Mikhailova, Nelya - The hydrometer experiment
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Psychic Warfare (Threat or Illusion) By Martin Ebon
Benson Herbert's pride and joy was a hydrometer he had brought along. Normally this device is only used to measure the specific gravity of a liquid. A hydrometer is a sealed tube, weighted at the bottom so it floats upright. The specific gravity of a liquid - for example, the strength of a saline solution - is measured by the degree or depth to which it becomes submerged in the liquid. He wanted to see to what point Kulagina might be able to press the hydrometer down, in order to calculate the strength of her force. The device, which floated in a saline solution, was protected by an earthed metal screen and monitored by an electrostatic meter.
Kulagina, her husband, Sergeyev and his assistant, Dr. Karamov, and Larissa Vilenskaya, who had come from Moscow for the tests, assembled in the hotel room. Kulagina at first felt too ill to do any kind of demonstration. But intrigued by the new technical device, and after swallowing some pills, Kulagina walked over to the hydrometer and began to place her hands at various points around the metal container that held the liquid. Herbert does not give much importance to the fact that the hydrometer moved within the solution a few times; Kulagina was close to the container, and even vibrations from the floor might have caused the device to move.
Briefly, Kulagina sat down, exhausted. But a few minutes later she began to concentrate, to look intently at the hydrometer. Herbert reported:
"Kulagina slowly raised her arms, palms of her hands facing towards the instrument. Shortly after, the hydrometer began to move away from her in a straight line across the full diameter of the vessel, a distance of 2 1/2 inches, and came to rest after ninety seconds at the opposite side. She then lowered her arms and remained quite still. Two minutes later the hydrometer commenced to move again at the same speed as before, retracing its path until stopped by the edge of the glass nearest to her."
Through all this, the electrostatic meter showed no response. Kulagina had exerted her usual powers, an ability to move things horizontally. She had done this sort of thing in the past with matchboxes, cigarettes, and other small items. The idea that she might push the hydrometer down with her invisible force did not pan out; but the horizontal force was clearly evident.
Benson Herbert analyzed the experimental setup in detail, considering the use of such stage conjuring tricks as all-but-invisible threads, supersonic vibrations, the use of hidden magnets, and static electricity. He decided that none of these methods could have been used, and that the phenomena must therefore be judged genuine. There was no way the room could have been rigged, and Kulagina herself did not carry so much as a handbag with her.
How did she do it?
Sergeyev spoke of the possible role of ionization effected by Kulagina. Herbert feels that she "mobilizes the mitogenetic radiation of her own organic cells," but confesses that the way she manages to "yield these powerful effects, merely by mental concentration, remains at present a mystery still unsolved. "
Herbert's associate Manfred Cassirer summarized his impressions in a paper on "Experiments with Nina Kulagina" in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, London (March 1974). While his account corroborates Herbert's, he notes that "there was a certain conflict in aim and directions" among the participants in the 1973 experiment, due to the short time available. Concerning the hydrometer experiment, Dr. Cassirer wrote that, as far as he knew, it was "a complete novelty" to Kulagina and presented a challenge that she "convincingly and easily met." He also described experiments with radiometers, a compass, and a heat experiment of which he, Cassirer, was the subject; he wrote that he "beckoned her to desist" after about one minute, as his skin seemed to have heated up "to boiling point." Cassirer added these cautious comments:
"It need hardly be added that the team is aware of the shortcomings of and possible objections to their experiments, which were of a necessity conducted, impromptu, in a hotel rather than in a well- equipped laboratory. No less than seven people altogether were milling round a medium-sized room with somewhat loose floorboards; the windows were open, although there was no appreciable draught. On the credit side, the exemplary conduct of the well-trained medium, who sat motionless with legs sideways away from the table, cannot be too highly praised.
There was bright day-light, and flash photography as well as cine filming was allowed at all times. In the case of the hydrometer and the compass, which had both been brought by the experimenters into their own habitat, there was no manual contact on the medium's part. While Kulagina was sitting well back during the latter part of the hydrometer tests, and the object was constantly moving and changing direction, people were passing between the table and the medium."
The simple fact remains that, in well over a decade of Kulagina demonstrations, the woman and her gifts have remained an enigma. When Cassirer writes that the tests made with her took place in a hotel "rather than in a well-equipped laboratory," he echoed the regrets of just about every other Western visitor, observer, and researcher.