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Observations placeholder

Willie G - Effects on the growth of fungus



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


Biological growth rate experiments are also likely candidates for structural research, because it is possible that they will be popular with psychic healers.

I am not a professional biologist, although my interests have ranged as wide as biomolecular research. I have been impressed by the experiments of Dr Bernard Grad and of Sister Justa Smith on the abilities of healers to alter growth rates of bacteria and enzymes. I think it is important that specialists make as many experimental studies as possible with healers, and it is important for healers to recognize the significance of such studies.

In Birkbeck College there is a long-standing tradition of mycology research, at present kept alive by Dr Brian Plunkett. He drew my attention to the simplicity of experiments on the growth rates of fungi.

A fungus is a very simple form of life, often without cellular structure; ‘strings of linked peptide-containing helices’ might describe its form. A previous set of growth-rate experiments has been conducted by parapsychologist Dr Barry in Bordeaux. Mucors such as Mucor hiemalis can be grown in Petri dishes containing a layer of nutrient jelly. Under sterile conditions the centre of the jelly is inoculated by placing thereon a small disc of mucor on jelly from a previous strain; a cork-borer of 1/4 in. is used for this operation; eight such dishes are covered and allowed to grow in a sterile environment (the interior of a glass dome in a selected laboratory).

After 24 hours the radial growth is well established and the mean diameters of the fungi are measured. The dishes are randomly divided into two equal groups, of which one is exposed to the action of the subject for a few minutes, under observation, while the other is kept in another room without the knowledge of the psychic. It is unnecessary to remove the plastic covers of the Petri dishes during exposure. After exposure both batches of dishes are replaced together under their dome.

After a further twenty-four hours the mean diameter of all fungi are again measured, and this is repeated at further 24-hour intervals until each entire dish is filled with fungus. The experiment is carried out ‘double-blind’; that is, the dishes are marked in code in such a way that the measurer does not know whether he is measuring an exposed or an unexposed fungus.

I carried out a preliminary series of  such exposure experiments with Melvin Cann and Willie G.

It appeared that exposures were sometimes associated with small changes of growth-rate, almost always inhibitions.

I therefore undertook a more extensive series of experiments, with Matthew Manning as subject, and these are in course of publication by the Society for Psychical Research.

My conclusions were as follows:

We may claim that whilst a consistent effect on growth-rate has not been produced by the subject, there has been one exceptional exposure after which an extremely unlikely retardation of growth rate occurred. We are unable to fault the experimentation for this exposure, but are of course aware that it would be unwise to claim the capture of an effect on the basis of a single anomalous batch.

Of course we must address ourselves to the question of whether any generalization can be made about the physical mechanism by which, in general, structural molecular effects might take place.

In metal-bending I already incline to the view that displacements of atoms are the most frequently found primary mechanism, and it would seem that such displacements could also bring about changes in growth rate in other materials.

The psychic is, however, not concerned with understanding mechanisms; his action is goal-oriented.

The source of the experience

Willie G

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Fungal infection