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The 'Nautilus' Case



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Psychic Warfare (Threat or Illusion) By Martin Ebon

The "Nautilus" Case

Did the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, participate in unprecedented long-distance telepathy experiments, covering twelve thousand miles, while cruising under the Arctic's ice surface?

Today, the U.S.S. Nautilus is a venerable showpiece, but if any ship could have been the instrument for such a breakthrough, it was the Nautilus. Launched in 1954 at Croton, Connecticut, and christened by Mamie Eisenhower, wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Nautilus made its first voyage into waters below the North Pole in 1958. Soon afterward, French accounts claimed, while the ship was cruising deep in arctic waters, it received telepathic messages from a research center maintained by the Westinghouse Corporation at Friendship, Maryland.

These reports were published and republished in France, although recorded only briefly in the United States; they continue to fascinate observers in the Soviet Union to this day. While on the staff of the Parapsychology Foundation, I sought to obtain confirmation of the Nautilus experiments. The U.S. Navy denied that such a test had ever taken place, or that it was otherwise engaged in telepathy experiments. As the tests would have been secret, such a denial was all that could then be expected.

I analyzed the content of the French reports and tried to obtain independent confirmation or denial. The main source was an article in the Paris popular science magazine Science et Vie (February 1960), written by one of its editors, Gerald Messadie, titled "The Secret of the Nautilus." The tests were also reported in a bestselling book, Le Matin de Magicien, written jointly by Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels, editors of the magazine Planete. When their book appeared in the United States, the Nautilus story had been eliminated. As a result, allegations that the United States had conducted advanced research circulated abroad but were scarcely noted in the United States itself.

On paper, it all sounded solid enough. According to these sources, such major U.S. corporations as Westinghouse, General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., and Bell Telephone in Boston had begun telepathy research in 1958. Their aim was to develop thought transmission by telepathy, to record and produce telepathic signals, and to determine the amplitude and frequencies on which telepathy operated.

President Eisenhower, according to these sources, had received a study prepared by the Rand Corporation of Los Angeles, a "think tank" under contract to the armed forces and other U.S. government agencies, which suggested the use of telepathy to establish communication with submarines, particularly those cruising in waters under the Polar Ice Cap; radio communications on such channels are particularly difficult.

Westinghouse's Friendship Laboratory allegedly undertook just such an experiment with the U.S.S. Nautilus, linking one person on land (the sender or inductor) with another person in the submarine (the recipient), while the vessel was submerged. Representatives of the U.S. Navy and Air Force were, according to these reports, present during the experiment.

The original reports fixed the starting date as July 25, 1959. The tests continued daily for a total of sixteen days. The person in charge was identified as Colonel William H. Bowers, director of the Biological Department of the Air Force research institute and the man who directed the experiments at Friendship. Later accounts identified the sender or inductor as "Smith," a student at Duke University, who was confined in one of the Westinghouse laboratory's buildings during the experimental period.

The procedure was designed to have Smith transmit "visual impressions" twice daily at specified times. Using methods developed by Dr. J.B. Rhine at the Parapsychology Laboratory, Duke University, Durham, N.C., a controlled timing device shuffled one thousand ESP cards in a revolving drum in such a manner as to drop five cards on a table, one at a time, at one-minute intervals. Smith picked each card up as it came out of the drum, looked at it, and sought to memorize the image. At the same time, he drew a picture of the symbol (square, cross, star, wavy lines, or circle) on a piece of paper before him.

Each test thus produced a sheet of paper covered with five symbols. Smith sealed each paper into an envelope, which Col. Bowers locked into a safe. At the same time, a Navy lieutenant, identified as "Jones," sat isolated in a stateroom on the Nautilus, functioning as the recipient of the images Smith sought to convey by telepathy.

Twice daily Jones drew five symbols on a sheet of paper, choosing from among the same symbols used by Smith. He placed the sheet inside an envelope, sealed it, and turned it over to his superior, Captain William R. Andersen. The captain wrote the time and date of the experiment on the envelope and put it into a safe in his own cabin. During the sixteen-day experimental period, Jones saw no one else except for one sailor who brought him meals and performed other routine services.

The final segment of these events, as reported in France, began with the arrival of the Nautilus at Croton, its cruise completed. The envelopes were removed from the commander's safe, sent by car under escort to the nearest military airfield, flown to Friendship Airport, near Baltimore, and then taken to Col. Bowers's laboratory. There the two sets of sheets were taken from their envelopes, dates and times matched with each other, and the results tabulated. In over 70 percent of the cases, the figures tallied: Jones had correctly "guessed" three-fourths of the images seen by Smith.

I was put off by these reports, particularly by the high score ascribed to these experimental subjects, and by their all-too-typical American names. On the other hand, the New York Herald Tribune had reported on November 3, 1958, that the Westinghouse Electric Corporation had begun to study ESP using specially designed apparatus. Dr. Peter A. Castruccio, director of the company's newly organized Astronautic Institute, had spoken of ESP studies as "very promising," with the caution that "a lot more work must be done before we can come up with anything practical."

I questioned W.D. Crawford, Staff Section, Air Arm Division of Westinghouse, on the project and he said that "while these studies have scientific value, any conclusions at this time would be premature and inconclusive." These statements were published in the Newsletter of the Parapsychology Foundation (January-February 1959), as was a report that Bell Telephone Laboratories had considered an ESP research project but had abandoned it.

Efforts to obtain confirmation of the French reports were unsuccessful. But in retrospect it must be added that all these queries started with the premise that the telepathy experiments were made, specifically, by contact with the nuclear submarine Nautilus. The vessel's skipper, William R. Andersen, who retired a few years later, said that while his submarine had "engaged in a very wide variety of activities, certainly these did not include experiments in mental telepathy." Messadie, Pauwels, and Bergier had given July 24, 1959, as the date on which the experiments began, but Captain Andersen said the vessel was at that time "high and dry in dock at Portsmouth, N.H., undergoing her first major overhaul."

On September 8, 1963, the Sunday newspaper supplement This Week published excerpts from the Pauwels-Bergier book, but added that the two authors admitted they had "elaborated on reports they had heard, but not verified." Among other things, they had "given the submarine a name." Pauwels was quoted, "It couldn't be just an ’atomic submarine,’ but the Nautilus, which is best known to the French public."

If it wasn't the Nautilus, the captain could not have been Andersen. If the Nautilus was not the recipient, but some other vessel, how authentic was the information on the set-up at the Westinghouse laboratory in Maryland? Colonel William H. Bowers, U.S. Air Force, was quoted in This Week as stating that "the experiment in which I was alleged to have participated never took place."

All these details and explanations came several years after publication of the "Nautilus experiments" had started a chain of events in the Soviet Union that created a renaissance in parapsychology, influenced the lives of countless men and women, and caused expenditures that are now supposed to amount to $500 million annually. In Paris, a prominent member of the Institut Metapsychique International, Raphael Kherumian, collected articles on the Nautilus story and mailed them to a long- time professional friend, Professor Leonid L. Vasiliev, Chief of the Department of Physiology at the University of Leningrad. While Vasiliev noted in his book Experiments in Distant Influence, which first appeared in Moscow in 1962, that official denials of the shore-to- submarine experiment suggested "a certain caution," he also made these comments:

"This experiment showed - and herein resides its principal value - that telepathic information can be transmitted without loss through a thickness of water, and through the sealed metal covering of a submarine - that is, through substances which greatly interfere with radio communication. Such materials completely absorb short waves and partly absorb medium waves, the latter being considerably attenuated, whereas the factor (still unknown to us) which transmits suggestion penetrates them without difficulties."

Vasiliev welcomed the Nautilus experiment as a "totally unexpected foreign confirmation" of tests he had conducted twenty-five years earlier. He wrote that "the only improvements of the American experiments over ours were that the telepathic influencing spanned longer distances and overcame greater physical obstacles." The Leningrad physiologist, who had kept his parapsychological interests under wraps during much of the Stalin regime, used the Nautilus story as a lever to obtain official support, or at least tolerance, for a revival and expansion of psychic studies..............

Bernard B. Kazhinsky, a Ukrainian electrical engineer, .. has compared the alleged Nautilus experiment with Russian research along related lines. His book Biological Radio Communication was published in Kiev by the Ukrainian Academy of Science in 1962. The author expressed regret that "several years have passed since those American experiments involving the Nautilus, but nothing is as yet known about any new achievements in this direction."

Looking back on the Nautilus account, Kazhinsky concluded that it provided the U.S. armed forces with "experimental confirmation of the fact that communication between two people, separated by long distances, can be carried out through water, over the air and across metal barriers by means of cerebral radiation in the course of thinking, and without conventional communication facilities." He added:

"One important feature of the above-mentioned experiment is worthy of attention. The electromagnetic waves accompanying the thought-formation process (visual perceptions) in the inductor's brain reached the cells of the indicator's cortex after having traveled a long distance, not only in the air and through water but also through the hull of the submarine. This would justify the following conclusions:
 1) these electromagnetic waves were propagated spheroidally, not in a narrow directed beam;
 2) these waves penetrated through the submarine hull, which did not block them, that is, it did not act as a 'Faraday cage.'"

Kazhinsky noted that a radio receiver in the marine laboratory of the Soviet scientific research vessel Vityaz had been unsuccessful in intercepting electric waves emitted in the water by the torpedo fish.

He added that "the radio receivers in the submarines did not intercept these waves. This prompts the conclusion that some electromagnetic waves of a biological origin possess yet another, still unknown, characteristic which distinguishes them from conventional radio waves. It is possible that our ignorance of that particular characteristic impedes further development of research work in that field."

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