a dash of this and a filip of that

In 1972 some Canadian parapsychologists undertook an experiment.

The Experimenters

The members of the experiment attempted to create, through intense and prolonged concentration, a collective thought-form. The group consisted of Iris Owen, a former nurse and wife of the mathematician A. R. G. Owen; Margaret Sparrrows, former chairperson of an organization of individuals with high IQs; Andy H., housewife; Lorne H., industrial designer and husband of Andy H.; Al P., heating engineer; Bernice M., accountant; Dorothy O’ D., housewife and bookkeeper; and Sidney K., sociology student. Dr. A. R. G. Owen or Dr. Joel Whitton, psychologist, attended the group meetings.


The group fabricated the fictitious identity, physical appearance, and personal history of their “Philip Aylesford” who was born in England in 1624.  He had an illustrious role in the Civil War, becoming a personal friend of Charles II and working for him as a secret agent. But Philip brought about his own undoing by having an affair with a Gypsy girl. When his wife found out she accused the girl of witchcraft, and she was burned at the stake. In despair Philip committed suicide in 1654 at the age of thirty.


The Owen group began conducting sittings in September 1972 during which they meditated, visualized, and discussed the details of Philip’s life. After going for months with no communication, the group attempted table-tilting through psychokinesis.


Some weeks after changing to the séance setting the group established communication with “Philip.” He answered questions that were consistent with his fictitious history, but was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived. However, “Philip” did give other historically accurate information about real events and people. The Owen group theorized that this latter information came from their own collective unconsciousness.

One session was held in front of a live audience of fifty people and was videotaped to be shown on television. In other sessions sounds were heard in various parts of the room and lights blinked on and off. The levitation and movement of a table were recorded on film in 1974. “Philip” seemed to have a special rapport with Iris Owen.

As the group became more comfortable with their encounters with Philip, they began to treat him as just another member of the group. They learned his personality as if he was a good friend. And Philip would play tricks on them. At times, he would move the table around the room, especially to rush up to those arriving late as if to greet them and say “Hi”. Other times, the table would trap certain individuals in corners.


During one especially active night, one of the members jokingly admonished Philip by telling him that he could be sent away and replaced. After that, Philip’s activity began to decrease until it stopped altogether and the experiment was ceased.


Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 7:43 am  Comments (42)  
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42 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I always feel uneasy when I see the word ‘experiment’ at the beginning of one of your posts – but breathing a sigh of relief that ‘Phillip” turned the tables on his fabricators.

    • Your trepidation is understandable 😉

  2. The really sad thing about having imaginary friends is that their friends are real.

    • Tragic, isn’t it?

  3. Oh those crazy Canuks! Wait I am one!

  4. alcohol or hallucinogenics may have played a role in these sessions… i’d be more frightened if they hadn’t

  5. I miss the Friday photos!

    • Everything has its season…..

  6. Wow make of this what you will!

    • I think it was ridiculous

  7. I’m surprised Dr Leary wasn’t part of the gang.

    • I think he was in jail for marijuana possession at the time

  8. It’s amazing to me that no one’s created a movie spoof for this kind of thing. You can see a man concentrating on moving a glass on a table. He sits there for minutes, focusing on moving the table. You hear the voice of his mentor, “concentrate, move the glass toward you. Feel the glass. Become one with the glass.” Suddenly, the glass flies across the table and hits him in the face, knocking him to the floor. From under the table you hear him moaning something about being “one” with the glass.

    Yeah, okay, it’s not that funny. But with the right director it might be slightly amusing. Reminds me of The Men who Stare at Goats.

    • Mel Brooks comes to mind.

  9. I hv a friend does stuff like this – like bending impossible objects in seconds right in front of me. He says it’s abt focus n channelling energy into it. He believes he’d b so good at it in future he’d move himself above ground!

    • Oh I think James Randi would have something to say about that 😉

  10. I have many fantasies and many friends. But no fantsay friends.

  11. I wonder why they don’t do seances on TV anymore. And I am not counting frickin John Edwards either.

  12. Reminds me vaguely of the plotline of “Sphere,” where the alien is really just a figment of Samuel L. Jackson’s imagination.

    • Uh oh… have you given away the surprise ending?

  13. You left the LSD out of the story???

    • Hard to accept I know, but I believe they achieved this miracle without psychedelic help

  14. I’m highly sceptical of seances. It’s easy enough for the unconscious to fabricate all sorts of impressive mumbo-jumbo. I tried a few seances when I was young but the results were predictably disappointing. A few incoherent “messages” that could mean anything you wanted them to mean. Bah humbug!

  15. Weeji boards are useful tools for the manipulative to use on the gullible. (grumpy this morning – need coffee!)

    • One coffee coming right up sir!

  16. Philip should have been unlatching bras instead of moving tables. Putting on the moves from beyond the grave…

  17. The only spirits in my life go with mixers. I think I’m missing out.

  18. I absolutely love reading about stuff like this! Where did you read about this?

    This is similar to what I believe in as far as a ‘God.’ Our collective consciousness. Have you ever read Chopra or Tolle? Have you read about experiments where large numbers of people meditating were able to calm the surface of a body of water?

    • There’s a link to the original article in the first line. Just hover your mouse over the words “an experiment”

  19. I had a thought once but it came and went unnoticed …. even by me …..

  20. Have you ever see the Tighty Whitey Murders?

    • No – what is that?

  21. Whatever drugs these people were doing, I wish they’d share.


    • Me too. Mean bastards.

  22. This kind of stuff really peaks my interest. I am known to have a wealth of information at work. My response is: There is no such thing as useless information. There is only information.

    Great stuff!


  23. Never got much into the spiritualism thing. I do love reading about gypsies though. I did an independent study project in grade school about fortune telling, dressed up like a gypsy and read palms and cards. 🙂

    The chair stunt picture… I wonder, is that from a Harold Lloyd movie?

    • I don’t know Nicole. You can see the site I found it on if you click the word “image” beneath the photo.

  24. I tell my mom she can be sent away and replaced, but she has stuck around.

  25. Why would these people waste such valuable time on such nonsense? It irks me.

  26. May I venture to suggest that the social lives of the group members may have been a bit limited? I hope they provided Philip an appropriate Irish wake.

  27. Poor Phillip. As if being an imaginary construct wasn’t bad enough, he had to deal with the fact that his “friends” created an imaginary life for him that was so awful that he committed imaginary suicide. Why couldn’t they have created a blissfully happy imaginary friend who died in bed at the age of 97?

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