Classic Contact/ Scientific Spiritualism

Hosted byGeorge Knapp

Classic Contact/ Scientific Spiritualism

About the show

George Van Tassel, a one-time Howard Hughes employee, created one of the first UFO religions combining what he claimed were instructions from space people with outsider science to build a rejuvenation machine. Jonathan Berman, who has made a film about Van Tassel, joined George Knapp to discuss how this early UFO "contactee" became a leader of a movement and convened one of the first and longest-running flying saucer gatherings in history. Berman described Van Tassel as a "thinking man" and an adventurer, who moved his family out to the barren California desert in the late 1940s in order to make a new start at a place called Giant Rock. He soon began "channeling" what he believed were people from space, and in August 1953, said he actually met one of them.

Berman said that these aliens gave Van Tassel instructions on how to build a device that would be "a rejuvenation machine, a time machine, and used for research into free energy." This building/ device still exists and is called the "Integratron." It was built of fir and birch wood without any metal fasteners. The building was almost complete when Van Tassel had a sudden heart attack in 1978. Adding to the intrigue, Berman said that it was looted of material and the original plans soon afterwards. He said that the FBI was also interested in Van Tassel because of his message of peace and his followers’ anti-nuclear stance, and that he was almost certainly "being watched." Related images.


A years-long sociological investigation of a spiritualist group by James McClenon witnessed table levitations, poltergeist phenomena, and other startling physical events. In the second half, McClenon, a sociology professor and licensed clinical social worker, discussed how the group hoped to replicate unusual phenomena on a consistent basis and succeeded beyond their dreams. McClenon arrived at the group’s headquarters with a scientist’s skeptical mindset, and over the course of years of research realized that his training could not account for what he was seeing. The day after he arrived, a message was found in a previously sealed container that read "Hi, Jim." He says this hooked him.

McClenon recalled that the group, named the Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis or, SORRAT, was formed in the early 1960s, and by the time he arrived, they had been experiencing anomalous phenomena for almost 20 years. He said that the most obvious quality of the apparent entities behind the occurrences was "a very intense quirkiness" which manifested with such things as complying with requests for information, but always with a joking quality to the responses. After awhile, McClenon said that the consciousness associated with the phenomena began to send him and others mailed letters with messages and descriptions which had particular meaning for the people who received them, and to add to the strangeness, bore postmarks from strange places and foreign lands. In the end, he says, he "developed the attitude that I was doing a sort of spiritual exercise" and became convinced that many psychic manifestations cannot be adequately studied with the methods of classical science.

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