The Endicott experiment

One of the old FOIA files on the Black Vault site is an account of an Air Force experiment in telepathy. The researchers were working out of Hanscom AFB in Mass. They built a complicated set of computing machines in an attempt to eliminate the human judgment factors in the usual JB Rhine picture-drawing experiments.

The team wanted the judge to be mechanistic, but also wanted the situation to be easy and comforting, not a cold academic lab.

After considerable inquiring and interviewing, they found a splendid place for the experiment at nearby Endicott College in Beverly. Teachers and admininistrators enjoyed the concept, and allowed the researchers to rent a caretaker’s cottage on the college grounds.

Students were also eager to participate. The team selected 45 female students, and ran the tests daily during the spring semester of 1962. 37 of the 45 completed the semester; 6 of the originals dropped out of college during the semester, and only 2 lost interest in the experiment.

The custom-made machinery is described rather vaguely, and the pictures in the PDF are overexposed, so I had to guess at some details. I’m subbing an IBM 650 as the master sequencer and controller, supervised here by HappyStar. The master included a random number generator, sequencing relays, and a chart to record the response times.

The ‘sender’ was one of the experimenters, here played by Polistra.

The sender’s console had a signal button; a start and stop button; two counters for total trials and successful trials; another number indicator so she could see what the random generator produced; and a set of 10 number keys.

The student’s console was similar, except that the signal (top center) was a light to indicate when to start each trial. The important parts for the student were the Start and Stop buttons and number keys. There was no indicator for the generated digit.

Three modes of experiment were conducted, with 5 sessions of 100 trials in each mode for each student.

Clairvoyance was testing the ability to see what the number generator was doing. After getting the signal, the student hit Start, waited as long as she wanted, then hit Stop. After hitting Stop, she guessed what the number was.

Precognition tested the ability to predict what number would come out BEFORE the generator churned out the number. The student picked a number first, then hit the Start and Stop buttons.

Telepathy was the same as Clairvoyance from the student’s viewpoint. The only difference was that the sender saw the number from the generator, and tried to send the thought toward the student.

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Results, after the usual statistical averaging, were disappointing. The average of all students was very close to 1 out of 10, the ‘stopped clock’ result you’d get by always hitting the same number.

As usual, the stats blurred out the most interesting fact. All talents are on a spectrum. Two of the girls performed consistently better than chance in the first two modes.

In other words, the experiment could have been seen as a talent test rather than a null hypothesis verifier.

Statistics arises from, and reinforces, the standard Enlightenment lie that all humans are identical.

Other animals, from birds to bees to beagles, have senses that we can’t match and can’t understand. Nature doesn’t waste a mechanism. Some of us probably have similar talents, which modern “cultures” try hard to destroy and ignore.

Predicting the inner workings of a computer is NOT what Nature designed us for. If we have such talents, they would be meant to assess the intentions and desires of other humans and animals. The senses would be tuned to resonate with similar senses, not meant to perceive the 1s and 0s in an inanimate machine. We seem to have a telepathy transceiver in our cerebellum. It’s there, so it must be used.

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Footnote 1: This experiment was definitely not the best attempt to show or select the talents of telepathy. As usual in science, Russians were more open-minded and thus more productive. I’ve been reading the Russian work for a while but couldn’t find a way to ‘materialize’ it. I picked this document because it gave me an opportunity to build one of my tech history scenes.  Machines, methods, house.

Footnote 2: The Air Force later reused the machines to test and train reaction times, a more obvious application for jet pilots.  A good design can be adapted and amortized for many purposes.

Footnote 3: I’m able to guess the details fairly well because I’ve written software to perform similar tests in the realm of ‘ordinary’ perception.

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