Tag Archives: reincarnation


The Lore

Edgewood Plantation, Virginia

Edgewood Plantation

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Rowland fell in love with a young man from a nearby estate. As soon as she heard the distinctive gait of her suitor’s horse, Lizzie would run to the window, watching for her true love’s approach. The couple hoped to marry but the onset of the Civil War put their pending nuptials on hold..To Lizzie’s dismay, her fiancé joined the Confederate Army and was called to battle before they could be married. She waited patiently, dreaming of the day he would return and restore normalcy to her life. Each day, Lizzie gazed from her window on the third floor. Listening. Yearning. Praying for the young man’s safety. At one point, she etched her name into the bedroom window glass, some say with a diamond ring. Sadly, the two lovers were never reunited.

Lizzie remained a spinster, dying at the age of forty-seven. Legend suggests she succumbed to grief brought on by a broken heart after never reconciling with the unknown fate of her fiancé.

Today Edgewood Plantation functions as a bed and breakfast. Frequent sightings of Lizzie’s forlorn ghost have made the B&B a favorite destination for paranormal enthusiasts. The current owners embrace the ghostly presence and encourage visitors to seek their own supernatural experiences. Reported encounters include seeing mists on the stairs and hearing footsteps in the corridor. But a lucky few have glimpsed Lizzie in the upstairs window – still waiting for her lover’s return.

The Story


by Debra S. Sanders

Farley is a small town on the south end of nowhere, tucked between what was and what could have been. Most folks find amusement in the form of fishing, an occasional movie at The Orpheum, or special events like the Fourth of July Parade. But kids on summer break don’t always think the way their parents do and prefer mischief to amusement. Such was the case when Fred Walker brought his prize Hereford bull, Solomon, to town.

Fred was on his way to the Double M Ranch so the bull could conduct his annual “servicing” of heifers when he decided to stop at the Lazy Susan Café. After filling a pail with sweet corn, he left Solomon in the livestock trailer and sauntered across the street. It took less than a minute for Lucy Johnson to arrive at his booth with coffee and a slice of apple pie – and even less time for Fred to forget all about Solomon.

Since his wife had passed two years earlier, Lucy made sure the handsome widower ate properly by frequently taking leftovers from the restaurant to his house. Of course, the town gossips claimed Fred’s appetite wasn’t the only thing Lucy satisfied.

Fred liked apple pie almost as much as he liked the cute little waitress who served it. He didn’t see no harm in taking a half hour to indulge his hankerin’ for something sweet. It wasn’t as if Solomon got paid by the hour. On this particular day, Fred asked for a scoop of ice cream to go with his pie. The weather was hot for the end of June. Looking at Lucy Johnson made it seem even hotter.

While ice cream melted across Fred’s pie, a group of local kids were examining their fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July celebration. It was the biggest event of the year which meant testing the Black Cats beforehand to make sure they popped. No one wanted duds on the Fourth.

When Billy Simmons spied Solomon lounging in the back of the livestock trailer, he double-dog dared the Connor boys to stage a Spanish bullfight. using Solomon as “el Toro”. They drew straws to see who would be the lookout, who would open the trailer gate and chase Solomon out with a lit firecracker, and who would be the matador.

The plan would have gone flawlessly if Miss Beasley hadn’t come crawling up Main Street in her ’59 Oldsmobile. She slowed down when she saw the bull in the middle of the street. He was madder than a wet hornet because Billy threw a whole string of Black Cats through the window instead of just one. When they started poppin’ around Solomon’s hooves, he charged out of the trailer bellowing like a locomotive and almost trampled Joey Conner in the process.

It was no secret Miss Beasley had passed the day when she should be driving a vehicle but the old spinster brandished such a despicable disposition, no one had the nerve to tell her. So when she saw Solomon pawing the ground, the fight was on. Her hand came down on the horn about the same time her foot hit the accelerator.

Solomon wasn’t anxious to tangle with the front end of a ’59 Oldsmobile so he headed for the first thing that looked like a barn . . . the open door at Red’s Hardware. Now, there’s no way a twelve-hundred-pound bull is going to fit through a thirty-six-inch entrance. Solomon took the path of least resistance and lunged right through the front glass window. Ignoring the screams from customers, he disappeared down the tool aisle, huffing and panting like a demon from Hell.

It was about that time Fred Walker came outside to see what was causin’ all the ruckus. His eyes got real big as he looked at the empty trailer and then at Red’s broken window. Fred took off down the street, disappearing into the feed store. After scooping up sweet grain in an empty coffee can, he headed back to the scene of Solomon’s escape.

By this time, a crowd had gathered outside Red’s establishment. Fred pushed through the door and began shakin’ the can, calling Solomon’s name soft and low. Sounded almost like a lullaby. Hearing a snort a few aisles over, Fred moved in that direction. Sure ‘nuff, Solomon was in the middle of the garden department with a piece of hose coiled around his back hoof.

Fred poured a little sweet grain into his hand and extended it toward the bull. A long, gooey tongue lapped it up as Solomon nudged his owner affectionately. They exited through the back loading dock with the bull following Fred like a duckling after it’s mama.

It was an exciting day, alright. People talked about Solomon’s antics for over a year. Not much happened after that and life returned to the slow, routine pace folks around Farley seem to favor – until someone rented the Elkin’s place. The rundown house on the outskirts of town had been vacant for years, and over time had become the object of several ghost stories.

Old timers said a woman died there while waiting for her husband to return from the Civil War. She simply lost her will to live. Minutes before she passed, her husband stumbled through the door, still wearing bandages on his wounds. She was too far gone to escape death’s clutches but with her last breath, vowed they’d meet again. Distraught with grief and half dead himself, the poor fellow disappeared into the night and was never seen again.

No one wanted to live in the Elkins house after that. Folks said they heard things. Furniture moved by itself. One day a peddler was passing through town and mentioned seeing a woman staring out the window. Well, that started the rumors flyin’ and the next thing you know, people claimed the ghost of the Elkins woman was lookin’ for her husband. Parents used that story to make their children behave. The Elkins ghost will get you if you don’t go to bed. Those same children are now parents. They still believe the house is haunted.

When a community lives with a ghost story as long as Farley, it becomes part of their culture. They’re not eager to give it up. And if folks have to give up a myth, you can bet they’ll replace it with another.

Which is exactly what happened when a stranger bought the Elkins place.

A few weeks after curtains appeared in the windows, people claimed a witch had taken residence in the dilapidated structure. It wasn’t long until young men began knocking on the evil creature’s door, challenged by those less valiant.

Such was the case on a Saturday night when Bobby Greene eased past the rickety gate and made his way up the walk. It was late. His friends hid in the bushes, watching as he approached the porch. Bobby was determined to prove his manhood by peeking in the window where a single candle burned. With heart pounding against his ribs, he tiptoed toward the dusty window.

A voice slithered from the shadows with all the menace of a coiled snake. “I wondered how long it’d take for people to start pestering me.”

Bobby wanted to turn and run right then but his legs wouldn’t move. Mustering the last of his courage, he swiveled his head enough to make out the faint outline of an old woman rocking in a chair. He prayed she didn’t hex him with a magical incantation.

“I’m . . . I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am. We . . . I . . . just wondered who lived here.”

“What’s it to you? I don’t recall issuing an invitation to tea. It’s pretty late for Welcome Wagon.” The old woman rose to her feet, stepping into a pool of moonlight. Her wrinkled face and narrowed eyes left no doubt that his fears were valid . . . she was definitely a witch. “Why don’t you admit it? You’re here because your friends put you up to it.”

Bobby’s face turned ashen. “You’re right. It was a stupid thing to do. I apologize.” His feet finally responded to the command to move. Easing forward, he winced as the skirt of her long, black dress brushed against his leg. “I’ll be on my way now.”

“Not so fast, young man. Anyone who ventures out here in the dead of night must be a damn fool or have something to prove. Now if you’re a fool, Bobby Greene, I’m gonna make you sorry you ever stepped foot on my property but if you’re as strong on the outside as you appear on the inside, I might have a way to sweeten that pittance you earn at McCrory’s Dry Goods. Do you know how to use a hammer and nail?”

Bobby mouth opened and closed. How did the old woman know his name? Or where he worked? “I reckon I’m pretty good with tools,” he muttered at last. “I helped my dad build a barn last year.”

“I don’t need a barn. I need this fence repaired so it doesn’t fall down.” Her eyes seemed to bore right through him. “Be here at one o’clock tomorrow. The sooner you get started the better.”

With those final words, she slinked into the shadows. A sudden chill followed her departure. The next sound he heard was the quiet swish of the front door as it closed.

Bobby sprinted down the walk, scaling the short gate with a leap instead of pausing to open it. There was no sign of the other boys when he reached the clump of bushes where they’d hidden. He walked home alone, angry his friends abandoned him in the face of death. The old woman could have killed him. Cut out his heart. Boiled him alive. Or even worse, turned him into a toad.

Instead, she offered him a job.

Climbing into bed that night, Bobby vowed never to return to the Elkins house. By morning however, he changed his mind.

Bobby wanted a truck in the worst way. It would take him a year working as a stocker to earn enough for a down payment. McCrory’s paid minimum wage and only offered twelve to fifteen hours a week. Perhaps working for the witch wasn’t such a bad thing.

When he arrived at the Elkins house, Bobby found a large rock anchoring an envelope to the front porch. Inside was a handwritten note instructing him to use the tools in the shed to repair the picket fence. The woman wrote that she expected the job to last a few weeks. He was to come and go without bothering her.

Bobby pulled out another sheet of paper. Wrapped inside were several large bills.

Few words were spoken between Bobby and the woman during his visits. Occasionally when he rummaged through the shed for more nails or lumber, a tall glass of lemonade and cookies would be on the porch when he returned. He figured it was her way of showing approval for his work.

One day, as he nailed a board in place, the front door opened. The woman’s withered figure hovered behind a dirty screen door.

“Bobby, come here.” He dutifully approached, pausing to wipe the sweat from his neck with a faded bandanna. “I need help washing the windows and planting flowers.”

“Yes, ma’am. Can it wait until I’m done with the fence?”

“I don’t want your help,” she snapped. “Men don’t know nothin’ about such chores. Next time you come, bring that girl who works at the ice cream shop.”

“Which one?” He hoped it wasn’t Rachel Stoddard. She was the most popular girl in school and the mayor’s only daughter. There was no way she would dig in the dirt with manicured nails.

“The quiet one who works in back.” When he frowned, the old woman added, “The girl with long brown hair. She doesn’t talk much.”

“You mean Laurie Evers? I barely know her. She keeps to herself.”

“Then get to know her and make sure she comes with you next time.”

“But . . .”

“Don’t argue, young man.” The door slammed before he could say another word.

On the way home that night, Bobby struggled with how to convince a girl he barely knew to work for the town’s witch. The task proved easier than he imagined.

Bobby’s part time job at the Elkin’s place had elevated him to a local celebrity. He was the only person in town allowed on the property. A group of women from the local church decided to invite the witch to bible study. She refused to open the door when they arrived and supposedly chased them off the porch with a broom when they persisted.

Laurie Evers discovered Bobby lurking at the back door of the Ice Cream Parlor when she was locking up for the night. She didn’t think Bobby Greene even knew her name much less where she worked so it was a surprise to find him waiting for her.

Bobby stammered through a quick explanation of why he was there. The more he talked, the more he realized Laurie would never agree to such an outrageous proposition. And who could blame her? He sounded like an idiot. A bewitched idiot.

To his surprise, Laurie accepted the job.

After Bobby left, she pondered her decision, still not certain why she agreed to such an odd proposal. Perhaps because Bobby looked so cute as he pleaded for her cooperation. Or maybe it was curiosity. Laurie had heard the rumors about a witch living in the Elkins house. She didn’t believe such nonsense but it would be fun to do something no one else had done besides Bobby . . . actually meet the woman.

On the other hand, such an encounter would undoubtedly attract lots of attention, just like it had for Bobby. She shunned the limelight, preferring to stay in the background, observing rather than being seen. This was one time when Laurie felt compelled to risk the consequences. She couldn’t shake the feeling that if she said no, regret would haunt her the rest of her life.

The next afternoon, Bobby met Laurie at the Elkins house. She wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t even close to what she found when they arrived. A note had been left under a bag of potting soil detailing what plants to repot and where they were to be placed, as well as instructions for weeding the exterior gardens, a task that would take several weeks.

The days passed quickly after that. Lemonade and cookies appeared magically on the porch from time to time with Laurie and Bobby chatting over the refreshments. Bobby liked the way the sun glinted on Laurie’s soft brown hair, bringing out golden highlights that crowned her head in a halo. And the way her smile went all the way to her eyes each time he spoke. He liked it so much he found himself thinking about her even when they weren’t together.

One day, as he reached for a cookie, Bobby’s arm bumped Laurie’s head. The next thing he knew, they were kissing and neither seemed eager to stop. He’d kissed other girls but never felt like this . . . like he’d been waiting his whole life for this one moment. When he opened his eyes and saw the glow on Laurie’s face, he knew she felt the same.

The next day, as they marched up the crumbling walk hand in hand, Bobby noticed the screen door blowing back and forth. “That’s odd. She usually keeps it latched.” He hopped onto the porch with Laurie close behind. The front door was open, too, but the old woman was nowhere in sight. Bobby called through the opening.  “Ma’am? Ma’am, are you home?”

Laurie pushed past him, peering into the shadows. “What if she’s ill? Or sick?”

“She’ll be mad if we go inside without permission.”

“She’ll be madder if we stand on this porch all day and she needs our help. She might have fallen.”

Bobby hesitated, then pulled open the screen door and stepped inside. He wasn’t prepared for what he saw. “Laurie . . . come here.”

She eased through the entrance and stopped. The foyer was in complete disarray. A thick layer of dust covered the floor, marred only by their footprints. Cobwebs hung from the chandelier, stretching to a dark corner.

“It doesn’t look like anyone has lived here in years.”

Bobby inched into the parlor, followed closely by Laurie. An envelope perched against a tall vase on the mantel. It wasn’t yellow and dusty like everything else so he retrieved it.

A single sheet of paper was inside. He unfolded it, reading the words aloud. “For everything there is a time.”

“I don’t understand.” Laurie took the note and read it.

“The rest of our money is in here, too.” He met Laurie’s gaze. “I guess she’s gone.”

Laurie wandered to an old desk near a window and picked up a photograph. She stared at it for several seconds before motioning Bobby to join her. “She’s right. For everything there is a time.”

He didn’t understand until she handed him the picture. Bobby looked at the image then back at Laurie. Then at the photograph. The man in the Civil War uniform looked just like him – and the woman standing next to him bore an uncanny resemblance to Laurie.

Turning it over, he read the faded scrawl across the back. “Robert and Laurel Elkins, Wedding Day, 1864”.

Now, I don’t know if that story is true. Bobby Greene told it to me right before he and his pretty little bride moved to Louisville, and he’s never been one to lie. The Elkins house burned down shortly after they left, which put a stop to the stories of ghosts and witches.  But I hear tell when the moon is bright and the sky is clear, a young Civil War soldier and his bride can be seen walking hand in hand past the old homestead ruins . . . but then again, it could be the shadows of days gone by.

copyright 2017 – Debra S. Sanders

REVIEW: Soul Dancing With The Brass Band by Vicki Renfro


What an amazing story! Vicki Renfro has penned an epic tale of transformation and spiritual enlightenment, masterfully guiding a group of souls through two eras with the ease of a Hollywood director. Soul Dancing With The Brass Band is a well written novel that captivates from the first page. It’s deep, thought provoking and soulful, but not as esoteric as Cloud Atlas or The Fountain. You’ll have no problem understanding the story or following each character’s path as you devour chapter after chapter.

There’s a rather large cast of players which could have ended up a muddled mess in the hands of a less skillful author but Ms. Renfro proves adept at providing clarity and purpose for each person’s role. I especially enjoyed the subtle change in voice between eras, adding to the definition of time periods without a glaring separation from the story.

The premise is interesting . . . Hillary Rubner is a young woman about to embark on a life-changing journey – college. Yet a series of coincidences/synchronicities unite her with a group of people who awaken a confusing sense of recognition. As the alternate world from 35 A.D. weaves a parallel path, we begin to see how the characters knew each other. The plot incorporates an intriguing theory of souls reincarnating as groups, travelling through various lifetimes in different roles but all connected by a universal goal or for the purpose of fulfilling karmic debt. Don’t let the implication of metaphysics deter you . . . this is a great, character driven story.

Soul Dancing With The Brass Band will appeal to readers of many genres including time travel, romance, young adult, fantasy, and women’s fiction. If you are a fan of The Celestine Prophecy, you’ll especially enjoy this book.


SOUL DANCING With The Brass Band

Vicki Renfro

front cover Kindle

Themes: Metaphysical, Transformation, Reincarnation
Pages: 279


Have you ever wondered if you have lived before?

Hillary, a farm girl from Kansas never gave it a second thought. She always believed her big adventure would be going away to college until she learned about a promise she made two thousand years ago.


NOV 17, 36 A.D.

Come with me, dear one,” McCollum says. “I have something I’d like to show you.”

It’s very cold, so I wrap myself against the wind and mount my mare. We ride for hours before we reach our destination and when we do, it’s nothing but the remnants of a once thriving town. McCollum dismounts and looking up at me asks, “What do you see?”

I scan the area slowly and begin to speak. “The fields are barren, as if the crops failed. The people stayed as long as possible because they had built their lives here. Eventually with nothing to eat, they had to move on and now their homes sit before us in decay,” I explain from a knowing within me. “I feel the sorrow of the people who once occupied this village deep in my bones.”

Come child. Let’s build a fire and I will tell you a story.” McCollum leads our horses into the remains of an old barn and begins gathering kindling. When the fire is lit, we both sit close to warm our hands.

Looking into my eyes, McCollum admits that I am correct in what I saw. It makes me wonder why we had to ride so far on such a bleak day. Placing more wood on the fire, he settles in.

Let me tell you the story of the downfall of this settlement, so you will better understand. About ten years ago, a man walked into this thriving village and was welcomed as an additional set of hands to work the land. He was strong and as he helped plant the crops he also began to plant other seeds in the minds of the villagers. He talked of drought, famine, crop failure and starvation, and one by one these worries grew and festered in the farmers’ minds. Negativity slowly sucked the dreams of the future from their naive souls. Pride once held in the appearance of their homes soon faded because they were distracted by fear. And as the fear grew within them, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their crops failed because the darkness of their vision caused them to make devastating decisions. Before long, brother argued with brother and neighbors began to doubt each other’s loyalty. You see, Hilsbeth, what happened here is just the reverse of what you saw. The downfall of this town began with the planting of a thought and when it took hold, there was no one in the village who was powerful enough to stop its manifestation.”

What happened to the stranger?” I ask, afraid of the answer.

There will always be darkness in our world that preys on the ignorance of mankind. It creates bigotry and hatred, infests the world with fear and drains the life force from individuals who don’t have the vision to see through it. I brought you here today, so you’ll realize how important it is to hold the light for the ones who are lost. We must never be seduced by the darkness, dear Hilsbeth, but learn to recognize it by the feeling it creates and the destruction left in its wake. We must always instill hope and stand on the side of love, peace, thoughtfulness… and hold a positive vision, because in time… I pray light will prevail.”

Nov 17, 2010

I heard Ruth’s key in the front door and watched her drop her purse and computer on the couch. “Hard day?” I asked, seeing her exhaustion.

“I think I just haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. I’m going to make a cup of tea, take a long hot bath and hit the sack,” she said as she headed for the kitchen.

I hear her mumble, “What the hell!” and I remembered the flowers I left in the sink. She came back into the living room holding the scrap of paper.

“Who’s Jackson Black?”

“He’s that guy I pointed out at The Commons the other day… scruffy guy… older.”

“Yeah, I remember, but what’s with the flowers?” she asked.

“He was outside the coffee shop, he knew my name and now he obviously has figured out where I live.”

“Is Creepy Guy stalking you?”

I thought hard for a minute before answering.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s like he reaches inside me and takes my joy, leaving me slimed with a dirty feeling. It’s not illegal, but it should be,” I explained.

“He sounds like my Uncle Marvin. He can suck the happiness out of a room just by walking into it. He loves talking about negative stuff. If it’s not a pandemic or forecasting the crash of world markets, it is the wrath of God. His family is always depressed.”


At thirty-five, I had it all. I owned a well appointed home with a swimming pool, had a career as an engineer and a dog. I remember quite clearly the day I realized I had achieved the American Dream. I had all of the material belongings I ever dreamed of and still had an empty place inside of me. I considered joining the Peace Corp, but decided instead to backpack around the world alone. I made wonderful friends, saw amazing places, but returned home a year later with the same hole in my soul. I’d made the mistake of looking outside of myself for what you can only find inside.

Soul Dancing with the Brass Band may be a work of fiction, but the magic and mysticism I talk about exists in everyday life for those who have the eyes to see it. The forces that propel my characters are very much alive in this world, and sometimes we can only comprehend the magnitude of what is happening around us through a story.

My journey led me to the mountains of Colorado where I live with my husband and my new dog.


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“Impossible Realities” – A Book for Curious Minds

My mother used to say, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I was a curious child and an even more inquisitive adult – so reading “Impossible Realities” was like the best sugar high I’ve ever experienced because there was no crash. Only the anticipation one feels prior to embarking on a journey filled with possibility.

“Impossible Realities” is a compilation of scientific data, anecdotes and the personal experiences of Maureen Caudill, who spent fifteen years researching artificial intelligence and neural networks. If that sounds very “techie”, let me assure you, this book is written in a style everyone can understand. It’s a fascinating and eye-opening study of the science behind psychic and paranormal activity. If you are a skeptic, you’ll find the research substantial enough to reconsider your views. If you are a believer, you’ll rejoice in the validation. And if you’re a student, you’ll find a wealth of information from which to learn and study.

Maureen has compiled a thought provoking blend of information to support the existence of eight areas of psychic/paranormal activity: psychokinesis, remote viewing, energy healing, telepathy, animal telepathy, precognition, afterlife and reincarnation. I’m sure some of you are saying, “Hogwash!” And that’s fine. Diversity of thought and action is what makes our world more interesting. However, I challenge you to read this book with an open mind and consider the possibility that these powers might exist.

The introduction tells a simple story about a village who believes swans are always white. And because no one had ever seen a swan of another color, a theory was born that all swans are white. The villagers accepted this as law. It was taught in their schools and never questioned until one day a little girl asked her teacher. “What if they’re NOT all white?” The teacher was shocked. How could this little girl be so impudent as to challenge what everyone knew to be the truth? She was duly punished. But years later, long after the little girl had reached adulthood, she was near a pond and heard a loud honking. Parting the reeds, she peered across the water and saw a black swan. The villagers would not believe her  but it didn’t matter. She knew in her heart the theory that all swans were white was wrong. She’d seen it with her own eyes.

The moral of the fable is this:  it only takes one person’s confirmation to prove the theory incorrect.

There are a lot of people who choose to believe psychic phenomena is a hoax, fake, an impossibility. Maureen admits to being one of those doubters at one point. But when scientific research, as well as her own experiences, proved certain theories wrong, like psychokinesis, she began to look at psychic and paranormal activity differently. “Impossible Realities” takes the reader on a journey into another realm where the impossible is possible…and then offers the proof.

I’ll be honest, I am so fascinated by this book I’m now on my second reading. I think you’ll feel the same. And to “prove” it, I’ve included an excerpt after my interview with the talented and mesmerizing, Maureen Caudill.

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Maureen Caudill

I can’t begin to express my enthusiasm for today’s featured author and her recently published non-fiction work, “Impossible Realities”. It’s a subject I find fascinating . . . the science behind psychic and paranormal activity. A former Defense Department contractor on artificial intelligence, Maureen Caudill offers evidence to support a wide range of paranormal phenomena.

Maureen, you’ve spent over 15 years as a researcher in artificial intelligence and neural networks. Just citing your experience might intimidate many readers yet you’ve written a book that’s easy for a lay person to understand. Have you always been interested in psychic and paranormal activity or did it evolve through your research?

I’ve always tried to have an open mind about everything, and let the data determine what “truth” was—something that’s not particularly common in certain types of questions. However, what really sparked me was something that happened to me 10 or so years ago. After a lifetime of having absolutely nothing psychic in the way of personal experiences, I took a week-long retreat and found myself doing things that I would have labeled as absolutely impossible.  The problem is, if you explain those events to someone else, there is always skepticism—it could have been faked or hoaxed, etc. etc. But when it happens to you and you know there was no hoaxing involved…well, it’s really difficult to discount these events as being fakes.

Because of those experiences, described in my previous book SUDDENLY PSYCHIC:A Skeptic’s Journey, and the ones I’ve had over the years since then, I now believe strongly that psychic skills are natural human skills that everyone has to one degree or another, just as everyone has some degree of musical talent.  We’re not all concert pianists, but pretty much everyone can hum a tune or pick out “Chopsticks” on a piano. And with practice and training, we can all become reasonably good at whatever psychic skills we have the most natural talent for.

We don’t yet have a solid theory for how these skills work, but to throw out the evidence for lack of a theory is the very opposite of “scientific.”

I especially like the fact you side step sensationalism in favor of a logical, “normal” approach to a series of topics many view with a skeptic’s mind, such as psychokinesis, remote viewing, energy healing, precognition, telepathy, reincarnation and NDE / afterlife. Which of these do you find the most interesting, and why?

The ones I find most intriguing—and puzzling—are generally the ones involving time.  There is no question that psychic skills somehow operate outside time. For example, a remote viewer can as easily view the past or the future as the present. (Though getting numbers is really hard for some reason, so remote viewing winning lottery tickets is very challenging!) We don’t understand that. But I think the one thing that’s very clear is that we don’t really understand what time is. It’s also possible that time really is what the old joke said: It’s something we all made up and pretend to believe in so everything doesn’t happen at once. The more I explore these realms, the more I begin to believe that everything really does happen at once.

In your opinion, why do some people experience “gifts and abilities” that others do not?

Mostly, I believe, it’s because people are culturally trained to suppress our psychic skills. There’s a reason reincarnation is mostly reported in Eastern cultures—it’s a perfectly accepted part of their culture and religion. When I was writing the reincarnation chapter, however, I looked for stories that were not from that part of the world—and I found them. There’s a great story of a NY cop—a Catholic (and Catholics are not known for their belief in reincarnation as far as I’m aware)—who not only reincarnated in his own grandson, he predicted before his death that he would do so.

As I mentioned, I believe anyone can be psychic if they are willing to open their minds and try. I occasionally do workshops where one of the most popular things is a segment teaching people about spoon-bending. I don’t stand up there and bend a bunch of spoons (or forks; I like forks better for reasons I explain in the book). Instead I pass out good quality cutlery and talk the group through the process and have everyone bend their own darned forks!  Watching me do it would leave lots of questions about how I faked it. When you do it yourself, you know it wasn’t a fake.

And you know what? In my experience, in a big group (several hundred people) I get about 85-90% success rate when I ask folks to hold up their twisted forks. In a small group, where I can give a little extra guidance to anyone who needs a little boost, I get virtually 100% success. It’s very rare in that case for someone to fail.

Everyone can change the crystalline structure of stainless steel just by working with their minds. Everyone.  Isn’t that amazing?

What are your views on multiple levels of reality?

Good question. Short answer: they’re very real. Heck, I’m on alternate realities a lot of the time. I’ve gone to find those who are dead and don’t know it to help them move on to a higher place. I’ve communicated with the dead and with spirit beings who were never physically incarnated. I’ve visited realms that are so amazing there are no words to describe them.

And if I can do all this, you can too. If there’s one message I want people to take away from this, it’s that these abilities are available to everyone. You don’t have to be born “special” or suffer a near death experience, or spend time in a coma. You can learn to do these things. Heck, if my left-brained, highly logical, scientific self can learn to do this stuff, anyone can.  I’m really serious about that. All it takes is a mind open enough to let yourself try.

None of my personal experiences can (or should) convince anyone of anything. That’s why I went looking for more scientific proof. But again…if you’ve done it yourself, you know whether you faked it.  You know it’s true, whatever anyone else says. So I’d like people to go out and have their own experiences. Don’t rely on other people’s—go have your own.

You’ve taught over a thousand people to spoon-bend in workshops, including an on-air episode with George Noory, host of Coast to Coast AM. What is a basic exercise someone can do to harness their Chi energy?

With a nod to my good friend Robert Bruce (an Australian mystic), here’s a simple way to feel yourself raising your chi energy:

  • Start when you’re relaxed and there are no distractions (cell phone off, TV off, no radio, no one else around talking to you—though if several friends want to do this together that’s good). If you have pets, let them into the room as long as they’re reasonably well behaved. If you have young kids, either lock them out of the room, or do this when they’re asleep. (Pets enjoy the energy and will participate with you—probably ending up on your lap; young children often don’t have the attention span yet to keep quiet and calm, so it’s pets in/kids out.)
  • Sit in a comfortable chair, preferably with your feet propped up. Do not lie down. Ideally have arms on your chair that you can prop your elbow on. Or rest your arm on a pillow.
  • Make sure you’re wearing something comfortable—nothing tight or constricting. Frankly, a comfy pair of jammies is perfect, but at least loosen belts, take off shoes, etc.
  • Pick one hand and prop it comfortably with your palm up. (I’m going to say right hand, but it doesn’t matter which you use.) Your fingers should be relaxed and slightly curled. Don’t tense up. Just relax and focus on your hand.
  • With the fingertips of your other (left in this example) hand, lightly brush your right hand from base of palm to fingertip. Brush back and forth, forth and back. Focus on what that sensation feels like. Concentrate on remembering that sensation.
  • When you’ve done that for a few moments, take away your left hand and see if you can recreate in your mind the sensations of that brushing movement in your right hand.  Can you?  If not, brush again for a few moments.
  • Keep doing that until you can recreate the sensation just with your mind. What does it feel like? You should experience anything from itching, slight tingling, prickly sensation, even a slight burning sense.  People experience it differently so your sensations may vary a little. But your hand should feel energized in some way. It may not be 100% comfortable, but it shouldn’t actually hurt.
  • Once you can do this with one hand, switch sides and do the same with the other hand.
  • When you can do it with each hand, see if you can recreate it in both hands at the same time.

With a little practice (very little actually) you’ll find you don’t have to do the brushing at all. You can remember exactly what that sensation is, and you can recreate it at will just by thinking about it.

What this does is activate all the minor chakras in your hands and fingers, which is one part of your body that has an enormous number of these minor energy centers. Activating your chakras is the first step in learning to really manipulate chi and use it to do stuff like, well, spoon-bending!

Want more?  Do the equivalent of the same thing with your feet. Since it’s awkward to do the brushing thing half-bent over, get one of those cat toys with a feather on a stick and use that to brush the bottom of your feet (barefoot!) from toes to heels. If your feet are heavily callused, do the top of your foot instead. Again, focus on the sensation of what it feels like and recreate that sensation in your mind.  Your feet actually have even more minor chakras than your hands.

There are many references to the power of thought manifestation by great philosophers throughout history. In more recent years, it’s been called the power of positive thinking and law of attraction, popularized by the cult movie, The Secret. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Manifestation is an interesting subject. It’s certainly true that we do control our own reality to a certain degree, but the thing is, most of us try to manifest something like money. I believe that’s not necessarily going to happen. First, we have a life goal or a life experience that we’ve planned to go through in this lifetime. (Remember that there is good evidence that everyone has literally tens of thousands of lifetimes—this is not a one-shot experience—and that being in “Earth school” means embracing all aspects of Earth experience, good and bad, rich and poor, healthy and sick over those many lifetimes.)

If you try to manifest something that is contradictory to that life experience, your own higher self will stop it. For example, if you chose to have a life experience in this lifetime where you have a debilitating disease, it might not be possible to manifest a cure unless you’ve already learned the lesson intended from that disease.

It’s not that you’re not able to manifest something, so much as it is that you’re trying to manifest something that is not for your own higher good. That will generally fail.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some truly miraculous things happen that are not necessarily explicable by anything except manifestation. One of the tricks is not to focus on a specific “how”—that is, don’t say you want something to happen only one way. You don’t have enough perspective to necessarily know what is really best for you spiritually—and remember, at the spiritual level where manifestation happens, it’s not about “stuff” like money or a new car. It’s about making yourself a better spiritual being.

So if you want a job where you don’t hate your boss and earn more money, it’s important not to ask for a specific new job. Instead focus on making your work experience pleasant, productive, and sufficiently rewarding to give you an ample living.  That could happen a lot of ways, and the one that manifests is likely to be completely unexpected.

When I need mental stimulation or look for a way to relax, I pick up a good book like “Impossible Realities”. What do you do to de-stress and find your Zen moment? Or is your mind always “on”?

I love to read too; I always have. But really, meditation is my go-to device. I find it’s the best way to de-stress. It’s way better in altered states. Sometimes it’s deeply profound and moving. Sometimes it’s just plain funny.

Did I mention I have this spiritual guide who, for reasons best known to himself (itself?), occasionally pops into my meditations in costume? Such as the time I was in this deep, peaceful wonderful meditation and he suddenly appeared dressed as a giant chicken—think Big Bird as a chicken but with sort of glowing blobby feet because his spirit form has no legs!  Why a chicken, you ask?  I have no clue. But it killed that deep, wonderful meditation because I broke out laughing.

A friend of mine once asked me if I was bothered by the fact that my spiritual guides all seem to come from the Stand-Up-Comics-R-Us store.  Huh.

And now, just for fun . . . if you found a magic stone that could transport you to any time and place in history, where would you go and why?

I can only go into the past??  I’d want to go into the future, maybe by 1000 years. I’d like to see if humanity can dig ourselves out of the mess we’ve made of the planet, or if we’ve drowned in our own mistakes. That would be fascinating to know, don’t you think?

I think this century is a tipping point for our species. We’re either going to fail big time and disappear as a dominant species, or we’re going to overcome all our problems and surge forward in a big way. I wonder which way we’ll go?


Maureen Caudill spent more than twenty years as a computer scientist, fifteen of those as a researcher in artificial intelligence and neural networks. She was a program manager and Artificial Intelligence researcher working on such advanced projects as DARPA (“High Performance Knowledge Base” program) and ARDA (“Advanced Question Answering for Intelligence” program).

Website: http://www.maureencaudill.com/index.htm

Blog: http://scienceofpsychicphenomena.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MaureenCaudillAuthor

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/63686.Maureen_Caudill

Impossible Realities: The Science Behind Energy Healing, Telepathy, Reincarnation, Precognition, and Other Black Swan Phenomena

By Maureen Caudill
Genre: Non-Fiction/New Age/Paranormal

Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-57174-663-4

Number of pages: 256
Word Count: 66,377

Cover Artist: Jim Warner

Amazon   Barnes and Noble

Book Description:

Impossible Realities is the first book to examine the science behind psychic and paranormal activity. A former Defense Department expert on artificial intelligence, Maureen Caudhill provides evidence for a wide range of paranormal phenomena.

Impossible Realities presents a wealth of anecdotal and empirical evidence to prove the existence (and power) of:

  • psychokinesis (most famously spoon bending
  • remote viewing
  • energy healing
  • telepathy, animal telepathy
  • precognition
  • survival after death
  • reincarnation

Caudill presents the strongest case yet for bringing paranormal phenomena from the margins into the realm of the normal and credible. This is a book both for true believers and skeptics alike.


The First Black Swan: Psychokinesis

I have a bowl in my house that is filled with the remains of various pieces of cutlery that are not exactly usable. These are forks and spoons and an occasional knife that used to be good-quality stainless steel cutlery, but which now are just . . . strange. Every so often I give a workshop for people who want to learn how to access their psychic selves. The format varies some, depending on the time available. Yet, no matter how long the workshop—a day, a weekend, or a week—the one skill people always want me to teach them is spoon-bending.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why spoon-bending is so popular. It’s really a bit of a party trick rather than anything profound. But maybe it’s just that a warped fork is tangible evidence that they have done something unusual. When you go home with a fork that is bent and twisted into strange shapes, you have absolute proof that you did something extraordinary.

Spoon-bending is definitely a skill that has fallen on hard times. It had been extremely popular in the 1970s as celebrated psychic Uri Geller rose to fame as a spoon-bender extraordinaire, until in 1973, he was caught cheating on national television, on the Tonight Show. He was declared a fraud. He was pilloried by all and virtually drummed out of the United States.

Now to be fair, Geller did cheat. Everyone agrees on that, even him. What is often not heard is why he cheated. According to his side of the story, he was blindsided by that request, not expecting to be forced into demonstrating his skills in that particular venue. Furthermore (again from his perspective) he was exhausted, stressed, and simply not in the right frame of mind to be doing anything psychic, yet he felt hounded to perform on television. Still young and desperate not to look bad by refusing, he resorted to cheating.

Do I believe this story? Well . . . perhaps. Knowing what I know about doing any psychic function, Geller’s story is credible, at least in the basics. Psychic functions, like all other human talents, are not perfect all the time. No one—no one—can perform at their peak at any hour, day or night, or continuously, or on demand under stressful circumstances. That applies just as much to a top athlete, an exceptional musician, or a terrific student. Human beings simply aren’t perfect. And the public pressure to be perfect—particularly in any psychic field where people are simply waiting for you to fail—is overwhelming. A young man (he was only twenty-seven at the time of that infamous Tonight Show debacle) who had grown accustomed to acclaim might easily be tempted to mix stage magic with psychic skills. So . . . I think the verdict is “unproven” in this case, no matter whether you’re trying to prove Geller’s abilities or his lack of them.

It is also true that after that episode, a number of scientific studies conducted in Europe under extremely rigorous conditions validated his innate ability to manipulate matter with his mind. Here in the United States, however, his reputation seems forever tainted by that Unfortunate Incident.

A decade ago, however, I would have laughed to scorn anyone who defended the “fraud” Geller. Why my change of heart? Because I can spoon-bend. And I’ve taught close to a thousand other people to do it, too. I now understand that not only is spoon-bending possible, but also most anyone can learn to do it—and pretty easily, too. I’ve taught people to do it in small workshops, and in huge ones with hundreds of people. And in one memorable interview on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, he asked if I was willing to try to teach people to spoonbend over the radio. I said I’d never tried that before, but I’d give it a shot. As it turned out, it was hugely successful, with one listener even calling in to say he had no cutlery handy, so he’d bent a large screwdriver instead!

A few years ago I was attending a workshop given by my good friend Robert Bruce. He is a renowned Australian mystic, whose work in energy and out-of-body experiences is some of the most effective in the world—and he’s an incredibly charming and funny man in person. At any event, on the second or third day of this five-day program, I asked him if he ever used his energy exercises to teach people to spoon-bend. He told me he’d never done it himself, so he didn’t teach it. Was I willing to show the group how to do that?

That night I went to the local KMart and bought enough good-quality cutlery for the smallish group to learn spoonbending. When the time came the next day, I handed out forks (I strongly prefer to teach people using forks rather than spoons for reasons I’ll explain later), and proceeded to use Robert’s energy exercises to get people to bend their forks. As I have come to expect, everyone in the class succeeded brilliantly, and within fifteen or twenty minutes, we had a whole menagerie of twisted cutlery sculptures.

The next morning, one of the women in the workshop came in and said she had to tell us what happened the night before. It turns out that this lady was dining with friends at quite a nice local restaurant. During the dinner, the talk turned to politics, a subject she was passionate about. She got a little, um, enthusiastic while talking with one of her friends. She was making her point rather forcefully and wagging her fork at the person she was speaking to, as you might wag your finger at someone. And

. . . the fork drooped and melted in her hands.

She was so embarrassed!

She hurriedly pulled the fork out of sight onto her lap and, hiding her actions with the tablecloth, tried to put it back into its original form. She never did get it quite right, of course . . . the specific curves and angles of cutlery are difficult to replicate by hand, particularly under cover of a tablecloth when you’re upset!

So the lesson from this is: If you must spoon-bend when you’re dining out, spoon-bend responsibly.5

The bottom-line conclusion I have drawn about spoon-bending is that it is one of the absolute easiest psychic skills to learn, at least at the elementary level I teach it. (Far from television worthy,

I might add!) And why do I prefer to teach people to bend forks rather than spoons? Because forks are a little bit harder. With a spoon, about the only thing a beginner can do is to twist the spoon at the neck, where the bowl meets the handle.6 That’s far too easy to do, even in fairly sturdy cutlery. But if you’ve ever taken a good-quality stainless steel fork and tried to bend just one tine with your fingertips, you know that it’s all but impossible to do. I ask people to try to bend their forks with their fingers before we start the spoon-bending process, just to make sure they’re convinced they can’t do it. Only then do I start guiding them in how to spoon-bend.

The basic process is one of running energy through the fork to soften it. I teach people some simple exercises on manipulating chi energy; then I get them to run that energy through the fork for a few minutes, concentrating on setting their intentions that the fork soften and bend.7 As they do that for a while—as little as a minute or two, or as much as five or six minutes, depending on how good they are at running energy and holding their concentration on what they’re doing—the fork really does soften. At that point, they can bend, twist, warp, and distort it however they like—including twisting individual tines. When they have it twisted it into the configuration they like, they put the fork down and don’t touch it for three or four minutes. When they pick it up after that break, the fork has “set” in that new shape and is as hard and stiff as it was before. If they want to change the shape again, they have to start the process from scratch.

It’s true that my success rate is not quite 100 percent. I find  that two kinds of people have trouble learning to spoon-bend. One set is people who are themselves quite low in chi, or life energy. This is usually people who are elderly or who have a serious illness. They barely have enough chi to keep themselves going, let alone some left over for softening stainless steel.

The other type is someone who is convinced that it cannot work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve taught a lot of skeptics to spoon-bend, to their astonishment. The very first time I tried to teach spoon-bending, the group included a PhD physicist and a PhD anthropologist, each of whom individually assured me that spoon-bending was a total fake, all because of the flap over Uri Geller’s Tonight Show debacle. Yet, they were willing to humor me and give it a try. They took less than five minutes to become amazing successes. The physicist in particular had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), so he had very poor strength in his hands, yet he succeeded at bending his fork.

I also remember one workshop in which there was a participant who was a professional magician. At the break before we started the spoon-bending exercise, he came up to me and assured me that it was all a fake8 and that he knew at least a dozen different ways to fake spoon-bending. I listened to him as he listed them all; then I assured him he wouldn’t have to use any of those fakes in the workshop—he could do it for real. He was skeptical but had an open mind and was willing to give it a try. Twenty minutes later, he came up to me, showing a wildly twisted fork and jubilantly said, “I did it! I don’t have to fake it anymore! I can really do it!”

The type of skeptical person who fails is the one who is so convinced that it can’t be done that she refuses to actually try— or subconsciously refuses to allow herself to try. I ran into one of those in a workshop with a number of scientists. While claiming to have an open mind, when it came to the spoon-bending part, one in particular simply could not get her fork to bend. I tried everything I could think of to help her, short of bending it myself: running extra energy through it with her, helping her focus and concentrate, and so on. Nothing worked. I could see she appeared to be trying to bend it but . . . nothing. Finally, I actually touched her fork . . . and it was so soft it was practically like squishy butter! Clearly, she’d made it so soft and malleable that a small child should have been able to bend it—yet when I again encouraged her to try to bend it, she still claimed she couldn’t, that it was too stiff. It seemed to me that her fingers were working against each other, something like doing an isometric exercise, where a lot of effort is expended yet nothing actually moves. My guess is that she has never been able to bend a spoon and likely never will.

As with any psychic (or physical) skill, you can convince yourself you are incapable of doing it. Yet, the truth is, as best I can tell from my totally unscientific observations of hundreds and hundreds of people, most people, possibly almost all people, can do spoon-bending. It’s easy to learn, easy to do, and when you do it yourself—as opposed to watching someone do it on the stage— you know for a fact that it’s not a fake.

And that’s exactly why I teach this particular little party trick so often in workshops. When I teach people about chi energy, it all sounds airy-fairy and nonsensical to anyone with a scientific mindset—it certainly did to me when I first heard about it. Even when I show people that they can literally feel the energy moving around their bodies, they often have the same reaction I initially had, that it’s all imagination and none of it is anything more than self-delusion. Yet, when I teach people to take that same “imaginary” energy, run it through a fork for a few minutes, and then feel solid stainless steel soften enough to become soft and malleable in their hands, suddenly what was nonsensical and imaginary becomes very, very real.

So perhaps that’s the real reason for the popularity of spoonbending. If you learn to do even one thing that conventional science deems wildly impossible, you begin to believe that other things are possible, too.

Spoon-bending is of course only one of many manifestations of psychokinesis. People have been known to have a wide variety of psychokinetic skills, including

• lighting light bulbs in their hands,

• sprouting seeds by holding them in the palm of the hand,

• moving objects without touching them,

• changing how dice roll or roulette wheels spin to force a specific result,9 and

• influencing random events (such as with a random number generator) to force a specific trend in results over many, many trials.

Again, these are only examples of skills that have been studied. While my experience has been primarily spoon-bending, I did once try sprouting seeds in the palm of my hand. It was, well, not exactly either a success or a failure. Here’s what happened.

I was preparing for a new workshop I planned, and I wondered if I could manage to teach people how to sprout seeds in their palms—in spite of the fact I’d never done it myself, nor even seen anyone else attempt to do it. Someone had mentioned to me that it was possible to do it, so I figured I’d give it a try. If I could manage the trick, I’d think about adding it to the workshop.

I got some vegetable seeds from my local nursery and gave them a little soak in water for about an hour. This particular type of seed was supposed to have a seven- to ten-day sprouting time once planted. After that brief soak, I sat down in my favorite meditation chair, put about three seeds in the palm of my hand, and started doing the same energy process that I use for spoonbending. (I have no idea if this is how people who know how to sprout seeds do this—it’s simply the process that I tried.) I was very careful to hold my hand steady by propping it on a pillow so I wouldn’t accidentally tip it. I cupped my other hand over the one holding the seeds and started running energy between my palms. After a few moments, I felt something very odd—a flash of heat and light combined with a shock, a bit like an electric shock. Startled, I uncovered my palm holding the seeds to see if they had sprouted. They hadn’t.

Instead, they’d disappeared.

So much for my seed-sprouting abilities. I never did add seedsprouting to my workshops. Probably that’s just as well, don’t you think?

A couple of points about this aborted seed-sprouting effort are important. One thing is that when you’re working with these energies, you sometimes get results that are not what you intend. Was I trying to make the seeds disappear? Not at all. It never occurred to me to even try to do that. Nonetheless, that’s what I accomplished. Particularly in a case like this where I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, never even having seen someone else do it, it was likely a little foolhardy on my part to attempt seedsprouting. Maybe someday I’ll get someone to show me how to do it correctly.

Another key point to remember is that the energies you work with when doing psychic work are significant. These are not toys or games. I cannot emphasize that enough. Working with life energy and altered states of consciousness is serious business. These energies are powerful and they can do things to you and to other people that are not so pleasant. Fooling around with psychic skills is highly risky unless you learn how to do it under the guidance of a competent, caring, and highly ethical instructor. It is especially risky when you lack the discipline and maturity to use these skills wisely instead of arrogantly. While not quite as dangerous as handing a four-year-old a loaded pistol to play with, the impact of careless, irresponsible “play” in these arenas can have serious consequences.

On second thought, maybe playing around irresponsibly with psychic skills is more dangerous than handing a four-year old a loaded pistol.10

If psychokinesis is impossible, what are we to make of other reports by researchers in which some amazing effects are noted? For example, Dong Shen reports on a Chinese experiment in which solid matter (a piece of paper) apparently passed through other solid matter (a capped plastic canister)—and did so instantaneously— or at least so quickly that no one observing the scene saw it happen.

Shen described a program in which Chinese volunteers are trained to see a “third eye” screen behind their foreheads by entering a trained state of “second consciousness.” When in this state, they can visualize an object being other than where it is— and the object relocates to a new location. Here’s how it works.

A capped black plastic canister, such as that holding 35mm film, is used to hold a piece of paper. The paper, prepared in secret, has something written on it, unknown to everyone except the preparer. The preparer also folds it in a personally unique way and places it in the plastic canister where the cap seals the paper inside. An independent observer monitors the preparation of the paper and the canister but cannot see what is written on the paper.

In the experiment Shen witnessed, the main participant was a seventeen-year-old with only a middle-school education but who had received approximately six months of training in accessing this second consciousness state. Once the canister was ready, the participant sat in a chair one meter (a little over three feet) away from a table. The canister was placed on the table. The two researchers plus five observing guests sat also between one and three meters (between three and ten feet) away from the table. No words were spoken during the experiment.

For about forty minutes, the participant focused his attention on the plastic canister. Neither he nor anyone else moved from their chairs. No one was close enough to the container to reach it. Other than staring at the container and occasionally looking up at the ceiling, the participant did not move.

After forty minutes, the participant announced that the paper was no longer in the container. It instead had moved about six meters away (nearly twenty feet) to the far wall of the room. The participant also announced that what was written on it was “830,” in blue ink.

An observer checked that location and retrieved the paper. The person who prepared the paper verified his own handwriting, the content of the message, and that the paper was still folded in the idiosyncratic way he had folded it at the beginning of the experiment.

There it was, just as the participant had announced: 8-3-0, in blue ink.

There are many curious features about this experiment. First, the participant had no demonstrable psychic skills until undergoing the Chinese training program. Thus, whatever skills he possessed at the time of the experiment were learned skills. Second, although there were at least seven witnesses, all watching attentively, no one saw the paper move out of the cylinder and across the room. Furthermore, the paper, even folded as it was, was far too small and light to be able to be thrown for that distance (nearly twenty feet).

Shen describes the subject’s efforts:

During the experiment he concentrated on the black cartridge container and got it deep in his consciousness while entering into the SCS [second consciousness state]. Then an image of the container appeared on the third-eye screen located in front of his forehead. He saw the image of the paper in the same way. At the very beginning, the paper image was not stable and not clear. After he focused on the image for a while, it became stable and clear on the screen. The number on the paper could then be easily read, that is 830 written in blue, even though the paper was folded inside the capped container. When the image of the paper was clear on the screen, he started to use his mind to move the paper out of the container. At a certain point he “saw” in his mind that the container was empty and saw in the room that the paper was on the floor near the wall.12

It’s easy to dismiss reports like this. They’re clearly idiosyncratic to this subject. The researchers make no claims that everyone can achieve effects like this. And yet, cultural biases should not lead us to ignore reputable reports, even if they’re not conducted in western European or American institutions. The Shen report discusses the prime candidates for training in psychic skills as being children between the ages of eight and twelve (prepubescent) or young adults between fifteen and twenty-two years who have limited education—in other words, people who don’t know that they’re doing something that isn’t supposed to be possible.

Is it the case that we educate our children out of a whole range of abilities by informing them that they can’t do them? Does the Western mindset force psychic phenomena underground?

What Is a Meta-Analysis?

Often, a single study doesn’t generate convincing results, particularly

when the size of the study is small. Generally, the most trusted form of

evidence for or against an effect is not a single study but an analysis of

all studies that have been done on that effect. Doing a meta-analysis

is tricky, however, because studies are typically done by different

researchers, using different protocols, with different degrees of care

in study design.

The primary reasons researchers do meta-analyses are because

they are more general than any one specific study. In addition, metastudies

can determine if any type of publication bias is occurring.

They also tend to demonstrate if an effect is specific to one particular

researcher or one specific study protocol or if it extends to

multiple researchers and protocols. This process also increases the

total number of participants or trials—and in statistics, more data

means more significant data. If you flip a coin five times, it’s not all

that unusual to get five heads in a row—it happens about 3 percent

of the time. But if you flip a coin fifty times, the odds of getting

fifty consecutive heads (or fifty consecutive tails) are about 1 in 1

quadrillion (specifically, 1 chance out of 1,125,899,906,842,620). In

other words, if you flipped fifty coins every second, it would take you

well over thirty-five million years before you flipped fifty consecutive

heads or fifty consecutive tails.

There are many ways that meta-analyses can go wrong. First, the

analysis is only valid if it includes all studies published on a particular

subject (or at least all studies in which necessary analysis information

is included in the study report). How individual studies are encoded

and selected for inclusion in a meta-analysis is a subjective process. A

meta-analysis can be considered trustworthy only if it explicitly defines

the criteria for selection and the methodology of encoding the studies in

advance and explicates those criteria and methodologies in its report.

All this is well and good, but what is the scientific evidence that these are not just amusing and interesting anecdotes? Does science in any way support the reality of these experiences?

As it happens, it does.