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Posted on Wednesday, September 27 - 2006

" Copyright © Los Angeles TimesA hundred years ago, one of the most ambitious of research projects was launched, a study that linked scholars and mediums on three continents. Its purpose was to discover whether living humans could talk to dead ones.Newspapers described the work as "r..."

Ghost

Copyright © Los Angeles Times

A hundred years ago, one of the most ambitious of research projects was launched, a study that linked scholars and mediums on three continents. Its purpose was to discover whether living humans could talk to dead ones.Newspapers described the work as "remarkable experiments testing the reality of life after death." The scholars involved included William James, the famed American psychologist and philosopher, and Oliver Lodge, the British physicist and radio pioneer. They saw evidence for the supernatural — in this world and perhaps the next.In one instance they made a request to an American medium while she was in a trance. The request was in Latin, alanguage the medium did not speak.

The instructions included a proposal that she "send" a symbol to a British medium. During her next trance session, the American began asking about whether an "arrow" had been received. Later, comparing notes, the researchers discovered that during the American's first trance, the English psychic had suddenly begun scribbling arrows. It was only after a series of similar, equally unexpected results that the researchers published their findings. Could any study produce results more provocative, more worth pursuing — more forgotten — a century later? For many, the dismissal of such Victorian research represents a triumph of modern science over superstition. But — and I admit that this is an unusual position for a mainstream science writer — I believe that it may insteadrepresent a missed opportunity, a lost chance to better understand ourselves and our world. Curiosity about the supernatural has not diminished over the last century. The last few years have, in fact, seen a surge in occult-themed TV, including such popular dramas as "Medium," parodies such as "Psych" and reality-themed shows featuring professional mediums or paranormal investigators. On the radio, "Coast to Coast AM with George Noory" focuses on supernatural issues and boasts 2.5 million listeners. Paranormal organizations, schools for mediums and practicing psychics flourish. What has diminished is the interest of academic researchers on a par with James and his colleagues — and, correspondingly, the quality of the science. Yes, there are paranormal investigators using modern technology to hunt for theheat signatur......


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