In the first half, scholar of occult and esoteric ideas, and PEN Award-winning historian, Mitch Horowitz discussed his latest work on verifying ESP - extrasensory perception, based on his recent talk. ESP refers to communication or impressions that go beyond the five senses, or to have reactions or awareness to events before they occur. "We are part of some extra-physical mind," he commented, adding that Emerson called this aspect the "oversoul," and Swedenborg referred to it as the "divine influx." The evidence for ESP is overwhelming, he continued, citing the work of such researchers as psychologist Daryl Bem who demonstrated precognition in a series of lab experiments, and the groundbreaking JB Rhine, who established a parapsychology lab at Duke University.
The Ganzfeld experiments pioneered by parapsychologist Charles Honorton in the 1970s and 80s demonstrated that ESP or telepathy could be spiked by placing individuals in conditions of relaxed sensory deprivation. "The fact is we all find ourselves in such a condition twice a day," Horowitz pointed out-- just as we're drifting off to sleep at night, and just as we're waking up in the morning (called hypnagogia by sleep researchers). He noted that the popular online reference site Wikipedia routinely disparages ESP research and parapsychology, with their crowd-sourced editors lacking objectivity and skewed toward a position of "extreme rejectionism." Mitch also talked about his forthcoming book Daydream Believer, which explores the causative power of the mind and how our thoughts shape our experiences.
25-year paranormal investigator, Dr. Brandy Stark has degrees in religious studies, humanities, and liberal studies/literature and has spent a number of years talking about the historic role of ghosts and culture. In the latter half, she shared her research on the paranormal and the work of raising pugs that aid in the search for supernatural phenomena. Canines seem to have the ability to sense things at locations known for paranormal activity, in a kind of "pure perception," she reported. Stark described taking her pugs to haunted places and observing their reactions-- when they spot something unusual, they typically become still or silent. At an investigation at a haunted veterinary clinic, she set up an infrared camera at a door where anomalies had been reported. At one point, her pug stopped and stared at the camera, and then immediately afterward, the door opened on its own, she marveled.
She has concluded that hauntings often involve a disembodied consciousness, and sometimes they will interact with you. "I find that they want their story known," she remarked of the spirits, and the evidence her investigation team (the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg) gathers includes EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), videos, and various meter readings. At a site of what was formerly a high school in the 1920s, two distinct EVP messages were recorded of a voice saying, "Get out." Investigating the Tampa Theatre (also from the 1920s), her EMF meter flashed, and she then felt a hand on her shoulder though there was no one there. At the historical May Stringer House in Brooksville, FL, said to be haunted by a misogynistic ghost, one team member felt she was being scratched on her back, and Stark said she experienced an intense burning sensation on her face.