A question I have been getting a lot recently is, “Why don’t you scientifically study physical mediumship?”

The short answer is that I started studying physical mediumship about ten years ago and chose to stop. I dropped the program not because I think the phenomenon isn’t real but because, due to the current limits of our knowledge about psychic functioning and consciousness, nothing good will come from it. In the end, physical mediums will be vilified, not vindicated, and the grieving sitters who attend séances will be mocked and dismissed as gullible dupes. I genuinely believe that there are some things that the entrenched mainstream materialist-based scientific machine isn’t yet qualified to investigate, and physical mediumship is one of those things.

OK, that was a big “manifesto” that could probably use a little unpacking. I’ll start with some definitions, so we are on the same page. I should note that terminology in this field isn’t very consistent and universally accepted, so your mileage may vary. Also, remember that this is a blog post, not a dissertation – I will only skim the surface here.

A medium is a person who regularly reports experiencing communication from dead people (called discarnates). A sitter is a person who has a session with a medium (often, in my work, a sitter is grieving the loss of a loved one). Mediumship expresses itself in, basically, two ways, mental and physical.

Mental mediums typically convey messages to the sitter through verbal communication (although some mediums write messages down). Physical mediums, with the help of a discarnate, produce a range of Macroscopic Psychokinetic (aka Macro-PK) phenomena for the sitter. These can include disembodied voices, paranormal lights, apports (objects that spontaneously appear), the movement of objects, the production of ectoplasm, sourceless sounds like raps and knocks, etc.

With all that in mind, developing a physical mediumship research program is, in theory, straightforward. It could consist of several individual tiered projects, conducted consecutively, with the findings from the initial project informing the methods and processes of the next. Each project builds up more knowledge resulting in a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the topic.

For example:

Step 1: Verify the reported phenomena through direct observation and documentation of pre-screened research participants utilizing methods that optimize the experimental environment while maintaining tight controls.

Step 2: Accumulate deeper insights into the process by exploring verified physical mediums’ psychology, physiology, and phenomenology.

Step 3: Gain an in-depth understanding of the sitter participants (ex: Who are they, why do they attend, what do they experience, what impact do these experiences have on them, etc.).

Step 4: Consider how all these findings relate to the survival hypothesis.

Easy-peasy. Well, sort of…

Sadly, problems start to arise right at Step 1 – and no, you can’t just skip ahead. Basically, the controls required to ensure the legitimacy of the physical phenomena are so invasive and potentially deceptive that, given the exploratory nature of the research, they could be considered unethical. Even if the research participants agree to these controls (which they shouldn’t), the other concern is that the resulting experiment loses all ecological validity. That is, the experiment moves so far away from the naturalistic setting of the phenomena that, at best, researchers end up studying something other than what they set out to examine, or, worse, they create an environment that prevents the phenomena from manifesting at all.

Then when it comes time to publish, a “positive results” paper will be dismissed because skeptics will claim the controls were not tight enough, and a “negative results” paper will be jumped on by skeptics and the media, who will use it to fuel the misconception that all mediums are frauds – even if the study design is poor.

IMO to effectively, safely, and respectfully research physical mediumship, we need a way to measure and track psi effects on physical systems directly and differentiate between psi-generated and non-psi-generated events.

Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and until we get there, I’m happy to leave physical mediums and the grieving sitters that draw comfort from those experiences alone.

Today, my research focuses on what I call Discarnate Effects on Analog and Digital Devices (DEADD), a form of instrumental transcommunication (ITC). In these studies, which use a randomized, double-blind protocol, discarnates are invited to the lab and asked to interact with different devices. A mental medium is then utilized to facilitate communication with the discarnate, who then provides feedback about their lab experience and ability to influence the target device. Through this process, I’m treating the discarnate as a research participant and co-investigator who is helping to optimize the experiment.

In other research, I’m examining how individuals can produce macro-pk effects over various tasks.

The nice thing about this approach is that it removes the grieving sitters from the spotlight and pushes any burden of proof away from the mediums and onto me.

This article is based on a post from my personal Facebook page dated April 15, 2022.

Some Relevant References:

Boccuzzi, M. (2017). Application of Digital Infrared Thermographic Imaging (DITI) and Other Monitors for Documenting Physical Phenomena during Sittings with a Medium. Threshold: Journal Of Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies, 1(2), 37-50. Retrieved from http://tjics.org/index.php/TJICS/article/view/16

Boccuzzi, M., Beischel, J., & Gebhart, R. (2012, August). Invited ostensible discarnate interactions with electronic equipment: A pilot study. Paper presented at the 55th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Durham, North Carolina. [View Conference Abstracts]

Duggan, M. (2019). ‘Mark Boccuzzi’. Psi Encyclopedia. London: The Society for Psychical Research. https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/mark-boccuzzi.