Saturday, March 8, 2008

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The Archaeus Project: Overview

The Archaeus Project was one of the groups active in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was founded in 1982 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (Bakken, n.d., p.74), and during its early years it focused heavily, though not exclusively, on the paranormal. It conducted investigations, sponsored lecture series, held conferences, established a library, and published periodicals and monographs.

Its journal, Archaeus, was published in five volumes, from 1983 to 1989. It carried papers from a variety of contributors, with names familiar to paranormal researchers, including (in order of first appearance): Eldon A. Byrd, Jack Houck, James McClenon, John Thomas Richards, Dennis Stillings, Robert C. Beck, Jule Eisenbud, Andrija Puharich, Elizabeth A. Rauscher, Otto H. Schmitt, George P. Hansen, W. E. Cox, Robert E. L. Masters, Earl E. Bakken, Hilary Evans, Martin S. Kottmeyer, Peter M. Rojcewicz, Michael Grosso, Alvin H. Lawson, Michael A. Persinger.

The Archaeus Project began as a discussion group in the home of Earl Bakken, an inventor-businessman who co-founded Medtronic, which was ranked number 222 in the 2007 Fortune 500 list, with a market value of $57 billion (Bakken, n.d., p. 73; Fortune 500, 2007, pp. F-11 – F-12). The group was soon joined by Dennis Stillings, who had earlier built the collections of The Bakken, now a renowned library and museum focusing on electricity and life (Bakken, n.d., pp. 70-71; Stillings, 2001). Stillings went on to become the director of the Archaeus Project.

The group had a number of other members with significant mainstream accomplishments. Otto Schmitt, an eminent biophysicist, was one of the early members involved with paranormal investigations. The November-December 2004 issue of IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine devoted over 40 pages to Schmitt and his work, including an article by Stillings. John E. Haaland, a former Corporate Vice President of the Pillsbury Company, was another member. In 1998 Haaland and members of Robert Jahn’s PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) laboratory at Princeton University received a patent for an electronic random-number generator used to control a game toy or computer display (Bradish et al, 1998). Archaeus Project member Karen Olness, M.D., a professor of pediatrics, has received honors for improving children’s health around the world.

The Archaeus Project kept in touch with other groups and brought active researchers to Minneapolis and St. Paul for public lectures. Stillings was given sufficient funds for considerable travel, and he had a chance to observe a wide range of paranormal activities and the subcultures surrounding them. Through its journal Archaeus and its newsletter/magazine Artifex it chronicled the paranormal scene, and Stillings provided illuminating commentary, often from a Jungian perspective. (Most of his commentaries are not currently available online.)

In 1993 the Archaeus Project moved to Hawaii as its focus shifted to more mainstream healthcare-related matters. In 2001 it became a sole proprietorship owned by Dennis Stillings. It has not since been active in paranormal areas, though Stillings retains his personal interest.

The Archaeus Project and Anti-structure

The Archaeus Project displays characteristics of anti-structure that typify many paranormal groups. The term anti-structure captures the instability and marginality of paranormal organizations, as well as the lack of long-lived institutions that remain effective. (I am speaking here primarily of those groups that make attempts to directly engage paranormal phenomena.)

The word anti-structure was used by anthropologist Victor Turner in the subtitle of his book The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (1969). He used it almost synonymously with liminality. Neither of the two terms is commonly known within paranormal fields, and indeed, even young anthropologists are not too likely to be familiar with the words (the social sciences are marked by a high degree of faddishness). Yet Turner was a major figure in anthropology; his concepts have been adopted in other fields, and extensions of his theoretical work give considerable insight into the paranormal. A full explanation of anti-structure and its ramifications would take too much space here. But I hope that the reader will get some sense of them from this discussion.

The Archaeus Project had office space and a paid staff. But it was small. Most of the work was done by Stillings, with help from Gail Duke. Yet for a paranormal group, it was well supported; indeed it would be the envy of many researchers today. Nevertheless, by comparison to a conventional business, church, or school, it was a tiny operation. It was not integrated into a larger organization; rather, it was an autonomous entity. That allowed considerable freedom but made it more vulnerable to the vagaries of funding, personnel changes, etc.

The Archaeus Project was supported by a wealthy individual, rather than government agencies or foundations run by professional philanthropists. As I pointed out in my book (pp. 197-198), the funding sources for psychical research reflect the anti-structural nature of psi. The greatest support for open (i.e., nonclassified) research has come from wealthy individuals such as James S. McDonnell (McDonnell Douglas Corporation), Thomas Welton Stanford (brother of Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University), Frances Bolton (congresswoman), Thomas Baker Slick, Jr. (oil man), John E. Fetzer (owner of radio and television stations and the Detroit Tigers baseball team), George W. Church, Jr. (Church’s Fried Chicken), W. Clement Stone (insurance magnate), Arthur Koestler (author), Chester F. Carlson (inventor of the Xerox process), Masaru Ibuka (co-founder of Sony), and Robert Bigelow (real estate tycoon, Bigelow Aerospace). Overall, large philanthropic institutions have made comparatively modest contributions. Some of the people listed above established foundations to support parapsychology, but after their deaths, professional philanthropists took control, changed the focus of the foundations, and eliminated support for parapsychology. Unlike other areas of science, it is not institutions (e.g., corporations, government agencies, philanthropic foundations), but rather individuals, who have provided the primary financial backing for psychical research. This is simply another manifestation of anti-structure and the anti-institutional nature of psi.

The Archaeus Project’s involvement with paranormal topics spanned approximately 10 years. Its historical trajectory is typical of other groups. In the early phase, experiments were undertaken, and efforts were made to directly observe paranormal events. Small newsletters were published. As the Archaeus Project became more established, the bulk of its efforts shifted more toward publishing its journal and magazine, rather than directly engaging the phenomena. Eventually, attention turned away from paranormal topics altogether, and its research into the paranormal failed to be effectively institutionalized for the long term.

Concluding Comments

Some might perceive my above comments as being rather downbeat, focusing too heavily on the failure. Such a perception would miss the point. The Archaeus Project was far more successful, and made more of a contribution, than the vast majority of groups devoted to the paranormal. It left a legacy of written materials that chronicled paranormal activities and commented on many facets, often with considerable insight. Despite its successes, it displayed the manifestations of anti-structure typical of paranormal groups.

In closing, I might mention that the single most important factor that led me to writing The Trickster and the Paranormal was a decade of discussions with the director of the Archaeus Project, Dennis Stillings.


Bakken, Earl E. (n.d.). One Man’s Full Life. Available at: Accessed March 8, 2008.

Bradish, G. Johnston; Dobyns, York H.; Dunne, Brenda J.; Jahn, Robert G.; Nelson, Roger D.; Haaland, John E.; Hamer, Steven M. Apparatus and method for distinguishing events which collectively exceed chance expectations and thereby controlling an output. U.S. Patent No. 5,830,064. November 3, 1998.

Fortune 500 Largest U.S. Corporations. Fortune, Vol. 155, No. 8, April 30, 2007, pp. F-1 – F-29.

Hansen, George P. (2001). The Trickster and the Paranormal. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation.

Stillings, Dennis. (2004). Otto Schmitt and the Archaeus Project: Adventures in the Anomalous. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp. 57-59.

Stillings, Dennis. (2001). The Bakken: A Library and Museum of Electricity in Life. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 255-266.

Turner, Victor W. (1969). The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing Company.


A short history of the Archaeus Project is given at:

A short history of The Bakken is given at:

Dennis Stillings’ article on The Bakken in the Journal of Scientific Exploration is available at:

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