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Observations placeholder

The Masters and Houston Witch’s cradle or ASCID



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Premonitions: A leap in to the future – Herbert Greenhouse [1971]


It is like a swing, except that it has a larger platform and is used not by children but by adults. The subject, strapped in and blindfolded, stands on the platform. Soon it begins to move, imperceptibly, then swings in wider and wider arcs. The subject, already deprived of the sense of sight, feels himself gradually drifting out of contact with the everyday world. He is going into a trance-state in which the mind may wander away from present time and space.

Its technical name is ASCID (Altered states of consciousness Induction Device), but it is also known as the witch's cradle. (In medieval times witches often took "trips" to visit the Devil by swinging in a bag suspended from a tree.) The ASCID was designed by R. E. L, Masters and is now beginning to be used for psychotherapy and research. There is one in the Foundation for Mind Research in New York City, run by Masters and his wife, philosopher Jean Houston. Masters and Houston formerly investigated the influence of psychedelic drugs on mental behavior, but today they are employing the ASCID and other devices to induce "trips" without the aid of drugs.

The "trips" are not just for thrills. The object is to explore the mind in its depths and to evoke a wide range of extraordinary experiences, including religious, mystical, and peak experiences so rare in Western culture. Extrasensory happenings may occur as a by-product of the experiments. In at least one case a psychic "saw" the future in the ASCID.

Alan Vaughan visited the Foundation one day and was strapped into the Witch's Cradle. He wondered if the premonitions that came to him during meditation and at other times, some of them mentioned in earlier chapters of this book, might be repeated under experimental conditions. As the Cradle swung back and forth and around in a circle, Vaughan went into a light trance. Bob Masters asked him questions about the future. The answers, listed below, were sent to the Central Premonitions Registry on December 5, 1969.

  • Jacqueline Kennedy will be estranged from Onassis by her son John and will take up permanent residence in the United States.
  • Ethel Kennedy will not remarry.
  • Ted Kennedy will suffer more tragedies in the next few years, but by overcoming them, will gain the confidence of the American public and will be elected President in 1976.
  • A madman will attack the Pope and attempt to kill him early next year. (A would-be assassin did try to kill the pope in November, 1970. He was described by the newspapers as a "madman.")
  • The Vietnam war will be substantially over in 18 months. Only a small token force of U.S. troops will then remain.
  • By 1972-73 severe flooding will affect the Eastern Coast of the United States. This will gradually worsen in some areas, particularly New Jersey.

Although most of these predictions were new, the last about "severe flooding" reaffirmed Vaughan's premonition about a rising water level around New York City, a prediction also voiced by Malcolm Bessent and on file with the Central Premonitions Registry.

The source of the experience

Vaughan, Dr Alan

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps