Ganzfeld Test Subjects, 1972 – 1973

Exhibit / February 2, 2017

Object Name: Ganzfeld test subjects
Maker and Year: Photographer Michal Doran, circa 1972 (first two photos); Ralph Crane, 1972 (b/w photo)
Object Type: Photographs
Image Source: Into The Unknown, Reader’s Digest, 1981; Life magazine, 1972
Description (Michael Grasso):

With the popularity of psychic experimentation and testing on the rise in the early 1970s, new methods attempting to verify the existence of ESP were devised. The Division of Parapsychology and Psychophysics at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York City grew out of that institution’s dream research division. Charles Honorton, Director of Research at the parapsychology lab at Maimonides, began to perform “ganzfeld” (German for “full field” or “entire field”) experiments, testing for a possible link between sensory deprivation and ESP. A “receiver” would experience partial sensory deprivation (here, accomplished by halved ping-pong balls over the receiver’s eyes and “pink noise” within the headphones). The “sender,” meanwhile, would sit in another room, receiving sensory input (in the case of the second photo above, in the form of a title card from 1970-71 children’s show Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp). Honorton’s hypothesis was that eliminating competing signals to the senses would allow receivers to more narrowly focus on ESP communication. Honorton and his colleague Sharon Harper published their preliminary findings in 1974 in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, which led to a decade of further testing. By the 1980s, mainstream peers had found many weaknesses in Honorton’s research methods and his work had been largely discredited.

Another prominent ganzfeld researcher who contributed to Honorton’s work was Carl Sargent, who performed ganzfeld experiments in the late ’70s at Cambridge University, where he received the school’s first Ph.D. in parapsychology. An early Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, Sargent would eventually leave the field of parapsychology and go on to write several TSR modules and books for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line in the ’80s and ’90s.

3 thoughts on “Ganzfeld Test Subjects, 1972 – 1973

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