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reader comments: psi

27 Aug 1997
Mr. Carroll I have read your comments on precognition as well as the replies on other reader's comments. I have to say though, sir, that I still cannot condone that precognition is just a bunch of lucky guesses or coincidences.

reply: You are right. There is often something much more complicated going on, but it is unlikely that it involves anything paranormal. We often fill in our memories of dreams and experiences after the fact. We often experience what is called "source amnesia"...we remember things but we get the source wrong...for example, Elizabeth Tighe (Bridey Murphy) remembered Irish stories, dances and songs....she thought she had been Bridey Murphy in Ireland in a previous lifetime, but the source of her memories was actually her childhood when she lived across the street from Bridey Murphey. Another example is what happens when a victim of a crime is shown a photo of a person and then later identifies that person from a line-up. The victim may think she remembers her attacker's face, but she may be remembering the photo she was show after the attack. Memory often plays tricks on us. We think we dreamed something but we actually experienced it after the dream but remember it as occurring in the dream.

I have had many dreams (all vivid), that I have written down as soon as I woke up from them, as well as many instances of Déjà vu. A goodly portion of the dreams have indeed come true, about 85%. Though I will admit these all had something to do with me or my family. Please allow me to present one such dream. This dream happened on August 14, 1996.

I had dreamt that I was walking down the stairs of my house into the living room. My step-sister was on the computer playing a game. I looked over her shoulder and saw a huge door with a sun and moon on it. She was at a place that we had been trying to get past for a couple of weeks. Suddenly the door started to open. I then woke up. Later that day after I came home from school I saw my step-sister playing on the computer. I ran up the stairs to change and put my stuff away. I came back down and looked over her shoulder and saw everything that happened in the dream.

reply: I can understand why this experience seems like a dream come true to you. What you dreamed did in fact occur pretty much as you dreamed it. The explanation for this does not seem to demand a paranormal account. You must come down those stairs quite a few times a day or week and I imagine your step-sister plays the computer game with some frequency, so that you often see her playing the game at the computer. I imagine you sometimes play the same game. Getting to the next level in these types of games can become an obsession. Dreaming that you or your step-sister would reach the next level would be a common dream of wish-fulfillment. In your dream you get what you want in real life (when you say "we" in reference to playing the game, whether you or your sister is at the computer in the dream is of no consequence to your wish-fulfillment). It is not unusual for people to get to the next level in games, so the fact that your sister got there is not unusual. I do believe, however, that it is simply coincidence that she got there the day after you had your dream. Had you told her in the morning about your dream and let her know that she is about to figure out the way to open the door, I don't think anyone should congratulate you for clairvoyance. She's obviously been playing the game for some time and must have continued with the realistic hope that she would eventually succeed.

If the rest of your 85% successes are similar to this one, then I do not think you need worry about being clairvoyant.

Déjà vu experiences, by the way, are often experiences you have just had but did not pay much attention to...you remember that you have seen or heard this before and you have, very recently but you just were not focused at the time and don't remember the source of your experience. In other words, the déjà vu experience is a type of source amnesia.

21 Oct 1997
I can tell you, from specific experience, that telepathy is quite real. The problem is that people don't take you seriously when you try to describe it - we feel that we might be judged as foolish. Anyway, I can tell you, without reservation and with full conviction that telepathy exists.

reply: Many people will take you seriously and will judge you psychic, think you are special and encourage you to believe that what you think was telepathy probably was telepathy. Those few skeptics who remain, however, will not encourage to think that you are telepathic. We won't necessarily judge you to be foolish, unless you persist in your belief contrary to good evidence to the contrary.

My story began about 5 years ago. I was in a living room during a dinner party with a couple of friends. People were discussing four wheel drive vehicles and someone was asked a question. As sure as I am here today I "heard" the word "willys." I did not know what a willys was at that time. I was puzzled because I did not understand how the word jumped into my mind. Within 10 seconds someone said the word as part of a conversation. Really weird. But I knew something was different since the word willys (a kind of 4 wheel vehicle)wasn't remotely on my mind or part of my vocabulary.

reply: You don't think it is possible that since the conversation was about 4-wheel vehicles and that Willys came up in the conversation that you might have heard the word with your ears rather than have it "jump into your mind"? Then you heard the word again and since you were not really paying full attention the first time you heard the word, you thought you were hearing it for the first time. This kind of experience is quite common and the basis for many déjà vu experiences.

This type of event started happening more frequently. Telepathy was apparent to me within 5 to 10 seconds before people said the words - almost always followed by speech but there were exceptions.

reply: Before I would jump to the conclusion that you are having telepathic experiences I would look for a more likely explanation. Perhaps you have trouble paying attention to conversations or when reading. What you think you are hearing or reading for the first time, which arouses a vague feeling of déjà vu, is actually something you have heard or read before but do not recall the source of the original experience because you were not paying enough attention to it.

The time that really freaked me out was in a 24 hour medical clinic. A young lady sat down next to me. She was not particularly good looking and the room was very quiet. As sure as I sit here today I could hear her think "I better say something.. what should I say...ask him about the book he is reading ... I need to stop being so shy." Within about 10 seconds, sure enough, she asked about the book I was reading.

reply: On the other hand, perhaps you are psychic. No, just kidding. I suppose you tell me that the young lady was not particularly good looking to impress upon me that you could not possibly be doing any wishful thinking while you were sitting there. But I wouldn't rule wishful thinking out. More likely, however, is that one of the most common conversation starters when one party is reading a book and the other party gives subtle hints that he is open to conversation is to ask about the book the one party is reading. To anticipate this conversation is not that bizarre.

Events like this have happened more frequently. I can pick several sentences of thought. I was in a meeting and I could hear members reacting to the speaker. I only pick up on one person at a time. I am usually no further away than 5 or 6 feet at most.

reply: I was following you until you got to the part about being able to "pick several sentences of thought." There does not seem to be anything unusual about hearing someone no further than 5 or 6 feet away, but from the rest of what you say it sounds as if you think you are hearing voices when nothing is being said. Either you really are hearing voices or you are simply running through your mind what you think others are thinking.

Anyway, I know I can't discuss this with anyone. I recognize that it will be dismissed or considered crackpot. I have learned to try and discern these events when they happen so I can take advantage of them.

reply: If you are simply rehearsing in your head what you think others are thinking, then there is nothing unusual or unique about this. Most of us have this ability when we are in situations we have been in before.

Anyway, this is absolutely real. I can assure you, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it happens. I have learned to try and pick up on people when I speak to them. The results are not predictable. There are times when you read loud and clear, at least for a sentence or two and there are times when nothing comes through.

Whatever. Now two of us know. Have you heard similarly from anyone else? Do folks pick up on key words immediately prior to the other party speaking?

S/mike mike

reply: It is not surprising that the results are not predictable. No matter how good we are at anticipating what others are thinking or will say, we will be surprised many times to find that others aren't completely predictable. 

10 Nov 1997
Just read some of your dictionary and I thoroughly understand your skepticism. I was also a skeptic of such wild claims, however I recently read a paper on how to induce an out-of-body experience and after a few nights practice, I actually had one. It was very short but very vivid and the reason it was so short was because it was rather frightening. Let me say that I am not one to even remember a dream but on this occasion I wrote down in my journal that "it was like walking through a door in the conscious world but instead of entering a room on the other side in the conscious world, I entered the unconscious world in a total conscious state." It was very strange and it was a little frightening. I have NEVER done drugs in my life, I drink alcohol very infrequently, and on this particular evening I was stone cold sober and was just going to bed like any other night. I have not been able to reproduce this experience since this first occurrence, however I have come very close on two other attempts. This is not some sort of crank or joke and I am being as sincere and honest as I can be in this form. This experience has opened my eyes and I am not so fast to put down some of these wild claims that I frequently here. I am still skeptical of people who go public and are trying to cash in on their experience(s),but this was a very personal experience and the only other person who I have discussed this with besides yourself, is my wife. In the meantime, I will continue to try to increase my proficiency at this incredible vehicle, at the very worst it can only lead to a fun escape and at best, perhaps I can discover some hidden truth.
Joseph M. Drago

reply: It sounds to me like you had a lucid dream. It is not surprising that you have not duplicated it, since it was not that pleasant for you. Your interpretation about entering "the unconscious world in a total conscious state" is the description given for lucid dreaming: you are dreaming (i.e, in the unconscious world) but aware of dreaming (i.e, conscious). There is nothing paranormal about this experience, nor is it a OBE as you were led to believe.

28 Nov 1997
When I was about 12 years old (that's 44 years ago), I was in a class and for some reason I began doodling and writing the words, J C Higgings, over and over again. That night, when my father and mother got home from a vacation they were on, my father gave me a present: a bicycle speedometer manufactured by the J.C. Higgins Company. I am absolutely a sceptic, but that incident has convinced me that there is "something" to portions of ESP. I had never heard of the J.C. Higgins Company beforehand. (Note, I did spell it wrong in my doodling)
Jerry Colen

reply: I'll note, too, that you refer to "Higgings" as a misspelling. Why? Because you assume it is not what it is but something else, namely, Higgins. They're not the same. But, no matter. You say you never heard of J.C. Higgins. Maybe you just didn't remember hearing it. That was a pretty popular brand name in the fifties and it is unlikely that none of your schoolmates ever mentioned a J.C. Higgins in your presence. You may just been doodling words you heard (or misheard) but did not pay much attention to when you heard them so you did not remember hearing them. You may have even seen the words in a magazine, again not paying attention to the words in an ad as you looked only at the bicycle it advertised. Nothing strange about a 12-year old boy seeing or hearing words and not remembering the event because he wasn't paying that much attention.


11 Jan 1998
I consider myself more a rational than a critical thinker, and I respect your  arguments against hoaxes,  quackery and other tricks used on the gullible-minded. I'm assuming that you question the validity of ESP claims, and so I'd so like  your comments about my  personal experience with it.

About 25 years ago I read the book "How to Make ESP Work for You" by Harold Sherman.  With an open mind and adventurous attitude, I tried one of his  simple lessons. I sat back, closed my eyes and pictured a large white movie screen. Then I asked for information about my  sister's husband Bill, to appear on the screen. I had known him since he was 29 and so I requested  information from his life when he was 17 - long before I knew him. Within seconds, I saw the mast of a ship against a blue sky, then a large white bird flew down and landed on a round object.  I heard men's laughter and then the scene faded out.

reply: For the sake of argument, let's assume that such a procedure really allows one to tap into the Akashic record.
 Of all the interesting things I might want to know about my brother-in-law, that he was once on a ship on a clear day and laughing with other men when a bird landed would not be high on my list. If this is the kind of information ESP produces, it is useless as well as uninteresting. However, we might also assume that your knowledge of Bill and some recent experiences or dreams played a significant role in your daydream. (In case you hadn't figured it out, Mr. Sherman was teaching you to daydream: relax and let images float into your mind.)

The next time I saw Bill I told him what I saw and he was was amazed by the information. He told me that when he was 17 he had been in the Navy aboard a ship in the South Pacific.  An albatross perched on the ship's mast every day and they called it their  mascot. Each time a garbage can (round object) was brought on deck, the albatross swooped down and began to peck at it. The guys were entertained by this (the laughter). I knew Bill had been in the Navy, but he or my sister had never told me anything about his experiences.

reply: Try this experiment. Just make up some set of images. Don't try to daydream. Just put together a few images and tell someone who might believe in ESP that you had this ESP experience. Most people will be able to find something in their lives to more-or-less fit with your images. I'm amazed that in your daydream you didn't see an albatross. They are pretty distinctive creatures. 

I decided to try it again with my friend Carol whom I had not seen nor talked to for over a month. She was to visit me that evening and before she arrived, I took a few minutes out to view my "movie screen".  Within seconds, I saw a pair of eye glasses with one ear stem missing.  As soon as I saw Carol I asked her about it.  She opened her purse and showed me her glasses with the broken stem and explained that she had had them in her purse for several days meaning to get them repaired.

reply: Now this one is much more interesting than the other experience you had. This experience is uncanny. It's too bad you didn't do your experiment a week earlier. You might have warned Carol about the impending eyeglass problem. Was this a coincidence? I have no idea. Is it possible she mentioned the eyeglasses needing to be fixed when you arranged to meet her, but the information being so trivial you did not give it much attention at the time and so don't remember saying anything about it? I have no idea. Are you making this up or is your information completely accurate? I have no idea. Was this ESP? I have no idea. If it was, again it seems like a pretty big waste of psychic energy.

I did several more of these ESP experiments that were as accurate as those above. But I was not out to prove anything other than to myself that ESP can work, so 25 years have passed and I never tried it again. To me, there is no mystery about it. It's natural and easy and anyone can do it.  But most people don't or won't because they think it doesn't exist.

reply: I suggest you try passing on made-up stories, claiming they are ESP, and see how many people validate your claims. The experiments you are doing are not very well designed. I suggest you read Martin Gardner's How Not to Test a Psychic : Ten Years of Remarkable Experiments With Renowned Clairvoyant Pavel Stepanek (Prometheus Books, 1989). 

I'm skeptical about a lot of information that claims to be true, but on the other hand I don't discount a claim, calling it "not true" or "impossible" simply because there is no scientific proof of it at the present. It doesn't matter to me if others insist ESP doesn't exist, I know it does for me. I don't have the desire nor the need to defend or prove it to anyone.  Like dreaming when you're asleep - nobody can prove they’re dreamed at all, but they don't need to because most of us dream.  Most of us have ESP, but it must be requested or not ignored if it appears spontaneously.
Dolores W.
Orange County California

reply: On the other hand, I wouldn't believe something just because it hasn't been proved false. There are usually naturalistic explanations for even the most uncanny event. For example, one of the more common proofs of clairvoyance is the dream come true. You dream of your father's death or you just feel that something bad has happened to your father and soon afterwards you find that your father has in fact died. You can't help but feel that there is some sort of connection between your dream or feelings and the event. (Unless you believe in certain kinds of witchcraft, you don't believe that there is a causal connection, such that your thoughts caused your father's death.)

A student of mine who related such an account was convinced that she had foreknowledge of her father's death, i.e., she was clairvoyant and had seen into the future. Perhaps; but it seems more likely to me that her anxiety about her father was probably based on the way he lived and her feelings about him. He'd been a hippie in the sixties, living in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. He had been a heavy drug user, especially of psychedelic drugs, and had impregnated a woman who believed in free love and had had sex with several men but somehow tagged this guy as the father. He did not have a strong bond with his daughter and his lifestyle, though no longer that of a hippie, was not conventional. The abuse done to his body and mind during his acid days had taken their toll. My feeling is that her anticipation of her father's death was probably based on either her experience and knowledge about her father's health, and/or her deep feelings of resentment towards him for not loving her and caring for her as a father should. A dream detail involving her hand on his doorknob [Freudians, please restrain yourselves!] seemed very significant to her. She described how she had gone to see her father and how she had had a premonition of his death when she put her hand on his doorknob. She also recollected doing the same thing in a dream. When she found her father's body, she was convinced the dream had been a precognition. To me, it seemed more likely a case of filling in a memory after the event or of confusing a real experience in the past (of opening a door, her father's or others like his) with a dream event. It is also possible that her dream and her father's death were purely coincidental. It seems likely to me that the content of her dream was based on her knowledge, experience and feelings. The coincidence was that her father died shortly after her dream. It would not surprise me to find that she had had other, similar, dreams about her father and her mother as well, who was not indifferent toward her (as her father was) but was hostile and belittling.

Many believers in clairvoyance base their beliefs on coincidences. You dream of an airplane crash or of a building collapsing or of your house on fire and soon afterwards an airplane crashes (and you might even know or know of someone who died in the crash), you see a newscast which features a story on the demolition of a building (which uncannily looks just like the building in your dream), or your house catches on fire. You will not only not forget such a dream but you may well think you're psychic because of the closeness of detail between your dream and the event. Consider a few things, however. How many of us take the time to write down the details of our dreams when we wake up? Most of us can't remember the details; we're lucky if we can even remember the general thrust of our dreams. Yet, when a precognitive dream occurs it is always remembered with precision down to the last detail. This may be because these are special dreams which impress themselves on us with greater force. But I think it is more likely that the details are supplied by us after the fact. We didn't really dream them; we dreamt them up, maybe not intentionally, but we filled in the details of our dream after we heard of the event the dream supposedly foretold. This filling in the past with the present happens often enough in everyday memories, so why shouldn't it happen with dream memories? In fact, it would seem that there would be a much better chance of accuracy of a memory based on an actual experience than one occurring in a dream. The dream state is not one where our awareness is as acute as the waking state. That is not to say that there are not very vivid dreams that are very difficult, if not impossible, to tell from actual experiences. There certainly are. I think that often many people who think they've done or said or heard something but have no corroborating evidence, have dreamed they did, said or heard things which never actually happened. But their dreams are so vivid that they remember them as if they were actual events. Still, the waking state is a more aware state than the sleeping state most of the time for most people. We are more likely to remember, and remember accurately, actual experiences rather than dream ones.

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