The Humphrey Experiment. Merseyside Anomalies Research Association – 2004 - Parapsicología de Investigación

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The Humphrey Experiment. Merseyside Anomalies Research Association – 2004

El siguiente informe fue obtenido de una página Web actualmente inexistente, en el año 2008, perteneciente a la organización Merseyside Anomalies Research Association (M.A.R.A.). De todas maneras se quiso incluir porque se trata de una réplica al experimento Philip de mesas parlantes, llevado a cabo por Iris Owen, detallado en esta página en el artículo “La Elaboración de un Fantasma”. Si bien el experimento no fue completado, se describen procedimientos de registro y control más sofisticados que los utilizados por Iris Owen, que pueden ser útiles para cualquier grupo que quiera realizar otra réplica.
The Humphrey Experiment

We have engaged in a new project similar to the Phillip Experiment performed by a Canadian group in the 1970’s. We have artificially made up a character who died during the second world war and we will attempt to make contact with this character via psychic means. If we are successful as the Philip group were in the 70’s it will help to prove that occurrences such as knocks bangs and other communications during séance type conditions are almost certainly a product of the human mind and not the result of spirit communication. The experiments will take place bi-weekly over a period of up to 1 year. The first experiment took place on the 15th April and in this, we monitored 4 digital thermometers, 2 hygrometers, recorded the experiment via camcorder and audio recording and used a trifield meter set to SUM connected to a chart recorder. In the SUM position, the trifield meter monitors changes in both magnetic and electric field. The five participants sit around a circular table and the trifield meter is set pointing at the table about 5 feet from the centre. We also use a Plum bob suspended from a tripod and a cassette recorder on the table for picking up audible knocks and electronic voice phenomena.

The results and write up of the experiments will form the dissertation for Fiona Campbell's degree in Psychology which will finish in the summer of 2004. We have the backing of Liverpool John Moores University Psychology department for the experiment and the results will also be sent to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Five MARA members take part in the experiment and one other member monitors the instruments leaving the rest of the group free to concentrate on the experiment. The trifield meter is very sensitive to movements of the participants and whenever any member moves for whatever reason, this is event marked on the chart recorder so that it can not be misconstrued as an anomalous event. If any participant feels that they have experienced something anomalous, the exact time is event marked on the chart recorder to see if any changes in human perception correspond to changes in electric or magnetic field recorded on the trifield meter. For each experiment all participants including the instrument monitor fill in a number of parapsychology forms provided by John Moores University to help assess the psychological profile of each participant throughout the experiments.

A more thorough explanation into the experiment, it's background and results is given by Fiona Campbell below the pictures
Picture of the Humphrey psychic crew (right) and some of the recording equipment used in the experiment including digital thermometers, hygrometer, VHS recorder, monitor, plum bob with tripod, trifield meter and chart recorder.

Detailed explanation of the experiment and its results so far by Fiona Campbell

For my level 3 University dissertation, I chose to recreate, observe and record, using various media, an experiment, previously conducted by parapsychologists and other Universities, originally entitled ‘The Philip Experiment’. With the assistance of fellow MARA members we are recreating, as much as possible, the original environment, but using more reliable recording and logging techniques than have been used in previous attempts. MARA has also been requested to undertake this previously by the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), a respected organisation of scientists and investigators.

The ‘Philip’ experiment was a Parapsychology experiment originally carried out in 1973-1974 by the Toronto Society for Psychical Research, led by I.M.Owen and M.H.Sparrow, though much of their research was adapted from the table levitation experiments of three British Parapsychologists:-K.J.Batcheldor, Charles Brookes Smith and D.W.Hunt in 1964-1965.

The ‘Philip’ Experiment

The experiment is described by Owen and Sparrow in the Toronto SPR journal New Horizons 1974, vol 1,p6-13, as the “Generation of paranormal physical phenomena in connection with an imaginary communicator.” The group met on a regular basis, at least once per week.

The hypothesis was that a group of people could generate Psychokinetic phenomena, or could affect the physical environment purely with their minds. The phenomena was attributed to a group created personality which they named Philip. The theory is that “ghosts” and “poltergeist” phenomena are subconscious creations of those present. None of the group members claimed to be psychically gifted.

One member created the personality for Philip, a bare outline of a story involving an entirely fictitious historical personality. The reason for creating this personality is that C.B.Smith suggested a theory of “Ownership Resistance”, or the in-built reluctance to identify oneself directly as the source of paranormality. If the paranormal acts can be attributed to someone else they are more likely to occur.

Iris Owen’s, and her husband A.R.G. Owen’s, research into poltergeist phenomena led them to suggest that it indicated young people and/or stressful situations seemed to serve as a conduit for the activity. The researchers describe Philip as a figment of the imagination-created out of the fertile minds of the experimenters. Iris Owen states quite clearly that “THERE NEVER WAS A REAL PHILIP!” The group was absolutely sure at all times that “he was not a disembodied spirit, or even some mischievous spirit playing a prank by assuming the personality of Philip.” Philip seemed unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived.

Another member of the group drew a picture of Philip, how they thought he would look, and all members studied books dealing with the era Philip was based in. They also studied and brought to the experiments significant items from the era. The Philip story was kept fairly light-hearted while having the obvious ending that Philip had died an untimely death. The intention was not to create a personality to be feared. It was theorised that fear would create a negative event, so all of the members had to be happy to be involved with the research. In Canada they discovered that a positive attitude led to positive events. Iris Owen’s hypothesis was that the expression of fear inhibited the phenomena.

Owen and Sparrow’s original method lasted for a year without any activity, it was only when they researched Bacheldor’s table levitation experiments that they were able to create phenomena. Bacheldor, after a slow start, experienced phenomena at the first sitting. This method involved the group being relaxed during the sittings, they would sing, joke and banter, creating a light-hearted mood while aware of the serious purpose of their meeting, this was wherein Owen and Sparrow were failing.

At the 3rd or 4th sitting on using this new method the group got raps and table movement. They were also able to communicate with the personality through knocks. On asking “Is it Philip?” they would hear a loud rap. They were able to adopt a system of raps for the purpose of communication. There were also objects which would stick to the table, lights switching on and off, raps on pipes and cool breezes. The group were in full light at all times. Iris Owen suggested events seemed to be ‘triggered off’ by a remark that produced an emotional response.

The group asked questions of the personality with regards to his life, it was felt that the answers produced represented the consensus of the group. If one member changed their mind on the answer, they felt it should give, the raps would change.
Owen suggests that ‘in this situation, what the mind can create it can also, when it wants to, destroy...’. She claims that a poltergeist outbreak is usually the result of one person’s thoughts, though ‘the group commented frequently on the similarity between traditional poltergeist outbreaks and the Philip phenomenon’.

Owen claims that ‘discussion and observation led them to believe that even in the group situation, the production of physical phenomena was caused initially by the release of tension.’ The group do not discount the possibility of disembodied entities, but believe that the communications received during the experiment, and probably nearly all poltergeist activity, are due to the subconscious personality of the character, and the combined personalities of the group.

“What the observers claim to see is just exactly what they are expecting to see....We realised that should anything happen that we did not wish, we could control it with a concentrated thought.” (Owen,I. 1977) “Humans can produce spirits through expectation, imagination and visualisation.” Owen also states that “(Philip) was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived.” (Owen,I,. 1977)

This experiment has mostly been repeated by members of the SPR. Iris Owen theorised that any group of non-psychic people could create similar phenomena in this way. She created a second group of sitters who were also able to produce phenomena.

Ethically, the MARA group are fully aware of the possible results of the experiment and this group regularly investigates similar phenomena, looking for scientifically valid conclusions.


Originally I approached my tutor with the idea, and on his interest and support I approached fellow MARA members at a meeting to ask their assistance in the experiment. There was some opposition, but also support. I released my basic Research Proposal to my tutor, who claimed it was “basically excellent” and said he could see no problem with the ethics of the proposal. I then asked for interested group members. A preliminary meeting was held to discuss the layout of the future meetings, in which Anthony Eccles would lead the group meetings. Three other MARA members, along with myself, were chosen to participate, and Bill Bimson volunteered to record and monitor data during the experiments.

At the preliminary group meeting I asked the members to fill out personality and belief questionnaires, so, in the event that no phenomena were produced during the experiment, I can still use available data to produce results, and offer conclusions as to what went wrong, and why.

Questionnaires filled out initially were:

1. Authorisation Information for my dissertation.
2. Preliminary subjective feeling questionnaire and ethics agreement.
3. The States of Mind Scale. (An analogue of mental and emotional states.)
4. ‘Lately or Right Now, I Feel...’ form. (Oh, how they adore this one!)
5. The Australian Sheep-Goat Scale. (For belief and scepticism.)
6. The Big Five ( A personality scale.)
7. The Albert Budden Witness Environmental Health Census.
8. The Transliminality Scale. (Consciousness questionnaire.)

Yes, they were all relieved when this was over!

Equipment was tested, problems were discovered with the Trifield Meter and Chart recorder, suggested as problems with earthing of electrics. The following week it was discovered that the problem was with a mains extension cable used. One thing we have learned is we are getting better at discovering the answers to possible anomalies.

Some video camera filming and photographic shots of the group were recorded. The character was created “Lieutenant Commander Humphrey Gladstone”. The character creation was humorous, involved lots of laughter, and an excellent group dynamic. Tony Eccles recorded the results and produced a synopsis for the group. The names Humphrey and Gladstone were both randomly selected.

The character: (A simplified synopsis):-

Upper class, born 1915/16 in Oxfordshire, son of an Anglican bishop. Humphrey served in the navy during the second World War, in a submarine.

He was married with two children, and had a mistress in Portsmouth. He was lost at sea and was unable to make it home for his daughter’s birthday which left him grief stricken. His wife and son were killed in the blitz, and his daughter lapsed into illness, but she still lives. Humphrey is a stocky man with dark hair and a full beard, who smoked a pipe.


Temperature gauges. (One on table, one on left wall, one on right, one at back of room.)
Video camera. (Filming group, wide shot.)
Still photographic cameras.
Trifield Meter. (For measuring electromagnetic change activity.) Plus Chart recorder providing a permanent record.
Magnetic compasses.
Tape recorder on table. (Measures sound and possible EVP.)
Hygrometer. (Measuring humidity, on left wall.)
Since experiment two we have used a pendulum.
One equipment monitor! (Mr Bimson!)
Participants also have a piece of paper provided to record subjective accounts of experience.

Experiments and Results

The preliminary meeting helped to gauge participants’ thoughts on what they expected to happen and what they feel in the room. This helps as a control, in determining if they feel anything in the room before the experiment begins, such as cold draughts, or hearing creaking in the walls due to expansion and contraction with heat. Anything recorded on video or tape I will transcribe into notes. Bill will also take regular readings from the thermometers, which record the highest and lowest reading in a given time, at the same time recording the readings from the Trifield meter and hygrometer.

Due to the nature and history of the ‘Philip’ experiments, sittings would need to be conducted over a long period of time. The intended time period would be set for once per two week period, possibly for 6 months, to begin with. If the phenomena presents itself sittings may continue for longer. Each sitting will be attended and recorded, after each one I will produce transcripts of each tape/video recording.

Meeting two was the first Humphrey experiment. While Bill set up the experiment, participants again filled out their now beloved questionnaires, the ‘States of Mind scale’ and the ‘Lately or Right Now I feel...scale’. These are filled in at the beginning of each meeting to gauge the state of mind of participants and their positive or negative emotions and expectancy. Participants are expected to attend every meeting with the conviction that Humphrey will entertain us with his presence, and that phenomena will be provided. The first experiment was tentative, and methods of continuity for the future were discussed. A basic formula was laid down to follow in the future, as to how the meeting should be conducted. At every meeting the group sits around a table, while Bill, in the background monitors the equipment. The group begins by meditating for ten minutes. This has been suggested by previous studies to be conducive to the experience of phenomena, in providing a relaxed and open state of mind.

The experiment then begins, and questions are asked of Humphrey. So far the participants have asked questions based on Humphrey’s personality and experiences, tried to encourage Humphrey to change the temperature on the thermometer, lowering or raising it by 0.2 of a degree, move the pendulum, change the Trifield Meter reading, leave a message on the tape recorder, knock once for no or twice for yes on the table etc. These engagements with Humphrey have been interjected at various intervals with general discussion, laughter and frivolity. (You really don’t want to know more than me!) meetings last for about an hour. At the first meeting it was discovered just how effective the Trifield Meter was by it picking up our laughter. Bill records a light flicker at 9.19pm. Also a slight change in the chart reading during talk of the queen mother, which was not repeated when tested.

At the MARA meeting, Friday 25th April, it was discovered that a previous investigation into poltergeist activity, by another research group, had found a similarly named character to Humphrey and a few similar traits. The emergence of this story is interesting, but not something we should dwell on, as it may be just co-incidence.
Experiment two found some difficulties with the Trifield Meter again, and temperature fluctuation, though nothing which could be termed anomalous.

At meeting three one participant reports a feeling of recent heightened awareness (all participants have been asked to report any interesting or peculiar experiences during the intervening period between meetings). Another reports noticing in a shop window medals surrounding a pipe, for no particular display significance. Bill suggests we should try calling him Humphrey at times and then Lieutenant Commander, to gauge the results.

1940s music is playing in the background. Subjective feelings of draughts felt by some participants, particularly across fingers. Sudden change in chart reading as we start talking about Lieutenant Commander Gladstone, which led Bill to suggest we change tactic.

Meeting four: Bill suggests concentrating on the temperature gauge, rejecting Humphrey for a short period, to see if we affect it, rather than attributing it to an external character. This provides a control experiment for comparing concentration with relaxation. Group tries to get temperature to rise by 0.2 of a degree, which would be considered a result. It drops by 0.1 of a degree, but the resolution of the thermometer is only 0.1 degree and hence this small a fluctuation can not be reliably measured. We then tried to drop the temperature by0.2. It was not achieved. The pendulum was placed on the table, to see if we could move it, but again this was not achieved. It was noticed at this experiment that the temperature dropped as we meditated, and as we spoke it would raise by 0.2 of a degree. Though at first this seemed like an interesting result it was discovered that this was due to our more shallow breathing during meditation, and more forced exhalation of heat during speech, recorded by the sensitive gauges. A possible anomaly, scientifically questioned and answered.

Some members felt subjectively cool during this experiment. On analysis of some video footage I have discovered some possible slight pendulum movement, but this could be attributed to draughts or slight vibration caused by the group. There also appeared to be an effect on the video camera, caused by the Trifield Meter.

Meeting five, the closest to the recording of this article: An extra form was provided on subjective feelings to be filled in. The group began by fleshing out Humphrey’s character, the reason for this was that we had been asking Humphrey questions at a prior experiment about subjects which had not been discussed amongst the group. The expansion of the character provides us with more detail to ask questions about. At one point the pendulum was swinging, the group attributed the phenomena to Humphrey, and tried to encourage the character. Though this later turned out to be naturally caused, it was important that we attributed it to Humphrey while we were unaware of its true cause, as this has short term false belief which Iris Owen suggested is conducive to the phenomena, in that falsely attributed phenomena would often lead to unexplainable phenomena.

One participant also drew a picture of Humphrey during the meeting, something we had particularly required. One participant also brought significant objects from the era such as Navy medals and a log book, which is also deemed by Iris Owen as important to the experiment.

I hope then, that this has provided some insight into the mechanics of the Humphrey experiment, an explanation of what it entails and why it is being conducted. I will try to provide regular updates for the website into the events of the meetings, and on the occurrence of phenomena


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Brookes Smith, C. and Hunt, D.W. (1970) Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. vol45. p 744.
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Lyons, W. (2001) Matters of the Mind Edinburgh U.P.® - Todos los derechos reservados - Prohibida la reproducción total o parcial
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