Blog powered by Typepad

« Little big man | Main | »


When we find an apparent medium, we must assess whether inferred from their actions the presence of the independent intelligence of a deceased person is legitimate, and in this case I think the inference is legitimate, because not only have episodic memory of the deceased but also memory skills, that is, a certain way to play chess, know-how that would be virtually impossible to obtain from the know-what, whether sensory or extrasensory means. Proponents of the super psi hypothesis would have to invent a new paranormal ability, the ability to obtain know-how without hours of practice, which is highly implausible and there is no evidence. For this memory skills would perhaps more decisive than episodic memory to determine the identity of a person.

Thanks, Michael. I read this case recently at the suggestion of you or someone else on this board. It truly is amazing. It also made a lot of sense to me as I play chess (badly).

The only way a skeptic can dismiss this level of evidence is by saying, "It must have been fraud or, hmm, maybe it just didn't happen." In other words, hand-waving.

"Indeed, I'm unaware of any documented case in which a person was able to learn a difficult new skill through ESP."

My favorite area of a paranormal research is voodoo (the religious system as practiced in Haiti and Africa; not the Hollywood black magic nonsense). A major aspect of Voodoo (Voodun) is ceremonies in which random participants are "mounted" (aka possessed) by the Loa (voodoo gods/spirits).

Now, if I had to bet on it, I would put my money on the Voodoo "gods" as being something very much like - perhaps the quintesential example of - functional entities. That being said, those who are possessed for a few minutes or hours during a ceremony exhibit marked personality changes and demonstrate skills and abilities that they don't have prior to or after the possession. For example, someone who does not own a musical instrument and has never tried to learn to play one may pick one up and play quite competently while possessed. Sometimes skills and abilities demonstrated are beyond normal. A participant may hold his arm in the middle of a bonfire and suffer no discomfort or burns. In fact, the possession is not considered legitimate until some demonstration of highly unusual ability (for the individual or for humans generally) is given.

The Loa express themselves through the possessed in fairly predictable ways. Each loa has its idiocyncratic personality and related evidenciary behaviors. It is easy for the intitiated to determine which Loa is in control of a participant. Interestingly, there have been instances when unitiated witnesses have become possessed during a ceremony and they too show the same idiocyncratic personality and behaviors appropriate to the specific Loa. So a normal cultural learning hypothesis is weakened.

As an aside, the paranormal in Voodoo has a long history of sound robust scholarly documentation and the possibility of witnessing or participating, today, is there. Yet, for some reason, voodoo is not a popular topic in western paranormal investigation circles.

I think the grandmaster case is probably just what it appears to be on face value; a deceased master playing against a living one.

However, I did want to note that other possibilities are out there.

I agree that this is an exceptionally strong case, Michael - and a treat!

"It also made a lot of sense to me as I play chess" - Matt

Ah, a fellow chess player! D'you like this blitz game I played the day before yesterday?

[Event "Friendly Game, 2m + 0s"]
[Site "Chessbase Online Café"]
[Date "2011.11.23"]
[White "Guest 1728071"]
[Black "B Iscatus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B01"]
[EventDate "2011.11.23"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d3 c6 5. Bf4 Bf5 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. Be2 e6 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. O-O Qc7 10. d4 Bd6 11. Re1 O-O-O 12. Bc4 h6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. d5 exd5 15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. Bxd5 Rhg8 17. Qd4 Rg7 18. Re7 Rdg8 19. g3 Bxg3 20. Rxd7 Bxf2+ 21. Kxf2 Qxc2+ 22. Ke3 Re8+ 23. Kf4 Rg4# 0-1

Fascinating case. It seems extremely difficult to explain by conventional means. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

It did raise one issue, though. I so often hear from NDErs that once out of the body their mental faculties of awareness, thought, feeling, and sensation are massively expanded. The apparent explanation is that the brain filters out so much of consciousness.

If that is true, though, how come they can't play chess any better than when they were in the body?

The description of increased mental faculties by NDErs isn't really supported by much of the communicating through mediums IMHO.

Maybe they have access to more information etc but don't necessarily get much better at processing in the short term at least?

On the voodoo loas, I can say that if people in a trance show skills that previously had never learned, then loas may be spirits of the dead. What completely rule out this possibility in the case of possession of voodoo? If a person in trance shows a skill never learned, then we have two options: either to imagine a ability which can automatically acquire skills without spending hours of practice, or to imagine an independent intelligence that has already gone through hours of practice to acquire skills. I think it's more plausible the second option.

And on the mediums and reports of near-death experiences, it could be argued that it is true that consciousness expands biological death, but if a spirit possesses the body of a medium, the spirit will be constrained by these body.

Unfortunately (and I am sure claimed by various pseudoskeptics), the very long period covered by this case and the lack of control of any of the variables leaves open a great suspicion of fraud by Eisenbeiss and/or Rollans or others.

How do we really know Rollans has no knowledge of chess? Moves conducted over days or weeks, where absolutely anything under the sun could have been happening or researched between them, the investigator (himself a chess enthusiast apparently) acting as a “go between” for Rollans and Korchnoi, extended out over nine years? In any case perhaps Rollans did not need to be a chess expert - he only needed to slip off somewhere during the long periods between moves to plug in a chess computer, programmed with the style of past grandmasters. Chess computers then were very slow and would take protracted periods of time to come up with a solution, but that was what the players had plenty of.

For that matter Rollans could have trained as a grandmaster during the time of the match, with the negligible degree of observation that was on him. Or it could have been a project for a club of advanced chess enthusiasts.

To take the proponent side, this is always the last resort of the pseudoskeptics - to claim fraud if nothing else will do. If the medium, Rollans, received no compensation for his work and knew nothing of chess it is hard to understand why he would have spent all the time and effort over 9 years to research Maroczy's chess style and somehow develop the deep moves he posted.

The skeptic suspicion of fraud in the actual chess game ignores the extremely evidential personal details that were verified. So to attack this the skeptic must claim Eisenbeiss must have been lying. Meaning some or all of the details in his and Hassler's two papers, and his communications to Allen were concocted. Of course there is no evidence of that - it is merely an assumption in order to dismiss the case.

In balance, I don't know. There are some very good elements in this case, but the long time period leaves open some suspicion of fraud that can't be eliminated with the information available.

Ah, I assumed this was a straightforward chess match across a board, not some long term venture. That does take the shine off the case, unfortunately. Ps, Ben, why play the Scandinavian, horrid opening!

I think creativity is channeled - as a keyboard player ive noticed this often - and my dad also a muso is aware of this - either an entity plays through me or the creative information is received.

"Ps, Ben, why play the Scandinavian, horrid opening!" - Michael Duggan

Sorry Michael, my soul was drunkenly possessed by the shade of the late, great Joseph Henry Blackburne.

"I'm unaware of any documented case in which a person was able to learn a difficult new skill through ESP."

There is one case of this kind: Raphael Schermann. See here:

Austrian clairvoyant mostly known as a graphologist but with powers far transcending reading character from handwriting samples. He was credited with telling the past and future with an uncanny precision. From the writing Schermann could visualize the writer, from a face he could visualize and reproduce the script. "Psycho-graphology," the term employed by E. S. Bagger as the title of his book on Schermann, was coined to refer to this strange gift of combining the science of graphology with psychic talents.

His ability to reproduce the script is much more incredible than the automatic writing by mediums. No medium could reproduce the script of a dead person. Schermann could reproduce the script of the livings.

There is much material about Schermann in books and in the New York Times:

"I think creativity is channeled - as a keyboard player ive noticed this often - and my dad also a muso is aware of this - either an entity plays through me or the creative information is received."

But first you have to know how to play the instrument. I'm not aware of any documented cases of someone picking up a previously unknown skill via ESP. For instance, someone who has never played a piano or any other keyboard instrument suddenly sits down and starts playing expertly, thanks to telepathic influence. The closest cases I know of are a couple of reincarnation cases where the child seemingly exhibited skills he or she couldn't have learned normally. But of course those cases are ostensibly not about ESP anyway.

"I'm not aware of any documented cases of someone picking up a previously unknown skill via ESP."

Again? :-)

A book about Rafael Schermann:

I'd be curious to know why they decided not to play the game in a single sitting. Korchnoi was a strong believer in PSI, so I'm sure he could set aside a few hours for such a historic event (would this not 'prove' life after death?). If a medium can go in a trance, can't they do so for a couple hours, time enough to play a serious game of chess? So as usual with things paranormal, intriguing but little more. When you say Rollans received no payment, perhaps he anticipated a somewhat shorter game (a few years??) and the beneficial publicity would certainly have been well worth the effort.

Michael - No i dont mean the general playing skill - but the creativity - it just kind of downloads and your in an Alpha state not thinking even about music..

Vitor: "No medium could reproduce the script of a dead person."

Grace Rosher did! See "Beyond the Horizon".

"A special characteristic of these automatic scripts was the way in which they were written with a pen lying loosely across the joint of Rosher's index finger, the nib resting on a writing pad. Although she did not hold the pen, it wrote swiftly and intelligently."

"On one occasion, she produced a communication claimed to be from the famous scientist Sir William Crookes, in handwriting remarkably similar to that of Crookes in his lifetime."


in this book there is any photo showing the handwriting of Grace Rosher and the handwriting of William Crookes? See, I already have seen many cases which the believers said that the handwriting of the medium and the handwriting of the dead were very similar - if not identical - but when I see the photo of the two handwriting there are striking differences. One of such cases is the case of Wilson de Oliveira, which you can see here:

"There are some similarities but the differences are obvious. The last trace of the "W" in the original goes high, while not in automatic writing. The "L" of the automatic writing begins in the base, and the original starts from the top. The belly of the "d" in the automatic writing is almost nonexistent, while the original is quite prominent. The "O" of "Oliveira" in the automatic writing is fat, not through the base line, while the original "O" is thin and passes through the base. Moreover, in the original the "v" is separated from the next letter, "e", while in the automatic writing they are together."

And the journal which published the case said the handwritings were identical.

By the way, you don't need to know Portuguese. Just see the last two photos. The first is from the automatic writing, the last one is the original.

The handwriting produced by Grace Rosher was analysed by a graphologist called F T Hilliger and in the appendix to the book Zerdini mentions there is a detailed analysis by this person.

I doubt any two samples of my own handwriting will be identical in the literal sense of the word. It is definitely affected by the circumstances in which I am writing. Could they mean 'identical' in the sense that it is by the same person and not a facsimile?

If you want to do an original piece of art/music, theres no reason why you cant channel the help of a great composer/artist.
if it can be done with chess

graphology is pseudoscience. So a graphologist is a pseudoscientist. A person who is a graphoscopist would be better, but his analysis would still need to be corrobored by others graphoscopists. In Brazil a graphoscopist named Carlos Augusto Perandrea validated an automatic writing by the pseudo-medium Chico Xavier. A friend of mine called Moizes Montalvão re-analysed Perandrea's study based in Perandrea's own textbook about falsifications and found many problems. The name of a person in the automatic writing is wrong too, and Perandrea did not saw this. You can find the refutation to Perandrea's study here:

Handwriting expert opinions are admissible in court as expert evidence.

In fact F T Hilliger gave such evidence as an expert.

Vitor: the communications from Sir William Crookes are detailed in her second book called "The Travellers Return".



"Handwriting expert opinions are admissible in court as expert evidence."

By a graphoscopist. Not by a graphologist. Graphology is so scientific as astrology.

but there are any photos which we can compare the handwriting by ourselves?


You can read about Grace Rosher here:

There are photographs of the handwriting in "Beyond the Horizon" together with an analysis by handwriting expert, F.T. Hilliger.

The person who wrote the report I refer to gave evidence as an expert witness Vitor. He described himself as a graphologist however it was some time ago (he died in 1986), perhaps the definitions have changed. In any event the fact is that his opinion was admitted as evidence in court on a number of occasions. I don't think it reasonable for you to dismiss his opinion with a wave of your hand.

As an aside I can find no references to the role of 'graphoscopist'. I googled it and found no references.

The evidence I refer to is not deductions about personality, but about analysis of construction and of styles etc. Though I am aware that some graphologists also make deductions about personality which i think you are assuming applies to all those so described. This is incorrect.

There are certainly people who do both in the uk, ie provide both services.

Hi, Paul

"graphoscopist" is a term that I created. In Portuguese we make a difference between "grafologista/grafologia" and "grafoscopista/grafoscopia". It seems you don't make such difference in English. What I call pseudoscience is precisaly what you wrote: "to make deductions about personality" based in the handwriting. This is what we call Graphology here in Brazil.

But is not because this was admitted as evidence in court that this means that the evidence is good. In fact, Crookes' handwriting is largely avaliable, what makes this case weak. And certainly F T Hilliger did not make his analysis in double blind conditions. This is another weakness. And his analysis can be flawed too, like Perandrea's analysis was. And Perandrea was the best expert in Brazil.

But I still would like to see the photos. I hope very soon to buy the book "Beyond the Horizon".

Hi Vitor, You are being mentioned in the last entry on subversive thinking.

Guy Lyon Playfair I think is famous for being one of the main investigators of the Enfield poltergeist case. What do you think about his defence of Chico Xavier?

Hi Vitor.

I have to say I think your dismissal of Hilliger was high-handed and inappropriate and as for making up words and then making statements that are clearly incorrect, this seems to me unwise. Perhaps a little more research before making such statements would have been advisable,or failing that a little less dogmatic assertion.

To give evidence as an expert in UK courts is a serious business. I suspect you have dismissed Hilliger without even having sight of his report and with no idea as to his bona fides as an expert in handwriting analysis.

As you rightly acknowledge, you seem to have misunderstood the position outside your own country.

I mentioned that it seems to me one's handwriting varies a lot based on a number of factors, hence the value of expert opinion. Anyway I don't think there is much point in discussing this further. I will leave the last word to you on this should you wish it.


I think Playfair's defence of Chico Xavier terrible. If "it is generally known that 'spirit guides' are not identifiable real people", why we should consider them as 'spirits' in first place and not a secondary personality of the medium's mind? And in Xavier's case the situation is much worst, because his guide was an identifiable FICTITIOUS person, like Sherlock Holmes. If Xavier's guide was a real spirit, he was a lier by decades and we can't trust him. We don't have any good example of paranormal powers by Chico, why we should think him as a medium or psychic? He was a guy with mental problems that tried to help other people, that's all.

You cand find more material about me and Playfair here:

Hi, Paul
I really think that the other countries should follow the example of Brazil and separate the terms "graphology" and "graphoscopy". These disciplins are so different as astrology and astronomy. And just have in mind that any analysis needs to be replicated by others. I would like to see a replication of Francis Timbury Hilliger' study.

You can read about F.T. Hilliger here:

I already have seen many cases which the believers said that the handwriting of the medium. Thanks mate. :)

The comments to this entry are closed.