Lives of the Psychics jacket

Fred M. Frohock covers a wide range of psychic phenomena in Lives of the Psychics, from out of body experiences to faith healing. Below are some links to web sites devoted to some of the topics and institutions discussed in the book.


The Mystica
"An on-line encyclopedia of the occult, mysticism, magic, paranormal, and more."
"The Paranormal Search Engine"; has feature articles and news, as well as a search engine for paranormal-related topics.

"The Paranormal and UFO Search Engine"; has a useful directory of resources on just about any paranormal topic you can imagine.
"Images, videos, files, and reports of UFOs, Aliens, Chupacabra, Area51, Roswell, Abductions, Mutilations, Crop Circles, and more."


Faith Healing

Divine Healing
Introductory guide, FAQs, tips on healing for ministers, and other information concerning laying on hands and other divine healing techniques.

Faith Healing Eyewitness Accounts
From a believer; includes accounts of healings performed on animals.

Faith Healing from
A very skeptical take on faith healing, with information about scientific studies of the subject--including intercessory prayer--from the 1970s to 1999.

Manual Healing from the Alternative Medicine Home Page
Good collection of links on therapeutic touch and other types of manual healing.


Near-Death and Out of Body Experiences

Astral Projection and Out of Body Experiences
Introduction, how-to, Q&A, and theories explaining astral projection and out of body experiences, as well as a lengthy section on near-death experiences.

International Association for Near-Death Studies
Association devoted to near-death experiences; provides support to those who have had near-death experiences, a FAQ, sample experiences (including some from the group's message board), and even a page of helpful hints for students doing research papers on the topic.

Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife
Extensive transcripts of near-death experiences, including those of both religious and non-religious people; analysis of the experiences; FAQ; discussion of scientific research on the topic; and an e-mail listserv.

Out of Body Experience, Explanations, and Guides from SpiritWeb
Everything you ever wanted to know about out of body experiences, including a lengthy FAQ and transcripts of personal out of body experiences.

The Spiritual World
"Read about and share real life accounts of near-death experiences, after-death communication, out-of-body experiences, angels, and reincarnation."

Thoughtful Living after Near-Death Experiences
Information about near-death experiences from a believer; includes a FAQ, moderated message board, and listserv.


Research Groups on the Paranormal

Association for Research and Enlightenment
"International organization founded in 1931 to preserve, research, and make available the Edgar Cayce readings, which cover many subjects, including holistic health, ancient civilizations, dream interpretation, and spirituality."

Australian Skeptics, Inc.
"Investigating pseudo-science and the paranormal from a responsible scientific viewpoint."

Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
"Encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminates factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public"; publishers of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

International Institute of Projectiology and Conscientiology
Home page of a Brazil-based institute dedicated to the scientific investigation of consciousness manifestation, out of body experience, near-death experience, and other paranormal phenomena; includes FAQs, articles, downloadable bibliographies, and more.

James Randi Educational Foundation
As you will read in this excerpt from Lives of the Psychics, James Randi is a professional magician—"The Amazing Randi"—and a well-known skeptic who has debunked a wide range of psychic phenomena. His foundation's web site bills itself as "an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific, and the supernatural." You can check out Mr. Randi's opinions on a wide range of paranormal topics, subscribe to his e-mail list, and accept the as-yet-unclaimed "$1 Million Paranormal Challenge."

Rhine Research Center (Institute for Parapsychology)
Dr. J. B. Rhine and his wife, Dr. Louisa E. Rhine, came to Duke University in 1927 to pursue studies of psychic phenomena with Prof. William McDougall, chair of the new Psychology Department. Together they developed a famous series of scientific experiments to test psychic abilities such as extrasensory perception and psychokinesis statistically against chance success, and trained many leading parapsychologists (their work is discussed in Chapter 3 of Lives of the Psychics). The Institute for Parapsychology the Rhines founded still conducts scientific investigations of the paranormal today.

Alex Tanous Foundation for Scientific Research
Alex Tanous was a renowned psychic and parapsychologist who believed very strongly in testing his paranormal abilities according to the standards of scientific research (he is discussed at length in Chapter 5 of Lives of the Psychics). The Alex Tanous Foundation has carried on this work since his death in 1990.

University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Division of Personality Studies
Investigates "apparent paranormal phenomena," especially those related to life after death such as past life memories, near-death experiences, and out of body experiences.


An excerpt from
Lives of the Psychics
The Shared Worlds of Science and Mysticism
Fred M. Frohock

Read an interview with the author.

Francine Bizzari Anne Marie Folger James Randi

Francine Bizzari

Francine Bizzari is a psychic. Like many in her profession, she is a freelance practitioner. She approaches the supernatural as material for a business transaction, offering information for a fee to clients who want to see into the future, understand the hidden dimensions of life, and in general acquire privileged insights into matters of health, love, friendship, family, money, and power. Psychics who provide such services are usually easy to find. In the yellow pages of any large metropolitan phone book, there is an entry for "Psychic Life Readings." Some listings include a disclaimer, "For entertainment only." Bizzari's entry does not. She includes only her name, address, and phone number. Appointments are recommended.

On the summer day that I visited her home for a discussion of psychic practices, the weather was agreeably temperate. The temperature was in the low 80s, sky clear, breeze moderate—wholly suitable even if not entirely typical for mid-state New York. Bizzari lives in a middle-class frame house in the village of Auburn and, like most dwellings in the area, her home represents a fusion of country and city styles that seems to characterize life in and near the Finger Lakes areas: verdant surroundings and clapboard houses mixed with cable television lines and two automobiles in most driveways. I resisted all temptations to ask if she knew what the weather would be like today, or the burlesque answer to her questions about my research project: "But don't you already know?" My purpose for the interview session was practical and direct. I wanted to learn how psychics work and what suppositions about knowing they maintain in their work.

Bizzari began by telling me about her childhood. She had experiences early in her life that are common to psychics. She began to see things that others could not see. She cannot describe this power accurately even now as an adult, or even define it, except to say that each individual has an aura that she can see and read. When she was young, the other children would taunt her by saying, "Don't bother to tell Francine anything, she already knows." The problem—a curse then, but a blessing now, she believes—was that she often could see events before they happened. They seemed embedded in some way in the shifting glow of colors surrounding every living creature she saw.

Bizzari's mother was a psychic. Her predictions were drawn from dreams and always seemed accurate to those who heard them. She was born and raised in Italy and emigrated to the United States as a young woman, where all of her eight children were born. Francine is the youngest. The gift, or whatever it was that her mother possessed, was passed on only to Francine. She remembers that she could tell her mother who was calling as soon as the phone rang. She also used to tell her mother who in the family was going to die next—and she claims to have always been right. Her mother did not find these predictions odd, did not question how Francine did it. She seemed to know and accept that her daughter was different. Bizzari's father, an American whom Francine's mother met in a processing plant in the United States, where she served lunch to the workers, did not have a chance to appreciate his youngest daughter's insights. He died when Francine was only eighteen months old.

Later Bizzari did not pay much attention to psychic possibilities. She remembers her teenage years as a pleasant blur of social life and work. Then came marriage and children. It was the death of her mother that seemed to release something in her. The event was especially painful because her mother had been both parents for her. Everything seemed to fall apart afterward. She started having unwanted visions, seeing and hearing things that she could not understand. She also began telling everyone around her what would happen to them, and she remembers that her predictions came true. She felt like she was psychotic, not psychic, and that she needed help.

Two things helped her through this chaotic period of her life. One was the appearance of her mother in a vision assuring her that she would be helping people all over the world with her psychic power. The other was the Edgar Cayce Institute in Virginia Beach. Francine Bizzari believes that psychic abilities are best developed in some master-apprentice relationship. Such an arrangement simultaneously reduces the risk that the psychic will collapse mentally and refines the psychic's natural abilities. Bizzari went to the Institute primarily for counseling. She was told that she was psychic and should find a teacher to help her develop her skills. She returned home and found her teacher, a local man who gives classes to those who sense that they have unusual mental powers.

An instructor in psychic skills does two things that are especially important to students. One is screening. Individuals are tested to see if they are genuinely psychic. The test is both informal and exceedingly easy to administer. The student must simply do a reading of the instructor's current life and future. An accurate diagnosis and prognostication qualifies as the real thing. Second, the instructor teaches the ethics and etiquette of psychic readings. These instructions include rudimentary advice on handling clients, addressing public relations needs, setting fee schedules, and the like. The courses usually last ten to fifteen weeks.

After taking such a course and having her psychic powers once more confirmed, Francine Bizzari began giving professional readings. She schedules her consultations in her home. Clients call and then appear at the assigned hour to receive news that is distinctive in both source and premise. Her fee (at the time of my interview) for a one-hour general session is $40 to $50; for a past-life reading, $45; a full life reading, $150; and $50 plus $3 postage and handling for a reading by mail. She confesses to being very nervous when she began her practice, but her confidence grew as she saw more and more clients. Today she has a successful practice that includes her own classes on psychic awareness, a local radio talk show, and consulting work for various local and state police and private investigators. She has worked on several missing children cases locally and in other states.

The gifts Francine Bizzari claims in a brochure she distributes reflect the range of psychic powers generally. The list consists of "gifts, available to all who seek, [which] drop the veils of illusion, time and space, and help us to see the Unity of Creation"; clairvoyance ("seeing beyond the outer reflection of reality . . . with the mind's eye"); clairaudiance ("clear hearing with the inner ear."); psychometry (sensing and interpreting "the vibrations associated with an object held"); aura reading ("the reading of the energy filed by the variations of [the aura's] colors and patterns, associated with the person for whom the reading is being channeled"); crystal ball reading ("a point of concentration by which symbols or impressions may be received"); past life reading ("reviewing of one's 'past' lives"); and card reading ("a focal point through which to discuss the past, present and future of the person for whom the reading is requested"). Bizzari has also practiced faith healing and engaged in ghost hunting.

She regards the life of a psychic as some combination of trouble and benefit. Friends do not always stay friends. They fear Bizzari will tune into their private lives. Verbal abuse from skeptics is not uncommon. Bizzari also worries about how her church regards her work. She is a Roman Catholic and is unsure whether the parish priests approve of what she is doing. But she is clear in her priorities. If the church does not accept her, she will still continue her psychic practices because she believes that God put her on Earth to be a psychic. Bizzari regards St. Bartholomew, one of the apostles, as her main spirit guide. She believes that this saint provides information and protection for her.

Her success in reading a person depends on how open the client is. If the individual is skeptical or builds a psychological barrier, Bizzari has trouble gaining access to the information she needs. She is quick to claim credit for overcoming resistance on occasion, however. In one memorable encounter, an individual accosted her in a psychic fair in Toronto with the news that he "didn't believe in this crap but show me how good you are by telling me something." Bizzari picked up immediately the fact that the man was from a minimum security prison, out on a weekend pass. He was appropriately shocked at this insight and immediately became a believer.

Bizzari will sometimes hold back bad news if she believes the client cannot take it successfully. The key to her judgment is in the aura she sees around and behind her clients and in what the clients tell her. If someone comes in and says, "Tell me everything—who is going to die, the works—that is why I am paying you forty dollars," then she will probably go the full disclosure route. But a surprising number of people will say, "Please do not tell me if somebody is going to die—I don't want to hear it." Then Bizzari works around whatever tragic messages she might receive. The main sign is unspoken, however. Strength and weakness are signaled by the aura. She lets these silent indicators guide her on how much to tell a client.

She claims to have predicted a wide range of tragic events, including plane crashes, train derailments, bridge collapses. Like most psychics, however, she sees the future without context. She is never sure exactly where and when a perceived event is to occur. Often she dreams about an event. Sometimes she sees things in the aura that must be interpreted. On occasion a vision appears that looks to her like a movie, vague in places but unfolding in strong narrative sequences. The scenes are sometimes so dramatic that she likens them to a soap opera.

Bizzari also heals, an action she sees as cleansing the aura around the client. She tries to remove the negative energy emanating from a person. Her technique is to use holy ashes that she has secured from a mystic practicing in India. (The mystic sells the ashes by mail order.) She blesses the afflicted person and rubs the ashes on the affected areas. At one of Francine's performances, a woman with a sizeable lump on one of her legs came up to the stage. Bizzari put the ashes on the swollen area and claims that the woman awakened the next morning to discover that the lump had vanished.

The first and last impression that one has of Francine Bizzari is that she is an eminently practical woman with a no nonsense attitude toward her gifts and her clients. Giving psychic readings is something she does routinely because she can do it effectively. Like a hair stylist or a lawyer, she provides services that clients pay for because they can use the information Bizzari gives them. But Bizzari believes that the client remains authoritative over the insights and predictions that she offers.

In Francine Bizzari's words: "If a person comes here for a reading, I tell them what I see. That's it. If you don't like it, tough. I don't contradict myself when I say something. I say it once and that is it. . . . You have free will. You can alter any situation. If you go to a psychic, and they are telling you some negative things, well, Sweetheart, you can alter that. . . . That is where your free will comes in."

At the end of our session, Bizzari narrowed her eyes and looked directly at me: "You talk too much in your work. People use it against you." Then, after a pause, she offered the first name of one of my colleagues: "Does [name withheld] mean anything to you?" It did. "He is not your friend." Later, for the record, the mentioned colleague did emerge as one of my most disagreeable adversaries at the University. No thoughts on how Francine Bizzari saw this. I did promise her to try to say less and think more. Seemed like good advice for all of us in professional life.


Anne Marie Folger

Anne Marie Folger claims psychic gifts but has never tried to make money from them. She believes that individuals can receive information in ways not involving the five senses, and that she has an unusually strong ability to do this. Her technique requires only a written name. She asks individuals to write a name on a slip of paper. The paper is folded and handed to her. Without looking at the name, simply by fingering the folded slip of paper, she claims to be able to receive information on the person whose name has been written down. She has been doing this exercise in clairvoyance for twenty years and says that her accuracy is remarkably high.

Folger's initial inspiration for psychic reading was Peter Herkoff, a professional psychic. Herkoff was appearing at a local nightclub, and Folger went with a group of friends to one of his performances. She visited him later for a private reading. The accuracy of his information on her life amazed her. The following week she did some research on psychic powers at the public library. The material she read convinced her that the vivid images that had always been part of her mental life indicated psychic powers.

Folger began by trying to duplicate Herkoff's act. The performance involves holding some object given to the psychic by a person and sensing vibrations from the object. Information about the person is to come from the vibrations. Folger had no luck at all with this approach. So she asked friends to write down names on pieces of paper. Bingo, she recalls. The images started coming to her as she held the paper.

Her friends tried to trick her in these early efforts. Once her brother-in-law wrote not a name but a word, "cemetery," on the paper. She says she began getting strong images of a tombstone. But the one experience that convinced her that her powers were genuine came in her second reading. Someone gave her a slip of paper. She started the reading by saying that this person loves cookies and doesn't like to be hemmed in, though she is hemmed in at the moment and trying to get out. It turned out that the man who handed her the paper had written, "Cookie," the name of his dog, who was kept in a pen. Folger is convinced that she somehow had entered the dog's mind for the information.

Entering minds is for Folger the key to understanding clairvoyance. She does not believe that psychics, or anyone else, can read the thoughts of another. But she does believe that one can pick up information, and perhaps ideas though not the words in which the ideas are expressed, by going into the mental states of others. To Folger this exercise is like pushing a button on a computer. You simply relax and allow the images from the other person to enter your own consciousness. Folger explains prophecy as access to another's mind in the future. She does not believe that individuals see future events. But they can enter the mental states of those living in the future and gain access to the future indirectly through the consciousness of future persons.

The images she sees are often direct. For example, she might be talking to a person and see in her thoughts a picture of a marriage contract being ripped up, or a ring coming off a finger. No problems in concluding that the person is in the process of separating from a spouse. But on other occasions the image is less direct. Sometimes she might see a rubber band being stretched to the breaking point. This image also suggests an imminent separation or divorce, or at least marital strains, but it also can mean many other things.

The most difficult images for her to decipher are those that are almost entirely symbolic. For example, Folger once saw a train speeding by at night. After talking with her client she understood the image in two ways: as an obsession the client had with his current work and as a prediction that the work would inevitably succeed. But she concedes that interpretation, not just seeing, is the crucial part of such readings. She also admits the unavoidable conclusion of such a concession—that a baseline of knowledge is often decisive in interpreting symbolic images, for otherwise one would not know the technical implications (economic outcomes, say) of the images.

Folger does not believe in the full range of psychic powers. She regards telekinesis as impossible and claims for it as generally fraudulent. For two years she worked in a university laboratory testing telekinesis, extrasensory perception, and other psychic powers. No experiment demonstrated the slightest trace of telekinetic powers, though many efforts were made. Folger also admits that all of the ESP experiments in the lab came up with insignificant results, or results that were only slightly above statistical averages. She still believes in ESP, though not as an objective exercise in a laboratory setting.

Folger believes that four conditions must be in place for ESP to occur. One is the absence of stress. Folger says that her own psychic powers will not work unless she is relaxed and in the mood. The second condition follows closely on the first. ESP cannot always be produced on demand at a certain time. Instead an atmosphere of casual inattention must be created. Clients who are relaxed and patient will have a higher probability of receiving an accurate reading than those who are intense and demanding. Third, there must be a need for the information produced in ESP. The impartial accumulation of knowledge—often the driving force of scientific inquiry—is not enough. A personal need, whether from love, fear, or whim, must transfer the interrogation from an objective to a subjective frame (but the need cannot be excessively egoistic, like winning the lottery). These three conditions explain for Folger the difficulty in identifying ESP in a laboratory setting.

Folger uses a fourth condition to explain how ESP is possible. She believes that all of reality is fixed by design. An omnipotent God supervises a reality that includes past, present, and future simultaneously. Folger accepts predestination. Each person's life is patterned from the first moment in all of its details. God has given us each a destiny, and nothing can change it.

The acceptance of such beliefs leads easily to ESP, for readings of other minds and even the future is simply a matter of gaining access to the fixed patterns governing human experience. The rejection of telekinesis is also understandable. Altering a physical distribution through mental efforts is arrogant, humans trying to be godlike. ESP, by contrast, requires only a heightened sensitivity to God's designs.

Some of Folger's perceptions have exposed false understandings. Once the faculty head of the ESP lab got a call from a man in a nearby village asking for help in ridding his home of ghosts. Normally the parapsychology group avoided such activity, but the man sounded sincere and rational, and also very much in need of assistance. So a group went out to explore matters. The man was an artist who had just purchased a farm. He painted in the barn, which was where he had seen the ghost on several occasions. Folger sensed immediately that there had been a suicide in the barn. It turned out that she was right. She concluded that the artist, entering an altered state of creativity when he worked, had picked up information on the tragedy and then subconsciously transformed that information into a vision of a ghost. When he accepted this explanation, the artist discovered that the ghost stopped appearing.

Anne Marie Folger, odd though this may seem, does not believe in ghosts. She believes in divine plans, including predestination, and the possibility of access to some part of these plans. In this sense, ESP is no more than a natural phenomenon consistent with her view of reality. Ghosts are only human constructions, epiphenomena with no grounding in reality.


James Randi

James Randi is a formidable and relentless critic of all who assert that they have psychic powers. On this sun-filled day we have met at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as he returned from a trip. I was scheduled to leave Florida for New York the following day, and since I was staying the night at a hotel nearby, it seemed convenient for both of us simply to find a private room somewhere in the terminal to conduct the interview he had agreed to give me as part of my research into psychic matters. I waited for him at his arrival gate, and we were able to find rather quickly a room that had a sign labeling it as a quiet room. We went inside, discovered that it was indeed quiet, and had the area to ourselves for the taped session. What follows is drawn up mainly from the discussion that we had on that day. I found him to be a gracious and candid subject with all of the intellectual powers he has demonstrated in his campaign against psychic pretenders.

The first thing that is clear about Randi is that he has no doubts about where he stands on psychic matters. He has been a professional magician all of his adult life, meaning (for him) that he has been a systematic liar, cheat, charlatan. Before each performance, he admits to the audience that he is an actor who is about to play a specific part, that of a wizard. But, he cheerfully admits, it is a part in a performance aimed is to get the audience to believe for a short time in the reality of what is patently false. That, for Randi, is the appeal of magic. It purposely and skillfully creates illusions, entertaining an audience with contrived falsehoods. It is not and cannot be a truth demonstration. Randi is convinced that psychics, in claiming truth for their performances, are frauds.

Randi's intelligence was evident at an early age. He was a difficult child, chronically unable to fit in, a gifted youth bored with school and teachers. He was always several grades ahead of other children his age, which denied him a peer group in school. He mixed with students who were in their first or second year of college with the predictable results. Some taunted him and most did not have time for him, though a few did discuss items of mutual interest. He remembers spending most of his youth in the library and in a nearby science museum.

One Wednesday afternoon he went to a magic show put on by Harry Blackstone, Sr., who made a lady float in the air, cut another woman in half, and in general so bedazzled the young Randi that he left the theater in a daze. He wondered if the effects had been achieved through hypnotism, the minds of the audience clouded as by the Shadow in the popular radio show of the time. He went straight to the library (as he always did when he was puzzled) and read everything he could find on magic. The research was helpful in showing him how some of the tricks were done. At a later performance he went backstage to tell Blackstone some of the secrets of magic. The old man was duly impressed. He urged Randi to join a local magic club and visit the magic shop. A local impresario running the club took Randi under his wing and taught him how to do magic. Soon he was good enough to perform for a modest fee at parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, even wakes and funerals.

Randi was fascinated both by the illusions in magic and by why people experienced the illusions. He had seen the woman floating in air at Blackstone's show, had watched as the magician passed the hoop around and underneath her, and yet knew that what he had observed could not be so. The effects were, accordingly, amazing. When Randi began performing, he was impressed with the audience's amazement at his relatively simple tricks. They liked him and what he did. He began to think of magic as a way to make a living and an opportunity to study the reactions of individuals to illusions.

Randi was also constantly on the lookout for real suspensions of natural laws. He went to spiritualist churches, supernatural performances of one sort or another, and many faith healing sessions. On every occasion he saw through the performance to an underlying reality that was not pleasant or amazing. People would retrieve the crutches they had thrown away on stage and walk out in worse condition than when they had walked in. But they would have large smiles on their faces and be thanking God that they had been healed.

Once Randi went to a spiritualist church and observed ministers reading the contents of sealed envelopes sent to the front by parishioners. He recognized the exercise as the "one-ahead" method, a trick where the performer reads the contents of the envelope belonging to the parishioner just ahead of the one being addressed. Randi snatched the papers out of the waste basket and showed a lady in the audience that the envelope the minister was holding was not hers since her envelope was at that moment in Randi's hands. The woman covered her ears and started shaking her head from side to side. She didn't want to know the truth that Randi was telling her. For his efforts Randi was arrested and taken to the police station across the street, where his father was called off a golf course to come take him home. Randi was fifteen years old at the time. Two years later he dropped out of high school and left home with a carnival.

Randi has remained fascinated and repulsed by the capacity of individuals to resist what he considers decisive evidence that explodes a belief or phenomenon. Once he was on a panel in Casper, Wyoming, with Charles Tart, a psychologist and parapsychologist (which to Randi's mind is like being a Baptist who plays cards). Tart explained at the opening of the discussion that he first became convinced of parapsychology when a female colleague in Berkeley, California, had a pre-seeing experience in the last days of World War II. She had been sleeping soundly after a long day of work. At 1:30 A.M. she suddenly sat bolt upright in bed and knew that something terrible had happened, though what exactly had occurred she did not know. She got out of bed, turned on the light, and went to the window. The street outside was still. Nothing seemed amiss. Suddenly the glass in the window shook violently. She thought it was an earthquake, except that the reverberations subsided quickly. Her feeling of dread continued as she returned to bed and sleep.

The next morning she learned that the city of Port Chicago, twenty-five miles from Berkeley, had literally been blown off the map in an explosion of a ship at 1:30 in the morning, killing 130 people. Tart had accepted this as a paranormal event because his friend had actually gotten out of bed and gone over to the window with the feeling of dread before the explosion shook her window.

Randi looked around the room, expecting that people would be breaking out in smiles as they solved the mystery. But there was no reaction whatsoever. So he wrote a question on the back of one of his business cards and handed it a couple of seats over to a geologist he had met before the conference began. The man nodded his head and left the room. He came back a few minutes later and handed Randi a card with a single phrase on it, "eight seconds." The question Randi had asked him was, "What is the difference in time in the arrival of a shock wave through rock and air over a thirty-five-mile distance?"

At breakfast the next day Randi went over to Tart's table. Tart, Randi recalls, was sitting there with a plate of scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee. He reached up and shook Randi's hand and invited him to sit down. Randi then delivered the story of the eight-second delay and the observation that his friend had felt the vibration of the shock wave in rock first, which then had alerted her to the fact that something had occurred. Randi remembers Tart smiling broadly, his mouth full of scrambled eggs, and saying, "Mr. Randi, I expect that is the kind of solution you would rather accept." Randi looked at Tart and admitted, "Yes, I certainly would rather accept that," which to Randi meant and means accepting evidence and the physical laws that the evidence supports.

Randi believes that most paranormal events are products of selective descriptions. A few years ago he was the sponsor of a talented youth, Steven, who wanted to learn magic. Steven lived in Randi's home for a year and a half and went to school locally. Steven's mother Elsie lived thirty-five miles away in New Jersey. One night Elsie called at 3:00 A.M. and woke Randi out of a sound sleep to report a terrible dream that Steven was sick. Randi admitted that Steven had a bad fever and was going to stay home tomorrow from school. Elsie said, "There, I was right. I have these psychic dreams." Randi, fully awake now, pursued the claim. "Elsie," he asked, "when was the last time you called me at this hour in the morning?" Elsie considered. "Monday last week." Randi pressed. "What did you say?" Elsie allowed that then, too, she had had a dream that Steven was sick. Then Randi pointed out that the flu was going around and had been widely reported in the media. Also, he continued, "You have called eight to ten times, Elsie, come on now, with this same dream." Elsie finally agreed.

Randi's point is that if someone had been there with Steven's mother and had not known enough about the situation, the selective description of the event would have produced a standard reaction. "How could she possibly have known? She must be psychic." But the reality was that Elsie had called numerous times with the same dream when Steven was well.

Once Randi had what he thought was an out-of-body experience. He had returned home from a trip and passed through his kitchen where some visiting magicians were playing cards at the table. "Hi, everyone," he had called, "I'm exhausted so I'm going straight to bed." He went in his bedroom, collapsed on the bed, and fell asleep. Then, when he went back to the kitchen late the next morning (where the magicians were now eating his groceries in a sumptuous breakfast), he suddenly remembered his out-of-body experience. He insisted on relating it to the magicians before he forgot it.

During the night he had awakened, still too pumped up from the trip to continue sleeping. He remembered switching on the television set with the sound turned down and feeling tired. He fell asleep while watching an old movie. Then he awakened again during the night and was floating with his back against the ceiling. He looked down and saw himself on the side of his king-size bed tucked under the old green and chartreuse cover that everyone in the house hated. Alice, his big fluffy evil-tempered Persian cat, was sleeping in the middle of the bed. The room was lit in the gray flickering light from the television set. The station was off the air, and the set was making a soft static noise. He was definitely up against the ceiling watching himself and Alice when the cat opened her eyes. They were green eyes, and it was like looking at two holes cut right through her. He could see the green of the antique bed cover through the cat's eyes, green against green. Then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep

One of the magicians leaned back in his chair and grinned at Randi. "I think I can prove that you did not have an out-of-body experience." Randi waited. The proof began.

"First, this is Harry here." Another magician nodded at Randi. "Harry arrived yesterday afternoon. He is allergic to cats. When he came in the house we put Alice out. She's been out ever since. She's out on the patio now." Randi looked out the window. There was Alice on the patio.

"Second, go look at your bed." Randi went back in his bedroom. The green and chartreuse cover was not on the bed. In its place was a cover with a hunting scene (horses and foxes). It was held in even lower esteem than the other cover and was used only when the first cover was in the laundry. Randi looked down the stairs to the basement and there at the bottom in the big transparent laundry bag was the green and chartreuse bed cover. "The cat had gotten a lot of hair on the old cover, so we took it off yesterday for cleaning," the magician told Randi.

Randi had no choice but to conclude that the out-of-body experience had been a dream, probably recalled as real by the one acknowledged fact of the experience. He had left the television on all night, and it was still on when he woke up in the morning. Randi's point is that if the green and chartreuse cover had been on the bed, and if Alice had been in the house, then he would have been convinced that he had once had a genuine out-of-body experience.

Randi doesn't say that the supernatural is always reducible to the natural, just that it has been in every case he has looked at. As a result he places a very low probability on the possibility that a supernatural world of any sort exists. The reality delineated by scientific methods is the only reliable world for him.

Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages 23-30 and 35-40 of Lives of the Psychics: The Shared Worlds of Science and Mysticism by Fred M. Frohock, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2000 The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

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Fred M. Frohock
Lives of the Psychics: The Shared Worlds of Science and Mysticism
Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 0-226-26586-2
©2000, 298 pages

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