How to Create a Ghost

topic posted Thu, February 26, 2004 - 5:55 AM by  The Bibliophile
How to Create a Ghost

In the 1970s, a psychical research group "invented" a spirit named Philip. To their astonishment, Philip actually made contact with them through a host of incredible psychokinetic phenomena.

A group of teenagers gathered around a Ouija board receives mysterious messages from a person's spirit who claims to have died 40 years ago. A paranormal society conducts a séance where they contact a ghost that communicates though table rappings. The residents of a century-old home continually see the spirit of a young child playing in the hallway.

What are these manifestations? Are they truly the ghosts of departed people? Or are they creations of the minds of the people who see them?

Many researchers of the paranormal suspect that ghostly manifestations and poltergeist phenomena (objects flying through the air, unexplained footsteps and door slammings) are products of the human mind. To test that idea, a fascinating experiment was conducted in the early 1970s by the Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) to see if they could create a ghost. The idea was to assemble a group of people who would make up a completely fictional character and then, through séances, see if they could contact him and receive messages and other physical phenomena - perhaps even an apparition.

The results of the experiment - which were fully documented on film and audiotape - are astonishing.

The Birth of Philip

The TSPR, under the guidance of Dr. A.R.G. Owen, assembled a group of eight people culled from its membership, none of whom claimed to have any psychic gifts. The group, which became known as the Owen group, consisted of Dr. Owen's wife, a woman who was the former chairperson of MENSA (an organization for high-IQ people), an industrial designer, an accountant, a housewife, a bookkeeper and a sociology student. A psychologist named Dr. Joel Whitton also attended many of the group's sessions as an observer.

The group's first task was to create their fictional historical character. Together they wrote a short biography of the person they named Philip Aylesford. Here, in part, is that biography:

Philip was an aristocratic Englishman, living in the middle 1600s at the time of Oliver Cromwell. He had been a supporter of the King, and was a Catholic. He was married to a beautiful but cold and frigid wife, Dorothea, the daughter of a neighboring nobleman.

One day when out riding on the boundaries of his estates Philip came across a gypsy encampment and saw there a beautiful dark-eyed girl raven-haired gypsy girl, Margo, and fell instantly in love with her. He brought her back secretly to live in the gatehouse, near the stables of Diddington Manor - his family home.

For some time he kept his love-nest secret, but eventually Dorothea, realizing he was keeping someone else there, found Margo, and accused her of witchcraft and stealing her husband. Philip was too scared of losing his reputation and his possessions to protest at the trial of Margo, and she was convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Philip was subsequently stricken with remorse that he had not tried to defend Margo and used to pace the battlements of Diddington in despair. Finally, one morning his body was found at the bottom of the battlements, whence he had cast himself in a fit of agony and remorse.

The Owen group even enlisted the artistic talents of one of its members to sketch a portrait of Philip (see picture above). With their creation's life and appearance now firmly established in their minds, the group began the second phase of the experiment: contact.

The Séances Begin

In September 1972, the group began their "sittings" - informal gatherings in which they would discuss Philip and his life, meditate on him and try to visualize their "collective hallucination" in more detail. These sittings, conducted in a fully lit room, went on for about a year with no results. Some members of the group occasionally claimed they felt a presence in the room, but there was no result they could consider any kind of communication from Philip.

So they changed their tactics. The group decided they might have better luck if they attempted to duplicate the atmosphere of a classic spiritualist séance. They dimmed the room's lights, sat around a table, sang songs and surrounded themselves with pictures of the type of castle they imagined Philip would have lived in, as well as objects from that time period.

It worked. During one evening's séance, the group received its first communication from Philip in the form of a distinct rap on the table. Soon Philip was answering questions asked by the group - one rap for yes, two for no. They knew it was Philip because, well, they asked him.

The sessions took off from there, producing a range of phenomena that could not be explained scientifically. Through the table-rapping communication, the group was able to learn finer details about Philip's life. He even seemed to exhibit a personality, conveying his likes and dislikes, and his strong views on various subjects, made plain by the enthusiasm or hesitancy of his knockings. His "spirit" was also able to move the table, sliding it from side to side despite the fact that the floor was covered with thick carpeting. At times it would even "dance" on one leg.

Philip's Limitations and Power

That Philip was a creation of the group's collective imagination was evident in his limitations. Although he could accurately answer questions about events and people of his time period, it did not appear to be information that the group was unaware of. In other words, Philip's responses were coming from their subconscious - their own minds. Some members thought they heard whispers in response to questions, but no voice was ever captured on tape.

Philip's psychokinetic powers, however, were amazing and completely unexplained. If the group asked Philip to dim the lights, they would dim instantly. When asked to restore the lights, he would oblige. The table around which the group sat was almost always the focal point of peculiar phenomena. After feeling a cool breeze blow across the table, they asked Philip if he could cause it to start and stop at will. He could and he did. The group noticed that the table itself felt different to the touch whenever Philip was present, having a subtle electric or "alive" quality. On a few occasions, a fine mist formed over the center of the table. Most astonishing, the group reported that the table would sometimes be so animated that it would rush over to meet latecomers to the session, or even trap members in the corner of the room.

The climax of the experiment was a séance conducted before a live audience of 50 people. The session was also filmed as part of a television documentary. Fortunately, Philip was not stage shy and performed above expectations. Besides table rappings, other noises around the room and making lights blink off and on, the group actually attained a full levitation of the table. It rose only a half inch above the floor, but this incredible feat was witnessed by the group and the film crew. Unfortunately, the dim lighting prevented the levitation from being captured on the film.

Although the Philip experiment gave the Owen group far more than they ever imagined possible, it was never able to attain one of their original goals - to have the spirit of Philip actually materialize.

The Aftermath

The Philip experiment was so successful that the Toronto organization decided to try it again with a completely different group of people and a new fictional character. After just five weeks, the new group established "contact" with their new "ghost," Lilith, a French Canadian spy. Other similar experiments conjured up such entities as Sebastian, a medieval alchemist and even Axel, a man from the future. All of them were completely fictional, yet all produced unexplained communication through their unique raps.

Recently, a Sydney, Australia group attempted a similar test with "the Skippy Experiment." The six participants created the story of Skippy Cartman, a 14-year-old Australian girl. The group reports that Skippy communicated with them through raps and scratching sounds.


What are we to make of these incredible experiments? While some would conclude that they prove that ghosts don't exist, that such things are in our minds only, others say that our unconscious could be responsible for this kind of the phenomena some of the time. They do not (in fact, cannot) prove that there are no ghosts.

Another point of view is that even though Philip was completely fictional, the Owen group really did contact the spirit world. A playful (or perhaps demonic, some would argue) spirit took the opportunity of these séances to "act" as Philip and produce the extraordinary psychokinetic phenomena recorded.

In any case, the experiments proved that paranormal phenomena are quite real. And like most such investigations, they leave us with more questions than answers about the world in which we live. The only certain conclusion is that there is much to our existence that is still unexplained.
posted by:
The Bibliophile
  • Re: How to Create a Ghost

    Thu, February 26, 2004 - 8:49 AM
    • Re: How to Create a Ghost

      Thu, February 26, 2004 - 9:19 AM
      Yeah, isn't it. I heard about this in psych when I was still in college. I'm surprised they still do news articles on something that happened over thirty years ago. heh

      But it is interesting that some occult work has been done along the same lines, namely "thought forms." That is, a spiritual entity formed of pure thought by a practicioner to perform some assigned task. Kind of like a incorporeal golem. I do wonder if the people who came up with this experiment were acting on their own intuition or if they had come across previous work done by Crowley and Mathers, etc.
      • Re: How to Create a Ghost

        Thu, February 26, 2004 - 1:32 PM
        I do believe in telekinesis; I think that humans are capable of moving objects with thoughts; although most of us have not learned how to tap into that power.

        At the same time, it could've also been a case where a prankster spirit was claiming to be that fictional character and was just messing with the people's minds.

        Could go either way, right?
  • Unsu...

    Re: How to Create a Tulpa

    Thu, February 26, 2004 - 5:26 PM
    Thanks for posting. I have both the (out-of-print, rare and now expensive) book and the (very hard-to-find) 25-minute VHS video (produced by Bruce Raymond, who shot the footage himself on live TV) showing Philip in action. I have been researching this experiment for many years now.

    I have been in touch lately with the Borley Rectory Society (where Bruce Raymond is a member -- he is also a good friend of Iris Owen, who conducted the original Philip experiment) and also the Toronto Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society -- a group that is very interested in emulating the Philip experiment with its own members. I have also considered forming my own group to do this, but if it happens, it will happen later in the year. My inclination is to be the first to organize a "spirit" which is created via a group organized online. The "spirit" would have the ability to contact individuals by email, IM, and other electronic means.

    Check out the work of Ken Batcheldor on this topic. I will post a summary of some of his findings in a later post here. Batcheldor's work served as a platform for achieving successful results within the Philip experiment. There have also been several groups around the world that have successfully emulated the Philip results. I have documentation on a few of these.

    Finally, I am convinced that Philip was really a "tulpa," or thought-form manifestation. Tulpa is a Tibetan word originating from the Bon (shamanism) religion of Tibet, which is still in existence after roughly 18,000 years. It is perhaps the 2nd oldest religion in existence. Tulpa creation is a very advanced yoga practice. It is considered a "siddhic" power and several other siddhic powers exist alongside it, including tumo, chulen, and several others. For reference, the Dalai Lama is a tulku, which is very similar to a tulpa, in nature. Also, tulpas may create other tulpas, who in turn may create their own tulpas. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Iris Owen ever made the leap toward discovering that Philip may have been a tulpa (none of her colleagues that I've bumped into have ever heard of a tulpa before).

    Apparently, in a focused group format, these powers become available to the average person. On your own, this would likely take much more effort. Dismantling a tulpa such as Philip will often generate poltergeist activity for the participants, for a limited time.

    Alexandra David-Neel writes about her own tulpa creation in "Magic and Mystery in Tibet." There are several other written accounts as well. I have a collection of many written references to "tulpas" throughout history and various cultures. Tulpas may also be known as egregors, golems, shoggoths, djinnis (our Westernized genie), and so on.

    There have been some dicussions regarding all of this over at the occulttech tribe.
    • Unsu...

      Re: How to Create a Tulpa

      Thu, February 26, 2004 - 5:30 PM

      Learning psychokinesis

      There is no doubt at all that psychokinesis is not an easy skill to learn as an individual - the strains on sanity are usually too great. However, the British psychologist Kenneth Batcheldor and engineer Colin Brookes-Smith, back in the late 1960s and early '70s, developed a methodology for educating psychokinesis as a group-skill, to provide phenomena for their research on the physical operating-mechanisms of psychokinesis. The key parts of their methodology - in other words, their magical-technology - was published in the Journal of the [British] Society for Psychical Research, Vol.47, No.756
      (June 1973), pp.69-89; the notes below are adapted from Batcheldor's 'List of Rules for Sitters', in pp.11-12 of Colin-Brookes-Smith's Manual of Advanced Psychokinetic Procedures (1970). The term 'sitters' relates to the use of a card-table wired with strain-gauges and motion-detectors as the feedback component and 'output' part of the technology; the members of the group would be seated around the table, whilst instrumentation was used to provide objective records of any phenomena. As will be seen, the key focus of the technology was on management of the psychological issues -
      particularly the management of 'witness inhibition' and 'ownership resistance'.

      1. At least three but not more than six sitters
      2. Only those capable of friendly co-operation
      3. No extreme sceptics seeking convincing evidence
      4. No inflexible Spiritualists or scientists
      5. Both sexes, no age limit
      6. Agree to meet once a week at the same place and time
      7. Use a comfortable living room with familiar surroundings
      8. Sit in any preferred order
      9. Use the dimmest possible light tolerable without discomfort (unless extremely confident of success in stronger light)
      10. Use total darkness for advanced phenomena (unless unusually confident of success in dim light)
      11. Hands on table - not necessarily touching each other
      12. Never change conditions even slightly, unless this is essential to relieve tension or increase expectancy
      13. Avoid arguments - sense and resolve even covert disagreements about procedure
      14. Avoid immobility of posture - move freely, behave naturally
      15. Don't worry about accidentally imparting movement to the table
      16. Be relaxed - engage in light-hearted talk, jokes and laughter
      17. Smoke initially or during breaks if you wish
      18. Avoid long silences and boredom
      19. Be patient, just wait calmly and cheerfully without irritation
      20. Don't comment on the time, weather or topical news
      21. Don't become too interested in any particular conversation
      22. Don't say or think anything that implies doubt
      23. Don't do anything that implies or arouses doubt
      24. Don't perform tests or impose controls in half-hearted belief
      25. Don't try to 'will' the phenomena
      26. Cultivate an attitude of serene confidence
      27. Avoid all thoughts of any particular experiment 'failing'
      28. Avoid both long-term skepticism and 'instant' doubt
      29. Don't explain away every little happening
      30. Don't express (surprise or) astonishment at any PK display
      31. Don't concentrate your gaze - even in the dark - where PK is imminent
      32. Don't focus your thoughts analytically on specific phenomena
      33. Encourage a generalized idea or image of the experimental task
      34. Don't apply critical analysis during or after a PK display
      35. Keep your mind in 'neutral' - be an uncritical observer
      36. 'Pigeon-hole' your observations for future consideration
      37. Let the spokesman give all the commands
      38. Use wording unambiguous in its intention
      39. Use a tone of voice implying unquestioned obedience
      40. Don't comment on or distract attention from specific commands
      41. Start with what seems easy and plausible
      42. Grade the tasks commanded
      43. Maintain plausibility throughout the experiments
      44. Practice each step sufficiently - but don't let it become tedious
      45. Don't hurry the steps - wait for each response
      46. Go back one step if no response is forthcoming
      47. Don't repeatedly call for something not forthcoming
      48. Revive interest and excitement by some free uncommanded action
      49. Call 'STOP' if free activity ignores commands, then regain obedience
      50. Briefly express approval for successfully performed tasks
      51. Don't consult 'the table' on procedure or theories
      52. Don't ask for spiritistic messages [note: I am not sure what this means. – BR]
      53.A void being led astray by the offer of prizes

      [The above table is copyright ©1970 Kenneth Batcheldor.]

      The above 'Rules For Sitters' were designed for use in experimental (laboratory) induction of PK, but give a good idea of the general conditions under PK can be applied. There are some very close parallels with my (Tom Graves') own work on dowsing - the only major differences being that my dowsing induction rules were designed for individuals rather than groups, and that PK is more susceptible to doubt even than map-dowsing. But given suitable training conditions and techniques it should be possible to train people to use PK (rather than induce it solely for lab experiments, which runs
      counter to 'necessity'). There are no real reason why this should not be possible - the difficulties (see the article in The Unexplained 106) are practical, not theoretical. In some experiments Batcheldor and Brookes-Smith even combined PK with a bizarre form of dowsing, apparently with significant success: they used a little spring-mortar to fire a tennis ball over a high partition, to land on a random square in a marked-out grid, and then 'asked' the table, through PK-induced movements, to identify which square the ball had landed in.

      Note the psychology used to manage the inevitable oscillation between doubt and belief - essential, the same concept of 'manipulating beliefs as tools' as described in SSOTBME - and also the ingenious avoidance of 'ownership resistance' by personalizing the table (much as per pendulum dowsing) and by stating that the results are always a group effort, so that "everyone else causes it, not me". Brookes-Smith commented that, in this kind of practical research, experience tends to reinforce belief - in other words, to weaken 'witness inhibition'. Although the problems of (self-)discipline would be much more difficult to manage, it might be interesting to try the same basic techniques with school-children, whose 'world-definitions' are likely to be more fluid than those of adults.

      Although it's not mentioned in the List of Rules above, Batcheldor often used another ingenious trick to weaken 'witness inhibition' - plain ordinary cheating! Before the session, a pack of cards was dealt out, face-down: it was the job of the person who picked out the Joker card to give the table a shove every now and then, to give the sense that paranormal activity was happening. For the research purposes, this was actually entirely permissible, because the instrumentation was designed to identify when this (literally!) manual type of intervention occurred. Brookes-Smith commented that quite often, a typical instrumentation trace would show the Joker giving the table a shove upwards; the Joker would stop pushing; the table would stop for a moment, and then move upward again, without manual intervention, before returning to 'normal' on command.

      Related text (unknown source) –

      Batcheldor was one of the first investigators to get raps and table movement in a séance type of setting. Batcheldor thought that there are three big reasons why PK might succeed or fail. They are:

      1. Belief -- even the slightest doubt is bad news for getting results
      2. Ownership resistance -- a term Batcheldor used to describe people's reluctance to be responsible for PK
      3.Witness inhibition -- the fact people are sometimes very uncomfortable watching PK, no matter who is responsible for it.

      Batcheldor felt the best way to get around all three of these problems is to use a group party atmosphere. Often he would have one person "prime the pump" by faking an event to get around the need for belief to get things rolling. Ownership resistance was less of a problem because no one knew who in the group was actually responsible for the PK. Perhaps most important, he used laughter, singing, and a light party-like atmosphere to cut down on witness inhibition. This method was used by the Toronto group in their table tipping experiment that became a paperback book, Conjuring up Phillip. This research suggests that the unconscious knows how to do psi -- it just needs to have a set goal and a way to keep the conscious mind from interfering with the production of PK.
      Please also see
    • Unsu...

      Re: How to Create a Tulpa

      Thu, February 26, 2004 - 5:35 PM

      tul: [Tib.] patterns
      yang-tul: [Tib.] secondary tulpa
      nying-tul: [Tibetan] tertiary tulpa


      Tibetan lamas display amazing skills still unexplained by Western science. Tumo is their remarkable ability to generate extra body heat for surviving periods of outdoor meditation. Lung-gom enables lamas to run at incredible speeds by apparently reducing their body's weight. Other occult talents attributed to Tibet's holy men include levitation, invisibility and the creation of tulpas -- thought-forms that can acquire their own independent existence.

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