Monday, December 7, 2009

Psychophysical Research Laboratories’ PsiLab // Manual Now Online

During the 1980s, Psychophysical Research Laboratories (PRL) developed a package called PsiLab // to test psychic functioning using the Apple II series of computers.

The package included an electronic random number generator (RNG) on a circuit board that fit into an Apple II slot. The RNG was a modified version of one built by Dutch physicist Dick Bierman.

PsiLab // also included software to test the randomness of RNGs, computer games that used RNG output, and utilities for analysis. The PsiLab // manual (126 pages) gave considerable detail, but a very limited number of copies—perhaps no more than two dozen—were produced.

The PsiLab // manual is now online in PDF format. Two versions are available:

Click here for PsiLab // -- Searchable PDF (7.3 MB)

Click here for PsiLab // -- Nonsearchable PDF (3.1 MB)

The manual was cited in a number of journal articles reporting both laboratory-based research (e.g., Berger 1988; Don, McDonough, & Warren 1992; Honorton 1987) and field studies (e.g., Maher & Hansen 1992; Maher & Hansen 1995). Also, a number of researchers made use of the random analysis software and the methods for verifying adequate functioning of RNGs (e.g., Palmer & Kramer 1987; Vassy 1990).

PRL was headed by Charles Honorton, and it carried out research from 1979 to 1989 in Princeton, New Jersey. It focused on two primary areas: ESP under ganzfeld conditions and psi effects on electronic RNGs. For more information on PRL, see Broughton (1991, pp. 105-114; 1993), Hansen (2001, pp. 195-196, 206), and especially Schechter (1993). The 1993 articles by Broughton and Schechter were reprinted in Rao (1994).


Berger, Rick E. (1988). Psi Effects Without Real-Time Feedback. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 52, pp. 1-27.

Broughton, Richard S. (1991). Parapsychology: The Controversial Science. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Broughton, Richard S. (1993). A Craftsman and His Tools: The New Technology. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 57, pp. 111-127.

Don, Norman S.; McDonough, Bruce E.; & Warren, Charles A. (1992). Psi Testing of a Controversial Psychic Under Controlled Conditions. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 56, pp. 87-96.

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

Honorton, Charles. (1987). Precognition and Real-Time ESP Performance in a Computer Task With an Exceptional Subject. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 51, pp. 291-320.

Maher, Michaeleen C. & Hansen, George P. (1992). Quantitative Investigation of a Reported Haunting Using Several Detection Techniques. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 86, pp. 347-374.

Maher, Michaeleen C. & Hansen, George P. (1995). Quantitative Investigation of a “Haunted Castle” in New Jersey. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 89, pp. 19-50.

Palmer, John & Kramer, Wim. (1987). Release of Effort in RNG PK: An Attempted Replication and Extension. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 51, pp. 125-136.

Rao, K. Ramakrishna. (1994). Charles Honorton and the Impoverished State of Skepticism: Essays on a Parapsychological Pioneer. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.

Schechter, Ephraim I. (1993). Psychophysical Research Laboratories. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 57, pp. 67-82.

Vassy, Zoltan. (1990). Experimental Study of Precognitive Timing: Indications of a Radically Noncausal Operation. Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 54, pp. 299-320.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Muhlenberg College 2009 Conference on Magic: A Review

Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, held The Theory and Art of Magic conference during March 19-21, 2009. It was part of a larger academic program directed by Lawrence Hass, a professor of philosophy and theatre. The meeting was neither a typical magic convention nor a fully academic conference, but rather an unusual hybrid.

Although the conference was primarily devoted to performance magic, several paranormal and religious issues were discussed. Some of those were relevant to trickster theory. As such, I believed it worthwhile to prepare a focused, non-comprehensive review of the conference.

My review is available at—
(37 KB PDF file)

I spotlight the work of Eugene Burger, one of the most profound thinkers in magic today. I also allude to the marginal and anti-structural nature of performance magic, a characteristic it shares with the paranormal. Extensive endnotes are included for readers with specialized academic interests.

A schedule of the conference program is on the Muhlenberg College website—

Photos from the conference can be found at Dexter Lane’s website—

Monday, June 29, 2009

Articles on Magicians and the Paranormal Now Online

Now available on my website is the article “Magicians on the Paranormal: An Essay with a Review of Three Books,” which appeared in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (JASPR) in 1992. The article is something of a bibliographic study that addresses magicians’ writings on paranormal topics. For over 400 years magicians have confirmed and disputed the reality of paranormal phenomena. (The length of that debate is one illustration of the inherent anti-structural nature of the paranormal.)

Appended to the bibliographical study are three short reviews of non-academic books, two of which deserve little notice. The third, which has some merit, was coauthored by Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly known as CSICOP [Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal]).

Click here for the JASPR article (2.2 MB PDF file)

Already available online is my article “Magicians Who Endorsed Psychic Phenomena,” which appeared in The Linking Ring, the monthly magazine of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Click here for The Linking Ring article (1.1 MB PDF file)