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Posted on 15 January 2013, 21:44

‘The paranormal is bunk’, Richard Dawkins famously declared in the Sunday Mirror (February 8, 1998) in an article written, I suspect, not by him but by the duty hack of the day. We continue to hear similar blanket dismissals today but the Trendy Media Expert (TME) of the time, most recently by the BBC’s latest celebrity scientist Jim Al-Khalili, who has assured the world that telepathy ‘simply doesn’t exist’. And superstar TME Richard Wiseman has devoted a whole book to what he calls Paranormality, subtitled Why we see what isn’t there.

Another book awaits to be written with the subtitle Why we refuse to see what is there. We are constantly being assured by these TMEs that ‘there’s no real evidence’ for anything ‘paranormal’ – i.e. inexplicable in terms of science as presently understood. Yet, as I have noticed over the years, not only is there a good deal of evidence for it, much of it supported by properly documented and even instrumentally recorded evidence, but the TMEs persistently seek to persuade us that it isn’t there, because it’s impossible and therefore cannot be. Here are just a few examples from my own bulging files of what is there, but has somehow escaped the attention of the above-mentioned ‘experts’:

In April 2010, the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published an article by my SPR colleague Barrie Colvin on ‘The acoustic properties of unexplained rapping sounds’. It was based on ten original tape recordings (two of them by me and one by the BBC, no less) of such sounds heard on poltergeist cases in six countries between 1960 (Sauchie, Scotland) and 1988 (Santa Rosa, Brazil). One of special interest to me was the case from the Săo Paulo suburb of Ipiranga which I describe in The Flying Cow, where my colleague Suzuko Hashizume and I managed to record several very loud bangs on the floor above our heads, and then decided to make some normal bangs ourselves – me with a broom handle and she with some vigorous foot-stamping, to see if there might be some way of showing the difference between the two.

We could not find anybody with the necessary equipment to do this, but Colvin has now done it and shown very convincingly that poltergeist thumps look quite unlike any normally produced percussive sound when run through an oscilloscope, (see below) as his illustrations show to be unmistakably the case. He found identical differences between raps made by me which I recorded on the Enfield case described in This House is Haunted and those recorded at the same time that were not made by me, or by anybody else visibly present. He found similar differences in all of the eight other cases he examined.


We thought this was something of a breakthrough, and fired off a press release to some 35 media outlets. Only two of them even mentioned the item, and they happened to be the two where I had personal contacts.

So I had to conclude that even when there is well-documented evidence, from several independent sources, the media simply refuse to see what clearly is there.

In If This Be Magic I spend much of the first chapter on a detailed account of the near-miraculous cure by hypnosis of a skin disease generally still agreed to be incurable. That took place just sixty years ago, as reported (with before and after photos) in the British Medical Journal (23 August 1952). It has remained unexplained ever since, and thus is by definition paranormal. I have never seen it even mentioned by any TME. They just can’t bear to look at anything they can’t explain, so they simply ignore it as if it wasn’t there.

Equally hard to explain is the evidence I have been collecting over the years, as described in Twin Telepathy (3rd edition), that some identical twins (not all as I explain, for the first time) can react to stimuli given to their co-twins even at such long distances as London to Australia. This has been reported over the centuries – in 1781 John Wesley mentioned in his Journal a woman who had a twin ‘between whom and her there is so strange a sympathy that if either of them is ill, or particularly affected at any time, the other is so likewise.’ They also had identical dreams, he noted, although one was living ‘in another part of the kingdom’ at the time. I am still collecting similar evidence regularly, along with pronouncements from the TMEs that it’s all due to ‘thought concordance’, ‘genetic underpinning’ or just good old ‘coincidence’. You can see the results of a recent experiment published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal by going to and looking for the article by Parker and Jensen. You won’t hear anything about it from the TMEs.

I could give many more examples of evidence-evaporation, such as Deborah Hyde’s splendid performance on ITV’s This Morning (February 6, 2012) when she managed to make a year’s first hand research into the Enfield events, supported by at least 200 hours of tape recordings, vanish with a wave of her magic wand after explaining that all the evidence was based on memory and testimony, and you can’t rely on either.

Then there was the occasion when Uri Geller managed to bend a chrome vanadium spanner in full view of the Tyrrell pit crew at the 1998 Grand Prix at Silverstone. As driver Ricardo Rosset told me later, ‘He held it by one end and rubbed it in the middle, then he took his other hand away and it just bent – upwards.’ I bought a similar spanner and managed to get it bent on a massive strain gauge, which required a force greater than that required to beat the world weight lifting record to bend it to the same angle. I duly wrote this up and published it in Fortean Times (issue 250, 2009). Reaction from the TMEs, and indeed everybody else to date: nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth bothering, but luckily such moments of doubt do not last. I continue to write about things I find interesting, as I have done since dropping out of ‘normal’ journalism some 40 years ago, and I have learned not to be distracted by the misdirections, distortions, displays of ignorance and outright lies from the TME lobby. It’s good to remember that the truth has tended to win in the end. Meteorites really do fall from the sky and continents really do drift despite the categorical denials by long deceased experts.

One day, the scientific establishment will have to concede that poltergeists do exist, twins (and many others) are telepathic, and hypnosis can cure at least some supposedly incurable diseases. This will not happen soon. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading about some of the fieldwork that helped establish these truths.

GUY LYON PLAYFAIR was born in India and educated in England, obtaining a degree in modern languages from Cambridge University. He then spent many years in Brazil as a freelance journalist for The Economist, Time, and the Associated Press, also working for four years in the press section of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The first of his twelve books, The Flying Cow, in which he described his experiences investigating the psychic side of Brazil, was translated into six languages and became an international best seller. His most recent book is Twin Telepathy. He now lives in London and is a council member of the Society for Psychical Research.

His books include:
If This Be Magic: The Forgotten Power of Hypnosis
The Flying Cow: Exploring the Psychic World of Brazil
This House is Haunted
Twin Telepathy


“I duly wrote this up and published it in Fortean Times (issue 250, 2009). Reaction from the TMEs, and indeed everybody else to date: nothing.”

In the oourse of checking White Crow for anything that I might have missed earlier, I came upon the above.

This is par for the course; if you don’t understand it, just pretend hat it doesn’t exist. 

In fact, I have an anecdote regarding Geller.

At the time that Uri Geller was subject to much publicity, I put a question to a widely known and publicised scientist of the day.  I outlined that much of the world was based on metal cutting and forming, giving some pertinent examples and cost estimates.  (I am an engineer and can quantify the astronomical amount of money that goes into the forming of metal for things that we use every day.)

I put it to him that, given that such a sizable slice of time and money went into this, would it not make sense to investigate Geller thoroughly?

His reply left me speechless.  No, he stated, it was no more than a conjuring trick.  But, I protested, this has been demonstrated countless times and under close observation.  No, he affirmed, it is impossible, so it must be simple trickery.

Closed minds are and remain impenetrable; preconception precludes investigation, so I left the subject. 

Les Harris

Les Harris, Sat 28 Dec, 02:11

Thankyou, it’s good to read such thoughtful & balanced views.
Hope to read more of your posts.

Best wishes.


Neale, Fri 18 Jan, 22:18

Fascinating read, as always.  Hope to get on your “alerts” so I am informed of new postings.
All my best,

Vincent ONeil, Thu 17 Jan, 00:24

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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