Scole Experiments and the future of mediumship studies

#1
I understand that there were threads on the Scole Experiments on the old forum, but they were before my time. I'd also like to set some parameters for this thread: I'd rather this not get into whether or not Scole should have gotten greater acceptance. For what it's worth, I think that the conditions set by the mediums (darkness, no cameras) all but guaranteed severe limitations to the study's chances of moving the conversation on the phenomena forward, that controls could have been tightened even with the set conditions, and that the abrupt halt called for by angry figures on "the other side" . What I'd like to discuss (i.e. get some answers to) is some of the finer points of the experiments, and the (apparently to me) lack of significant follow-ups.

What I know of Scole, I've gleaned from that Afterlife Investigations video on YouTube (and the extended interviews with Keen, Sheldrake, and Fontana from the same recording), an incomplete perusal of the Scole Experiment website, and mentions on various blogs and message boards. I've also read the Skeptoid report, which seems grossly uninformed. However, it does muddy the waters for me to some extent on a key aspect of Scole: the photos. Skeptoid claims that the container the film was kept in was provided by the mediums, and that when a box provided by Richard Wiseman was used, no photos appeared. One blog claimed that film in the Wiseman box showed images, and Keen's interview refutes the Skeptoid claim about the box being provided by the mediums. However, I've never been able to find out how many containers were used, who provided them, and which provided results. Does anyone have any data on that?

I would also be curious for more information about the sittings with the Scole group done outside the original location - how successful were these sittings supposed to be, how much notice did the mediums have?

Lastly, I am not aware of any prominent follow-ups to Scole in the study of mediumship that made use of the same group of mediums. Other research efforts, like Schwartz's "white crow" project, have not upon a cursory glance really impressed me. For all its shortcomings, the phenomena reported out of Scole do seem too remarkable to dismiss out of hand. Have there been any comparable follow-up research projects, or are any forthcoming? And if so (to either), are there any efforts to overcome the limitations to Scole?
 
#2
Braude's experiments, Felix Circle. There was going to be an SSE publication, but I see that it is now delayed until the summer.

http://felixcircle.blogspot.com/2014/03/sse-pre-publishes-first-papers-about.html

UPDATE: April, 10th, 2014
We are very sorry to announce, that due to recent decissions to add certain changes the JSE Publication is atm offline and will be delayed to the Summer Issue 2014. We will update you with news as soon as they are available. Editor.

Finally after three years of frequent sittings and more than half a year of peer-reviewing the Society for Scientific Exploration has pre-published 2 of 3 papers about their investigation of the Physical Phenomena triggered within the Felix Circle Germany by their Physical Medium (Kai M.).
More than three years Prof. Stephen Braude, author of parapsychological standard works, like'Immortal Remains', 'The Limits of Influence' and 'The Gold Leaf Lady and other Parapsychological Investigations', former head of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, together with international Colleagues, financed mainly by the Gilbert Roller Fund, New York, investigated into the claims of worldwide witnesses and the Felix Circle itself about their array of classical Seance Room based Physical Phenomena.
Cheers,
Bill
 
#3
Braude's experiments, Felix Circle. There was going to be an SSE publication, but I see that it is now delayed until the summer.

http://felixcircle.blogspot.com/2014/03/sse-pre-publishes-first-papers-about.html



Cheers,
Bill
Thanks for the link. I'll check that out soon as I get the chance.

To go back to Scole: if Paul is reading this, I'd ask him to weigh in. One of the first Google results for Scole brings up a thread you made on another forum; by the time the thread concluded, you had claimed to have ordered the official report and only started reading it. I'd be curious to hear what you make of it now (and would ask everyone else to refrain from out-and-out dismissals; I really want to hear from everyone about this experiment, whatever their conclusions).
 
#4
I've also read the Skeptoid report, which seems grossly uninformed. However, it does muddy the waters for me to some extent on a key aspect of Scole: the photos. Skeptoid claims that the container the film was kept in was provided by the mediums, and that when a box provided by Richard Wiseman was used, no photos appeared. One blog claimed that film in the Wiseman box showed images, and Keen's interview refutes the Skeptoid claim about the box being provided by the mediums. However, I've never been able to find out how many containers were used, who provided them, and which provided results. Does anyone have any data on that?
I have the book "The Scole Report". One of the researchers, David Fontana, sent it me after visiting Finland. I discussed the Scole Experiment also with Montague Keen by e-mail. If you have something to ask about the book, so I hope I can answer. Unfortunately the organization of the book is not very straightforward or logical and it is inconvenient to search details there.

There were one bag and two boxes for the films as follows:

1. The Wiseman bag. "…Dr Wiseman provided us with a security bag, guaranteed to be fraud-proof, and made of opaque triple-layered polythene." (p.222)

2. The Alan box. "We were told that, to improve security, the [spirit] Team, at a closed session on 1st November, had asked the [Scole] Group to make a wooden container just large enough to hold a tub."
"Alan [one of the mediums] duly asked one of his sons, who has a workshop where he makes boxes and equipment for fishing tackle, to make such a box." (p. 240)

3. The Keen box. "MK meantime undertook to have a similar box built with no exposed screws." (p. 241)

The Team said they had difficulties to penetrate the bag material. Only two films held in the bag had minor star-like patterns, but they were still considered unexplained. All successful films were in the Alan box. It could be opened without opening the padlock, but it was difficult to open it and putting the hasp back in its sockets was even more difficult in the darkness. Rather much force was needed for these operations. This opening method was apparently not used, because the sockets would have been worn larger in multiple operations, which had not happened.

I would also be curious for more information about the sittings with the Scole group done outside the original location - how successful were these sittings supposed to be, how much notice did the mediums have?
There were to sittings in California and one in Ibiza where there were investigators present. Montague Keen thought that the sittings were successful. In the San Francisco sitting there were observed the following effects: lights, touches, occlusions of the luminous tabs on the table, noises, table movement and identification of a nickname. In the Los Angeles sitting there were occlusions, lights, touches, bells and chimes, table levitation, tape recorder interference, clothing interference, direct voice and sparking crystals.

For all its shortcomings, the phenomena reported out of Scole do seem too remarkable to dismiss out of hand. Have there been any comparable follow-up research projects, or are any forthcoming? And if so (to either), are there any efforts to overcome the limitations to Scole?
I strongly agree, there were a lot of very interesting phenomena which would have been practically impossible to fake. Unfortunately the spirit Team ended the experiment too early.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#5
To go back to Scole: if Paul is reading this, I'd ask him to weigh in. One of the first Google results for Scole brings up a thread you made on another forum; by the time the thread concluded, you had claimed to have ordered the official report and only started reading it. I'd be curious to hear what you make of it now (and would ask everyone else to refrain from out-and-out dismissals; I really want to hear from everyone about this experiment, whatever their conclusions).
I think I read part of it and then gave it away.

~~ Paul
 
#6
It's an interesting report, but a bit of a 'curate's egg' - good in parts. David Fontana struck me as an honest and sensible witness and I found it hard to doubt his observations. Some of the later communications were, frankly, bizarre.
 
#7
I never really answered the responses I got, but - thanks for the replies.

I think I read part of it and then gave it away.

~~ Paul
I take it you were underwhelmed then?

It's an interesting report, but a bit of a 'curate's egg' - good in parts. David Fontana struck me as an honest and sensible witness and I found it hard to doubt his observations. Some of the later communications were, frankly, bizarre.
The message that ended the experiment is hard for me to take seriously. If some of the phenomena are too difficult to dismiss outright, stuff like that is enough to raise an eyebrow.
 
#8
¿Did they used infrared cameras to watch them during the dark sittings? I've never received a clear answer concerning this issue. If yes, it would be interesting to see those tapes.
 
#9
¿Did they used infrared cameras to watch them during the dark sittings? I've never received a clear answer concerning this issue. If yes, it would be interesting to see those tapes.
No, the Spirit Team did not allow the use of infrared cameras in Scole. But the darkness was not total during the sittings. The moving spirit lights revealed much about the happenings there, as can be seen from this example:

The Scole Report p. 197 said:
Sandra Foy (SF): Oh, see the crystals in there?
Montague Keen (MK): Did you see a hand coming over the top, picking it up?
Rupert Sheldrake (RS): Yes.
MK: A hand, pointing very clearly! Did you see that? Extraordinary!
SF: Showing you.
EB (a spirit): Can you see that, Rupert?
RS: Yes, I can.
EB: Jolly good.
RS: The hand appeared to have a sleeve too.
SF: Did it? [Noise of crystals in the bowl].
MK: Oh, it's bashing me on the head: should I pick it up?
SF: No, you're probably leaning too far forward.
MK: That was very clear, wasn't it?
RS: Very clear (table vibrating again). I saw an actual sleeve.
 
#10
About The Scole Report:

I think I read part of it and then gave it away.

~~ Paul
This is typical for skeptics – they may read something positive about psi, don't read carefully, don't make reasonable conclusions, forget it, and return back to their skeptical sources.

Skeptical crap is governing in Wikipedia, choosing sources, using half-truths and using even outright lies:

Wikipedia-Mediumship said:
A criticism of the [Scole] experiment was that it was flawed because it did not rule out the possibility of fraud. The skeptical investigator Brian Dunning wrote the Scole experiments fail in many ways. The séances were held in the basement of two of the mediums, only total darkness was allowed with no night vision apparatus as it might "frighten the spirits away". The box containing the film was not examined and could easily have been accessible to fraud. And finally, even though many years have passed, there has been no follow-up, no further research by any credible agency or published accounts.
Earlier Brian Dunning was "paranormal researcher" but it was changed perhaps because of my letter to Susan Gerbic. Everything else remained unchanged.

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4179:
Brian Dunning said:
Mark Edward said these tricks have been commonly performed in seances with laser pointers since the 1970's when they first became available: Strike a light bulb or rock crystal with a laser pointer and it lights right up. An advantage of laser pointers is that the tip can be easily cloaked, obscuring the orifice from anyone whose eyeball is not the target of the beam. We have no evidence that the Scole mediums used such techniques, but their rules also prevented us from establishing that they didn't.
The laser pointer explanation for the lights is impossible. The lights were not seen only on the surfaces of objects – they were individual points clearly seen moving also in mid-air. The trajectory of the laser beam would have been visible in the dust particles in the air. The observations were confirmed from the tape recordings. A few of the 33 examples from page 190-193:

The Scole Report said:
While performing a perfect circle of light [in the air], switch on and off certain segments of the circle.

Strike the top of the table with a sharp rap, or the glass of the dome or dish with an appropriate ping, and do this repeatedly while remaining visible as a sharp pin-point of light.

Illuminate the fingers of a full-size spirit hand which the percipient describes as soft and cool to the touch.
 
#11
It's an interesting report, but a bit of a 'curate's egg' - good in parts. David Fontana struck me as an honest and sensible witness and I found it hard to doubt his observations. Some of the later communications were, frankly, bizarre.
You are right but it seems you don't know yet the rules of investigating spiritual groups. They are deeply believing people and most often don't know the principles of science. You cannot take seriously their beliefs and you must take care only of the concrete phenomena that hopefully occur. Also, the messages are often very bizarre. The messages from different sources do not make a consistent totality and therefore all of them must be taken with a pinch of salt.
 
#12
I have already written this elsewhere here, but I think it is best available here.

Wikipedia-Mediumship said:
A series of mediumistic séances known as the Scole Experiment took place between 1993–98 [tod. 1995-97] in the presence of the researchers David Fontana, Arthur Ellison and Montague Keen. This has produced photographs, audio recordings and physical objects which appeared in the dark séance room (known as apports).[146] According to paranormal researcher Brian Dunning the Scole experiments fail in many ways. The séances were held in the basement of two of the mediums, only total darkness was allowed with no night vision apparatus as it might "frighten the spirits away". The box containing the film was not examined and could easily have been accessible to fraud. And finally, even though many years have passed, there has been no follow-up, no further research by any credible agency or published accounts.[147]


146David Fontana. (2005). Is there an afterlife?. pp. 324-351. See also www.thescoleexperiment.com


147"The Scole Experiment: Said to be the best evidence yet for the afterlife -- but how good is that evidence?". Skeptoid. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- - -
This is my a little revised letter to Susan Gerbic:

Lusikka said:
How it is possible that scientific skeptics can lead astray, twist facts, and even lie as can be seen above? There are rather many false details written there, for example:

- the researchers were present only between 1995-97
- Brian Dunning is not a paranormal researcher
- the séances were held also elsewhere
- night vision apparatus was not allowed, but there was not always total darkness
- the film box was always examined
- it was not easy to open it
- there was no follow-up because the phenomena did not continue
- rather ridiculous: even the Scole experiment site is written as text and not as a link

My source: The Scole Report
 
#13
No, the Spirit Team did not allow the use of infrared cameras in Scole. But the darkness was not total during the sittings. The moving spirit lights revealed much about the happenings there, as can be seen from this example:
I see. ¿Any particular reason why they didn't want an infrared camera? I've heard those are able to catch light in total darkness ( or at least, darkness by the common-day usage, when the visible spectrum is out ).
 
#14
You are right but it seems you don't know yet the rules of investigating spiritual groups. They are deeply believing people and most often don't know the principles of science. You cannot take seriously their beliefs and you must take care only of the concrete phenomena that hopefully occur. Also, the messages are often very bizarre. The messages from different sources do not make a consistent totality and therefore all of them must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Perhaps you could try to be a bit more patronising in your replies (if possible). I find this makes constructive discussion of a subject a lot easier.

What makes you think I don't know how to investigate so-called spiritual groups? Perhaps you could wow us all with your own CV? I await your pearls of wisdom Professor.

As an aside I would say some of the messages received at Scole fell a long way short of credible. It is not at all common to hear such bizarre messages through reputable mediums, as even a cursory review of the research over the last hundred years or so would reveal.
 
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#15
Perhaps you could try to be a bit more patronising in your replies (if possible). I find this makes constructive discussion of a subject a lot easier.

What makes you think I don't know how to investigate so-called spiritual groups? Perhaps you could wow us all with your own CV? I await your pearls of wisdom Professor.
I'm sorry. I did not mean to be rude – only to make my point as clear as possible. I have been so much in contact with believing people (and skeptics) that it is natural for me to take everything with a pinch of salt and verify details if it is possible. When you wondered a normal state of affairs so I guessed (I wrote only "seems") you did not know the situation. BTW, excluding my guess concerning your knowledge, what is wrong in my points?

As an aside I would say some of the messages received at Scole fell a long way short of credible. It is not at all common to hear such bizarre messages through reputable mediums, as even a cursory review of the research over the last hundred years or so would reveal.
You are right. I think they were honest and ethical people, but lack of scientific world view and lack of scientific understanding made such things possible. I have no idea why the experiment ended as abruptly as it did.
 
#16
There were one bag and two boxes for the films as follows:

1. The Wiseman bag. "…Dr Wiseman provided us with a security bag, guaranteed to be fraud-proof, and made of opaque triple-layered polythene." (p.222)

2. The Alan box. "We were told that, to improve security, the [spirit] Team, at a closed session on 1st November, had asked the [Scole] Group to make a wooden container just large enough to hold a tub."
"Alan [one of the mediums] duly asked one of his sons, who has a workshop where he makes boxes and equipment for fishing tackle, to make such a box." (p. 240)

3. The Keen box. "MK meantime undertook to have a similar box built with no exposed screws." (p. 241)

The Team said they had difficulties to penetrate the bag material. Only two films held in the bag had minor star-like patterns, but they were still considered unexplained. All successful films were in the Alan box. It could be opened without opening the padlock, but it was difficult to open it and putting the hasp back in its sockets was even more difficult in the darkness. Rather much force was needed for these operations. This opening method was apparently not used, because the sockets would have been worn larger in multiple operations, which had not happened.
Thanks for the info.

If I recall correctly, Alan Gauld cited the fact that only the Alan box generated successful films as being a prime reason for his skepticism, and I'd have to agree with that. I appreciate the difficulty in working the box in darkness, and at least one sitting with the film (the one Keen details in his "Afterlife Investigations" interview) sounds fraud-proof, but when the one box generating results was the one specified by the mediums, it's hard not to be suspicious. The fact that you describe Keen's box as similar (presumably of the same material, so that shouldn't have mattered to the Team) but unsuccessful raises an eyebrow too.

You'll have to play detective a bit for this next question, as I don't remember the details exactly and I can't find the original site where I read this information: a skeptical challenge to Scole was that, at least in some of the sittings, one of the mediums would excuse herself due to a headache, and remain in the home but unaccounted for during the sitting. There was a room adjacent to the sitting room, that was investigated once but never again. What's the story behind these two points?
 
#17
I see. ¿Any particular reason why they didn't want an infrared camera? I've heard those are able to catch light in total darkness ( or at least, darkness by the common-day usage, when the visible spectrum is out ).
Typical night vision infrared cameras use an infrared lamp as illumination and the camera picks up infrared light reflected off the subject.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared
Name Wavelength Frequency (Hz) Photon Energy (eV)
...
Visible 380 nm–700 nm 790 THz – 430 THz 1.7 eV – 3.3 eV
Infrared 700 nm – 1 mm 430 THz – 300 GHz 1.24 meV – 1.7 eV
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_photography
Wavelengths used for photography range from about 700 nm to about 900 nm.

The infrared wavelengths used in photography are adjacent to the red end of the visible light spectrum. So infrared light used in photography may still be too energetic.

Thermal imaging is a different technology which creates images from thermal radiation given off by objects. Starlight night vision cameras can create images under very low visible light conditions. I don't know if thermal imaging or starlight night vision was available during the time of the Scole experiments. Infrared film for cameras was available at the time of the Scole experiments.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
You'll have to play detective a bit for this next question, as I don't remember the details exactly and I can't find the original site where I read this information: a skeptical challenge to Scole was that, at least in some of the sittings, one of the mediums would excuse herself due to a headache, and remain in the home but unaccounted for during the sitting. There was a room adjacent to the sitting room, that was investigated once but never again. What's the story behind these two points?
I've only just started reading the medium evidence, but here's everything Prescott has to say on Scole.

Might have the answer to your question.
 
#19
I've only just started reading the medium evidence, but here's everything Prescott has to say on Scole.

Might have the answer to your question.
Makes me ask new ones, actually :P

“In a long discussion of the Scole phenomena, he does not include the bizarre end of the experiments - which were abruptly concluded after the "spirit communicators" claimed their transmitting station had come under attack by hostile forces! Rather suspiciously, the termination of the work occurred just as researchers were planning to introduce infrared cameras into the séance room.”
I had not heard that infrared was about to be introduced around the time of the end before. Is this true?
 
#20
I (searching Prescott blog) found this quote posted by a member. ¿Is it related to the so-called "Alan Box" which the mediums alledgedly managed to supernaturally change?

"I am an SPR member, but regretfully must agree with your critical article about Scole. And there is one further item which you didn’t spot, but which is clear evidence of fraud (it is mentioned in the report): the fact that one of the exposed film canisters contained a strip of impressive-looking kabbalistic writings and drawings, which the intrepid investigator Tony Cornell showed as having been traced from a popular book on kabbalism. Cornell showed how the material could have been put onto tracing paper then exposed to produce an image identical to that obtained. He even found the marks where the tracing paper had been fixed against the film and exposed to create the fraud. This was a film which was in the easy-to-open box created by one of the mediums. It is clear proof of fraud and really shows that the SPR people at Scole were taken in. Yet Keen and Fontana would never admit that they may have been fooled. Very sad.” – Professor Peter Wadhams. Cambridge"

So far, I've been unable to find the Cornell article critiquing Scole, but if it's true, I think it lends a bit of suspicious towards the honesty and potential trickery the mediums could had used.
 
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