan? One of the lessons of the modern age with its ever-accelerating
developments in science and technology, some of which seem to defy all common sense, is that we can no longer define
what is possible and what is not. The idea of personalities in the future interfering with activities in our present seems to be
lunatic - yet quantum physics contains a number of conceptions that seem equally ridiculous, which are theorised to be true.
Theologically, if Jesus were indeed the Messiah, the manner of his first coming was completely unexpected by the Jews. His
promised Second Coming in theory may equally happen in an unexpected way. It is promised as a breakthrough of the
divine dimension into human life and, if it is indeed possible that 'doorways' may be opened between dimensions, then Scole
may have taken a first step with unimaginable consequences.
Manu, the leader of the Spirit Team, once quoted. 'Infinite progression, infinite harmony, and infinite love.' Could there be a
better expression of the Christian hope?

Scientific Scrutiny
Taken from the book 'The Scole Experiment'
Those who were experimenting, investigating and reviewing, whether champions, critics or dispassionate observers, were all
limited by a lack of common vocabulary and past experience with which to assess the new spiritual science phenomena.
The new energy-based experiments were unique and, as such, there were no procedural precedents. Apparently rational
criticisms, such as requests by reviewers for body searches, may illustrate a less-than-complete understanding of the
innovative nature of the work undertaken at Scole.
To a certain extent of course, we are all scientists, examining any evidence of `reality' which life sends our way. We have
various natural and man-made instruments as well as accumulated knowledge and experience at our disposal. However,
'public opinion' is generally more swayed by the findings of scientifically trained (and thus 'qualified') people. Most of us
require such qualified people to investigate on our behalf. It was therefore important to the SEG that the independent
investigators implemented acceptable scientific procedures so that the Scole Experiment would be taken seriously by both
the scientific and lay communities alike.
Initially, the main aim of the investigators was to establish control over certain parameters of the experiments, especially the
timing and method of production of the photographic films. Montague Keen explained their intentions:
We were first out to see whether the phenomena, in the conditions in which they were produced, could have been accounted
for by `natural' man-made means. If not, we then wanted to ascertain whether any apparent paranormal force was derived
from the group's psyches or from discarnate entities.
The 'discarnate entities' explanation would, of course, support the notion of survival, although in theory these entities could
still be beings who had never lived on Earth but enjoyed some other type of existence. All in all, though, if every other
explanation could be defeated by the thoroughness of the procedures adopted, some might say that this was an important
step towards proving that the images on the films must be evidence of survival.

Sceptics who do not want to accept any evidence of survival have attempted to infer that the evidence is not paranormal. If
all the unique phenomena that the investigators came into contact with at the Scole Experiment were 'normal', then it would
imply that the Scole group were performing an elaborate hoax and deliberately lying to the huge number of people who
attended sessions and the experts who came to verify what was occurring. So far, the investigators have been unable to
produce any evidence of fraud. The Scole Report attempts to answer any criticisms in full.
In the absence of a permanent paranormal object (due to the spirit team having their own itinerary), the investigators (and, it
would appear, the team) judged that, of all the phenomena produced at Scole, the photographs constituted the best
repeatable physical - and potentially 'cast-iron' - evidence available for their scientific scrutiny.
Piers Eggett wrote an article on the question of acceptable evidence.

The Scole Experiment

Two theories to explain the Daguerre film by Montague Keen
One of the enduring mysteries left behind by the Scole experiment was the so-called Daguerre film, a roll of 36 frame
Kodachrome 200-transparency film brought in and handled exclusively by the SPR investigators. When it was developed by
Kodak and found to contain the longest extension of messages ever to be created by the spirit team1 we were confronted
with several puzzles. None of them has been satisfactorily resolved, but two brave attempts have recently been made. Yer
pays yer money and as the accompanying reproduction shows, there were several puzzles stretching along the length of the
film. We had to decide what was meant by Can you See Behind the Moon, what Louis Daguerre had to do with it, what the
totem pole of glyphs were intended to mean, if anything, and who or what the repeated initials of RS (not easy to see, but
there all the same) signified.
Students of the SPR's bulky report on the Scole sittings will be aware that over the weeks that followed this remarkable and,
as it turned out, sadly final, film strip, we took the opportunity to crave further information. Various crumbs were offered by
the spirit Team. They failed to put us out of our misery. We knew all about Louis Daguerre, the French pioneer of a primitive
form of photography immortalised as the Daguerreotype, whose popularity swept across Europe and the USA in the middle
of the 19th century, but we could trace nothing which linked him with anyone bearing the mysterious RS initials.
We were told to look behind the meaning of the lunar words, that there was a Frenchman involved, and some sort of
experiment with which he was concerned, and which we ought to investigate further. Moreover, there were skeletons, or at
least one skeleton, in someone's cupboard. This seemed appropriate for investigation into the afterlife, but not particularly
enlightening. We had, of course, proceeded on the assumption that not only was the film strip genuine - fraud on the part of
the Scole Group having by then become a preposterously improbable theory, flatly at variance with all the evidence we and
others had accumulated - but that clearly intelligent communicators would not waste their time and ingenuity concocting
meaningless scribbles.
When all's said and done, they had achieved a unique and momentous accomplishment in creating images on sealed rolls
of film in another dimension of reality down here on earth. So they were hardly likely to provide us with nonsense.
Now there were good reasons for believing that the team were operating in concert with some of the pioneers of the Society
for Psychical Research. These pioneers had been responsible during the first three decades of the last century for that
impressive, complex, but neglected mass of evidential communications known as the cross-correspondences. These were
fragments of messages, meaningless in themselves, scattered around the automatic scripts of half a dozen different
mediums in different places at different times, but later found to fit together to make meaningful references. They were
designed to prove that mere telepathy between mediums, or any other living persons, could not have been responsible for
messages whose content and meaning no living soul could have known.
One of the earliest film strips, the ill-fated Diotima Polaroid film which alarmed us by starting to fade within days of the time
we developed in the Foys' dining room, had one message which hearkened back to what was probably the earliest of these
cross-correspondences. So may be they were still toying with this brilliantly ingenious but fearfully complicated device. This
notion is prompted by the work of Professor X, one of the rare luminaries who combines expertise in physics and
mathematics with a great depth of knowledge of our subject, but who modesty prefers anonymity. He has identified the
mysterious RS as none other than the celebrated author, Robert Louis Stevenson. This was a notion I had immediately
rejected when we were discussing the identity of "RS", if only because he was always known by all three initials. But
Professor X began to unearth more and more reasons why I must have been mistaken.

Here are some of the clues: the film has 8 8... 8 8. They could be the Pieces of Eight familiar to every reader of Stevenson's
greatest work for children, Treasure Island. Stevenson wrote a poem called The Moon, and refers to the "pale moon lying on
her back as though the wind had tilted her" in his famous tale of Dr JekylI and Mr Hyde. The C and D in the film refer to
Stevenson's two great loves, Fanny Colvin and Fanny Osboume. The 'a' and 'W', refer to Archie Weir, hero on the brink of
imprisonment in Stevenson's last, unfinished novel. And the association with prison? Well, that comes in the novel
Kidnapped, whose hero was David Balfour imprisoned, at least metaphorically, in a ship and identified by a Greek letter Beta
in the column of glyphs.
The spirits' references to a Frenchman could well have meant Stevenson himself, since he spent several years in France;
and as for the name of Louis Daguerre, that was included to draw attention to the importance Stevenson attached to
ensuring that the world appreciated the deliberate conversion of his original name of Lewis to the French Louis.
The vaguely Polynesian designs in the glyphs are characteristic of the area to which Stevenson emigrated in 1888.
All of this sounds improbable enough, especially since some of it appears to conflict with the information we were given as
crumbs or hints by the spirit Team, but more recently I unearthed a long-buried bit of information which seems to support the
notion that the soul of the great author may, after all, be behind the mystery. Stevenson turns out to have been a member of
the SPR. He died several years before the cross-correspondences started coming through various mediums, but some of
those references are to his novel Catriona, and used the names of the hero, David Balfour. Catriona is the Scottish
equivalent of Catherine, and Catherine was one of the vital name clues in perhaps the most celebrated of all the crosscorrespondences, one which involved a revelation about the hitherto secret love of Prime Minister Arthur James Balfour.
Just as I was beginning to accept that this was the most persuasive explanation of the Daguerre film strip, a Paris
correspondent emerged from three years' silence to announce his altemative version. This gentleman had also been busy
rummaging dusty archives, and has found that the mysterious R. and S. could well represent two figures who were carrying
on work initiated by - or at least of great interest to - Louis Daguerre.
We had been told to examine the photographic pioneer's other interests, apart from the creation of images on plates and
illusionistic dioramas he made for sets on the Parisian stage. Daguerre was indeed interested in astronomy, and had actually
made a picture of an eclipse. In the year he died the Great Exhibition of 1851 showed an eclipse of the sun using a
Daguerreotype method. It was produced by a man called Secchi who, in 1860, joined with Warren de Ia Rue to photograph a
total eclipse of the sun by the moon.
This picture at last resolved the controversy over the origin and nature of the flares or protuberances first observed during an
eclipse 18 years earlier.
Thus it was R and S, Daguerre's successors in this endeavour, who were able to see behind the moon. But we still have no
idea why the writing was in the Art Nouveau style, which was popularised around 1900 in the decorative archway entrances
to the Paris Metro by an architect born a year after Daguerre's death; or why the spirit Team's references pointed very clearly
to RS as a single individual.
Both explanations, despite considerable scholarship and ingenuity, leave anomalies unanswered. It may be that neither is
correct. Certainly they can't both be right. What they illustrate, however, is the extent to which it is possible to find clues, and
perhaps magnify their significance, to fit into and bolster a theory which may be insubstantial.
The pathway of the psychical researcher is strewn with such pitfalls.
Montague Keen
Is there an Afterlife?
Religion, Psychology and Spirituality
The Meditator's Handbook
The Secret Language of Dreams
The Secret Language of Symbols

Alresoford, UK

John Hunt
Duncan Baird
Duncan Baird