Parapsychological Studies

Psychologist Kenneth J. Batcheldor on Macro-PK in Group Sittings

During the 1960s and 1970s, British clinical psychologist Kenneth J. Batcheldor (1921-1988) conducted table-tilting experiments with his students. Photographs taken in complete darkness using an infra-red flash show Batcheldor seated on the left, holding the camera’s remote control in his right hand. In another photo, a female student is seated on the table to increase its weight.

In this photo, taken in complete darkness using an infra-red flash, Batcheldor is seated on the left and holds the camera remote control in his right hand.

In this photo, a female student is seated on a lighter table to increase its weight.

Through his experiments Batcheldor formulated and tested hypotheses about the psychological factors that may impede the manifestation of PK phenomena. His concepts of “witness inhibition” (we don’t really want to see paranormal events) and “ownership resistance” (we couldn’t be responsible for them) are important observations that bear consideration in the formation of sitter groups.

Kenneth Batcheldor used “induction by artefact” successfully to prove that genuine table phenomena can be induced in a sitter group through introducing a bit of trickery from time to time. Though Batcheldor repeatedly tested that hypothesis and convinced himself of the genuineness of the table movements and levitations that would often manifest following a bit of trickery, it is not something that I would want to attempt in PK experiments. The subject of macro-PK already presents a minefield without further confusing matters. There are other means of helping sitters overcome what Batcheldor termed “witness inhibition” and “ownership resistance”.

After spending their first year in Canada attempting unsuccessfully to obtain table movements (ca. 1972-1973), British psychical researchers Iris M. Owen (1916-2009) and A.R.G. (George) Owen (1919-2003) discovered articles by Batcheldor and Colin Brookes-Smith (1899-1982) about their experiments with sitter groups. Altering the manner in which the sittings were conducted proved the turning point in the Toronto group’s research and lead to creation of the imaginary ghost named “Philip”. The group witnessed and filmed good table movements in full light. More information on those experiments will be made available during the coming year.

Based upon my own observations in the Victoria study group, I am convinced of Batcheldor’s conclusions. “Witness inhibition” and “ownership resistance” need to be overcome in order to achieve full non-contact table levitations.

In terms of innovation and critical thinking, the research conducted by Kenneth Batcheldor and Brookes-Smith in England, and Iris and George Owen in Canada, are exceptions rather than the rule. Batcheldor’s attempts to understand the psychological impediments to witnessing macro-PK events are the best in the field. Still, there is no useful theory to account for this phenomenon. Psychokinesis (PK) or mind-over-matter is a label used to describe the phenomenon; it is not an explanatory theory.

The typescript presented here was loaned to me by author and psychical researcher Guy Lyon Playfair who in 1983 attended two of the Batcheldor group’s sessions and was convinced of the paranormal nature of the table movements he witnessed. Those events are described in Playfair’s If This Be Magic (Jonathan Cape, 1985, pp. 184-200).

Playfair knew Batcheldor sufficiently well to state that he would have wanted this document to be available for future generations of researchers. Previously, it has been accessible only in the Cerlox-bound photocopied format as Batcheldor had distributed it to interested colleagues. Due to the poor quality of some of the photocopied images, a few pages, including the table of contents, have been retyped, to improve access to the content.

Walter Meyer zu Erpen, PK Experimenter (January 2011)

As distributed by Batcheldor, the typescript contains three documents:

  • K.J. Batcheldor, “Macro-PK in Group Sittings: Theoretical and Practical Aspects”, unpublished typescript (Exeter, June 1968; Amended but not updated, November 1981), 115 pp.
  • K.J. Batcheldor, “Contributions to the Theory of PK Induction from Sitter-Group Work,” typescript of paper presented at the joint Society for Psychical Research / Parapsychological Association conference, Cambridge, August 1982 (Exeter 1982), 14 pp.
  • Julian Isaacs, “The Batcheldor Approach: Some Strengths and Weaknesses,” typescript of paper for presentation at the 25th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association at Cambridge, August 1982 (Birmingham, 1982), 6 pp. Thank you to Professor Isaacs for permitting inclusion of his critique of Batcheldor’s work in this PDF version (phone message, 16 September 2008).