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Was Patience Worth Really Artificial Intelligence?

Posted on 24 April 2023, 8:22

There has been considerable controversy recently over the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), especially having to do with a website (ChatGPT) offering such intelligence on a myriad of subjects.  I’ve been experimenting with the website the past three weeks and have found it very fascinating, even if threatening in some respects.  I began by asking AI the origin of my original surname, Tymczyszyn, the one my grandfather brought to the country from Ukraine in 1905. Not more than two seconds after I entered my question, AI began providing an answer, one that confirmed what I had previously heard from a distant family member while adding a little to it. I was impressed and tried again. Knowing that there are two main routes from Newport, Oregon to San Francisco, I asked for the “best” route.  The response was immediate, telling me that the coastal was the more scenic, but the interior route was the faster of the two.


After playing around with some other more worldly subjects, I decided to experiment with subjects from the paranormal arena.  I suspected that I was going to get answers much like those provided by Wikipedia – claiming that it’s all just so much bunk and unscientific baloney.  I began with Mina Crandon, one of the most controversial mediums in the field (upper left photo), asking who she was.  Within two seconds, the response flowed, as if coming from a teletype: “Mina Crandon, also known as ‘Margery,’ was a controversial figure in the history of spiritualism and psychical research.  While some critics have accused her of being a fraud or a charlatan, others have defended her as a genuine medium with extraordinary abilities.” 

The response went on to say that Harry Houdini accused Crandon of using various tricks, but that some members of the American Society for Psychical Research testified that she was a genuine medium with exceptional powers. “In the end, the question of whether Crandon was a charlatan or a genuine medium remains a matter of debate and controversy among scholars and researchers in the field of psychical research,” AI ended. It was pretty much the same ending for every medium I asked about. Clearly, AI was much more open-minded and balanced than Wikipedia

When I asked about Alfred Russel Wallace (upper right photo), I was informed that he was a British naturalist and co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, and further that he was a strong believer in the “possibility” of life after death and in the existence of spirits.  “Wallace’s belief and research in spiritualism and psychical research were controversial and have been debated by scholars and researchers for over a century,” AI explained. “However, his contributions to the development of the field and his efforts to reconcile spiritualism with scientific inquiry have had a lasting impact on the study of paranormal phenomena.” 

I asked AI for the difference between psychical research and parapsychology and assumed that it would not provide an intelligent answer.  I was wrong.  It offered the best answer I have seen.  On the other hand, it did make mistakes. When asked about medium Emily French (lower left photo), who died in 1912, AI said she was charged with the murder of a wealthy Buffalo businessman named Frank Lyman in 1922 and that she was defended by Edward C. Randall (the lawyer who studied French and wrote about her), who argued that she was not guilty by reason of insanity, as she genuinely believed she was receiving messages from the spirit world.  According to AI, she was found not guilty.  When AI was asked for the source of the information, it responded that a book by Michael Tymn titled “The Murder of Emily French: An Unsolved Mystery from the Guilded Age,” was the source.  That was news to me, as I have authored no such book and knew of no such murder, of or by Emily French. When AI was further questioned about this, it apologized and gave Harold Schechter as the author of the book, still not addressing the fact that Emily French the medium, had died in 1912.  My guess is that there was another person named Emily French, perhaps a fictitious one created by Schechter, that was confused with the medium named Emily French. How I was mistaken for the author remains a mystery, as does Edward Randall’s involvement with both women named Emily French.  My guess is that AI jumbled all the references on French, including mine from several publications, and created a multiple personality of sorts. 

Overall, I was impressed with the speed and the “personality” of AI when correcting “itself” and apologizing for an error, or elaborating on certain subjects. I was especially impressed by its ability to add information when asked for more detail about the person or subject matter. What was most impressive, however, was the fact that AI could do more than recite facts; it could create.  I could give it a half-dozen characteristics of a certain person and ask it to give me a poem about the person with those words in it, and it would provide a creative poem within seconds.

The poems brought to mind the Patience Worth phenomenon, often discussed at this blog (See blog for June 17, 2013 in archives). For those not familiar with the story, Patience Worth claimed to be a 17th century English woman communicating through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, a St. Louis, Missouri housewife with no more than an elementary-school education (bottom right photo).  Over a period of nearly 25 years, As stated in my entry for the PSI Encyclopedia, Patience Worth dictated some four-million words, including seven books, some short stories, several plays, thousands of poems, and countless epigrams and aphorisms, through Curran. Her works were compared with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Shelley, and Spenser.  Researchers would give her a subject matter and ask for her opinion or for a poem. She would often respond without hesitation.  A few examples:

On death: “Cheap pence paid for eternity and yet man whines”

On laughter: “Me thinks that of all the gifts from Thy prolific hand, laughter, next to love, is dearest.” 

On life: “Life is a gaysome trickster.  Yea, life poureth about the atoms o’ man wines of cunning, and equally is he filled up of Him.  Thereby is man given freely and his lighting unto life leaveth him for his choosing. Aye, and the giving be wry-fallen atimes, for flesh to tarry long and dance with life, fearing the greater thing athin it.”

On philosophy:  “Philosophy is a bony nag and her gait is woeful.  He who rides must spur her well with his ain imagination.” 

On learning: “Wisdom scratcheth the itch of the lout, while learning searchest for the flea.”

On fear: “The undergarment of every armor.  Man moutheth over words, and hangeth his wisdom with garments of words.  Man knoweth certainties which even God doubteth.”

On the press:  “The gab wench of the day!”

Considering the fact that AI can turn out poems and other creative ideas much like Pearl Curran could, I began to wonder if Patience Worth could have been some form of artificial intelligence coming through Curran rather than a 17th century English woman communicating from another realm of existence. I continued my questioning of AI by asking if Patience Worth was a form of artificial intelligence.  “It is highly unlikely that Patience Worth was an artificial intelligence, as the channeling of Patience Worth occurred in the early 20th century, long before the developments of modern computing and artificial intelligence technologies,” was AI’s reply. It added that “the technology required to create an artificial intelligence sophisticated enough to create the complex and varied works attributed to Patience Worth did not exist during Curran’s lifetime.  In short, while the idea of Patience Worth being an early form of artificial intelligence is an interesting concept, it is highly unlikely and not supported by any evidence.”

AI added that some skeptics have suggested that “the Patience Worth case may have been an example of dissociative identify disorder (DID, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder), in which Curran may have produced the works under a subconscious alter ego.”  How that alter ego educated itself and retained so much knowledge is the big question and offers the best argument against such a theory. AI also stated that it is now possible to create an artificial intelligence capable of producing literary works with the sophistication and complexity of Patience Worth, but it is highly unlikely that this was the case when the Patience Worth phenomena occurred.

I saw no point in asking AI if some advanced alien civilization could have developed AI technology that led to such names as the Akashic Records, the Cosmic Reservoir, or perhaps the Superpsi or Living-Agent Psi of parapsychology, maybe all of them wrapped into one, before modern AI became aware of itself.  I asked AI if it knew of the Akashic Records.  “The Akashic Records are (sic) a term used in theosophy and spiritual belief systems to refer to a universal library of information and knowledge that is said to exist on a non-physical plane of existence,” AI informed me, going on to say that “there is no established relationship between the concept of Akashic Records and Artificial Intelligence.”

I was under the impression that Living-Agent Psi is just a new name for what earlier researchers called Superpsi and which William James, even before that, called the Cosmic Reservoir, but AI said such is not the case and provided me with detailed explanations, all of which would be too long for this blog. However, as I continued my questioning of AI, it became clear that AI will not incorporate any “spiritual concept” into its own makeup. It considers the Cosmic Reservoir, Superpsi, and Living Agent Psi as spiritual concepts and therefore dismisses any association with them.  That would be unscientific. 

I know nothing about computer programming, but I assume all the information coming from AI has been input by humans based on what science has accepted and therefore the only scientific explanations for Patience Worth are those of fraud and DID. The non-scientific explanations are that she was in fact the spirit of a 17th century English woman or that God is the great computer behind it all…… or that advanced aliens applied their computer technology to earth centuries ago, which modern computer technology rejects because it is considered “spiritual.” .

If God or advanced aliens are responsible, then we have to ask why are they permitting their more ancient AI to represent themselves as deceased humans.  Why are they lying to us?.  Why did Patience Worth, not to mention Phinuit, George Pellew, Feda, John King, Walter Stinson, and so many other “spirits,” claim to have been a deceased human?  How did they all collaborate in the deception?  Why not just admit to being artificial intelligence? Applying Occam’s Razor, I conclude that Patience Worth was who she says she was – the spirit of a 17th Century woman from England.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: May 1

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When Professors Were Kissed by Spirits

Posted on 10 April 2023, 11:06

Most remembered as the man who founded the science of criminology, first called criminal anthropology, Dr. Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) was an Italian psychiatrist and a hard-core materialist before he began investigating the mediumship of Eusapia Paladino (also spelled Palladino and almost always referred to by her first name).  “If ever there was an individual in the world opposed to spiritism by virtue of scientific education, and, I may say, by instinct, I was that person,” he wrote in his 1909 book, After Death-What?

Lombroso (below) explained that he had made it an indefatigable pursuit of a lifetime to defend the thesis that every force is a property of matter and the soul an emanation of the brain.  For years he laughed at the reports he had heard about tables being levitated and spirits communicating through them. However, his attitude began to change in 1891 when he somewhat reluctantly accepted an invitation to attend a séance in a Naples hotel with Eusapia. He was warned that he would ruin his reputation, but he felt it was his duty to investigate, as he had heard so much about Eusapia from his colleagues. He had earlier witnessed some supposed psychic phenomena but dismissed it as hysterics or hypnotic phenomena. “And when I then and there saw extremely heavy objects transferred through the air without contact,” he wrote of his first sitting with Eusapia in full daylight, “from that time on I consented to make the phenomena the subject of investigation.”


By 1903, Lombroso had observed Eusapia countless times, but at a sitting with her in Genoa that year, he experienced something new.  Before Eusapia entered the trance state, Lombroso asked her for some special manifestation that day.  Eusapia (or John King, her spirit control) consented.  “…after half an hour of the séance had passed, I was seized with a very lively desire to see her promise kept,” Lombroso wrote. “The table at once assented to my thought by means of its usual sign-movements up and down; and soon after (we were then in the semi-obscurity of a red light) I saw detach itself from the curtain a rather short figure like that of my mother, veiled, and which made the complete circuit of the table until it came to me, and whispered to me words heard by many, but not by me, who am somewhat hard of hearing.  I was almost beside myself with emotion and begged her to repeat her words.  She did so, saying, ‘Cesar, fio mio!’ (I admit at once that this was not her habitual expression, which was, when she met me, ‘mio fiol’; but the mistake in expression made by the apparitions of the deceased are well known, and how they borrow from the language of the psychic and of the experimenters), and removing the veil from her face for a moment, she gave me a kiss.”  Lombroso added that his mother reappeared at least 20 times during Eusapia’s séances, although less distinct than on that first occasion.

Kisses were followed by caresses …

Lombroso reported another kiss, one taking place on November 26, 1906 in Milan. It involved a man named Massaro, of Palermo. Lombroso reported: “Madame Paladino remarked quite suddenly that she perceived a young man who came from a distance, and, after being questioned, specified ‘from Palermo’; and afterwards said, ‘Portrait made in the sun.’ Whereupon Massaro remembered that he had in his letter-case a photograph of his son taken out of doors (in the country). At the same time he was aware of being sharply tapped on the breast at the very spot where he had that picture of his son, and felt himself kissed twice on the right cheek through the curtain that hung near him; and the kisses were followed by very arch caresses, though most delicate withal. Then all of a sudden the significant touches were repeated, but this time by a hand that insinuated itself with eager movements into the inside middle pocket of the coat just where the letter-case was. This it opened just at the compartment that held the portrait.

“During this second appearance caresses and kisses were held back at first; then he felt himself seized around the body, drawn near the curtain, and repeatedly kissed. Finally, there was projected on the curtain the apparition of a head bound with a white bandage – a head which he recognized as that of his son.”

Lombroso recorded that they could often see fluidic limbs emerging in full light from the shoulder of Eusapia (below) or from her skirt and that these fluidic limbs would perform the function of an arm. Also, “John King” would sometimes respond in English, a language unknown to Eusapia.


Concluding that many of the phenomena were beyond telepathy of any kind, Lombroso came to accept the spirit hypothesis.  “I am ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity the possibility of psychic facts – the facts exist and I boast of being a slave to facts.” he wrote.  “There can be no doubt that genuine psychical phenomena are produced by intelligences totally independent of the psychic and the parties present at the sittings.”

Professor Enrico Morselli, an Italian neurologist and director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa, was also among the observers in Milan.  “There can no longer be any doubt as to the reality of Eusapia’s phenomena,” he wrote in the May 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science. “They have now been seen by too many persons under excellent conditions of verification, with the full certainty that the medium had not her hands and feet free, and that many of the phenomena occurred at a distance which excluded all possibility of deception…..” 

In the October 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science (“The Unexplored Regions of Human Biology”), Professor Phillipe Bottazzi, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples, reported on seven sittings he and four other professors had with Paladino during April 1907.  Bottazzi rejected the spirit hypothesis, both before and after his experiments with Paladino, as unscientific, but he concluded that it was a possibility and would at times address his remarks to “John King” rather than to Eusapia, apparently in order to appease Eusapia (or John King), i.e., to go along with Eusapia’s little pretend “game,” whatever it was. 

At a sitting on April 24, Professor Tommaso De Amicis “was not only touched on the arm, but was forcibly pulled as if by an invisible hand, issuing from the interior of the cabinet, and this more than once.”  Then, De Amicus asked to be kissed by a dead person who was dear to him. “The curtain on the left shook, enveloped his body as if to embrace him, and he felt the contact of another face against his and a mouth kissing him. At the same time, Eusapia’s lips moved as if to kiss, and she made the sound of a kiss, which we all distinctly heard.

“A suspicious mind would call this fraud; but this would be a mistake,” Bottazzi wrote. “ For in the first place, kisses given by the invisible are also heard when the medium only makes the movement of kissing, without any sound. He went on to explain that other phenomena taking place beyond Paladino’s reach were accompanied by movement of her body. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Paladino’s feet in his hands, he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” he explained. He further noted that when others were holding Eusapia’s hands, the person could feel her fingers moving in rhythm with the activity away from her.  (This “synchrony” aspect was discussed in my blog of March 14, 2022 and seems to be the key to understanding much of what was called “fraud” by researchers.)

In his 1909 book, Mysterious Psychic Phenomena, Camille Flammarion, a renowned French astronomer, observed that while he was holding one of Paladino’s hands and M. Fontenay the other, the hand held by Fontenay came toward his (Flammarion’s) cheek “and imitates upon the cheek, with the fingers of M. Fontenay, the movement of a little revolving crank,  or handle. The music box, which has one of these handles, plays at the same time behind the curtain in a perfect synchronism. The instant that Eusapia’s hand stops, the music stops: all the movements correspond, just as in the Morse telegraphic system.”  (Flammarion and other researchers realized that the so-called “cabinet” with its curtain invited much suspicion, but reported that it was supposedly required by spirits for materialization purposes and that it was thoroughly checked before and during each sitting.)

Amore mio! Amore mio!

Flammarion was so impressed by his observations of Paladino in Montfort-l’Amaury that he arranged for her to give eight séances at his home in Paris during November 1898. He invited different scientists and scholars to sit in on them and asked them to provide a written account of their observations.  M. and Mme. Pallotti were present at the November 14 sitting (Flammarion does not provide their first names).  In a detailed report to Flammarion, M. Pallotti reported that he witnessed a vague materialization of what appeared to be his deceased daughter, Rosalie.  M. Boutigny, who had been his daughter’s fiancée, “announced to us aloud that he was being very affectionately caressed. The medium, who was at this moment in an extraordinary state of agitation, kept saying, ‘Amore mio, amore mio! (My love, my love!), and, addressing herself to me, called to me several times in the following words, ‘Adesso vieni tu! Vieni tu!’ (Come at once, come!). Pallotti approached and felt himself kissed several times.

“I ought to say that, while these events were taking place, my eyes were carefully observing the medium, as well as the persons who were by my side,” Pallotti added. “I can therefore boldly certify that I was not the victim of any illusion or subterfuge…” Mme. Pallotti was also embraced by the figure and was certain that it was her daughter.

“It amazes me, every time I think of it, that the majority of men are so densely ignorant of the psychic phenomena in question, considering the fact that they have been known, studied, valued, and recorded for a long time now by all who have impartially followed the movement of thought during the last few lustrums,” wrote Flammarion. 

Sadly, Flammarion’s words still apply.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: April 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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