ponedjeljak, 3. rujna 2012.

Ted Serios - čovjek koji je mislima pravio fotografije

Ted Serios, parapsihološki fotograf, tvrdio je da može projicirati slike iz svoje glave izravno na polaroid, spržiti fotku telepatski. (Ni smrt, 2006., nije ga spriječila da održava Facebook stranicu i dade intervju iz onostranosti.) Mentalni Houdini.
Može li se nakon njega itko usuditi sebe zvati ekscentrikom?

Visions of Ted Serios na Vimeu

Ted Serios - "Thoughtography"

Posted by Mike Ted Serios was a humble bell-hop from Chicago, a hard drinking, hard smoking working man. For years, he lived a fairly ordinary life, but Ted was nothing but ordinary.

What set Ted apart was his incredible claims that he could 'think' images onto ordinary photographic film. A process that Ted dubbed 'Thoughtography'.

So called 'psychic photographers' were far from uncommon, and a great many of them who claimed to have this ability were exposed as fakes or charlatans. Because of this, Ted's claims were widely rubbished.

One man however, a Dr Jule Eisenbud was sufficiently intrigued by Ted to fly to Chicago to conduct a series of experiments.

Dr Eisenbud came to the Windy City as a sceptic, and was convinced he was to witness 'some kind of shoddy hoax'.

Dr Eisenbud realised that by using Polaroid cameras, not only could he get results quickly, he could also ensure that the resulting exposures could not have been tampered with before they entered the camera. This he thought, would surely expose Serios' exotic claims as a hoax.

When Dr Eisenbud pointed the camera at Ted Serios and pushed the shutter, what emerged was not a picture of a face, but the unmistakable lines and shapes of a tower. The tower was later identified as the distinctive Chicago Water Tower.

Another 'thoughtograph' featured the image of a shop front in Chicago. The shop in question was, at the time named 'The Old Wells Fargo Express Office' but many years before had been known as 'The Old Gold Store' - Serios' image was of the store in it's past guise.

Serios was also tasked with producing images of something from the distant past. What appeared was astounding; an apparent image of a Neanderthal man leaning over what looked like a fire. Future examination of the photo revealed that it bore a striking resemblance to an exhibit in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

Initially, Serios produced his 'thoughtographs' using nothing but a Polaroid camera. Later on in the experiments however, Serios insited on using a cylindrical device that he dubbed 'The Gismo'. Some believed that Serios was using the 'gismo' to somehow project images using very small slides, but this does not explain his previous success without using the device.

In a further experiment volunteers were asked to attend the experiment with a photograph sealed in a cardboard backed manila envelope. Ted was then tasked with reproducing the image with no prior knowledge.

One of his most notable successes was the image he produced of a hangar used by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. The image was conspicuous not just by it's accuracy, but also by the characteristic misspelling of the word 'Canadian' - in Serios' 'thoughtograph' the word was spelt incorrectly as 'Cainadian'

Was Ted Serios, a hoaxer? Or was he harnessing powers that maybe he couldn't explain? Certainly parallels with Remote Viewing experiments can be drawn.

You decide. - Fortean Links


By Mi Stress Henry

Editor’s note: This is a follow up piece to TEoB’s previous post with Ted Serios. You can find it HERE.

Two annotations by Mi Stress Henry
I am not familiar with every single director of Hollywood’s golden age, but when Ted mentioned the name Erich von Stroheim, he sure rang a bell. I Googled the name but Wikipedia provided some rather blank information – special interest I don’t share. After another run through Ted’s list of Facebook friends, I kept wondering. It would have made more sense to me if Ted had mentioned Georges Bataille, but what – apart from the fact that he is dead – makes Erich von Stroheim special?
It took me time to remember where I had heard the name before: Erich von Stroheim is the “dirty Hun” out of Kenneth Anger’s notorious chronique scandaleuse, “Hollywood Babylon”(1). A man who was convinced that everything that is worth to be recorded by a camera had to be real – including the infamous orgies that sometimes went on for twenty hours. An attractive plot to Anger, no doubt. Also a man with an interesting concept of realism, especially if you think of it in relationship to thoughtography.
But, by mentioning Erich von Stroheim, Ted also points at Kenneth Anger. (I like to take a mental note about the method: pointing at. I do have this consistent feeling of a second level of meaning about Ted’s statements. And it is true, one thing points to another.)
It makes perfect sense for Ted to refer to Kenneth Anger. Anger has always cultivated a blend of artist and magician. This special amalgamation is very American and it fits my definition of Pop. Furthermore, much of Anger’s attraction is based on the fact that he refuses to distinguish concept from ritual. The resulting effect on the medium turns the rather passive representation into an active agent. It also makes the history of the reception of his work more entertaining.
I recently came across an article by Deborah Allison entitled, “Magick in Theory and Practice: Ritual Use of Colour in Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother”(2). It is worth reading, not only for this wonderful quotation from an article by Carel Rowe: “All his [i.e. Anger’s] films have been evocations or invocations, attempting to conjure primal forces which, once visually released, are designed to have the effect of ‘casting a spell’ on the audience. The Magick in the film is related to the magickal effects of the film on the audience(3).”
The idea that an image generated with the help of a camera can cast a spell on the viewer is congruent with Ted’s concept of thoughtography.
Deborah Allison herself places the ritual in a more scientific context. Ultimately she transforms the active momentum of the spell into a “physiological response to colours”. I do not think that such a response is inevitable – and if the reaction is not an uncontrolled one, we end up with associations garnished with a bit of symbolism. I believe a “ritual use” is somehow more powerful and maybe more sophisticated.
But, let me interrupt this thread for now. I will come back to the question of color a bit later.
I do have a second annotation, and it regards the “nenshas”. During our interview, Ted thanked Tomokichi Fukurai for his support. In fact, Mr. Fukurai’s experiments with thoughtography predate Ted’s early work by some fifty years. If Wikipedia is right, he started as early as 1910.
Ted characterizes the “nenshas” as “thougtographs that have text” – but Fukurai’s nenshas don’t show western letters, most of them look like Japanese calligraphy.
I have to admit that I have thought of the camera as an instrument of cultural colonization for a long time. Reading Judith M. Gutman’s book, “Through Indian Eyes”(4), made me change my mind. The book contains pictures that make it obvious that photographic technology can be used within the context of a different visual culture. Just like the early European photography sets up on the templates created for painting and prints, the first Indian photographers picked up composition and the description of space coming from their own tradition.
As a matter of fact the British tore their hair out about the “dumb natives” – too stupid to handle a camera – and it is stunning how some of images still look “wrong” today.
“Through Indian Eyes” covers a time span from late 19th to very early 20th century. So it can be said that Tomokichi Fukurai worked around the same time and I think he did something very similar: He transferred images based in the cultural tradition of his country onto light sensitive surfaces. These texts / images can be read as the trace left by a human hand, at the same time they are pictorial symbols and they carry a linguistic content –a very complex description of the world indeed. Fukurai had to use a medium instead of a camera to turn them into photographs.
I like the idea that this makes him a new media pioneer
There is an interesting passage in Fukurai’s book where the medium, Mr. Kohichi Mita, asks whether he should picture the letters or the Castle of Ohgaki. Kawamura, the head of the local police station and one of the witnesses to the experiment, answers, “I mean the letter only! But if you are able to picture the castle itself, much better, if you please.”(5) They end up doing both and there it is, the one classical landscape in the whole book – making all the other images the result of a deliberate decision against visual language of the Western World.
When Ted talks about a “change of perspective” it becomes evident that he wants to continue the struggle. At this point I like to come back to the question of the coloring of Ted’s new thoughtographs. When you take a brush and you draw a line on a white piece of paper the color that you use sits on top of the paper. A colored line upon a white background. If you go on drawing and create a more complex “realistic” image, you will reach a point where you have to read color as “shadow” and the white of the ground as “light” in order to decode the picture. Background and foreground turn around to create an illusion of space. But even with a hyper-realistic painting there will be an interest in the question “how it was done?” – that is, you keep a sense of illusion, you can watch your perception in operation. If we compare this to the way we look at images created by a camera we find ourselves ignoring the play of perception that would indeed impair the documentary character of the technical pictures – i.e. interfere with our will to believe.
Ted’s use of cyanotypes, dyed or not, undermines that kind of trustworthiness on a technical level. There is no black, the thoughtographs appear somehow flat, up to a point where colored structures look like they float on top of the surface. Any attempt to decode the color according to a magickal system distracts from direct effect that the thoughtographs have on our awareness. We don’t need an alternative framework, like the one that a magickal system can provide. What we do need is a comprehensive science of images to replace an art history that justly retired. Until that happens we will continue to operate beneath the radar of our native culture.
Mi Stress Henry, Dec. 2012
Find Ted Serios on Facebook HERE.
1. Kenneth Anger, Hollywood Babylon, San Francisco 1975
2. Deborah Allison, Magick in Theory and Practice : Ritual Use of Color in Kenneth Anger ?s Invocation of My Demon Brother, published in Senses of Cinema, issue 34, January-March 2005
3. Carel Rowe, Illuminating Lucifer, Film Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 6, 1974 p. 26
4. Judith M. Gutman, Through Indian Eyes, Oxford University Press, USA 1982
5. Tomokichi Fukurai, Clairvoyance & Thoughtography , London 1931 p. 211 f

The world of Ted Serios;: "thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind


The world of Ted Serios;: "thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind Jule Eisenbud, Morrow; 1st edition (1967)

Theodore Judd Serios (1918 - 2006)[1] was a Chicago bellhop, who became known in the 1960s by producing "thoughtographs" on Polaroid film. He claimed these were produced using psychic powers. Serios's psychic claims were bolstered by the endorsement of a Denver based psychiatrist, Jule Eisenbud who wrote a book called The World of Ted Serios: "Thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind in which he argued for the reality of his feats. Many of his photographs were produced while Serios was drunk or at least had been drinking. His images, which often appeared surrounded by dark areas on the film, were often curiously altered versions of known photographs. He was not only able to produce his photographs while holding "a small section of tubing fitted with a piece of photo squeegee" to his forehead: he could also project from several meters, or without the "gizmo." Also, he performed sober on several occasions, e.g. producing "blackies" or "whities," meaning entirely black or white Polaroid photos, which should be impossible with this technology. On some occasions, his photos were distorted and altered versions of real places or images, e.g. a photo of Eisenbud's ranch showing the barn as a different structure to the reality: "In one of his more spectacular feats, Serios produced a clearly distinguishable image of Eisenbud's ranch right on the spot, after Eisenbud's wife Molly suggested that they take a trip there. The majority of the results are 'whities' or all-white images, and 'blackies' or all-black images, which are abnormal themselves, as the image produced should have always been Serios. The majority of Serios's successful thoughtographs are of various buildings or landmarks, to which similar photos could often be found in travel books. The images are in various degrees of focus, with many in a 'zoomed' in appearance of a small part of a larger image. In addition, many of the images have abnormalities, such as being slightly skewed

Ted Serios and Psychic Projections

Ted Serios and Psychic Projections 1
Gerald R. Brimacombe, Time Life Pictures, Getty Images
Ted Serios mentally projects an image during an experiment in "mind photography."
Enlarge Image
In the early 17th century, the metaphysician Robert Fludd pictured the interior of the brain as containing an eye in the same position as the imaginative soul. He labeled this organ the "oculus imaginationis" and pictured it radiating a tableau of thought-pictures or phantasmata, which are then projected on to a screen in a perceived space beyond the back of the head.
If such phantasmata could be photographed, what would they look like? Strange as it may seem, such "thought" photographs do exist, and a selection of them are on display in an exhibition through March 27 at the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
"Psychic Projections/Photographic Impressions: Paranormal Photographs from the Jule Eisenbud Collection on Ted Serios" features a series of images produced by Theodore Judd Serios (1918-2006), a bellhop from Chicago who appeared to possess a genuinely uncanny ability. By holding a Polaroid camera and focusing on the lens very intently, he was able to produce dreamlike pictures of his thoughts on the film; he referred to these images as "thoughtographs," and many striking examples are on display in the exhibition.
The images are contextualized by a selection of notes and letters written by Serios's chief supporter, defender, champion, and sometime minder, a psychiatrist named Jule Eisenbud. Eisenbud (1908-99) was a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Medical School and a charter member of the Parapsychological Association; he wrote numerous articles on psychiatry and psychoanalysis based on his experiments with telepathy. However, his best-known (and only commercially successful) book was The World of Ted Serios: "Thoughtographic" Studies of an Extraordinary Mind (1967).
In this book, Eisenbud describes how he worked with Serios. Their method varied considerably, but it turned out that Serios was able to produce images using various kinds of cameras and in many different situations, sometimes under quite stringent test conditions. Most often, however, the two men would get no results at all. At other times they would get what Serios called "blackies," in which the film would look as though it had not been exposed at all, or "whities," in which the film would appear overexposed. In a few rare cases, however, bizarre images would emerge, perhaps in a fuzzy circle of light or a ghostly shape. Sometimes they would be quite clear, particularly when Serios was attempting to produce the image of a specific physical monument or building. Still, even the clearest images had an uncanny texture and quality. On occasion, volunteers were asked to attend the experiment with a photograph sealed in a cardboard-backed manila envelope; Serios then managed to reproduce the image with no prior knowledge of it.
Eisenbud, who says he began as a skeptic, gradually became convinced that Serios had a genuine psychic gift, even though he was in many regards erratic and demanding, a heavy drinker who produced the most vivid and compelling of his thoughtographs when drunk. For Serios, alcohol seemed to open up the doors of psychic perception, but it caused a great deal of trouble for Eisenbud, who recounts how his prodigy would frequently disappear, only to call from jail a few days later asking the doctor to bail him out. "Ted Serios," wrote Eisenbud, "exhibits a behavior pathology with many character disorders. He does not abide by the laws and customs of our society. He ignores social amenities and has been arrested many times."
The exhibition at UMBC includes approximately 60 frames holding multiple examples of original Serios thoughtographs, along with a selection of enlarged photographic prints from the originals. There are also some short films on display showing Serios in action—one taken at a television studio in Denver, and one showing him attempting to project thoughtographic images on the film in a video camera. There is also a short film of Eisenbud debating aspects of the Serios phenomenon with detractors, and another showing the observations of various faculty members from the University of Denver who witnessed experimental sessions with Serios. One of the Polaroid Land cameras used in the experiments with Serios is also on display.
The question most people will have about thoughtographs is whether they are fraudulent, and part of the exhibit addresses criticisms of the phenomenon. Suspicions were certainly aroused by the fact that Serios preferred to take his thoughtographs with the aid of what he referred to as a "gizmo"—something connecting his body to the camera. Normally, he used a small section of tubing fitted with a piece of photo squeegee, or a rolled-up piece of plastic from the Polaroid wrapper.
Critics claimed Serios may have used the "gizmo" to conceal a small marble with a photograph attached to it, or a piece of previously exposed film. There were occasions, however, on which Serios did not hold the camera or the "gizmo," both of which were in the hands of an investigator. He could produce an image on a camera that was some distance away from him (as far as 66 feet in one instance), and he even produced images when the camera was in another room altogether. He submitted to being strip-searched and even—on one occasion—was dressed in a rubber suit to rule out any photographic trick using magnetism. While many people, including Eisenbud himself, have produced similar images using gimmick lenses and transparencies, no one has been able to do so in an undetectable fashion.
Yet to my mind, the Ted Serios phenomenon goes beyond the notion of "real versus fake," providing insights into the relationships among photography, subjectivity, representation, and the unconscious. If the contents of the unconscious could be photographed, would they resemble ordinary photographs, or would they be confusing and inaccessible? Would they contain images of composite individuals, like the characters in dreams? Might they contain images that are censored or disguised, and if so, how would we recognize them?
What is most striking about the Serios thoughtographs is the power of their imagery as a manifestation of the creative process. In these strange pictures, real objects or places appear to have merged with (or been altered by) the material of Serios's unconscious. Some of them juxtapose target images (of familiar buildings, monuments, houses, and hotels) with what appear to be images of day residue, haunting shadows of unfamiliar forms and structures. Others seem to incorporate both past and future events in an odd, shadowy collage. On one occasion, for example, the target image appeared superimposed on a second image that resembled the space probe Voyager 2. After the session, Serios, a space buff, confessed that he had been preoccupied with the progress of the space mission at the time and was unable to clear it completely from his mind.
Other images could have been obtained only as a result of knowledge or perspectives unavailable at the time. For example, after seeing magazine photographs taken from Voyager 2 of Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, Eisenbud suddenly recognized some of Serios's previously unidentified thoughtographs as images of the moons of Jupiter. That made sense, as Serios had long been obsessed with Voyager 2; what did not make sense, however, was that those thoughtographs had been produced years before the Voyager 2 pictures were taken. He also occasionally produced pictures that would be possible only from a midair perspective, including an exposure showing part of Westminster Abbey, and an image of a Hilton hotel in Denver.
In some ways, the Serios images make a fascinating visual analogy with the contents of the unconscious. Experiments in telepathy have shown that it is often precisely what someone does not think of transmitting that is transmitted most clearly. This is the case in many of these images, which contain parts rather than the whole, or elements distorted enough to be barely recognizable. Sometimes they seem to contain "leakage" from unconscious wishes and expectations—not only those of Serios but also those of the observers who happened to be present in the room at the time. Emotionally powerful material is particularly liable to emerge in telepathy, as well as repressed thoughts and memories. Although Serios was working with photography, it has often been pointed out that the unconscious deals with symbolic representations rather than photographic likenesses, which may explain why the images he produced were rarely "accurate" reproductions, but often slipped from the central image to a fringe element, from the essential to the accidental.
One of the most fascinating and disturbing aspects of these thoughtographs is the way they appear to merge the individual "inner" and the collective "outer" world exactly in the manner suggested by the phenomenon of thought transference. That is, in part, what makes them so eerie—the way they superimpose a private psychic reality on a world outside the boundaries of the individual ego. Following the clues in the Serios thoughtographs leads us from the everyday to the bizarre and the ineffable, confusing matter, space, form, motion, and time. Yet in every image, however opaque, an uncanny trace of the everyday is retained.
Mikita Brottman

Ted Serios: Mind Over Molecules?

THE WORLD OF TED SERIOS. By Jule Eisenbud, M.D. William Morrow & Co., 339 pp. $6.50.

THE TWISTY courses of an aspiring art, photography, and a suspicious science, psychic research, describe a rough parallel. Each is a creation of the first decades of the 19th century, each has been fostered by a succession of inspired amateurs, fuddled bunglers, sensational charlatans, and uncomfortable professionals. Each has survived a series of tumultuous popular vogues, and each today seems to have found tenuous public acceptance. Out of the black box and darkroom came what may really be the vital art of the moment. Out of the spiritualist's dim salon has emerged what may prove to be tomorrow's scientific revolution. In reaching a toe-hold, each discipline has sacrificed a measure of color and excitement: gone are the horrific lantern shows of the early photographer-magicians, gone too the emphasis psychic investigators once placed on communication with disembodied spirits from the "other side." Art photography graces a hundred glossy magazines on a million polished coffee tables, and down at Duke, Dr. J.B. Rhine (now respectable: his science has even acquired a medical-sounding title, parapsychology, plus a whole gaggle of acronyms to mark its divisions) flips his cards, dot, star, squiggle, and contributes to the journals. This failure of vitality is in part just the ordinary story of progress, but it is, in any case, where both paths have led. The travelers now begin to exude a faint odor of despair: photographers still have no masterpieces to hang with the great paintings, and the parapsychologists have an equivalent problem. They have failed to work a great shift in popular thought, a psychological counterpart to the Darwinian impact, precisely because they are relying on a statistical preponderance of evidence rather than a single staggering tour de force demonstration to make their case. Out and out radicule and rejection breed action, but hesitating half-acceptance makes only for frustration.
Perhaps the parapsychologists need not settle for mere tolerance. Whenever photographic art and psychic science run close enough to touch for a stretch, parapsychology, at least, seems to derive an infusion of new energy. It was so during the "spirit photography" vogue of the 1860's and '70's, which commenced in 1861 when one W.H. Mumler, an engraver employed by a Boston jewelery firm and in his off hours an amateur photographer, first claimed to have stumbled upon the ability to produce images of the dear departed standing or clustering behind a portrait sitter. After Mumler, a deluge of spirit photographers, most notably Mssrs. Beattie, Hudson and Bournsell of London, Duguid of Glasgow, Bland of Johannesburg, Wyllie of California, and Buguet of Paris, practiced widely and appear to have been extensively if carelessly investigated by photographic experts who failed to detect them in fraud. It is only fair to note that these early spirit photographers seem to have operated largely by their own lights, without anything resembling scientific control, and that even confirmed believers in psychic phenomena doubted their results, suggesting an ample variety of ways that a middling to clever fraud could have hoodwinked an observer in the many phases of picture-taking and development that made up 19th century photography. Many of the pictures themselves appear to a McLuhanized eye to be patent fakes, double exposures and paste-ups. In 1869 Mumler, along with his wife and a convert, William Guay, was charged with fraud in New York. Despite a grandiose, sneering summation by the then Public Prosecutor, Eldridge T. Gerry ("If the prisoner's innocence is as strong as his supernatural powers are said to be, perhaps, like some of his 'spirits,' he may be able before a jury of his countrymen, to create in their minds a marked impression of that innocence by his own reflected light.") the case was tossed of court. But the exposure seems to have been too much for Mumler, who disappeared, while spirit photography itself declined dramatically.
We stand at a distance too great to allow any final judgment on Mumler and his contemporaries; nor can we even find to reproduce that gentleman's most striking pictures (including one of the dead Abe Lincoln standing behind Mary Todd, who had arrived at Mumler's studio heavily veiled, announcing herself as "Mrs. Liddall"). Further, in trying to penetrate the muddle of spirit photography, we encounter an obvious problem: even assuming that one practitioner may have a legitimate supernormal gift, for that one, ten fraudulent imitators can be expected to spring up and confuse the issue a little further. This difficulty, and the obvious lack of control and documentation, relieve us of the ability and responsibility to determine exactly what the spirit photographers were about. Luckily, we have now a modern, well documented case of psychic photography before us. The two paths have met again, in the investigations of Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a reputable Denver analyst with a standing interest in psychic matters, into the apparent supernormal abilities of an alcoholic ex-bellhop from Chicago, Ted Serios. Dr. Eisenbud's book, The World of Ted Serios, details what is either one of the most sophisticated and widespread hoaxes of modern times, or a genuine gift of life to parapsychology in the form of a psychic event which can, within limits, be controlled and repeated, but cannot be explained away as an aberration of probability theory, the very tour de force this uncomfortable science needs so badly. Unlike Mumler, Serios represents a phenomenon we can and should investigate. The question of the reality of his powers is not an intellectual toy, but an issue of immediate importance, for if those powers are real, nothing can ever be quite the same again. If Ted Serios can mentally cause or influence the production of images on Polaroid Land film, then the traditional divisions of mind and matter, the life of the mind and the life of the physical world, are to some extent plainly invalid. If Eisenbod and Serios can demonstrate the truth of mind-over-matter (psychokinesis or PK), it matters little that the mind involved is that of a nearilliterate social outcast, or that the matter is only the molecules of a photographic emulsion. The principle, once established, generates ramifications which simply have no end.
COMPARED to traditional spirit photography, the Serios phenomenon is easy to describe. The spirits, after all, have been almost entirely exorcised from parapsychology, and many of their historical manifestations are now considered to have been the result of the supernormal mental powers, conscious and subconscious, of living men and women. (Consider the advantage that PK or ESP ability would give a medium in convincing a circle of sitters that contact had been made with the other side, to say nothing of what such unrecognized powers might lead that medium to believe about the nature of his or her psychic abilities.) We deal now only with the potential powers of the human mind, and in this instance, if one gives credance to Eisenbud's documentation, the mind of Ted Serios seems capable of producing images on fresh Polaroid Land film used in a Polaroid model 95' camera, of causing complete exposures in cases where the light level would seem inadequate, and of preventing any exposure at all, when light considerations would make some marking of the film appeal inevitable. (This production of' 'blackies" and "whities" is typical of Serios's off days, and of his warm-up periods prior to getting actual images.) Serios's exact conscious role in image production seems to vary: on some occasions he has duplicated or approximated target pictures, photographs either known to him or brought to his sessions scaled in opaque envelopes, and so known to him only by some psychic means, while at other times he has caused pictures to appear which neither he nor any other person present could identify or explain. His efforts are marked by fierce concentration, but that concentration is often directed simply at the fact of a picture's appearance, with the nature of the image itself left to luck or the unconscious.
Ted Serios's working procedure, as described by Dr. Eisenbud, also varies considerably, but it can be generally described, and a few of the more typical exceptions noted. Serios claims to have succeeded with many types of camera, including various models of the Polaroid and conventional negative-positive instruments, but now uses the Model 95 (a discontinued Polaroid line) almost exclusively, as he finds it gives him the best results. Eisenbud documents only his use of some other Polaroid models. At sessions, Serios ordinarily sits wth a bright light source shining from behind him over one shoulder (though he has worked and succeeded in conditions of semi-darkness) and holds the camera on his knees or lap, with its focus lever set and taped at infinity, and its lens pointing toward his face (he has managed images with cameras from which the lens has been entirely removed, but to the date of Eisenbud's writing, never has met success in attempts to influence film when the lens opening is taped shut, or when the camera is dispensed with altogether). Between the lens and himself he holds a small cylinder of paper or other material he calls the "gismo" (he typically employs a circlet of blackened Polaroid paper, formed with celluloid tape and prepared by anyone who wishes from their own materials at the beginning of a session, though he has used rings of other sorts of paper, napkin rings, and even the core of a roll of toilet paper, and succeeded with some of these variations). He suggests the camera, which is often equipped with a wink light (a variation Serios prefers to either a flash or the absence of any light attachment) with one hand, holding the gismo with the other. Though he has been guilty of truculent moods, he almost invariably will allow inspection of his person and all the equipment at all times during any session, and has done so during his most successful hot spells. As is obviously a necessity before his effort can be seriously considered, he will attempt to produce and has produced pictures with camera, film and gismo supplied by guests at the session, and guarded up to the moment that the session begins. Serios has also produced images with the camera held at a distance from him, separated from him by a lead-glass screen, pointed away from him at a blank wall, and triggered by other participants in the session. He has again succeeded when the gismo was held in position by invited observers, sewn into a pocketless monkey suit, and according to Paul Welch (Life, Sept. 22, 1967), a reporter who observed Serios in Chicago for several years before Dr. Eisenbud entered the case, entirely stripped. (About the only other noteworthy point in Welch's Life article is the implication that the magazine had been sitting on the story for at least four years.)
Throughout the investigations Serios has been, on the whole, remarkably anxious to convince and notably open about all procedures, suggesting that if he is a fraud, he is one of the more skillful and calculating variety, a suggestion which nothing known about his intelligence, background, manual skills or working condiitons (Serios often seems to attain best results when soused) would support.
A word should be said about the observers and guests just mentioned, one or another of whom seem to have been present at every step of Eisenbud's Denver investigations of Serios. They consist of local physicians, professors from Denver area colleges and universities, including several from the University of Colorado Medical Center, and at least one expert in photography and optics, Mr. Billie Wheeler, the head of the Center's Department of Audio-Visual Education. Eisenbud asserts that all of them have signed statements attesting to the physical events his book describes, and further stating that after participating in a Serios session, they could advance no material explanation for what they saw. As Eisenbud himself points out, these men and women, whatever their credentials, are neither experts in the field nor trained observers, and it is not statistically impossible that all or some of them could have been deceived. But their very number, and the fact that several of them interested themselves in the Serios phenomenon to the extent of attending and participating in many sessions make it unlikely that a flawless wholesale deception could have been affected without a pattern of collusion involving Serios, Eisenbud, and at least a few of their regular co-workers.
IT IS with this background that the only major published response to The World of Ted Serios (the book having been in print for at least five months) must be considered. As detailed in the October 1967 issue of Popular Photography, the editors of that magazine sent an inquiry team, consisting of two photographic experts who double as practicing magicians, to investigate Ted Serios. They passed what sounds like a tense and uncomfortable weekend in Denver, saw no images produced in the course of three sessions (though there were several blackies--which unfortunately seem to be the least convincing effects in Serios's reportory), on one occasion found Serios unwilling to permit their inspection of the gismo and the hand that held it, and returned to write: "Whether or not Ted Serios is a charlatan or a genuine psychic we cannot say. We can only state that whe arrived in Denver profoundly skeptical about his ability to produce what Dr. Eisenbud claims in his book--and left even more skeptical." (Compose for tone with the report of the London Daily Mail Commission for the study of spirit photography, July 16th, 1909: "We are therefore of the opinion that no evidence whatever--experimental or otherwise--has been placed before the committee in support of the contention to investigate which the committee was formed.") In addition to issuing a challenge to Serios and Eisenbud to produce even a single picture under conditions entirely dictated by Popular Photography (and here we are up against one of the more crucial difficulties in all psychic research: while the skeptic cannot be converted unless the psychic meets the letter of his exacting demands, the psychic may often be completely incapacitated by hostile surroundings; and spheres within spheres, this whole argument naturally reads like an elaborate justification of a fraud's unwillingness to show himself up, and in 9/10ths of all cases is probably exactly that), the writers describe a simple device which they suggest as a possible agency for fraudulent thoughtography. Constructed from a cheap lense (or a dime store souvenir viewer) and a tiny, transparent photographic positive, this simple optical device could, they suggest, be concealed inside Serios's gismo, and would produce results similar to his under similar conditions. It is such a gimmick, they further suggest, that Ted Serios may have been using all along, until frightened off the game by the arrival of their inquiry team: "...pictures might have been made by him in a similar maner, if he had so wished." They do not deny that the use of such a device would require some skill at sleight of hand, and some knowledge of photographic technique, neither of which Serios has ever been shown to have, but content themselves in stating that a very moderate amount of ability would suffice.
The Popular Photography inquiry team takes, or attempts to take, a middle line, suggesting that for years (since 1955, in fact) Serios may have been using one simple trick to convince witness after witness of his thoughtographic powers. I cannot, however, accept a middle line as meaningful in the Serios case. The inquiry team's suggestion fails to cover a number of the conditions, described above, under which Eisenbud asserts that Serios has produced images (is it reasonable to assume, for example, that the miniature optical device secreted in the gismo would pass muster when an objective observer rather than Serios is holding the gismo, etc.). Neither does the posited gimmick explain certain notable examples of Serios's pictures described below. The moderate approach fails because the effect of Eisenbud's documentation is to polarize opinion about the Serios affair. There seems to me to be only two opinions possible: 1) Serios is honest and his abilities are genuine; 2) Serios and Eisenbud, and some largish number of witnesses, are involved in a grand collusive hoax.
WHAT finally fixes this polarization of possible viewpoints on Serios and his thoughtography is the nature of his pictures themselves. There are many that with the aid of a camera and a darkroom always at the ready, Serios might have been able to create first on a tiny transparent positive print (though even here the question arises: Could Serios have carried on this sort of minor photoraphic cottage industry without being detected by Eisenbud, with whom he was in constant, daily contact in Denver? If not, then again it is a question of either collusive hoax or genuine talent, with no middle ground apparent.). But far too many of the thoughtographs are are either impossible to duplicate at all (if this could even be conclusively proved, for even one photo, the whole matter could, of course, be immediately resolved) or, at best, impossible to duplicate without the time, aid and money to which the Ted Seros who Eisenbud describes simuly had no access. Among these "impossible pictures" are: 1) high angle shots, among them an exposure showing part of Westminster Abbey and the book's color frontispiece representing the Denver Hilton Hotel, which could have been taken only from vantages barred to the earthbound photographer; 2) shots of objects which have apparently never been photographed, like the prints which seem to show Russian Vostok rockets orbiting in space; 3) Serios's near-misses, in which a thoughtograph duplicates an object or building, but with some crucial detail altered, like the plate of the Central City, Colo., Opera House (reproduced on p. S-1), which is a match for the genuine article except that it bears a playbill where the building shows only a discolored patch of brick, and that it shows the building with its windows bricked shut, though Eisenbud's enquiries determined that those windows had apparently never been filled in any way; 4) Serios's hits on sealed target pictures (here, if Serios was a fraud, no amount of photographic support would have pulled him through without an additional measure of collusion; 5) those few of Seros's images which can be seen to materalize progressively, acquiring form and pictorial meaning gradually from print to print, much like a developing embryo, and even more like the often described psychic phenomenon of object materialization. Eisenbud prints two samples from a series of prints in which an unidentified.

Let's get Serios

You may or may not have heard of Ted Serios, a Chicago bellhop who briefly came to prominence in the 1960s for his purported ability to psychically impress images onto Polaroid film. For a long time, I thought Serios had been thoroughly debunked. I believed this because I had read a convincing online explanation of how Serios faked his "thoughtographs."
The explanation, provided by Nile Root, is simple enough. In order to produce his thoughtographs, Serios made use of a cardboard tube that he called a "gismo." Serios claimed that the gismo, when placed against the camera lens, helped him to focus his energies. Root says that in fact Serios hid a small mechanism inside the gismo - a tiny cylinder with a lens at one end and a slide (a photographic transparency) at the other. When he placed the gismo near the camera lens and pointed the camera toward a light source, the slide was illuminated, and the camera took a  blurry, distorted picture of the slide. Then Serios, using sleight of hand, would slip the cylinder out of the cardboard gismo and pocket it.
Back in the '60s, Root contacted the main investigator of the Serios case, psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud, and informed him of his suspicions.
After seeing the demonstration by Serios I wrote to Dr. Eisenbud --- in part:
. . . I believe the recognizable images, which are unrelated to the existing environment at the time, are produced by Mr. Serios by a combination of short focal length lenses and various kinds of transparencies, which he adroitly conceals in front of a Polaroid camera . . .
Dr. Eisenbud ask me to demonstrate to a "committee" of eight men, all doctors except two, my method of making photographs similar to those made by Serios. I was greeted with skepticism and criticism at the meeting and I realized quickly that debunking was not a popular field to enter. As we sat around a conference table, I did not take five to eight hours to obtain an image; I did not attempt sleight of hand and of course drank no alcoholic beverages [as Serios routinely did].
I did show them how easy it is to make images similar to those produced by Serios.
However, to my surprise, I sat before a group of believers of the paranormal. (I could not fathom the naivete and gullibility of these professional men.)
A few days later Dr. Eisenbud sent me a copy of a three page letter he received from one of the members of his committee, the Chief Physicist and Engineer, Research and Engineering Department of a major Denver company. In part he said:
He (Nile Root) did produce interesting camera effects using his detectable gimmicks under conditions selected by himself. In my opinion he proved absolutely nothing.
This is pretty damning stuff. Root decisively exposed Serios as a fraud, and the investigators blithely ignored his evidence. The story was so persuasive to me that for several years I had no further interest in Serios.
Recently, however, I read Rosemarie Pilkington's new book, The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof. This fascinating book recounts a series of seances held in the early to mid 1930s by teenage boys. The Bindelof account is well worth reading for its own sake, but in addition the book provides an excellent overview of "physical" (as opposed to mental) mediumship and related psychic phenomena. One of the cases Pilkington explores is that of Ted Serios. And here I learned a few details that Nile Root had neglected to mention in his explanation of Serios' phenomena.
First, an investigator would frequently put his hand over the gismo, blocking any light from entering it, yet Serios would still produce an image.
Second, Serios did not always use the gismo, and was able to produce images without it.
Third, Serios produced his images while being filmed continuously by a camera crew on more than one occasion - a precaution that would seem to minimize the likelihood of sleight of hand.
Fourth, sometimes Serios did not even hold the camera or the gismo, which were in the hands of an investigator.
Fifth, Serios at times produced an image on a camera that was some distance away from him - as far as 66 feet in one instance.
Sixth, Serios also produced images on a camera that was in another room altogether.
Seventh, Serios was placed inside a Faraday cage - an electromagnetically shielded environment  in a laboratory - with the camera outside the cage; he still produced an image.
These facts, which Root somehow overlooked, perhaps give us a new understanding of those naive and gullible professional men who informed him that his tricks, while interesting, were irrelevant to the test conditions under which Serios operated.
My curiosity aroused, I looked at the treatment of Serios in James Randi's well-known (some might say notorious) book Flim-Flam. In a chapter titled "Off the Deep End," Randi deals with the Serios case. Serios, says Randi, "discovered that by using a simple little device and gathering a few simple minds around him, he could work magic." He gives the example of a case where Serios was asked to produce a photo of a nuclear sub, the Thresher, and instead produced a photo of Queen Elizabeth. Randi implies that Jule Eisenbud regarded this obvious "miss" as a "hit," and sarcastically summarizes Eisenbud's speculation that the words Elizabeth Regina, when manipulated by complicated wordplay, could translate into Thresher. "What? You didn't see it?" Randi jeers. "You'll never be a parapsychologist at that rate!"
I recently purchased a used edition of Eisenbud's book The World of Ted Serios, and the first thing I did was to look up this incident. I admit that I am not all convinced by the alleged Elizabeth-Thresher connection, which seems like obvious "reaching." But here is Eisenbud's most significant comment, with emphasis added:
Without question this [i.e., the Elizabeth photo] would be judged, as in fact it was, a completely inappropriate response, a clear miss in relation to the target asked for.
In other words, Eisenbud did not score the Elizabeth photo as a hit. He scored it as a miss. His speculations about wordplay are entirely irrelevant - a detour that may or may not be of psychological interest, but which has no bearing on the statistical testing of Serios' abilities.
By the way, Randi also forgets to mention that Serios first produced "several pictures of the submarine Nautilus" in this test, before coming up with the Elizabeth photo. Presumably we are to believe that he just happened to have his cylinder preloaded with shots of a submarine that day.
Randi also makes much of the fact that a "prominent conjuring authority" named Persi Diaconis, asked to observe a session with Serios, "was able to switch a whole batch of film right under [Eisenbud's] nose." He implies that Serios could have done the same thing. Maybe. But the investigators were watching Serios. They had no reason to watch Diaconis, who was there as an observer, not a test subject.
Randi concludes that Eisenbud's "ego simply does not permit him to realize that he was duped, and he will carry his delusions with him to the grave." Sounds like something that might be said of a certain high-profile media skeptic, doesn't it? "At the very least," Randi finishes graciously, "it seems that Dr. Eisenbud is not rowing with both oars in the water."
Nice. But instead of trying merely to get Serios, Randi and his fellow skeptics might try getting serious ... for once.
As I make my way through Eisenbud's book, which is surprisingly entertaining, I will occasionally supply updates and corrections to this post.
A minor correction: Serios' "gismo" was not made of cardboard, as I thought. Rather, it was plastic. Later, experimenters would fashion gismos for Serios, using the black paper that came with Polaroid film packs.
One piece of additional information about the gismo is that it was invariably sealed at both ends with cellophane. The cellophane was taped in place. This was Serios' normal habit, not a condition imposed by the experimenters. The tape was periodically checked to make sure that Serios was not removing it in order to slip something inside the tube. The replacement gismos whipped up by experimenters were also sealed. Neither Nile Root nor Randi mentions the fact that the gismo was always sealed, even though this detail is obviously relevant to their hypothesis.
Serios was also strip-searched on some occasions. No hidden devices were found, though I suppose one might speculate that he was hiding something in his mouth or rectum, or had secreted it in the room.
Some accounts of the Serios sessions imply that everyone involved consumed a lot of alcohol, impairing their observation and judgment. According to Eisenbud, it was Serios and Serios alone who consumed alcohol, which he claimed to need in order to lower his inhibitions. None of the experimenters drank anything other than water or fruit juice.
One more thing: In his book Flim-Flam, James Randi writes, "Eisenbud, demonstrating perfectly the irrationality of his kind, issued a challenge to me ... It was his inane idea that I submit to a preposterous set of controls ... I was to allow myself to be searched - including "a thorough inspection of all bodily orifices" - and then "stripped, clad in a monkey suit, and sealed in a steel-walled, lead-lined, windowless chamber. I had to be drunk as well. Then I was to produce pictures. Why? Because Ted Serios operated under those conditions, said Eisenbud ... If this great investigator and peerless observer required Serios to perform under the conditions he outlined for me, why didn't he mention it earlier?"
But Eisenbud did mention it earlier. A whole chapter of his book (the chapter titled "Tour de Force") discussses tests of this kind. Randi seems to mean that there is no single test that meets all of the above conditions. But there were many tests that met several, or even most, of the conditions. 
I do agree that the demand that Randi be intoxicated during the test was unnecessary and silly. But the other conditions seem reasonable enough, given that Serios himself was strip-searched (including a body cavity search), was sewn into a "monkey suit" (a tight-fitting one-piece garment without pockets), was made to operate inside a sealed room, was made to produce pictures without holding the camera, etc.
As an aside, it is interesting to take note of Randi's style of argument. He addresses the Serios case on pp. 222-227 of the first edition (1980) of Flim-Flam. This relatively brief treatment includes the following snipes at parapsychology: "simple little minds ... silly ... delusions ... You'll never be a parapsychologist at that rate! ... Isn't parapsychology just grand, folks? ... the psi nuts ... any parapsychologist will hesitate to look too carefully ... the irrationality of his kind ... inane ... preposterous ... nonexistent are the powers of Serios and the objectivity of those who investigated him ... naivete ... duped ... he will carry his delusions with him to the grave ... perhaps Dr. Borje Lofgren [ ] had it right when he described parapsychology enthusiasts as 'decaying minds' with 'thinking defects and disturbed relations to reality' ... Dr. Eisenbud is not rowing with both oars in the water."
On the book's dust jacket, Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying of Randi, "His qualifications as a rational human being are unparalleled." If a constant stream of malicious innuendo is the hallmark of a rational human being, then Asimov was right on the mark. - Michael Prescott's Blog

Ted Serios - Chicago Thoughtographer

Ted Serios (1918-2006) was a Chicago bellhop who claimed to have the ability to psychically expose images onto Polaroid film.  Initially experimenting with remote viewing in an attempt to find lost treasure, Serios was given a camera by a fellow bellhop and eventually found he had a knack for taking creating photographs remotely.

The idea of Thoughtography / Nensha / Nengraphy did not originate with Serios - experiments of this type were carried out almost as soon as photography was invented.  In 1931, Japanese scientist T. Fukari published his findings on the subject, titled Clairvoyance and Thoughtography (in recent years, Kessinger has reprinted this book).  Both Uri Geller and the young Masuaki Kiyota would attempt similar practices, but were proven to be faking it.

Dr. Jule Eisenbud ended up taking Serios very seriously, traveling with him and publishing a book, The World of Ted Serios - "Thoughtographic" Studies of an Extraordinary Mind in 1967.  There are many skeptics, as would be suspected: professional partypooper James Randi blows him with delight, as do a few people on the Internet.  Most of these however ignore some of the more interesting details regarding Serios's images.  Other people provided their own film and cameras, loading them while Serios was not in the room and not allowing him to touch them at any point.  Serios created images after being stripped and inspected, then put into a faraday cage or standing 66 feet down a hallway.

 Serios photograph with target image on right.

Ted would get drunk, often strip naked, yell and scream while calling everyone names.  Then suddenly he'd yell to someone to take a photograph of him.  A Polaroid camera would be pointed at his face, and an image of something entirely different would appear when the film was opened.

Most interesting is this fact:  Serios always worked with a target image.  Someone would provide a "target," place it into an envelope and have Serios concentrate on what this image was, having never actually seen it.  His resulting images often matched the target.  Since Serios was both an alcoholic and bordered on illiteracy, his images would sometimes show real places with signs misspelled or small details out of order.

At one point Serios was given a target of the Chicago Hilton, his previous place of employment.  Instead he produced this photograph of the Denver Hilton, from an angle that nobody could find a way to duplicate in real life.

One more amazing character to come from Chicago.  The Ted Serios archives are now held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. - Occult Chicago

For more reading:

The Curious Case of Ted Serios

Me interviewing Ted Serios. (Photo: Dan Cremin)
Once upon a time, I believed that it might be possible for a man to imprint his thoughts onto Polaroid film using only the power of his mind. Oh, dear.
The following article was published in Skeptic magazine, in an issue that included an article by Richard Dawkins and a whole slew of pieces about artificial intelligence! We also completed the short (30 minutes) documentary film, and I hope to figure out a way to post that before too long.
Thanks for reading!

Going to Meet the Man With the Camera Brain

While I didn’t exactly soar effortlessly through my teens and twenties, seizing the day and welcoming every sunrise and whatnot, life still unravelled mysteriously and with a charming lack of purpose. And then, at thirty, I wandered into a spiritual wilderness. Where a certain spontaneity had once been a fun if sometimes fickle guide, gray reason now usurped my ideals, and I became mired in a state of solipsistic glumness that was like teenage sorrow without the redeeming passion. With mortality now an increasingly real if distant reality, many in similar straits turn to religion, raising a family, or other similar time-honoured sources of succour. That is, people grow up. But for some of us, there lingers a spark of hope that we have not been entirely abandoned by that more innocent, childish age. And so we enter into a race with that old devil Time — a frenzied determination to find something to believe in again before the clock runs out.
In the early 1960s, in Denver Colorado, psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud was wrestling similar demons. A firm believer in the untapped potential of the human mind, Eisenbud’s frequent forays into the paranormal had nevertheless produced nothing in the way of concrete results. As long as empirical evidence was lacking, he said, no amount of anecdotal evidence could ever budge the stubborn fact that parapsychology would forever remain “the stepchild of science.” Shortly after reaching this gloomy conclusion, he got wind of Ted Serios, an ex-bellhop from Chicago who claimed to possess the remarkable ability to imprint his thoughts onto Polaroid film using only the powers of his mind. The doctor and the psychic met one evening in room 1320-W at Chicago’s ritzy Palmer House hotel. Between double-orders of Scotch (“for my cold,” said Serios), the impish psychic clutched a Polaroid Land type 100 camera, pointed the lens directly into his own face, clicked the shutter and restored the doctor’s faith. Ted’s thoughts seemed to bleed miraculously onto the film. Photograph after photograph slowly came to uncanny life, rendering the impossible in black and white: the Chicago Water Tower, a hotel that had burned down years before, haunting suggestions of other unknown structures. Eisenbud emerged from the meeting convinced that Serios could somehow seize a fleeting thought and materialize it for all to see.

A Serios "thoughtograph", circa 1966.

Another one from the same period. I still find this one haunting.
Now it was the late 1990s, and for my old friend Dennis and I, merely contemplating the existence of a character like Serios was a salve for our shared spiritual dread. A self-described bum whose humble goals consisted of drinking, womanizing, and (without forsaking the first two goals) obtaining the occasional psychic photograph, Serios was the embodiment of hedonistic surrender. And yet, whether through some fluke of fate or a strange sense of duty, he was also man enough to take on the very laws of nature. And as far as we knew, no one in the thirty-odd years since he first made his mark had anyone successfully debunked his claims. Was Ted Serios living proof that one could stagger through life, stumble on a great discovery, and find fame, all without losing one’s seat at the bar? Was Serios the guardian of a metaphysical miracle that would turn science on its head? With fingers crossed — and possibly while inebriated — we decided to contact Dr. Eisenbud.
“As far as your interviewing Ted, he’s never cared for interviews.” Jule Eisenbud’s ancient voice crackled over the line. He relinquished Ted’s phone number, but balked at surrendering his location. “He doesn’t want to be disclosed. He has a bad police record.” A new layer of intrigue arose. For a man on the lam, Ted was recklessly eager to jump back into the spotlight. In a series of lengthy, often rambling telephone conversations, he reassured us that his powers, dormant for nearly thirty years, could erupt again at any time. And he wanted us to bear witness. With an old Polaroid camera and as much film as we could afford, we hit the highway, determined to resurrect the reputation of the man whom science had so cruelly neglected.
In 1967, Eisenbud published the results of his extensive experiments with Serios in a book entitled The World of Ted Serios: ‘Thoughtographic’ Studies of an Extraordinary Mind. It is wonderfully written, full of humour, thoughtful analysis, and provocative ideas. It is also an unequivocal endorsement of Ted Serios’s wondrous thoughtographic brain. The book attracted legions of both believers and skeptics, and the little man who likely would have languished as an intriguing barfly and sodden supernatural footnote suddenly expanded his circle of influence beyond the local tavern. Soon, the world of Ted Serios counted scores of scientists, skeptics, and other respectable folk among its inhabitants. Thirty years later, that world was little more than a ghost town. Serios’s proponents had been driven underground. The skeptics had long since dismissed the phenomenon. Why?
In the beginning there was the gismo. Perhaps never before has such a fuss been made about something so crude and seemingly innocuous. Perhaps never before has humanity’s understanding of the natural world been challenged by a small roll of cardboard. Ted’s apartment, when we at last met him on a sizzling summer day in 1997, is littered with them. When obtaining a thoughtograph, Ted holds the gismo up to the camera lens to help him focus his psychic energy. I’d always thought of the gismo as a sort of bridge between the supernatural aether and the mundane reality of Ted’s gray matter, but the skeptics were never so broad-minded. They seized upon the gismo as evidence of legerdemain — a simple optical device that permitted any light-fingered charlatan to duplicate Ted’s “psychic photographs.” It was their smoking gun, the undeniable proof that Serios was nothing more than a very talented con artist who had either duped or been in cahoots with the good doctor. In their unyielding leeriness, they saw the gismo as a bridge between wild claims and harsh reality.
Ted turns out to be an amiable host. We’re all a bit awkward. Pleasantries are dutifully exchanged, and the meeting starts out like a visit to the psychic grandfather I never had. And then Ted spots our Polaroid camera. His affected smile transforms into a lusty grin. His eyes flash, and he begins stroking the camera. “This thing brings back a lot of memories,” he says wistfully.

Ted in action, 1967.
Back in Ted’s heyday — when, as he says longingly, “there was no shortage of booze, women, nothin’” — he made scores of converts by capturing thoughtographic representations of images that were tightly sealed from his sight: abstract paintings, famous buildings, historical figures. When Ted got one of these “targets,” another affidavit attesting to his authenticity was as good as signed. He’s happy to hear that we’ve brought along our own targets. “When I want to get a target, I make love to that camera,” he explains, his hands still exploring the old Polaroid. “That’s all there is to it. If I talk nice to the damn thing like I talk to a woman, the thing will give in, you see?” Where Eisenbud got downright esoteric in his analysis of Ted’s abilities, the thoughtographer himself clearly isn’t much for theorizing. Indeed, shortly into our interview, it becomes painfully obvious that peppering Ted with our carefully prepared questions — “How do you explain the slight variations between the target and the image that appear in some of your thoughtographs? Do you feel that you have finally gained the acceptance by the scientific community that you desired?” — isn’t going to get us anywhere. He stares blankly or deflects each question, spinning it into a tale of his bawdy youthful adventures.
Fair enough, I think. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that Ted is something of a holy fool — remarkably gifted and simultaneously oblivious to the profound effects that his abilities will have on our understanding of ourselves and the world. We’re here as guests, not disinterested scientific observers, so it only makes sense that Ted should call the shots. After numerous attempts to capture our targets result only in blurry pictures of Ted’s grunting face, frozen in various unflattering expressions of mental exertion, the weary thoughtographer announces that he’ll need some beer to grease the psychic gears. “I work the best when we sorta make a party out of it,” he confesses. “Everybody is having a good time. Then it seems like it comes real easy. Otherwise, it’s a grind. It really is, and that’s all there is to it.” As I get up to head off to the liquor store, Ted jams the camera against the back of my head and takes a picture. This strikes me as a pretty crude way to photograph someone’s thoughts. It’s also irritating as hell. Dr. Eisenbud once told us, “I was actually fond of Ted, but at other times, believe me, I could have taken a swing at him or broken his neck. He was just a pain in the ass.” I understand.

Ted in action during our 1997 visit. (Photo: Dan Cremin)
With a beer in each hand and a fair amount flowing through his veins, Ted’s flagging determination is soon renewed. “I’m gonna get that damn target if it kills me,” he says, lighting up his tenth cigarette in as many minutes. He tries to read my mind, confidently announces that he’s picked up its contents, and draws a quick sketch. With a knowing chuckle, he shows me the scrap of paper on which are scribbled two stick figures and a box. It could represent anything, including my target picture, a photograph showing my friend and his wife walking down the aisle at their wedding. I’m impressed, but then Ted adds a third stick figure. He looks up from his work. “If I don’t get the target, the whole thing’s kaput. It’s a do or die thing,” he says dramatically. I feel uneasy. While I want to give Ted the benefit of the doubt here — he’s always professed to be a Catholic, and that third figure could be God, I think — I’m under the distinct impression that he’s been trying to read my facial expressions, not my thoughts. But Ted is no parlor room swindler. I think at the time that his abilities have been well-documented. He’s been subjected to batteries of tests, all of which have ruled out the possibility of fraud. Some of the brightest lights in academia have testified to his authenticity. And I myself am no sucker, I remind myself, though not without wincing.
At some point during the proceedings, a young woman of indeterminate age (though decades younger than our thoughtographer) wades through the sea of empty cans and seats herself next to Ted. He introduces “this broad” as Arlene, his girlfriend and “America’s next great country and western singer.” According to Ted, speaking now in a slurred though solemn voice, Arlene is also a Christian in good standing with the Lord. He slaps her butt and asks her to pray for him. Apparently heedless of any moral conflict in asking for God’s help in such an unholy enterprise, Arlene bows her head. Ted mumbles an oath to his earthier Lord and silently communes with two more beers. The deity intervenes, and soon Ted is churning out thoughtographs at a truly awe-inspiring rate. He produces more of them in the next hour than in the thirty years since he mysteriously lost his powers. Now that prayer — that most unscientific of variables — has entered the picture, I bid farewell to even the pretence of “controlled conditions.” Her entreaties to the Lord completed, Arlene uses her body to throw interference while Ted fiddles with the camera. For what seems like an eternity of awkwardness, we stare at Arlene’s back. Their barely audible murmuring is occasionally punctuated by Ted’s cursing. The distinctive whirr of the camera is never far behind, and Arlene dutifully hands us yet another thoughtograph.
With the help of beer, God, Arlene, and two increasingly inattentive witnesses, Ted’s thoughtographs are beginning to take on a definite form. “I think it’s Christ,” I say listlessly. Stifling a yawn, Dennis concurs. Our combined will to believe can no longer withstand such blatant chicanery. But the show must go on. The curtain won’t drop until the last beer is finished and Ted has either obtained our “goddamned targets” or forgotten that he’d promised to do so. As he lurches to his feet and launches into a tipsy version of “You Oughta Be In Pictures,” I open one of the few remaining beers and watch as Ted unwittingly lampoons my dark night of the soul. Before he descends into abject drunkenness, I ask him to reveal the secret of his remarkable gift. “You got to have an imagination,” he says. “And that is the gospel truth. If you don’t have an imagination, then you ain’t gonna see nothing!”
As we prepare to leave, Ted approaches us sheepishly, eyes downcast. He’d brushed off earlier attempts to discuss a particular dream that had plagued him for years — the dream of the giant camera — but now seems eager to get it off his chest. “It seemed like the damn thing was walking to me. I don’t know how to describe it. It waddled towards me like a human walking. It was one of those old-fashioned cameras. I’ll tell you one thing: it was as big as a house when it came at me. There’s times when I get scared of the damn thing. If that happened to you, wouldn’t you be scared a little bit?” It certainly seems like a confession — a heavy heart caused perhaps by a certain lightness of the fingers — but I’m in no position to grant absolution. I feel too much a party to the game.
For a couple of years after our meeting with Ted Serios, Dennis and I avoided talking about the incident. And if the subject did arise, we did our best to avoid eye contact. But now we can laugh about how two credulous friends believed they had discovered a psychic Messiah who might turn the natural world topsy-turvy, but who instead spent a day with a strange little man who, if he couldn’t exactly save our souls, could at least save us from the clockwork tedium of a world that never changed its routine.
Postscript: On March 10, 1999, Dr. Jule Eisenbud died at his home in Denver. Whatever secrets he held — or thought he held — passed away with him. During our last phone conversation with Eisenbud, in 1998, he told us, “Ted will outlive anything. He may last to the year 2500.” While speaking to Ted on the phone not long ago, he informed us that he had recently been struck by a car, but had made a complete recovery that baffled the doctors who had treated him. Ted Serios may yet defy the laws of nature.  - Made By Paper

THOUGHTOGRAPHY – Ted Serios’ Interview with Mi Stress Henry

by Red Cell
Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with kind permission form Ted Serios.

Theodore `Ted´ Judd Serios is a thoughtographer. He can psychically “burn” images from his mind onto photosensitive surfaces. That is a rare ability, and it made Ted famous in the 1960s, when he first performed in a series of experiments supervised by the psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud. Eisenbud wrote a book about these experiments called The World of Ted Serios: “Thoughtographic” studies of an extraordinary mind (1967).
The work of Ted Serios has been part of many exhibitions all over the world, most notable “The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005. “Psychic Projections/Photographic Impressions: Paranormal Photographs from the Jule Eisenbud Collection on Ted Serios” was the title of a retrospective presented by The The Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery / University of Maryland in Baltimore last year. Ted Serios died in 2006, but since May 2010 he has been posting new work through his Facebook account.
Mi Stress Henry had the opportunity to speak to Ted Serios in January 2012.

Q. “I am dead and I am serious, I am Ted Serios” – that is the motto of your Facebook profile. Why does a dead man use Facebook to get serious?

A. No doubt, Facebook is the favorite platform of the deceased. Once you start looking, you will find many dead people who have accounts. My friend Erich von Stroheim for instance died in 1957 and he is on Facebook all the time. You have to have a certain affinity towards technology though. Let me put it this way: back in the Sixties, Polaroid was futuristic. Don´t be too surprised if I use the internet today to communicate from the other side.
Q. The reception of your work has always included the procedure of fabricating the prints up to point where you actually got called a “performance artist”. These days you are posting just thoughtographs. Is that due to the circumstances or is it intentional?
A. As you know, I have been ingenuous about almost every detail of the process. If you want to see how a thoughtograph is made, the footage is just a few clicks away. Put in my name on YouTube and you can see me at work. Anyhow, that was the spirit of the sixties, to do anything in public. I will not do that anymore, I will not reveal my secrets any longer. You can tell by looking at the prints that I do not use polaroids anymore. You see that I have learned how to make thoughtographs that have text. They are called “nensha” and I want to thank Tomokichi Fukurai for his generous support and many helpful hints.In retrospect I do think that it was necessary at that time to prove beyond doubt that thoughtography is not trickery. But today I feel it is kind of hysterical to concentrate on the process. To discuss the process becomes an excuse not to look at the pictures.
Q. So, if I forget about the process of thoughtography and just look at the imagery, what is the difference to “normal” photography?
A. Well, you are not exactly supposed to forget about the process, I recommend you keep it in mind. “Normal” photography is all about representation, people “take” pictures to freeze time. Sometimes they need to prove something and sometimes they want to preserve a memory, but there is always this close link to reality that constrains a specific viewpoint. To “read” a photo is a cultural skill, you learn it, and to acquire that competence you need to take a specific position – not only towards the picture but also towards reality. If you imagine the photograph as a mirror than you understand that you have to find the right angle to look at reality through it. In fact, that is a triangle.A thoughtograph is a “given” image, I do not take it, it pops up in the process of channeling energy. Therefore it exists outside the triangle. A thoughtograph is as indifferent towards the subject as modern painting.

Q. I can tell that your thoughtographs carry a specific atmosphere – and this airy vibe is a connecting link between your early Polaroids and your recent posts on Facebook. I can see an almost painterly quality. But when I look at your thoughtographs as a body of work, I do not get a coherent story. Do you know why you receive a specific image?

A. Certainly not, and that is why I start looking for references myself. That is easy for the nenshas, you just google the text. But when you try to use image recognition software for the thoughtographs, you will find that aesthetic similarity gets you nowhere. My way of finding connections goes beyond the surface. Let me give you an example: On the left side of the middle pair of the “conceptual spell” we see the image of a cartoon bird that almost looks like a crane. The bird stares down at some ruins and it took me a while to remember where I had seen those steel skeletons before: There is a well known picture of what Ground Zero looked like right after the September 11 attacks, taken from a slightly different angel. The bird is working in the memory mine, where all the indelible images get stored. There exists a natural correspondence to the “and now I live in your head” nensha, but this is not illustration, this is a play of echoes.
Q. ..and you do not play this game of echoes with just two images, you recently have organized the reverberation in a new structure – six thoughtographs in three pairs, upper, middle and lower. You have reused existing thoughtographs to create these compositions. Is that your way to make sense, to organize something that is first and foremost chaotic ?
A. I create structures that are not based on aesthetics. Nor do they represent reality of any kind. Don´t seek after form or content. I create autonomous visual essays and I call them spells.A spell is not symbolic, a spell uses symbols to obtain results. A spell is nothing that you can understand by studying it, you have to perform the ritual. A thoughtograph is an image created by means of technology. You have to overcome the cultural reflex triggered by the camera and look at the image in a different way. The way you look at a painting, maybe. To change your perspective is an active process.
Q. You have suggested that everybody should download the images and create a personal book, complete with comments and references.
A. I encourage the active handling of the material. Facebook goes beyond blogging, it offers a complete network of connections and cross references. My thoughtographs are presented in a context and I want my friends to draw the connections, to read that multidimensional structure. The personalized ads have offered me a job as a chemist recently and are now trying to sell me a retirement home in Florida. That means, the algorithms are too plump to handle the complex possibilities of a profile – for now. Technology offers time frames that individual people can use for a while. It will not last, but right now Facebook offers possibilities that can be used.
Q. Does your profile become part of the work?
A. The profile creates a context, it cannot be part of a work. Don´t forget, Facebook is a public space under private control.
Well, here I am on monkey island
Hiding behind a rock
I’m all dressed up with my monkey suit
Pretending to be something I’m notLiving home on monkey island, baby
Right in the middle of a zoo
Living home on monkey island, baby
Pretend to be a monkey, tooWell there’s one thing about these monkeys, baby
They don’t know I’m around
But that’s pretty good, ’cause if they knew
They’ll probably come and put me down

Q. O.K. – that is another quote, and I know where you picked it up. But Roky Erickson didn´t get away with the charade for too long.
A. True, but rock `n´ roll never promised a happy ending!

Mi Stress Henry is an independent writer. Her latest book “The truth is just another trick” is a profound analysis of the surrealist roots inside the cyber punk movement.

by Nile Root 

Hallucinating Ted Serios:1the impossibility of failed performativity  by Ted Hiebert

An extract from an expanded cinema performance involving a surveillance camera, plates of glass, metal screens, pipettes, strobes, photo-cells, electronics, and shortwave radio. The piece was first exhibited at Artists Television Access in September 2011 and at The Lab in January 2012, both in San Francisco


Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar