W. J. Crawford

Lecturer in mechanical engineering in The Municipal Technical Institute, Belfast and Extra-Mural Lecturer in Queens University, Belfast, whose painstaking and thorough investigations with the Kathleen Goligher Circle between 1917 and 1920 go some way towards discovering the 'psychic' laws behind telekinesis phenomena.

Contact Phenomena

 - W. J. Crawford-

          I AM now going to describe some experiments I have carried out with "contact" phenomena, i.e. those in which the hands of the sitters are in contact with the table throughout the séance. Hitherto, as the reader is aware, I have dealt only with phenomena in which there was no contact whatever between the table and the medium or sitters.

Contact phenomena are quite common. Nearly every family contains one member at least who is capable of producing them. Some people, it is true, can produce them more quickly and more violently than others. All that is necessary is that a few persons sit round a wooden table and place their hands lightly upon its surface. If the requisite mediumship be present (and the mediumship required is of quite a low order) the table will sooner or later shake, move about, tilt up and down, and make various other motions not apparently due to muscular pressure exerted by the sitters. Many thousands of people have had experience of phenomena of this kind.

These table movements with hands in contact may conceivably be produced in three ways:

(1) The table may be consciously moved by muscular pressure from the sitters.

(2) The table may be unconsciously moved by muscular pressure from the sitters.

(3) The table may be moved without the aid of muscular action at all.

The first tests I carried out were to see if (3) above was true, i.e. to see if sometimes the movements of the table with hands in contact were really not due to the action of muscular force exerted through the fingers upon the surface of the table. The person who is interested in spiritualistic phenomena will recognise at once that this is an extremely important matter. For if it can be shown that such table movements can be obtained without the direct aid of muscular action, then the messages received via the table must be delivered by something other than the simple process of mind acting on muscle and muscle on table. In short, there must be some unusual process going on, which at any rate is worthy of investigation.

The following tests were not carried out with the Goligher circle, but with a few other friends, one of whom happened to be a very strong medium of the "contact" order. They were carried out in my own house in a small laboratory I have fitted up for the purpose of psychic investigation.

Experiment: To see if movements of the table could be obtained not due to muscular pressure, and to make other observations on "contact" phenomena.

Fig. 27 (below)

Fig. 28 (below)

The apparatus employed will be understood from an inspection of figs. 27 and 28, which are from photographs of the table in position.

Four flat rectangular pieces of wood are hinged to another rectangular-shaped piece of wood screwed to the centre of the table. The four sitters place their fingers upon the hinged pieces, under each of which is a pair of metal contacts in an electric-bell circuit. Each pair of contacts is normally kept slightly separate by a piece of spiral spring fixed to the table. A chalk line is drawn across each hinged piece of wood three-quarters the distance from the outside. The hands of the sitters are kept beyond the chalk lines. The pressure on each piece of wood required to make the electric bell ring can be nicely adjusted from an ounce to a pound or so. From each corner of the table a cord proceeds to a circular spring balance reading to 50 lb., the latter being tied to an overhead beam. The cords are normally adjusted so that the table clears the floor by six inches or so.

The weight of the table with apparatus was 3½ lb., as indicated by the spring balance.

The electrical apparatus was so adjusted that it was impossible for any one of the four hinged wooden leaves to be pressed downwards with a greater pressure than 1 lb. without causing the bell to ring. The maximum pressure that could be put upon the table without the bell ringing was therefore 2 lb. Even if the leaves were pressed down considerably within the chalk lines with a force of ½ lb., the bell would still ring, but the sitters always had their fingers well outside these lines.

Séance I - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs B., Mrs C.

The table was first placed upon the floor (the suspending cords being disconnected).

In about ten minutes after the opening, of the séance, the table began to shuffle about the floor, and in a little time lifted twice at Mrs B's end. (Mr X. sat opposite Mrs B.) The bell did not ring.

In about half an hour the movements became powerful. I then hung up the table from the overhead beam.

I asked the operators to increase the table's weight.

Fully half a dozen times the pointer on the spring balance went round to 26 lb. without the bell ringing. The table's weight being 13½ lb. and the maximum downward force it was possible to put on the table under the conditions mentioned being 2 lb we have the table's weight increased at least by 26 - 15½ = 10½ lb. by means not due to normal muscular pressure.

Later on the pointer on the spring balance moved slowly round to 32 lb., and then twice to 34 lb., and finally near the end of the sitting to 41 lb. This last was equivalent to a downward force applied to the table of 41 - 15½ = 25½ lb.

The increased weight was not put upon the table unexpectedly or haphazardly, but only at such times as I made the definite request to the operators. Furthermore, the increase of weight was a gradual process, occupying from three to five seconds before the maximum value was attained. Sometimes the operators were not successful in reaching the value hoped for, and on these occasions the weight was removed from the table and other efforts made, as was evidenced by the pointer again moving gradually round the dial of the spring balance. The fingers of the sitters were only lightly touching the hinged leaves at the proper place, and many control tests showed that it was quite impossible to press down in the ordinary way with a total force exceeding a couple of pounds without causing the bell to ring.

It is noteworthy that, as in non-contact phenomena, the most powerful results were often obtained towards the close of the séance.

As a further test the operators were asked to remove some weight from the table. On the request being made, the pointer on the balance began to move backwards towards the zero mark. Several times the table was lightened by about 7 lb., and on one occasion the pointer on the balance went right back to zero, showing that the whole of the table's weight had been removed. With the fingers of the experimenters on the apparatus as described, it is unnecessary to say that it was quite impossible to accomplish this feat by either conscious or unconscious pressure from the hands or fingers.

The above tests show, as was sufficiently evident already to those familiar with this class of phenomena, that the movements of the table when there is true psychic action upon it are not due to muscular pressure (at any rate in the ordinary sense), and that their cause must be looked for elsewhere.

Further Incidents

During the time the table was standing upon the floor, and before it was suspended from the ceiling, I stood over it and raised it a little. At this time it was under strong psychic action, and I was surprised to find that what appeared to be more or less rigid bars were connecting it low down on the legs to the medium. The kind of rigidity was exactly the same to the sense of feeling as the rigidity experienced at the Goligher circle with non-contact phenomena. Especially did the table resist being turned in a horizontal plane, or of being pulled or pushed horizontally. But if I pulled or pushed too hard the psychic link (whatever its nature) gave way and I had to wait for some minutes before it could be established again. Many times at this and subsequent séances did I, with my muscular sense, try to locate these psychic connecting links, and, to my surprise, I always distinctly felt them present when the psychic action was at all strong. With my years of experience at the Goligher circle I could make no mistake. The type of connecting link, in its main characteristics, was the same both for contact and for non-contact phenomena. At a contact circle held with entirely different sitters and in a town over fifty miles from Belfast, I subsequently found that these psychic bars were also present, and that they seemed to extend from the leg of the table low down to the ankle of the medium, who in this case said that he felt during the whole séance a cold sensation on the skin near one of his ankles, this peculiar feeling extending over a space about the size of half a crown. He said the spot on his skin felt just as though it had been rubbed with menthol. The sensation went away as soon as the sitting was over.

It therefore seems that "contact" and "non-contact" table phenomena are not so dissimilar in their main processes as might be supposed.

The operators evidently found it easier to increase the table's weight than to decrease it; they seemed able to accomplish the former as often as I wished once the séance was well under way, but they were not always successful with the latter, and appeared only to succeed after considerable trouble.

Sometimes when the pointer on the balance had successfully moved round to 30 lb. or so without the bell ringing, it remained there for some seconds, and then, as it gradually returned to its normal position of 13½ lb. or thereabouts, the bell gave a ring when it was about halfway back. This often happened. The bell did not ring when the downward pressure was being applied, but, strange to say, sometimes gave short sharp rings while the pressure was being removed.

Sometimes, while we were not doing anything in particular, the bell started ringing-long continuous rings, and also short sharp ones. All the sitters declared they were not ringing it. I asked the operators if they were responsible, when immediately it was rung long and repeatedly as though in affirmation. Also, the usual code was employed: three rings for "Yes," one for "No," and two for "Doubtful." Of course there was no direct evidence that the operators were really ringing the bell, as they said they were, because a very slight push from the finger of any of the sitters would suffice to do this. The sitters, however, declared most emphatically that they were not consciously doing it.

Séance II - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs C, Mr F.

As in Séance I, the table with its electrical contact apparatus was suspended from a spring balance tied to a beam in the ceiling. The sitters sat round it and rested their fingers on the hinged leaves outside the chalk lines. A total downward force exceeding 2 lb. was sufficient to cause electrical contact and thus to ring the bell.

The operators many times increased the weight of the table without causing the bell to ring. The maximum pull down was 34 lb. (as registered on the spring balance), which is equivalent to 18½ extra weight, exclusive of weight of table. The operators tried many times before the 34-lb. mark was reached. The average additional weight put upon the table during the various attempts was about 12 or 13 lb. The absence of Mrs B. seemed to affect the magnitude of phenomena at this sitting.

I placed the platform weighing-machine beside the table, put a drawing-board upon it and a chair upon the board. Mr X. then sat upon the chair, and, along with the other sitters, placed his fingers lightly on the contact apparatus.

Weight of Mr X. + chair + board = 11 st. 9 lb.

I moved the rider along the lever of the weighing-machine so that the lever would balance at a total weight of 11 st. 1½ lb.

I asked the operators to increase the weight of the table in the usual way.

I watched the circular spring balance above the table, and I found that when it nearly registered 26 lb. (bell not ringing), the lever of the weighing-machine, which was previously hard up against the top stop, fell to the bottom stop. The weight of the table had been increased by (at least) 26 - 15½ = 10½ lb.

Mr X.'s weight had been reduced by 11 st. 9 lb. - 11 st. 1½ lb. = 7½ lb.

Other similar experiments showed conclusively that each time the table's weight was physically increased the medium's weight was reduced, but there did not seem to be any fixed relation between increase of table's weight and reduction of Mr X.'s weight.

Non-contact Movements

I had known all the time that Mr X. was the chief medium, but I was also under the impression that Mrs B. supplied some of the mediumship. That Mr X. was the chief medium was, however, conclusively proved at this séance, for non-contact movements occurred due to him. Towards the conclusion of the séance he held the fingers of one hand about two inches above his hinged leaf, and on request the operators rang the bell easily and often. The electric flash between the contacts under Mr X.'s hinged leaf, as the bell was rung, established the fact that the phenomenon was due to him. It seemed to me that a psychic prolongation of his fingers was in this instance responsible for the phenomenon.

Séance III - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs B., Mrs C.

The table was suspended from the ceiling by cords and the electrical contact apparatus used as before. Mr X. sat on the weighing-machine. I asked the operators to increase the weight of the table. In the early part of the séance they seemed to experience difficulty in doing this, but towards the end they accomplished it quite easily, the bell not ringing.

There was some difficulty in getting the decreased weight of Mr X. corresponding to the increased weight of table: in fact, there did not seem to be any relation between the two. This much, however, can be said, that Mr X.'s weight always decreased when the table's weight increased. The following are some readings:

Loss of weight of Mr X. Increased weight of table.
4 lb.
7 lb.
7 lb.
8 lb.
12 lb.
11 lb.

The last two are nearly correct, as I set the rider at a certain mark on the lever, and, placing one hand on the lever and the other on the pointer of the balance, noted exactly the mark attained by the pointer when the lever fell.

Mrs B. then sat on the weighing-machine and Mr X. took her place (which was directly opposite). I balanced her weight and then set back the rider along the lever. With a finger of one hand on the pointer of the balance and a finger of the other on the lever, I marked the exact point on the spring balance at which the lever of the weighing-machine fell. The following is the reading:

Loss of weight of Mrs B. Increased weight on table.
31 lb. 8 lb.

There was, however, a difference at this séance between the results for Mrs B. and Mr X. With Mrs B. the pointer on the spring balance often went almost completely back to normal and yet her weight remained considerably reduced: that is, though the increased weight had been removed from the table, Mrs B.'s weight still remained reduced. Furthermore, the amount of reduction of her weight seemed variable.

On one occasion, without asking for it, the pointer on the spring balance went back to zero, i.e. the weight of the table was decreased by an amount about equal to its own weight.

On several occasions when the weight was increased by about 16 lb. the table was trembling violently. On these occasions the pointer of the spring balance was oscillating over a small are at a great rate.

Séance IV. - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs B., Mrs C.

Table arrangements as before. Mr X. was sitting on the weighing-machine. Further weight tests were made. The following are the results.

Mr X.'s weight always decreased when the weight of the table increased, and it also always diminished when the weight of the table decreased, i.e. he experienced a reduction in weight in both cases. Furthermore, sometimes when there was apparently no action on the table at all, his weight was temporarily reduced a few pounds.

On one occasion his weight was reduced 1 lb., and on another ¾ lb., when the table's weight was decreased 4 or 5 lb. For an increase of weight of the table of 3 or 4 lb. Mr X.'s weight diminished about 1½ lb. It diminished 4 or 5 lb. when there was an increase of from 8 to 10 lb. in table's weight.

It seems that there is a much less decrease in the medium's weight for a reduction in the table's weight than for a corresponding increase in the table's weight.

Near the end of the séance the bell rang once when nobody was within afoot of the table. Also, when the sitters sat round the table without touching it, the table several times oscillated about, the movement being a psychic non-contact one.

Mrs B. sat with her hands on her knees, and the remaining three sitters had their hands on the contact apparatus. This arrangement seemed immediately to increase the magnitude of psychic results on table.

On those occasions when the table was pulled down (its weight increased) and pushed up (its weight decreased), the pull or push seemed to be quite centrally applied to the table, for there was no twisting movement. The resultant of the pull or push must, therefore, be practically in line with the centre of the table.

Several times after the table's weight had been increased from 8 to 12 lb., and when the pointer on the spring balance had returned to normal (i.e. no pressure on table), Mr X.'s weight did not simultaneously come back to normal, but remained several pounds reduced for a considerable time.

Séance V. - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs B., Mrs C.

All the undersurface and legs of the table were covered with turpentine soot, in order to see if any marks would be left due to a psychic structure gripping the wood of the table. One such mark was found, but it requires verification. The sitting was chiefly remarkable for a message which was laboriously spelled out, the table turning in the air when the correct letter of the alphabet was reached (I called out the letters). The following was the message:

"Clean table; tie hands and feet of sitters to their chairs, and sit nine inches back from the table."

Séance VI. - Sitters: Mr X. (medium), Miss A., Mrs B., Mrs C.

I tied the sitters' legs together at the ankles with strong cord. At first I also tied each sitter's own hands together, but later altered this arrangement and tied each sitter's hands to his neighbour's on either side of him, thinking this procedure would give better results. The circle sat at a distance of a foot or so from the table, which was suspended in the usual way. Thus no one was touching the table with any part of his body. Nevertheless, the table commenced to twist and tilt and oscillate about. The movements were not very strong, but they were genuine psychic movements of the non-contact order. The table moved by jerks, not with soft gliding motions, as one might expect, but as though it were gripped somewhere and actually shoved about-the exact type of movements as at the Goligher circle, although on a much smaller scale.

After some time the sitters placed their hands on the contact apparatus, when immediately the movements became very powerful. The table's weight decreased 10 lb., and later on 20 lb., without the bell ringing.

The phenomena without contact seemed to be much of the same type as those with contact, only, as I have said, on a much smaller scale. Hence it seems that the placing of the hands on the table simply makes the production of the phenomena more easy, but does not alter its main characteristics.


The chief outstanding points in connection with these tests on "contact" phenomena are the following:

(1) The increases and decreases of weight of the table are not due to the muscular action of the medium or sitters.

(2) The medium or mediums (there may be more than one in this sort of circle) lose weight while the table is being psychically acted upon.

(3) The medium's loss of weight does not endure only during the time the table is being acted upon, but may last for some time after psychic action has ceased.

(4) There is strong evidence of' a psychic arm or link connecting the legs of the medium with the legs of the table. The characteristics of this arm appear similar to that of the arm which levitates the table in "non-contact" phenomena of the Goligher type.

(5) Since in this case the "contact" phenomena changed into weak phenomena of the "non-contact" type, it is reasonable to suppose that the two types have features in common.

(6) For heavy movements of the whole table the psychic arm would appear to issue from the lower part of the legs of the medium; but psychic prolongations can also issue from the fingers, as witness the case in which the electric bell rang when the medium held his fingers several inches above the contact apparatus. As a matter of fact I find that these physic structures almost invariably issue from the extremities of the medium's body either in the vicinity of hands or feet. It was so with Miss Goligher, and would appear to be the same with Mr X.

Note: The above article appeared in "Experiments in Psychical Science" by W. J. Crawford (1919, E. P. Dutton & Co, New York).


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24 Questions and Answers on Experiments in Psychical Science: W. J. Crawford

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