Practically from the moment that scientists began to look into psychic ability, the main questions were “What is the mechanism? How are they doing it?” Is it radio waves? What about Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) waves?
Does Psychic Ability Use Radio Waves?
Quite expectedly, people assumed that radio waves were responsible for psychic ability. They were first discovered in 1865 by German physicist Heinrich Hertz and Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless message in 1895. Radio waves were something relatively new, and it was easy for most people to imagine that they were responsible. Writer Upton Sinclair even coined the term “Mental Radio.”
The body does emit electrical signals and has a rhythm of electrical discharges, making electromagnetic (EM) waves a natural focal point for telepathy research.
The problem, though, was that radio waves and psychic ability didn’t seem to follow the same rules. Radio waves lose strength over distance and don’t pass through everything with ease. In addition, they can be blocked entirely with a Faraday cage. Psychic ability seemed to get around this, but experiments were needed to confirm this.
Parapsychology Behind the Iron Curtain
The first person to tackle this question thoroughly was a Russian scientist named Leonid Vasiliev (1891-1966). Vasiliev was Russia’s best parapsychologist at the time and considered a peer of JB Rhine. Unfortunately, his career was at its peak during the Iron Curtain phase of Russian history, keeping his achievements from being known in the West until his two books Experiments in Mental Suggestion and Mysterious Phenomena of the Human Psyche were translated to English and published in 1963.
Using caves and metal cabinets as Faraday cages, Vasiliev applied remote viewing techniques established by French parapsychologist and Nobel Laureate, Charles Richet. Vasiliev was able to establish that telepathy and remote viewing did not experience a weaker signal or any loss of data even when the place they were in was completely shielded either by putting participants in a cave or in Faraday cages. This methodology ruled out almost every type of EM wave. It left only one type to explore. The ELF wave. These Extremely Low Frequency waves are very big electromagnetic waves and will go through almost anything.
The Problem with ELF Waves
It is very difficult to eliminate ELF waves as a possibility because of this. They can move through seawater to a certain extent and through earth and rock. The waves can follow the curve of the earth and even diffract around mountains. They can travel the earth several times before decaying to the point of being unusable.
They come with a caveat however: sheer size. ELF wavelengths are 6,000 km long at 50 Hz and 5,000 km long at 60 Hz. An ELF antenna needs to be somewhere between 23 and 45 kilometers long. The astute reader will notice that humans do not have antennas. And more to the point, we do not have antennas that stretch across many kilometers. These radio waves also need a lot of power, which is an argument against their use for human telepathy.
Because they are absolutely huge, the information that they can carry is quite limited. Using ELF waves for ordinary communication is quite slow. It can take 15 minutes just to send three letters. For that reason, scientists were pretty sure that they were not responsible for ESP. However, it has been shown that people can be affected by these long EM waves and there is always the possibility that humans are constructing images from limited data; something the human mind is known to do, so they were worth investigating.
There is really only one way to rule out these extremely long radio waves: you need to do your psychic experiment with a submarine. The astute reader will recognize that submarines are not commonly available, and in fact, even simply riding in one is a rare event. It was an experiment that needed to be done, but no one had the resources to do it. Vasiliev had attempted to enlist the help of the Russian Navy, but without success.
A Submarine Is The Only Way
The experiment finally went forward in 1977 using a Taurus research submarine thanks to the efforts of American parapsychologist Stephan Schwartz.
To absolutely, definitely rule out ELF waves, the sub would have to be able to dive to about 6,000 feet (1.8 kilometers), something the Taurus could not do. It was good down to a depth of about 1,200 feet (.37 kilometers). However, the remote viewers would be about 500 miles away, meaning that the signal would have to travel a long distance underwater, making it sufficiently weak to rule out ELF waves as a practical matter. Also, the submersible itself is a kind of super Faraday cage.
Sometimes science is like that. Real world considerations prevent ideal conditions and you just have to make do with what’s possible.
The plan was for two experiments to take place in California off the coast of Catalina using known remote viewing protocols and two elite level remote viewers. Ingo Swann and Hella Hammid.
The remote viewers would be at the SRI Institute in Menlo Park, California, which is on the peninsula south of San Francisco.
In the first experiment, remote viewers on the submersible looked for targets in the San Francisco Bay Area, correctly locating a double blinded target (an oak tree) in Portola Valley (a town located in the foothills above Menlo Park to the West.) An important consideration here is that the information was located quickly and with a wealth of detail, making ELF waves an improbable source.
Finding a Shipwreck
And here is where we merge a scientific mystery with a really cool story. I will quote from an article I wrote on this several years ago.
The remote viewers were given the task of finding a previously unknown shipwreck and the whole thing took place over three days in June of 1977, with the entire process captured on film. The viewers gave a location off of Santa Catalina island and said that it was the site of a ship that had sunk about 90 years ago, and had an early high pressure steam winch that had caught fire and sunk the ship. The viewers said that they would find the winch and the aft helm of the ship. They said that a granite block approx. 6’x4’x4′ would also be found. This information was turned over to an independent observer and notarized. This occurred of course, before the search for the ship’s location took place.
At first they had trouble finding the site, so the ship dropped a buoy to ping the exact location the psychics had specified, and a psychic on board the ship (Ingo Swann) gave them minor course corrections once they got there to find the wreck.
I can’t emphasize enough just how extremely hard it is to find something specific on the ocean floor if you don’t know exactly where it is and what you’re looking for. And this is even harder if the object has been on the ocean floor for a few decades.
It Was All Filmed
It might not be believable except for the fact that the entire process was caught on film, which was quite rare in 1977. The event was filmed by the TV show “In Search Of” narrated by Leonard Nimoy and the episode (S3, E17) aired January 25th, 1979.
The first thing they found was the winch. (11:25 in the video), then they found the aft helm of the ship. Then they found the granite block. (12:40)
A few questions remained. Could the psychics have read about this shipwreck? Schwartz went to the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which tracks all known shipwrecks to find out. (14:18) They had no record of shipwreck in that spot nor of any wreck of that particular type of ship, which means that no one else would have either. There were over 53 shipwrecks in the Catalina area, so this wasn’t anything unusual.
The thickness of the marine growth matched the age of the sinking as predicted by the psychics, and they found charred pieces of wood which confirmed the fire. Nautical experts identified the winch as a type that had been discontinued because they had a habit of blowing up and sinking ships. It was a type of coaster ship that was bringing blocks of granite to San Francisco that were meant to be front door steps for row houses.
If you ever wanted The One Thing that provided proof of psychic ability, this experiment was as close to ideal as you could possibly find. There is very little to no ambiguity and there is almost nothing for skeptics to contest.