Clever Hans and the Origins of German Experimental Parapsychology: Sixth Pre-Print Article from SHPSC Special Issue

In the sixth pre-print article from the upcoming Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences special issue on psychical research, Chantal Marazia and Fabio De Sio reconstruct the story of the famous “thinking horses” of Elberfeld and their main investigator, Karl Krall.


Fabio De Sio (Heinrich Heine Universität, Düsseldorf) & Chantal Marazia (Université de Strasbourg)


“Clever Hans” on trial (1907)

“Clever Hans” on trial (1907)

Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, the so-called Elberfeld horses, the counting and speaking animals, were among the most debated subjects of the newborn comparative psychology. Yet, they have left little trace in the historiography of this discipline, mostly as an appendix of the more famous Clever Hans. Their story is generally told as the prelude to the triumph of reductionistic experimental psychology. By paying a more scrupulous attention than has so far being done to the second life of Hans, and to the endeavours of his second master, Karl Krall, this article explores the story of the Elberfeld horses as an important, if so far neglected, chapter in the history of experimental parapsychology.


Karl Krall; Experimental parapsychology; Clever Hans; Elberfeld Horses; Psychic research; Anpsi

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Fifth Pre-Print Article from Psychical Research Special Issue: Katy Price on Precognition and Psychiatry

Another article from the currently produced special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C dedicated to psychical research is now online as a pre-print version on the journal website. In her analysis of letters on precognition to the British playwright Joseph Priestley, Katy Price (Queen Mary University, London) addresses the complicated relationship between the ‘paranormal’ and psychiatry.


Katy Price, Queen Mary University, London


J. B. Priestley

J. B. Priestley

Using letters sent to British playwright J. B. Priestley in 1963, this paper explores the intersection between patient-focused history of psychiatry and the history of parapsychology in everyday life. Priestley’s study of precognition lay outside the main currents of parapsychology, and his status as a storyteller encouraged confidences about anomalous temporal experience and mental illness. Drawing on virtue epistemology, I explore the regulation of subjectivity operated by Priestley in establishing the credibility of his correspondents in relation to their gender and mental health, and investigate the possibility of testimonial justice for these witnesses. Priestley’s ambivalent approach to madness in relation to visions of the future is related to the longer history of prophecy and madness. Letters from the television audience reveal a variety of attitudes towards the compatibility of precognition with modern theories of the mind, show the flexibility of precognition in relation to mental distress, and record a range of responses from medical and therapeutic practitioners. Testimonial justice for those whose experience of precognition intersects with psychiatric care entails a full acknowledgement of the tensions and complicities between these two domains as they are experienced by the witness, and an explicit statement of the hearer’s orientation to those domains.


Precognition; Psychiatry; J. B. Priestley; Time; Letters; Public

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Fourth Pre-Print Article from Psychical Research Special Issue now Online: Shannon Delorme on William Carpenter and Spiritualism in Victorian Britain

In the fourth of eight articles from the upcoming Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C special issue on psychical research, Shannon Delorme (Oxford University) takes a closer look at one of the most vocal British 19th-century opponents of spiritualism and animal magnetism, the physiologist William B. Carpenter.


Shannon Delorme, University of Oxford


William B. Carpenter

William B. Carpenter

This paper analyses the attitude of the British Physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter (1813–1885) to spiritualist claims and other alleged psychical phenomena in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. It argues that existing portraits of Carpenter as a critic of psychical studies need to be refined so as to include his curiosity about certain ‘unexplained phenomena’, as well as broadened so as to take into account his overarching epistemological approach in a context of theological and social fluidity within nineteenth-century British Unitarianism. Carpenter’s hostility towards spiritualism has been well documented, but his interest in the possibility of thought-transference or his secret fascination with the medium Henry Slade have not been mentioned until now. This paper therefore highlights Carpenter’s ambivalences and focuses on his conciliatory attitude towards a number of heterodoxies while suggesting that his Unitarian faith offers the keys to understanding his unflinching rationalism, his belief in the enduring power of mind, and his effort to resolve dualisms.


Spiritualism; Psychical research; Neurophysiology; Unitarianism; William B. Carpenter; Religious naturalism

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Who was Dr. Karlo Marchesi? The Zagreb-Durham Transoceanic ESP Experiments. Guest Post by Boris Kožnjak, Zagreb

Boris Kožnjak, PhD, is a historian and philosopher of science at the Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb, Croatia. E-mail:


Boris Kožnjak

Between August 1939 and May 1940 Joseph Banks Rhine and his associates from the famous Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, conducted what would become the longest distance experiment which any systematic ESP investigation has ever utilized. During that period, in three different series a Zagreb-based physician called Karlo Marchesi was trying to identify the cards in a total of 353 decks of Zenner cards set up in Durham, about 4,000 miles away from the Laboratory. The experiment was a success and it soon became an important and well-known part of the large body of statistically significant ESP data collected by the Laboratory.(1) Seven years later, between November 1946 and January 1947, in another experiment of this kind, Dr. Marchesi again obtained statistically significant results, which reinforced the assumption that ESP was not limited by space.(2) As commented by C.G. Jung in his famous essay on synchronicity, these experiments clearly demonstrated that “the distance is psychically variable, and may in certain circumstances be reduced to vanishing point by a psychic condition”.(3)

Dr. Karlo Marchesi (from Muftić, 1964).

Dr. Karlo Marchesi (from Muftić, 1964).

But who was Dr. Karlo Marchesi and how did he become involved in these intriguing experiments? I was puzzled by this question for a long time, not only as a historian and philosopher of science, but also as a resident of Zagreb, whose streets Dr. Marchesi once walked. However, as I was soon to find out, no one among my fellow citizens, including local historians, have ever heard about these experiments, let alone Dr. Marchesi. To make matters worse, the existing literature on the history of psychical research did not offer any answers either. Hence, I welcome the opportunity to share a few basic facts I have eventually unearthed about this fascinating, but unfairly forgotten man.

As already indicated, Dr. Marchesi was a Zagreb physician, who started his distinguished medical career as an internist at the City Polyclinic. At first, due to his medical training, he was extremely skeptical about the claims of the psychic phenomena. However, as a result of his own experiences, and particularly the experiments he himself performed, his negative attitude toward the ESP hypothesis gradually changed. Nevertheless, he continued to work in this controversial field anonymously, publishing his texts in local newspapers and magazines under the pseudonym Dr. C. Zorin, under which he also published the book The Problem of Psychic phenomena (1939, Problem psihičkih pojava in Croatian).(4) It was also about that time that Dr. Marchesi first contacted Rhine, informing him about several experimental series of successful ESP tests he performed, acting as the percipient in some of them. By the end of 1938 the Parapsychology Laboratory had accumulated several dozens of successful ESP experiments involving almost a million of trials with the famous Zener cards, but none of them being performed with ‘senders’ and ‘receivers’ separated by more than several hundred meters. Marshesi’s letter was therefore more than welcomed, and Rhine’s proposal to arrange the Zagreb-Durham experiments followed shortly thereafter. The publication of their results in 1942 in the Journal of Parapsychology encouraged Dr. Marchesi to break his anonymity, and in 1944 he published, now under his real name, the extensive 600 pages book The Secrets of the Human Soul: Hypnosis-Telepathy-Clairvoyance (Tajne čovječje duše: hipnoza-telepatija-vidovitost), in which he collected and critically commented all available theoretical and experimental research on ESP phenomena, including his own transoceanic experiments.(5)


Marchesi’s home at Zagreb’s Gornji Grad (Upper Town), from which he tried to guess cards prepared in Durham (photo by the author).

Dr. Marshesi’s life, however, was not without hardship. Soon after the The Secrets of the Human Soul was published – during the Second World War he served as the Red Cross Hospital director in Zagreb – he was incarcerated in the notorious Savska Cesta prison, and sentenced to death by the Ustasha regime because he provided medical care for some wounded partisans and American pilots, but thanks to some odd circumstances (that would require a separate book – or better a movie – to be told) he managed to escape death. After the war he also fell into disfavor with the new Yugoslav communist regime and, banned from his private practice, was sent to cure Partisan veterans suffering from the so-called ‘partisan disease’, a sort of a post-traumatic stress disorder.(6) In 1950 he was allowed to travel abroad, and at the invitation of Rhine he finally went to visit Duke University. In 1954 he was joined there by his wife Dr. Marija Rojc-Marchesi, also a well-known Zagreb physician-phtysiologist. She was not only his life companion, but also his intellectual partner; she translated into Croatian A.J. Findlay’s influential book On the Edge of Etheric or Survival after Death Scientifically Explained and published it in 1935, three years after the book was originally published in London.(7) They both finally settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.


ESP cards prepared for Dr. Marchesi in Durham (from Marchesi, 1944).

Interestingly, contrary to his extrachance scoring level while being 4,000 miles away, during his visit to Durham in a total of 1,163.5 ESP runs Dr. Marchesi was unable to score appreciably above chance average.(8) For Rhine and his associates this was no surprise; from previous experiments they had already come to appreciate that ESP scoring abilities were tied to certain psychological conditions of the percipients. In the case of Dr. Marchesi, who was now in an unfamiliar setting far away from his homeland, these conditions were thought to be obvious.(9) But although “the psychic doctor disappointed”, as even reported in the U.S. newspapers, Dr. Marchesi remained in the States, continuing his work in the field in which he was also one of the pioneers – clinical hypnosis. Already in 1942 the Zagreb School of Medicine had invited him to demonstrate the application of hypnosis in dental medicine; the demonstration was successful and hypnosis became a part of the official curriculum at the Zagreb School of Medicine (which was, by the way, 11 years earlier than the British Medical Association started even to consider hypnosis as a possible medical aid). His successful methods of hypnotic treatment of stammering(10) and bronchial asthma(11), published in the respectable British Journal of Medical Hypnotism became classics in the field.


(1) Rhine J.B. & Humphrey, B.M. (1942). A Transoceanic ESP Experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 6, 52-78.

(2) Mc Mahan, E.A. & Rhine, J.B. (1947). A Second Zagreb-Durham ESP Experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 244-253.

(3) Jung, C.G. (1960). Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. In: The collected works of C.G. Jung, vol. 8
(Princeton University Press, Princeton 1969), p. 433. Originally published in German in 1952.

(4) Zorin, C. (1939). Problem psihičkih pojava (Naklada Binoza, Zagreb).

(5) Marchesi, K. 1944. Tajne čovječje duše: hipnoza-telepatija-vidovitost (Naklada A. Velzek, Zagreb).

(6) Muftić, M. (1964). Dr Karlo Marchesi: trideset-godišnji jubilej znanstvenog rada. Hrvatska revija, 14, 51-53.

(7) Findlay, A.J. (1935) Na pragu eteričkog svieta ili život iza smrti znanstveno protumačen (Prev. Marija Rojc-Marchesi. S uvodom Williama Barretta (Zagreb).

(8) McMahan, E.A. & Bates, E.K. Jr. (1954). Report of further Marchesi experiments. Journal of Parapsychology, 18, 82-92. 244-253. See also Rhine, J. B. & Pratt, J. G. (1974/1954). Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind (Charles C Thomas, Illinois), pp. 68-69.

(9) See McMahan & Bates (1954), p. 91.

(10) Marchesi, C. (1949). The hypnotic treatment of bronchial asthma. British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, 1(2), 14-19.

(11) Marchesi, C. (1963). The hypnotic treatment of stammering. British Journal of Medical Hypnotism, 15 (2), 40-44.

 © Boris Kožnjak

Third Pre-Print Article from Psychical Research Special Issue: “Haunted Thoughts of the Careful Experimentalist”, by Richard Noakes

A pre-print version of Richard Noakes’ thought-provoking article looking at the complex relationship between unorthodox and established sciences is now available for download on the website of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.


Richard Noakes, University of Exeter

richardThis paper analyses the relationship between the ‘elusive’ science of psychical research and experimental physics in the period approximately, 1870–1930. Most studies of the relationship between psychical research and the established sciences have examined the ways in which psychical researchers used theories in the established sciences to give greater plausibility to their interpretations of such puzzling phenomena as telepathy, telekinesis and ectoplasm. A smaller literature has examined the use of laboratory instruments to produce scientific evidence for these phenomena. This paper argues that the cultures of experiment in the established science of physics could matter to psychical research in a different way: it suggests that experience of capricious effects, recalcitrant instruments and other problems of the physical laboratory made British physicists especially sympathetic towards the difficulties of the spiritualistic séance and other sites of psychical enquiry. In the wake of widely-reported claims that the mediums they had investigated had been exposed as frauds, these scientific practitioners were eventually persuaded by the merits of an older argument that human psychic subjects could not be treated like laboratory hardware. However, well into the twentieth century, they maintained that experimental physics had important lessons for psychical researchers.

Psychical research; Spiritualism; Physics; Psychology; Instruments; Experiment

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

“Hypnosis in Spain (1888–1905): From Spectacle to Medical Treatment of Mediumship”. Second Online-First Article from Special Issue on Psychical Research

The second article from an upcoming Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C special issue on psychical research is now available as a pre-print version on the journal’s website. Andrea Graus of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona investigates the remarkable history of the introduction of medical hypnotism in Spain.


Andrea Graus, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

Andrea Graus

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, some Spanish physicians sought to legitimize hypnotherapy within medicine. At the same time, hypnotism was being popularized among the Spanish population through stage hypnosis shows. In order to extend the use of medical hypnotherapy, some physicians made efforts to demarcate the therapeutic use of hypnotic suggestion from its application for recreational purposes, as performed by stage hypnotists. However, in the eyes of some physicians, the first public session to legitimize hypnotherapy turned out to be a complete failure due to its similarities with a stage hypnosis performance. Apart from exploring this kind of hitherto little-known historical cases, we explore the role of spiritists in legitimizing medical hypnosis. At a time when Spanish citizens were still reluctant to accept hypnotherapy, the spiritists sponsored a charitable clinic where treatment using hypnosis was offered. We conclude that the clinic was effective in promoting the use of hypnotherapy, both among physicians as clinical practice, and as a medical treatment for patients from the less privileged classes of Spanish society.

Hypnotism; Hypnotherapy; Spiritism; Medicine; Popularization of science; Spain

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

“Was Sir William Crookes Epistemically Virtuous?” Online First Article of Upcoming Special Issue on Psychical Research

I’m pleased to announce the online first/in-press version of an article to appear in an upcoming special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, dedicated to psychical research and parapsychology in the history of science and medicine. Thanks to the support of Greg Radick, the editor of Studies, I had the privilege to guest-edit this special issue containing eight articles selected from about 24 papers presented at a three-days conference I organised at University College London last year.


Ian James Kidd, Durham University


William Crookes (1832-1919)

The aim of this paper is to use Sir William Crookes’ researches into psychical phenomena as a sustained case study of the role of epistemic virtues within scientific enquiry. Despite growing interest in virtues in science, there are few integrated historical and philosophical studies, and even fewer studies focussing on controversial or ‘fringe’ sciences where, one might suppose, certain epistemic virtues (like open-mindedness and tolerance) may be subjected to sterner tests. Using the virtue of epistemic courage as my focus, it emerges that Crookes’ psychical researches were indeed epistemically courageous, but that this judgment must be grounded in sensitivity to the motivational complexity and context-sensitivity of the exercise of epistemic virtues. The paper then considers Crookes’ remarks on the relationship between epistemic virtuousness and the intellectual integrity and public duties of scientists, thereby placing epistemic virtues in the context of wider debates about the authority of science in late modern societies. I conclude that Crookes’ researches into psychical phenomena offer instructive lessons for historians of science and virtue epistemologists concerning the complexity and contextuality of epistemic virtues, and the profitable forms that future studies of virtues in science could take.

Sir William Crookes; Epistemic virtues; Psychical research; Spiritualism; Virtue epistemology

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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