Objects that abruptly materialise and others that mysteriously vanish from sight - do they come from and go into another dimension? GUY LYON PLAYFAIR discusses the case for another, invisible, reality.
|Mrs Dias quickly picked up the two pieces of stone and found that they
fitted together with a strong magnetic attraction. The others present were
able to repeat this several times until the stone gradually lost its magnetic
Neighbours of the family were also involved in a poltergeist manifestation, which was unusually well-witnessed. During this a local dentist, Mr João Volpe, amassed no less than 312 stones, one weighing over 8 pounds (3.7 kilograms), that had been flung into his house. The happenings apparently centred on an 11-year-old girl. The stones appeared from all directions, yet only once was anybody hit - when a stone appeared in mid-air, tapped three people lightly on the head, and fell to the floor. The witnesses reported that the sensation was like that of being hit by 'a ball of compressed air'.
In 1977 a professional photographer, Graham Morris, was less fortunate. He was struck hard on the forehead by a flying toy brick at the moment he released his shutter. His photograph shows two people facing him, one with folded arms and the other with hands in pockets. So who threw the brick? This took place in the early days of the Enfield poltergeist case (see page 290), when several witnesses saw stones, coins and even a paper handkerchief fall to the floor, as if they had come through the ceiling. Other incidents at Enfield that violated accepted laws of physics included the teleportation (transportation by mysterious means) of a book into the house next door, which was witnessed by people in both houses; the appearance in mid-air of a piece of plastic, before the eyes of a relative of the familv involved; and, most remarkable of all, the sudden appearance of a large cushion on the roof of the house, witnessed by several astonished passers-by.
Similar incidents have been reported since the year AD 530, when Helpidius, a deacon and physician, described numerous showers of stones inexplicably falling in his own house. The similarity of reports from places as widely separated as Brazil, Sumatra, Mauritius and England lends them a degree of collective credibility.
If we accept the reality of events that seem to disobey known laws, we must search for new laws, and listen with care to those who have studied the evidence. Dr George Owen, author of the standard work Can we explain the poltergeist? (1964), suggests three ways in which objects could be teleported. These are:
instantaneous transfer; transfer through a higher space (that is, another dimension); and acquisition of a state in which there is no reaction with ordinary matter, so that the object can penetrate matter freely. Dr Owen admits that he finds them all 'somewhat implausible a priori', and the evidence for them 'suggestive but not conclusive'.
He rejects the idea of instantaneous transfer on the grounds that it would imply the transport of matter or energy at speeds faster than light, which contradicts relativity. The notion of a higher space seems more plausible, since it is mathematically conceivable and scientists are prepared to consider it at least theoretically permissible. Indeed, the philosopher and physicist Ernst Mach 1838-1916), who strongly influenced Einstein, wrote that sudden appearances of objects in our space would be the best possible evidence for the reality of higher spatial dimensions unperceived by us.
Finally, there is the possibility that a physical object passes into a state where it ceases to react with ordinary matter, incidentally becoming invisible to us. The 'astral plane' of occult tradition could perhaps be this state.
A start has been made in gathering laboratory evidence for the occurrence of mysterious appearances and disappearances. In 1974 the versatile and controversial Uri Geller reportedly made half of a crystal of vanadium carbide disappear while under observation by a team of four scientists, headed by Professor J. B. Hasted, of Birkbeck College, London. The disappearance seems to have been an unintended consequence of Geller's attempts to alter the structure of the crystal by mental means alone (see page 282).
A spontaneous occurrence that happened to be well-observed involved a Swedish researcher, Jan Fjellander, and the English psychic Matthew Manning, at that time a poltergeist victim. When Fjellander left his laboratory with Manning, he locked it, using the three locks on the door, and then went with Manning to his apartment, where he placed his bunch of keys on a table. After lunch the keys had disappeared, and Fjellander had to call a colleague for a duplicate set. On arriving back at the laboratory, there were the keys he had left at home - inside a closed drawer. He knew and I knew that his keys had travelled right through Stockholm,' Manning said.
'I'here have been many reports of similar incidents of teleportation or of the appearance of objects of unknown origin ('apports') in closed areas in the presence of mediums. Occasional glimpses have been recorded of human forms. It was a soft, warm, fleshy hand . . . But I had no sooner grasped it momentarily than it melted away,' is how Dr John Wilkinson described an experience during a session with the Victorian medium D. D. Home. But as with so much data from psychical research, subjective experiences have not inspired testable theories.
Some of the most compelling recent evidence for inexplicable physical effects is the extraordinary series of photographs taken in Haiti by an American visitor, Gloria Rudolph, while attending a voodoo ceremony. Her films, minutely scrutinised by experts, reveal the presence of spaghetti-like streams of light weaving among the dancers, yet not visible at the time to herself or to other observers. Some of the dancers appear partially dematerialised - an effect that would be difficult to fake. Similar effects have been recorded since 1973 by a London spiritualist medium, Gladys Hayter.
What does modern physical theory have to say about the phenomena we have
discussed - teleportation and the extended fields of perception of some
A strange reversal
The mathematicians' conception of a fourth dimension of space inspired literary fantasies such as the Reverend Abbott's Flatland. H. G. Wells wrote a short story in which the hero is 'rotated' through a fourth dimension and reappears in this world as a mirror image of his former self: his facial and bodily features are reversed, and he can read and write only mirror-script. But the idea of 'higher dimensions' was not put to use by scientists. (Einstein, while treating space-time as four-dimensional, did not postulate additional dimensions of space.)
But the common element in the cases discussed here is
at a distance', the transmission of physical influence without any evident
mediating agency. Andrew Jackson Davis 'saw' animals on the other side of
the world. Fiellander's keys disappeared and reappeared without traversing
The notion of action at a distance is becoming increasingly important; physics has hitherto assumed that all influences are communicated from point to point, by fields of force or moving particles. But action at a distance is implicit in quantum theory, as current experiments are confirming. It is an essential part, too, of the theories of Professor David Bohm of Birkbeck College, London. Bohm's theory, expounded in Wholeness and the implicate order (1980), may prove to be a milestone in the search for a theory that can unify modern physics. In fact, Bohm aims higher than this, for he seeks to relate mind to matter. He postulates a higher-dimensional reality that 'projects' into our familiar lower dimensions. There it creates connections among events that cannot be explained by ordinary relationships of cause and effect.
It may very well be that the new scientific world-view that seems to be in the making will have a place for action at a distance. If so, it may well throw light on the astral travellers' excursions into other dimensions, and the incursions into our visible world of poltergeist-flung objects.
Reproduced from THE UNEXPLAINED p598