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Observations placeholder

Dr Auguste Stern - The technique used in the Soviet Union to induce human levitation is to enclose the prone subject within a cube of mirrors



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


I have more recently had the opportunity of getting to know how human levitation is approached by parapsychologists in the Soviet Union; it is known as ‘partial death’, a term which indicates a rather different conceptual approach. In 1977 a young Russian physicist, Auguste Stern, defected to the West and related some of his experiences in parapsychology. He had worked in the Siberian science city of Novosibirsk, at the Institute for Automation and Electrometry. The parapsychology department of the Institute housed about fifty scientists, but Stern was perturbed about the intended use of the hypnotism techniques on which they were working for ‘mind control’. In previous years he had himself participated, he claims successfully, in ‘partial death’ experiments, being himself able to produce effects.

According to Stern, the technique used in the Soviet Union to induce human levitation is to enclose the prone subject within a cube of mirrors. The multiple images, apparently stretching in all directions to infinity, have the effect of disorientating the subject, who then levitates if he has the ability

During the summer of 1977, mirrors were set up for Stern by film producer Alan Neuman, who wished to record this phenomenon. I placed my mattress equipment inside, with the necessary rubber tubing leading out through a corner. Dr Stern lay on a large wood-backed mirror which completely covered the mattress; thus he could see nothing but images in mirrors, except for one side wall which was covered with black cloth. The moving picture cameras photographed him through holes in this cloth.

Dr Stern was disappointed that he did not leave the mirror completely. He had not attempted ‘partial death’ for some years and was disturbed by the resilience of my mattress. A film record exists of his squirming motions, which contributed to the noise on the chart records of Figure 21.1e. However, there are inexplicable features in at least two places in the half-hour of recording; these are periods during which a loss of more than a kilogram occurred for several seconds at a time. Such effects could have been produced if the subject had pressed his hands over the edge of his mattress and forced himself up from the floor. But the film record shows that he could not have done this: rather, he squirmed about, shifting his weight to different regions of the mirror. According to Dr Stern, the squirming is not typical of ‘partial death’ sessions, but was produced because he was unused to the insecurity of my rubber mattress support.

Figure 21.1 Chart-records with instrumented rubber mattress. (a) Mattress calibration pulses of 2- and 5-kg weights. (b) Short-lived pulses produced by sitting upright and violently bouncing up and down. (c) Pulses produced by rolling over from the back to the chest. (d) Pulses produced by strongly arching the back, so that only the head and feet touch the board. (e) Part of levitation experiment record.

I have made laboratory tests of the ‘muscular noise’ which is produced by squirming on the mattress. Since rubberized material can expand, the pressure will remain constant only when the areas of contact between mattress and board (and mattress and ground) remain constant. For example, rolling the body over onto one side of the wooden board distorts the mattress, producing pressure changes as shown in Figure 21.1c. Sitting on the wooden board and bouncing up and down produces the artefacts shown in Figure 21.1b, the apparent weight reductions being larger than the 5 kg calibration pulses shown in Figure 21.1a. Arching the back or doing press-ups expends energy in elastic bending of the wooden board, so that a temporary reduction of pressure is found as shown in Figure 21.1d.

My experience of these and similar effects has led to the rejection of nearly all of Dr Stern’s chart record as evidence of paranormal weight loss.

But there remain two sets of signals, one of which is reproduced in Figure 21.1e, which when taken in conjunction with the film record are difficult to explain in normal terms.

My assessment of them is to take them sufficiently seriously to warrant the planning of further research. The cube of mirrors seems to be a powerful psychological support for the subject, but it is difficult to construct with sufficient attention to safety.

The source of the experience

Hasted, Professor John

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps





Hall of Mirrors