Ken Batcheldor must be regarded as one of the most important pioneers in the study of macro-PK in a sitter-group environment. Having been fascinated by stories of Victorian table-tilting sessions, he set about investigating the phenomenon at his home. Despite initial scepticism, Ken soon came to realise that it was indeed possible to exert forces on a table in a manner which excluded normal manipulation. He was well aware of the possibility of self-deception and methods of fraud. He was equally aware of the notion of UMA, unconscious muscular action, in which sitters unwittingly use normal muscular movements to obtain a positive result. However, Ken was a tireless investigator with a burning ambition to learn more about the mechanism of macro-PK as it applied to table phenomena. So who was Ken Batcheldor and what did he manage to achieve?
Ken was born in 1921 and worked as a principal clinical psychologist for a group of Devonshire hospitals. He retired early at the age of 55 and spent the rest of his life evaluating the evidence surrounding the phenomenon of table-tilting and associated phenomena. Two or three evenings a month would be devoted to practical sessions of table movements, along with several of his neighbours and friends. His idea of reviving the traditional Victorian after-dinner seance arose spontaneously at a social evening in 1964. One of his guests had told some good ghost stories and Ken suggested having a go at table-tipping, just for fun. Nothing happened at that first session, but a few evenings later they tried again and were rewarded with a loud bang. Whether paranormal or not, this encouraged the sitters to keep going, and at the eleventh sitting (the first to be held in total darkness) the table left the floor unaided by any normal means, according to signed statements from all present.
Having had such success, Ken decided to devote the rest of his life to the table phenomena and was very successful in establishing the conditions suitable for the successful development of these rather strange effects. He stated the following: "There's something about table-tipping that enables a group of ordinary people to succeed in generating PK without even trying, provided they are reasonably open-minded. It is this - in most cases the table will start to move due to unconscious muscular activity. This can give an amazing illusion that the table is moving of its own accord as if animated by some mysterious force. You get the impression you are already succeeding in generating paranormal movements. This has precisely the same impact on you as real success would have - it sweeps your doubts aside and produces total faith ..." Such faith, he said, was very difficult to acquire by deliberate effort. It called for complete suspension of any kind of objective attitude, for conditions essential for the generation of PK were simply not compatible with those of a scientific experiment.
Experiments at Home, 1978
Ken Batcheldor's Findings
Batcheldor's principal findings were both technical and psychological in nature. They had been derived following many years of painstaking devotion to the subject of table-tilting. For several years he worked closely with Colin Brookes-Smith and he developed his "List of Rules for Sitters". The term "sitters" relates to the use of a card-table wired with strain guages and motion-detectors as the feedback component and "output" part of the technology. The members of the group would be seated around the table whilst instrumentation was used to provide objective records of any phenomena. Over the course of 200 sessions from April 1964 to December 1965, many examples of ostensibly paranormal phenomena took place. A friend of Kens, William Chick, attended 80 sessions and in 70 of these physical phenomena took place. Ken published his results in several papers, one of the most important being:
Report on a Case of Table Levitation and Associated Phenomena.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 43, No.729, September 1966, pp 339-356.
Ken was one of the first investigators to get raps and table movements in a seance type of setting. These were under his close control and he took great efforts to ensure that movements were not the result of normal forces, including those due to UMA (Unconscious Muscular Activity). Thr first total levitation of the table occurred in complete darkness which left the group somewhat uncertainas to what had happened. Ken then attached electric switches to the table legs and connected the wires to a light on top of the table. The light would come on only if all legs were off the floor at the same time. Occasionally, the table would remain off the floor for a period of about 20 seconds. The light also had the advantage that during levitation everyone could see all the hands were on top of the table and not lifting it. All later sittings were tape recorded and a buzzer was used instead of a light to signify total levitation of the table, an audible event that would be recorded on the tape. Despite the odd technical hitch when the table tilted by more than 40 degrees, the system worked well. Attempts were made to obtain photographic evidence of complete levitations but this was never achieved, partly because there were considerably fewer levitations when the photographic apparatus was involved. Total levitations only ever occurred in total darkness or in light which was insufficient to illuminate the underneath of the table.
With regard to lighting conditions, the majority of sittings were held either in very low light or in total darkness (with the use of luminous paint to follow the movement of the table). The team came to favour the use of an Ilford Infrared Safelight which gave good visibility, was restful on the eyes and did not greatly inhibit the phenomena.
Typical sittings started with everyone seated around a table with their hands placed face down on the table top. There was always an initial period of waiting before anything happened, this period being around 5-10 minutes, although it could be as short as one minute and as long as half an hour.
The first signs of activity were usually creaks or cracking noises in the wood of the table. Most of these seemed normally produced by sideways stress on the table and may be called crepitations. However, these were interspersed with sharp taps, scrapings, or soft thuds, apparently due to some separate body striking the table. In a few cases these thuds were unmistakably heard on the chairs, the floor and on the walls. As table movements increased so too did the occurrence of rapping sounds. In most sittings attempts were made to communicate with any directing intelligence, occassionally with considerable response, but more usually with no response. The group often experienced cold breezes, mainly around the hands, as if they were being puffed on or fanned and were apparently too distinct to be confused with normal draughts in the room.
Possibly the most important contribution made by Ken Batcheldor, the psychological parameters which act as a prerequisite for successful sitter groups must be regarded as particularly significant. During the course of his 200 sittings, Ken was able to establish the conditions under which he obtained successful results as a matter of course. This information, which has been grossly underutilised by successive groups, deserves very special consideration. It is true to say that certain recommendations came about as a result of a close working relationship with a fellow investigator, Colin Brookes-Smith. It was Colin who in 1970 published the Manual of Advanced Psychokinetic Procedures but much of this derived from Ken Batcheldor's List of Rules for Sitters. Out of this work came a list of fifty-three pointers, each designed to assist any group of normal people obtain successful PK phenomena in a sitter group environment.
List of Rules for Sitters
The success or otherwise of a group sitting is influenced greatly by certain important psychological factors of the group structure. Ken Batcheldor summarised his findings in the following manner. He became quite convinced that there are three big reasons why PK might succeed or fail. They are:
1. Belief: even the slightest doubt is bad news for getting positive results.
2. "Ownership Resistance" : Ken used this term to describe people's reluctance to be responsible for PK. People prefer to think that others, including possible spirits, are responsible for PK effects. This offloads the responsibilty to others and therefore increases the chances of success.
3. "Witness Inhibition" : the fact that people are sometimes very uncomfortable watching PK, no matter who is responsible for it.
Batcheldor felt that the best way to get around all three of these problems is to use a "group party atmosphere". Often he would have one person prime the pump by faking an event to get around the need for belief to get things going. Ownership resistance was less of a problem because no-one knew who in the group was actually responsible for the PK. Perhaps most importantly, he used laughter, singing and a light party-like atmosphere to cut down on witness inhibition. Some researchers feel that the unconscious mind knows how to produce PK - it just needs a set goal and a way to keep the conscious mind from interfering with it's production.