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Interview with Psychical Researcher, David Fontana

Are we more than biological accidents with meaningless lives bounded by the cradle and the grave? Dr David Fontana, a professor of psychology in England and Wales, believes we are, explaining why in his latest book, Is There an Afterlife?, published by O Books.

david fontana

‘Unless one rejects the possibility of survival on doctrinaire grounds, the evidence is very strong,’ Fontana wrote in a recent e-mail interview from his home in Cardiff, Wales, adding that survival provides a much better explanation than does the super ESP hypothesis, which goes beyond simple telepathy and holds that mediums receive information from minds of people elsewhere or even clairvoyantly from the environment, perhaps even gathering information precognitively.

‘I very much doubt if those who support this theory have spent 30 years investigating, at first hand, the evidence for survival,’ Fontana went on. ‘If they had, it is doubtful they would continue to support the notion that everything comes from telepathy or clairvoyance by the living. The idea that the results obtained by ITC (instrumental transcommunication) can be explained by psycho-kinesis from the living would be laughable were it not so tragically misleading.’

In his 496-page book, Fontana deals extensively with the super ESP hypothesis, as well as the ‘psychic reservoir’ hypothesis, which suggests that there is some kind of cosmic computer which mediums can tap into and then give immediate feedback with all the peculiar personality traits of deceased humans. He points out that even if these hypotheses could be shown to be true, it would not destroy the case for survival. In fact, they might support the survival hypothesis by showing that the mind can operate outside time and space.

A past president of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Fontana currently serves as life vice-president and foundation chairman of the Society’s survival research committee. He is a fellow and former council member of the British Psychological Society and has published more than 100 scientific papers and some 30 books, which together have been translated into 26 languages.

‘I cannot remember a time when I was not interested,’ Fontana replied to the question of when and why he first became interested in psychical research. ‘As a small boy the intrinsic mystery of life fascinated me, and when I learned, around the age of 11, that there is a society that exists to conduct this research (the SPR) my interest was further stimulated. As a postgraduate at Cambridge, I had access to even more of the extensive literature on the subject, and when I became a member of the SPR my own research activities took off.’

Fontana disagrees when it is suggested that the quality of mediumship today is not what it was 100 or so years ago. ‘I have worked with many good mediums,’ he explained. ‘Diana and Alan Bartlett at Scole were excellent, and I have also seen very good physical phenomena when sitting with Stewart Alexander and with Colin Fry and with ‘Danesh.’ I have had sittings with many good mental mediums, particularly Leonard Young, Mavis Patella, and Doris Smith.’ He also mentioned Mallory Sendall, Mary Armour, Gordon Smith, and Craig Hamilton-Parker as being exceptional mediums.
He added that he has heard very good direct-voice phenomena with a number of physical mediums. ‘People have less time these days to develop their gifts,’ he opined, ‘but those who do develop them certainly keep up with the tradition of good mediumship.’

The Scole investigation stands out as perhaps the highlight of Fontana’s 30 years of research to date. While ‘The Scole Report,’ co-authored by Fontana with now-deceased researchers Montague Keen and Professor Arthur Ellison, provides abundant detail of the amazing phenomena they witnessed, Fontana devotes 27 pages of his latest book to his experiences during the many séances he and the others attended in the small English town of Scole. Both physical and mental phenomena were produced by the ‘spirit team’ from another dimension. The phenomena usually began with so-called ‘spirit lights.’ These lights appeared to have a substantial form and would land on the table in front of them, sometimes in their hands, allowing for an examination.
Hands frequently materialized in Scole. On one occasion Fontana was addressed by what appeared to be an independent voice, speaking clearly from just above and in front of him. A number of apports were produced, including a pristine copy of the Daily Mail of April 1, 1944, reporting on the trial of medium Helen Duncan. The fact that the paper showed no signs of aging created some suspicion that it was a modern facsimile, but an analysis of the paper revealed that it was in fact printed by the old-fashioned letterpress method used in 1944 and that the paper was from the same time period. Of special interest to the group were photographs made by the spirit team on unexposed film brought by the researchers.

The difficulty in writing about the Scole phenomena, Fontana related, is in making them sound believable. He said that to speak or write of the phenomena is to risk being met with disbelief, even hostility. ‘It is to experience something of the ridicule experienced by great men of the past, such as Sir William Crookes when he published his findings with (Daniel D.) Home and with Florence Cook,’ he states in the book. ‘Inevitably one becomes tempted to remain silent…’ He concludes that the laws of material science, as we understand them, simply do not operate in these cases.

Speaking of Crookes and other distinguished researchers, such as Frederic W. H. Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Barrett, and Dr James Hyslop, to name just a few from a century ago, Fontana takes issue with a comment that the works of these researchers of yesteryear have been pretty much forgotten. ‘Among those who take an interest in the subject, their work is still keenly studied,’ he countered. ‘I am not sure we have people working in the area today who compare with them in intellect, rigour, and the ability to use the English language as it should be used. The best-sellers these days tend to be on the so-called ‘New Age’ topics. Perhaps the general public does not have the time today to read the scholarly writings of these men. More is the pity.’

Working with Dr Annable Cardoso of Spain, Fontana is currently focusing on ITC. ‘It provides first class evidence for survival,’ he explained. ‘One of the many great strengths of ITC is that we can carefully control the conditions under which the communications are received and thus rule out the possibility of normal explanations for the phenomena. Another great strength is that we can now acoustically analyse the voices received, and results indicate that they lack some of the characteristics of human speech. This provides further powerful evidence for their paranormality and for their support for the survival explanation.’

Fontana says that the reason we do not yet have absolute proof of survival is perhaps due to the probability that if there were such proof, there would no longer be a reason for the personal search and for the inner development that is a product of that search.
Professor Fontana’s book, Is There an Afterlife? can be purchased in the United States through

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Facing the Final Choice by Michael Grosso – The editor of my first book suggested I call it The Final Choice (1985). I thought the title was overdramatic and a bit grandiose. I did in part write the book in response to what seemed like the growing threat of nuclear war. Read here
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