North, Stephen – By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE METAL-BENDERS by PROFESSOR JOHN B. HASTED
One evening David Robertson and I were watching closely, when suddenly a substantial signal was recorded; but it was clear to both of us that Stephen’s hand was about eight inches from the metal, and was quite stationary.
There was no question of touch or of dynamic capacitative coupling of manual electrostatic charge during movement of the hand. We made no comment, but subsequent no-touch signals appeared, and one of these, which fluctuated in polarity, evoked a cry of ‘Ow’ from Stephen.
He felt a sharp prick in his thumb, and I was able to squeeze a minuscule amount of blood from a tiny red mark. I can characterize the event only as a paranormal pin-prick, possibly related to the pricking sensations sometimes reported in hauntings, poltergeist cases and in the literature of witchcraft. One of the witches in Macbeth was supposed to cry: ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.’
We repeated this type of experiment several times, concentrating our interest on the question of whether the electrical pulses were synchronized with strain pulses or not. No consistent generalizations could be made; some were synchronous and some were unique to one or the other action; no variables that we changed seemed to make significant differences.
At this point l became aware of the early (1901) experiments in France and elsewhere on the ability of physical mediums, particularly Eusapia Palladino and Stanislava Tomczyk, to discharge gold leaf electroscopes without touch. Physically, this is a more or less identical experiment to the one we had been attempting. The discharge occurred in jerks and the subject felt a tingling sensation. Langevin took part in these experiments, as well as other scientists such as Marie Curie and d’Arsonval. They agreed that the phenomenon was genuine, but could find no explanation, and they were particularly concerned with the question of whether atmospheric ionization was produced; they concluded that there was none. In more recent times, table-lifting experiments also turned up some unexplained electrical signals.
If there were atmospheric ionization between the hand and the electrode (with a potential maintained on the electrode), then the passage of a current would be detectable by magnetic induction. We attempted such detection by interposing a 5-in.-diameter ferrite torus surrounding the direct hand-electrode line. The torus was wound with a caduceal coil connected to an amplifier, and the system was calibrated by applying a current pulse to a wire aligned along the hand-electrode line; such a pulse was recordable on the chart-record output of the amplifier.
In several sessions we obtained signals on the torus system, and sometimes these were synchronous with signals on the electrode system. We were beginning to believe that there was an atmospheric ionization path. Then it occurred to us that the secondary coil was electrically unscreened (although insulated); it might be that paranormal electrical charges were being induced directly on the secondary coil, which was in fact closer to Stephen North’s hand than was the electrode.
We then surrounded the secondary coil with a metal screen, constructed with insulation in such a way that the screen did not constitute a single turn around the torus. Immediately, the secondary coil signals ceased, although the electrode signals were unaffected.
The conclusion had to be drawn that atmospheric ionization currents had not been detected; direct paranormal electrical charges on the visible secondary coil seemed to be an explanation. These could not be induced when the coil was inside a metal screen; instead, presumably, a charge would be induced on the screen itself.
We abandoned experiments with the ferrite torus and continued with the electrode system alone. It seemed that both Stephen North and Julie Knowles spontaneously produced electrical charge, of either sign, at visible metal electrodes. We have not taken this work very far yet, but it appears to be interpretable as a paranormal ‘primary phenomenon’, comparable with the paranormal movement of atoms in metal crystal lattices or at grain boundaries. Sometimes both occur simultaneously. In our recent experiments, a screened room has been used.
In essentials our experiment on the placement of electric charge on an electrode remote from the body is the same as that conducted by physicist Hans Betz; in his experiments, well known in West Germany, the psychic demonstrated effects in a resistor which was exposed to him.
One caution is necessary to researchers intending to investigate the paranormal production of electric charge at low impedance electrodes. No movement of the hand close to the electrode should be permitted. Rapid movements can induce signals by capacitative coupling when the hand is electrically charged (e.g. from muscle contraction). Since the differences between the skin charges of different people can vary enormously, the psychic can appear to produce dynamic signals (synchronized with his movements), whereas the experimenter fails to do so. But when the hand is held motionless, dynamic signals cannot appear by normal mechanisms. The rapid movement of static charge along a motionless arm would have to be assumed, and this would appear to be a phenomenon itself to be classed as paranormal or at least inexplicable. The precautions against electrical interference to the equipment in the absence of the psychic subject must of course be stringent. As with dynamic strain experiments, many hours of quiet running are mandatory.
Our recent experiments with Stephen North on paranormal electric effects have unexpectedly implied that the primary action is the touchless placement of a burst of ionization in a very small region close to a metal electrode. The experiment is conducted with parallel plate electrodes, each connected individually to its own amplifier but with an applied (saw-tooth ramp) potential difference between them of 20V, which automatically changes sign every 11 seconds; the electric field is balanced with respect to earth. The polarities of the signals, typically of 0.1 sec duration, almost invariably follow the potentials; signals are sometimes obtained at both electrodes, sometimes at one only. This is consistent with the hypothesis that carriers of either sign are formed simultaneously, and are separated and drift to the electrodes in the applied field. The collection efficiency is reduced by diffusion and recombination processes; the variation of proportion of synchronized signals with inter-electrode distance is consistent with conventional particle swarm analysis.
Since electrodynamics and magnetic fields are inextricably coupled in physical theory, one cannot exclude the production of static or dynamic magnetic fields as a possible primary paranormal phenomenon. The magnetic fields produced in our laboratory by Geller would appear to have arisen from electric currents. The paranormal movements of ships’ compasses (chapter 20) seem to take place by some mechanism other than the production of magnetic field. Possibly the same arguments could be applied to the Stanford Research Institute experiments of Dr Puthoff on Geller in which a magnetometer within a super-conducting shield was perturbed. And finally, the paranormal wiping of magnetic memory tapes by Geller, which was reported by Dr Hawke of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, could be classified as a magnetization effect arising from structural change rather than as the production of an external magnetic field.