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THE BINDELOF STORY, PART I (of 4) (links to Part II, Part III, Part IV)

EXCEPTIONAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE 14(1): SITTER GROUP

 Montague Ullman

55 Orlando Ave. Ardsley, NY 10502

Exceptional Human Experience, Vol 11, No 1 June 1993

PROLOGUE

The catalyst for this account was the following exchange of letters:

January 17, 1993

Dear Rhea,

An idea occurred to me and I would like your frank feeling about it. I know you have some vague idea about my earlier experience with the Bindelof[1] group-table phenomena, psychic photography, writing, etc. I have considerable documentation over the years from the time of its origin in the early thirties through my contact with the surviving participants up to the present. I have always felt the material itself was valid although interpretations about the meaning have differed and because of its genuineness 1 felt it should be preserved in some way. I made an attempt in 1970 on my sabbatical but only got as far as an introduction. There were two subsequent efforts at preparing a book. Florence Bonime, an author and friend, made a valiant attempt, wrote a few chapters, and gave up after futile efforts to get a publisher. Also, she was undertaking it when I was in Sweden from 1974 to 1976 and couldn't be of much help. My second attempt to collaborate with someone else over three years ago was also a failure.

Several years have passed since this last attempt. Having completed the book on dreams I was working on, I now feel ready to return to the Bindelof material, but until I finished reading the last issue of EHE, I still had no clear idea about what to do with it - write it up in book form, try to prepare it as a proceedings, write a brief account for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, or simply turn over the material to the ASPR after my death. Reading EHE gave me another idea and this is what I am really writing you about. Would you consider something like this - my sending you an account in installments, with you having the opportunity to comment and raise questions about each installment? Tentatively, the installments would run something like this:

Foreword: Why present this account? What is its relevance as an EHE and its importance from an historical perspective after 60 years in the lives of the participants?

Introduction: A brief survey of the phenomena we experienced and the efforts we made in later years (in the 1960s) to retrospectively evaluate the experience. An introduction to the personalities of the participants, as I experienced them at the beginning and over the 60-year period - who we were and who we became. My feelings about its veridical value and heuristic importance.

The Phenomena: This would include the prehistory of the group prior to my entry into it.

Phenomena subsequent to my entry into the group.

Phenomena associated with the table.

Early findings - movement, knocks.

Later seemingly intelligent responses.

Experiments and photographic plates.

Including thought photographs and a picture of the entity "Dr. Bindelof" we seemed to have contacted.

Materialization.

Healing.

(The original documentation will be supplemented by material from later accounts.)

Retrospective Reminiscences:

Transcripts from meetings of the group in the late 1960s and early 1970s and individual written accounts.

Life Impact:

On the others.

On me.

On the meaning and nature of my subsequent psi experiences.

This is only to give you some idea of a beginning rough organizational format. What intrigues me about it is the possibility of linking it to your commentary and questions.

It certainly was the most extraordinary human experience I ever had, and I might say the same for all who were involved.

Ever warmly,

 

Monte

January 26, 1993

Dear Monte:

I received your letter today, and of course I would be delighted to publish a series of pieces by you about your experiences. My only proviso would be that you include how the experience impacted on your life and that of the others, to the extent that it did. But you would do that anyway. I don't know if I can make any intelligent commentaries, but I'll try! It's a wonderful idea. I'd love to work with you on it. Perhaps it could be put together and published as a book later.

Warmly,

 

Rhea

Her invitation was all that I needed.

PLAN OF PRESENTATION

As of this writing I hope to encompass this account in four parts to appear in successive issues of this publication. I ask the reader's indulgence at the very beginning should this projection be off a bit. I say this for two reasons. I'm working out the style of presentation as I go through all the material at hand, making decisions as to what should go where and how much of the documentation to incorporate into the text. More important, however, is that this is being prepared conjointly with Rhea White, whose comments and my responses to them will play a role in shaping successive segments.

PART I

Foreword

Introduction

Dramatis Personae

Roles and Relationships: Then and Now

Gilbert's Poltergeist

Early Sittings (Prior to M.U.)

PART II 

The Period of My Participation in the Group (1932-1933) 

Termination Phase (January to April 1934)

PART III

Sittings in 1946

Reminiscences: 1966, 1969, 1971

Subsequent Taped Individual Interviews and Correspondence

PART IV

Life Impact

Retrospective Analysis of the Experience

Potential Significance for Future Research

FOREWORD

Beginning in 1932 and extending through 1933, I participated in a series of séances productive of what at the time I thought to be true psychic phenomena and what I still believe, from a perspective taken 60 years later, were true psi effects. Because of the circumstances under which these effects occurred (a group of youngsters, 16 and 17 years old during the period I am referring to, sitting around a table in a darkened room, witnessing strange happenings and unconcerned with proving anything), there is no way I can justify my belief in their validity in the light of the rigorous lengths to which the modern parapsychologist goes to exclude fraud. Here and there I can offer some intriguing evidence that might raise the eyebrow of even a skeptic, but that isn't the point. The point is, rather, that these were exceptional human experiences that had a lasting effect on the lives of the participants, an effect that was validated some three decades later, and in the case of the four surviving members of the group, six decades later.

There were a number of lingering reservations I had that had to be overcome before I was prepared to offer a full public exposure of these events. My own long association with parapsychologists made me acutely aware of how vulnerable this account would be to any critical appraisal of the residual evidence. After all, couldn't it just be written off as the highjinks of a group of adolescents who, in their grandiosity and heated imagination and stimulated by their reading about the exploits of Florence Cook, Eusapia Palladino, D.D. Home, and the like, were hell-bent on recreating the world of psychic phenomena that had all but disappeared? I knew I lacked the literary skills necessary to bring back the excitement, the fun, the moments of fear, the passion and commitment we felt that kept us at it every Saturday evening for well over a year. We could hardly keep it to ourselves. Friends, including girl friends, joined us to the point where that small room where the séances were held was often quite crowded.

There are a number of other reasons why it has taken me so long to face the task of organizing and presenting the material I had on hand. From my letter it is obvious I hoped others could do it for me. Both attempts noted in my letter to Rhea failed. Both were attempts to incorporate the data into a fictional recreation of the events. With the death of Leonard, who played an important role from the very beginning to the termination of the sittings, and who later in life became a close and dear friend, and with a rather unpleasant ending to the second attempt, I finally faced the reality that if a serious and straightforward account were ever to appear (as straight as any honest effort at reconstruction could be, with due allowance for the vicissitudes of memory), I would have to undertake it myself in consultation with the three others still alive at this writing.

These earlier experiences never left me and obviously had a great effect on my life and my career. I will go into this in greater detail in the final installment but for the present suffice it to say that I tried to rekindle this interest at varying stages of my life. It paved the way for my later clinical and experimental studies in parapsychology and resulted in the unending and lifelong search I have felt compelled to pursue to accommodate these strange and "unworldly" experiences to the world of consensual reality. I know that the others who participated were also deeply affected and carried the experience with them throughout their lives.

I want to say a word more about the impetus of Rhea's writings about exceptional human experiences and her efforts to broaden our vision and the range of our interests if we are ever to arrive at, to use a current idiom, a consciousness-friendly science that will ultimately accommodate psi and the full range of human subjectivity. This was the structure I needed to cast aside the last remaining obstacles to the task of keeping the record straight.

INTRODUCTION

In the spring of 1966 I sent letters to five friends suggesting that sometime that summer we arrange to meet for the purpose of reminiscing. The events linking these men and myself occurred some three decades earlier. The purpose of the meeting was to compare our recollections of these accounts, to mutually assist each other in filling gaps where possible, to establish areas of consensual agreement as to what took place, as well as to define those aspects of the experience where the passage of time rendered any semblance of accurate reconstruction impossible. The events in question were extraordinary both at the time they occurred and in their lasting impact over the years. All the invitees responded.

The result was a Sunday devoted to the boisterous, excited recapturing of what for each of us was probably the strangest and most powerful experience of our youth. The proceedings were taped and duly transcribed. Similar meetings took place in 1969 and 1971, again with the idea of marshalling the residual physical evidence that something of paranormal significance did occur and to sift these data through the screen of our mutual reminiscences. From the perspective of whatever maturity and wisdom comes with middle age (at that time), we sought to come to some consensus as to what actually happened.

The "happenings" I refer to occurred in the course of séances assiduously conducted at weekly intervals beginning in 1932[2] and continuing through 1933, terminating in the spring of 1934 when the group finally disbanded. What we witnessed over this period was the gradual and ultimately climactic unfolding of almost the full gamut of psychical phenomena as such phenomena were known and defined by writers on the subject in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The developmental sequence began with equivocal movements, tilting of the table, and knocks and ultimately went to such startling phenomena as the table moving about the room and actual levitation, photographs taken without exposure of the plates, and messages appearing on paper with no one holding the pencil, purportedly written by someone who had died years before. Heady stuff for a group of 16 and 17 year olds! Either that or mere foolishness and nonsense.

There were many reasons why none of us thought it was foolishness, either then or at any later point in our lives. Any differences among us had to do with our various ways of interpreting our experience and not with the fact that we were witnessing genuine psychic phenomena. We could neither explain it away or consider what at the time of our get-together in 1966 would have been a 33-year sustained fraud, joke, or other form of deception by any member of the group or any combination thereof. As of this writing it has now been 60 years, and the conviction of the psychic reality of our experience has remained unshaken.

I am fully aware, of course, that the issue of authenticity is crucial. We had not embarked upon our adventure with the idea of setting down elaborate controls with the conscious intent of eliminating fraud or deception. Quite to the contrary, the excitement and freedom with which we set out to reproduce phenomena we had read about and the quality of fun and near hilarious release we experienced in the pauses between periods of sitting (along with at times fright and even terror) offered many opportunities for deception had anyone been so inclined. The perpetrator of such a fraud would have found himself face to face with an enormous undertaking. He would have had to control the situation on a weekly basis over a very long period of time. Inasmuch as on many occasions the direction the sittings took was only determined after the lights went out, he would have faced the near impossible task of having a very wide variety of difficult tricks to pull out of his bag without any notice. Once the sittings were fully developed, phenomena such as rappings, written messages, and photographic plates could characterize any one sitting. The hoaxer, or the hoaxing team, would have to have been willing to endure many unproductive, wasted evenings where nothing much happened. Toward what end? Toward what personal gain? No one ended up as a professional magician or a professional medium. No one except me ended up in a field even remotely connected with psychical research. Although our youthful experiences and the impact on our lives over six decades might make an interesting story, taken alone they are not apt to convince even someone only mildly skeptical. There is, however, more to the story than our mere description of the events. There are strange features to the original photographs which are still extant as well as something most unusual about at least one of the messages to which I can attest.

If, after reading the entire account, the reader is still doubtful of the authenticity of these events, there would be no way at this late date of changing his or her mind. For me, taking into account the enduring feeling of reality I have had about these events, the impact they have had on my life and the lives of the others, they stand as striking examples of the range of the paranormal. I cannot conceive of any of us, in either a spirit of conscious deception or unconscious self-deception, having the skill and ability to develop the florid panorama of phenomena that unfolded before us as the sittings progressed over a two-year period and, finally, engaging with the rest of us in the reconstructive effort taking place in the more recent past without at any point doing or saying anything that would lead anyone to be even vaguely suspicious. (I am assuming the perpetrator of this was not myself.)

What possible motive could anyone have, assuming it was a hoax, for maintaining this pose among old friends for so long? Someone would have had to be a consummate artist to have relived the experience as each of us did once the reconstructions began and so dissemble his feelings that no one could suspect the experience was not as genuine for him as it was for the rest of us, both at the time it occurred and in the reliving of it. When the group did get together in later years, there was a cohesiveness, a congeniality, an easy unspoken understanding, an excitement, and at times the same old joy and hilarity at the recall of certain incidents so that the idea of a Judas among us is impossible for us to conceive. We had all gone along very different paths which, in the ordinary course of events, would never again have crossed were it not due to the recurrent pull of the special tie that made us and kept us a group.[3]

In 1966 I received a small grant to initiate a serious effort at the reconstruction of what we had been through together. This had been a long-standing hope of mine that had been set aside in the pursuit of my career in the practice and teaching of psychoanalysis. With a switch to full-time hospital work in 1961 at the Maimonides Medical Center, I had the opportunity to pursue my own research interests. In 1946 there had been an abortive attempt to reconstitute the group for the purpose of holding séances to try to recapture some of the phenomena known to us in our earlier efforts. When we came together in 1966 it was with the tacit understanding that whatever psychical phenomena we were capable of generating had run its course in our adolescence, and we were now gathered to take our last look[4] at it and to gather recollections of it in some definitive way.

That meeting was the first time in 33 years that all of the surviving members of the group came together. It had a special quality of its own. Despite the diverse paths we had followed in life we congealed into a unity that transcended both time and our differing interests and life styles. Here we were, presumably at a mature and settled stage of our own lives, unabashedly owning up to being mixed up, unhappy adolescents, each with a full quota of personal hang-ups at the time the sittings took place. One of us (Leonard) was the most outspoken in his discussion of himself as a 16-year-old, but had the others been equally as frank, it would have been obvious that the quality of adolescent disarray spared none of us. Taken as a whole we were floundering, confused, searching, much in need of a stabilizing influence, and individually beset by all the perturbations and excesses that characterize most adolescents, ranging from insufferable vanity and arrogance to passionate self-pity and despair. For some of us the sittings helped in the search for a father figure. For others it offered the comfort, security, and stimulation of a new home away from home, of new and exciting parents for the dull and familiar ones. The home in which most of the sittings took place (Gilbert's) had much that was lacking in the homes of the rest of us. Music and books came to life here in a different way than I had ever experienced before.

This was the emotional climate that shaped all that occurred and perhaps even created much that did occur. But not all. Of that we were, still are, and as far as I can see, always will be convinced. It is in the nature of this particular group to agree on little else as they were extremely individual in outlook. What unites us is the conviction that something significantly paranormal did occur. We remain united about this even though we may differ about the way we individually categorize the nature of the paranormal experience itself.

During this and the subsequent meetings in 1969 and 1971 we continued to assess the material on hand. Despite the gaps and flaws in our memory we soon realized how much material we did have available: Most of the written messages had been preserved as had the original photographs. I still had in my possession the original photographic plates in various stages of decay. As the caretaker of the records, I also had the minutes I had kept and the agendas I prepared in advance of the meetings, agendas which, incidentally, rarely unfolded as planned once things got going. In addition to these actual "products" of the sittings there were a number of written accounts, one by myself in the spring of 1933, one by Larry in 1934, another by myself in 1946, and one by Howard in 1966. A later account was written by Leonard in 1985. Subsequent to the reunions, I had an interview with one of the original sitters whose whereabouts was not known at the time and obtained statements from several others who participated at various times in the sittings.

Many skeletons were rattled in the course of these get-togethers, but one in particular was not easy for me to get out of the closet. It centered around the task of finally going public with these strange youthful adventures. Although I did not hesitate to give a full account of these happenings in intimate and very personal settings, it was many years before I overcame my own resistance to going further. Early in my career there was some concern with how my colleagues in psychiatry would react to something so beyond their own experience. Later on, as I became more identified with parapsychology, I had misgivings about its reception by those eager young scientists so determined to statistically prove the reality of psi through foolproof laboratory techniques.

My fellow sitters did not share these concerns but each of us has had to settle accounts with this part of our past. It was as if we had been living with these skeletons (or ghosts) in our respective closets, opening them to view only under very special circumstances. Those closet doors kept opening, in different ways to be sure, for each of us, but speaking for myself, they never stayed open too long for fear of rebuff or ridicule. The aging process, my conviction about their authenticity, the response of Gardner Murphy to hearing about them in the 1940s as well as his response to reading the unedited transcript of our 1966 meeting, all revived my interest in seeing that a public record would be available. The earlier efforts to embed the actual happenings in a fictionalized account failed. In retrospect, I'm glad it turned out that way. Having it coauthored would simply have been an expeditious way of getting something out before I had the time and leisure to get to it myself. Had it been successfully fictionalized, it would have reached a wider audience, but the direction I saw this taking, particularly with regard to the second attempt, made me feel that the embellishments were too high a price to pay. My deepest desire is to present it in my own voice and to assume the responsibility for staying as close to the facts as possible. As I noted earlier, it was Rhea White's openness and point of view of psi in the place of things that provided me with the stimulus to do it in the way I really wanted to do it.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Gilbert Roller: Retired television producer and writer, referred to as Gil or Gilbert.

Leonard Lauer. Deceased. Metal worker and later vice-president of a metallurgical firm (referred to variously as Leonard, Len, or Jeff).

Gilbert Laurence: California businessman, now retired but with a continuing interest in theater (referred to as Larry and in the transcripts of the reunion as Larry Levin).

Leo Keiser: Deceased. Leonard's cousin (referred to as Lance).

George Keiser: Deceased. Died soon after the 1966 reunion. Public relations career.

Howard Frisch: Antiquarian book dealer.

Tom Loeb: Deceased. Poet and into a variety of other undertakings (later referred to as Tom Newman).

Montague Ullman: Psychoanalyst, parapsychologist, and dream researcher (referred to as Monte).

There were a number of others who participated sporadically:

Eleanor Turmo: Gilberts aunt but contemporary with Gilbert in age (known as Ellie).

Horace Joseph: Engineer, living in California. Attended many of the sittings.

Numerous others attended and will be noted at appropriate places in the account of the sittings.

ROLES AND RELATIONSHIPS: THEN AND NOW

Gilbert Roller

Gil's presence was essential but not sufficient for the success of the sittings. He was the one who had a history of poltergeist, and who started to sit with Larry and Len prior to 1932. Gil's mother was said to have had psychic powers. Although we were of the same age, I recall being impressed by Gil's quick wit and lively imagination. That combination often served to release anxieties and tensions in the group. Knowing of his earlier poltergeist experience, I held him in some awe. I also envied his being more unabashedly open and less inhibited in his behavior than I was. I had no contact with Gil once the séances terminated in 1934 until we tried again to hold sittings in 1946. Then, again, there was a lapse until the reunion in 1966. Since the last reunion in 1971 we have met occasionally socially and in connection with the earlier attempts at preparing an account for publication.

Leonard

Leonard was a natural leader. Handsome, smart, and self-confident, he was a steadying hand in the group and generally acted as spokesperson. He was also knowledgeable about the literature in psychical research and the person I knew most about as our friendship continued to grow over the years. It actually began in our early teens when we were both members of a boys' club that met for outings in Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday mornings. It was my introduction to football. I played center. Leonard was quarterback, as might be expected. He was a good athlete and could toss a football like a pro. We continued to be casual friends at the three-year high school we attended, but a real friendship didn't develop until we started City College in September of 1931. I had just turned 15. Leonard was a few months older. We were both majoring in science. We had one class together in comparative anatomy where Leonard and I were partners in dissecting the dogfish. He did most of the dissecting. I watched. It was the pattern of our relationship. It was sometime during our second year that Leonard told me of the séances he, Gil, and Larry had been conducting over the prior two-year period. He dropped names like Sir Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, William James, Cesare Lombroso, F.W.H. Myers, and was most insistent that I read The Law of Psychic Phenomena by Thomas Jay Hudson, which I did. That was a breathtaking introduction to a whole new world. Considering my reverence for the printed word, Hudson's portrayal of the extraordinary powers of the subjective mind seemed logical and unassailable. I was hooked. Leonard dropped out of college toward the end of his third year (he completed his degree in his 60s with honors). He went to work as a sheet-metal worker. We lost touch with each other until 1946, soon after my return from overseas in 1945. Leonard was now a prosperous executive in the firm he worked for, was married and had a family, and had kept up his varied intellectual pursuits, mainly in the field of psychology. We met from time to time, mostly to talk over old times. This led to our effort to make another attempt at sitting in 1946.

Much happened in Leonard's life between 1946 and 1966. He suffered from a serious sleep disorder in the form of episodes of sleep apnea. His disturbed sleep led to a tendency to nod off during the day. Driving home one night he fell asleep at the wheel, crashed into a tree, and suffered a fractured jaw, knee, and hip. He remained in traction for many months and was left with a limp and a much altered appearance. His marriage, always a stormy one, ended. He had a second marriage, which also ended in divorce but on friendly terms and where a close and endearing relationship continued up to the time of his death in the summer of 1988.

My feeling toward Leonard in our youth was a mix of admiration and envy. He was much more his own person than I was, at the time, freer in his dealings with his parents than I was and more adventuresome with girls. At a time when necking was still an achievement for me, he told me one day how delightful it was to wake up in the morning with the first sight greeting his eyes being the beautiful brown tresses of the girl he had slept with. I hesitated to introduce him to any girls I was dating, having more than one fall for him. I was also intrigued by Leonard's mother. She was a very striking looking woman. I saw Leonard's relationship with his mother as two adults respectful of each other's way of life, something quite different from my own situation where my views on religion and psychic phenomena were quite foreign and upsetting to my parents. His mother (Helen Lauer) participated in the sittings for a short period. I did not know Leonard's father. His parents were separated in his teens, and he rarely spoke of his father.

After a second episode of falling asleep at the wheel and totalling his car, I sent Leonard to a sleep disorder clinic where a diagnosis of sleep apnea was made. From then on he slept with an oxygen tank next to his bed. Leonard enjoyed good food, smoked too much, and finally succumbed to a heart attack.

I continue to miss Leonard. We had that rare understanding when people know, like, and respect each other over a long period of time. I miss his counsel and the help he could have provided in the preparation of this account. He lived through the earlier experiences, and he was there to the end. His recall was sharper than mine. He never tired of talking about the Bindelof days and took delight in stimulating interest and excitement in the younger generation, particularly his stepdaughter, Judith Malamud, now a psychologist. Shortly before he died, she pursuaded him to do a taping. He once again recounted the experience.

Leonard and his former wife Rachel kept separate quarters, kept close touch, and dined out together several times a week. Leonard often told me their real love for each other began the same day their divorce was granted. Rachel, a brilliant and accomplished woman, now the director of the Straus Thinking and Learning Center at Pace University, once told me that Jeff (as he came to be known later in life) was the smartest man she had ever known.

Leonard died alone. To spare Rachel the pain, I was the one to identify the body at the morgue. I broke down.

Larry

Larry was the third member of the triumvirate. He, along with Gilbert and Leonard, were there from the beginning to the end. A budding actor with an irrepressible sense of humor and a strong ego, it was easy for him to take center stage to the delight of the rest of us. We took frequent respites during a sitting, and Larry's antics took the edge off our tensions. There was, however, a serious side to Larry. I think he was the one most personally moved and affected by our contact with Dr. Bindelof, a purported entity, a physician still interested in healing. One result of our experiments in "psychic photography" was a picture of Dr. Bindelof. To this day Larry still carries that picture in his wallet.

Larry dropped out of high school to join Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theater as an apprentice. After terminating his theatrical career in the east, he moved to California where he was highly successful in a number of business enterprises while remaining actively connected with the theater. Larry and I resumed our friendship on my return to the States in December, 1945, when we would see each other on his occasional trips to New York. He has enjoyed his retirement and has kept up his contact with Gilbert R. as well as myself.

Tom

Tom had a wild streak that was evident in the 1930s, and it led him on an adventurous course for the rest of his life. He was a hippie before there were hippies. He was a poet and loved reading aloud to us in a clear resonant voice stanzas from T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland." He was a regular sitter but with not infrequent absences for which he was berated by Dr. Bindelof. He was a free soul, perhaps freer than any of the rest of us. I recall being at his home one day and being amazed at the disdainful way he treated his mother.

We next connected in 1946 when he joined with the others in the sittings that were held then. We corresponded briefly in the late 40s when he was working in New Orleans. I then lost sight of him until 1972 when I relocated him and arranged for a taped interview in Los Angeles. I was shocked by his appearance. He was dying of cancer, emaciated and jaundiced as a result of liver metastases. What was unchanged was that deep resonant voice of his welcoming the opportunity to talk of the Bindelof experience. He had a keen recall of those days.

When I met him in 1972 he was lying on a hospital bed in a small room in a building that housed other members of a commune. In one corner of the room were two large wicker baskets filled with what he insistently declared was the juiciest marijuana anywhere. He spoke of his life in Mexico and listed among his various activities importing marijuana and gunrunning. Tom died a short time later.

Howard

Howard attended regularly. Possessed of a certain shyness, he was the quietest member of the group. I experienced in him a gentle, thoughtful presence who on occasion displayed a good sense of humor. I knew Howard slightly in junior high school and then met him again when I joined the group. He was a good friend of Gil R.'s, and I think this was the basis of his participation rather than any deep interest in the field. Howard's interests were literary. He opened and still maintains an antiquarian book store. While it is a small operation, he has gained a considerable reputation among book dealers for the selection he carries and for his ability to locate long out-of-print books.[5] Howard and I have kept in touch following the first reunion in 1966, and he has been most helpful in finding books where others failed.

George

He was at very few of the sessions that I attended, and my recollection of him from that time is very vague. George was a cousin of Leonard's. He died in 1973.

Leo

Leo was also a cousin of Leonard's. He was active in the group before I came and was there sporadically during the period I was. My recollection of him was also quite vague. He died quite young.

There were many others - Ellie, Gilbert's aunt, though she was contemporary with him in age; Horace, and Willie attended many sessions. Many others came on occasion.

In sum, the friendship of Gilbert and Howard has endured through the years as had the friendship of Leonard and me. Larry had kept up with all of us on his visits to New York once or twice a year. Leonard and Gilbert grew apart and, as far as I know, had no contact with each other after the last reunion in 1971. This might have been the situation between Leonard and myself also had I not taken the initiative back in the 1940s. He tended to be a self-sufficient kind of guy and very much a loner as far as contacts outside his family and his work. Larry accepted all that happened in the course of the sittings at face value. There was no doubt in his mind but that we had contacted a deceased entity, perhaps even more than one, and that Dr. Bindelof was what he said he was. Leonard and I had questions about the survival nature of what we had come across, but we had no doubt about its genuineness as psychic phenomena. Gil was somewhere in between, believing in the survival of the soul for personal reasons rather than on the basis of our sittings. I was the only one who followed a career path in parapsychology.

GILBERT'S POLTERGEIST

Because of his earlier poltergeist experiences and his family history we regarded Gilbert as having more mediumistic power than any of the rest of us. Although his presence didn't insure success at a sitting, I believe we all felt nothing would occur in his absence. I put it that way because I didn't recall his ever being absent. When we got together for our first reunion on July 31, 1966 (Gilbert, Howard, Leonard, Larry, George, and myself), we began with an effort on my part to explore Gil's background and early experiences. The following is taken directly from the transcript. (An occasional word is inserted in parentheses to make the meaning clear.)

MONTE: Gil, perhaps you might begin by telling us a little bit about what there was in the way of your own personal family background that sort of helped in initiating this whole experience.

GILBERT: I would say that the first direct experience I had was this paranormal phenomenon of poltergeist. We had this experience, I think, when I was about 15-probably even earlier than that-I'd say 12 or 13. Somewhere around that. I don't remember the exact date, but at any rate, there was a very pronounced phenomenon in the house: The usual poltergeist manifestations, that is, objects flying through the air, all sorts of things of that nature, and markings on the walls (in crayon), smashing glass, and various things like that. This was my first direct experience with the phenomenon, although I did know of psychic phenomena through my mother's interest in the subject. That was really my introduction to it, and from there on, of course, I had a permanent interest in it and carried that forward to this day.

MONTE: Could you tell us a little bit about what your mother's background in this was?

GILBERT: Well, my mother established her interest in it through reading about it first. This was her first knowledge of it. Then she sat with the Dolly Sisters;[6] they were in the show together, and she suggested that they have a séance and much to their surprise they had almost immediate results - manifestations, and it appeared that one of the Dolly sisters (I think Jenny Dolly, who is now dead - I think they're both dead) was quite mediumistic and had some extremely interesting messages. I really should have brought those. You might have been interested to know about them. They were prophetic messages which came true very accurately, the results were very surprising, and from that day forward, my mother always had an interest in it and spoke to me about it, but as I said, my first direct experience was with poltergeist phenomenon.

LARRY: I just want to say that I remember newspaper articles which Gilbert showed me at the time, which was after the occurrences, but this was one of the things that led me to  participate when we first started trying to experiment ourselves.

GILBERT: As a matter of fact, the case did achieve some notoriety because of the violence of it, and as a matter of fact it was investigated by Hereward Carrington, and of course, these things, when they revolve around children, are always suspect and the neighbors were inclined to say that I was a bit of a psychopath, etc. However, the situations which arose could not have involved me because I was absent during some of those phenomena. Carrington investigated this at the request of my mother[7] and he found the phenomenon to be absolutely genuine, and as a matter of fact, some of the most violent demonstrations of the phenomena occurred during his investigations.

MONTE: Where did you live at the time?

GILBERT: We lived on Riverside Drive then - 139th Street, and as I say, it was quite an experience because I'd never seen anything like this.

MONTE: Did your mother, in her sittings, have physical phenomena?

GILBERT: Yes. You mean prior to this? Of course, you see we did have séances at the time (my mother and I would sit alone as a matter of fact), and request . . . we called this entity or manifestation or whatever you want to call it - we called it "Liz."

MONTE: Can you place this in time?

GILBERT: Monte, I can't very accurately. I would say I was about 13.

MONTE: And you're how old now?

GILBERT: Fifty-one, which would make this hundreds of years ago, but at any rate . . .

MONTE: Around 1928 then . . .

GILBERT: It's around there-'27, '28. And of course it's a maddening thing because it was affecting our entire [life]. My stepfather at the time had no patience with this sort of thing; he couldn't comprehend it at all and it made living there extremely difficult. My mother and I would have these impromptu séances and actually request a demonstration of this thing, and whatever we asked . . . Wed say "throw something," and you'd hear this violent projectile going through the air. They were hairpins mostly. My mother had long hair which was fashionable at that time . . . and the arsenal really comprised these hairpins, you see, that she wore, and you could hear the "ping" as it struck the wall and something would tinkle to the floor, and you could find them all over the place, and suddenly a dish would be smashed.

MONTE: What were the most striking physical effects?

GILBERT: Well, the violence of it, and the ability to call on it. It was almost as though there were an invisible entity in the house and you could say, "Liz, throw something," and this would be acknowledged immediately. And then these huge crayon markings on the wall. There was one message which was quite frequent and the word was "go," . . . just "go," "go," all over the place, and of course, finally we did leave the apartment; we felt that might have been part of the cause of the difficulty, but it was a violent phenomena [sic] and most unusual.

GEORGE: Wasn't there specifically a time when you'd be sitting in the bathtub and your mother would be out in the living room and she'd say, "Stop throwing the hairpins."

GILBERT: Oh, yes. This occurred.

GEORGE: And if you [were] around two corners, this would be physically impossible.

GILBERT: Oh, this was definitely established. You see, unfortunately poltergeist-the classic poltergeist-seems to have a child or adolescent as suspect, and this of course, is suspect to the uninitiated.

MONTE: Can you recall what your own subjective response to these events was at the time?

GILBERT: Not particularly, no. I wasn't disturbed by the phenomenon and I don't think I had any particular objection to it, you might say, or repugnance . . . it was just an amusing experience and as a matter of fact, I found it sort of interesting. Many neighbors came in to observe; it was almost a sideshow, you might say-it was that predictable.

MONTE: Was there any particular time of the day that it occurred?

GILBERT: Incessantly. I mean, all day long you would hear this barrage of hairpins; there was no end to it.

MONTE: How long a period did this encompass?

GILBERT: I would say almost a year and a half and during all this it was a thoroughly predictable phenomenon. I would say I was about 13. Give or take a couple of years.

MONTE: Do you know of any other factors in your mother's family history that might have predisposed her to this kind of experience?

GILBERT: No, except that my mother was thoroughly familiar with it. It was not a mysterious or inexplicable thing.

MONTE: Well, in other words, were there any other members in your mother's family who had this talent?

GILBERT: No. My mother seemed to exhibit a certain amount of mediumistic ability. Of course she sat at the slightest provocation; she was extremely interested in this and if she ever found anybody who was interested in the subject, she would persuade them to [sit].

MONTE: Now this interest occurred in her adult life?

GILBERT: Oh yes. But prior to my being born; as a matter of fact, it goes way back into her career, and as I say, it started with the Dolly Sisters.

HOWARD: You had some experience with your mother and the ouija board, didn't you?

GILBERT: Oh, yes. The ouija board was part of our arsenal, but this particular phenomenon I didn't pay too much attention to.

MONTE: Are there any other family antecedents or anybody else that anybody might consider relevant to this, or any other questions about the phenomena Gil has described that anybody can add to? Now, can you tell us about the cessation of this? Was it sudden? Did it suddenly disappear? Did it disappear on your moving to another location?

GILBERT: Yes. The moving seemed to change the situation. There were many sporadic manifestations after that, but as I grew older, as a matter of fact, it just seemed to come to a certain peak in my life and then tapered off and that was the end of it; we never had another spontaneous phenomena [sic] like that again.

We questioned Gil further on his background at our last reunion on May 15, 1971.[8]

*Did it occur at a time when no one was in the house?

GILBERT: That's hard to know, except when we came back we'd find "Go" written on the walls . . . .

*And presumably that took place when you were out.

GILBERT: This I don't know. [9]

*Excuse me, Gil. One question. There's something that talking about the energy young people have - did this poltergeist thing ever happen when you were there without your mother?

GILBERT: Now you're asking me specific questions and I honestly don't remember. In all honesty, I can't remember.

*I want to ask one question. I remember being shown by you or Len, a newspaper article.

*I remember that. The Journal or the American.

*Yes, the Journal. It would be interesting to look it up. Do you know where?

GILBERT: It was the Journal-American, and it was on the occasion [of] Hereward Carrington coming up and investigating.

*Was it the Journal-American then?

GILBERT: Whatever it was called. It was a Hearst paper, but I do know that Carrington carne to investigate the thing and he was of the opinion that I was doing it. It was his opinion that I was doing it. As a matter of fact, it was my father who brought in Mr. Carrington, I believe. I do know he came up and went through my pockets and 1 had a couple of hairpins and a rubber band and some marbles in my pockets, you know, everything but a pet frog, so he put all these things together - the hairpins and the rubber bands, etc., and he came up with "psychotic, moody," and while he was there, there was no phenomenon at any time - at any time of any kind, and most of his analysis that I remember was a picture of me being a subversive of some sort. So his final conclusion was that he saw nothing that could be properly called poltergeist. All the indications pointed to a highly emotional child who was very probably the cause.

*Did you flatly deny that?

GILBERT: I didn't even know he had written it, and I couldn't care less. I mean, it was his opinion, and he didn't see anything happen, and he did find, when he went through my pockets, some hairpins and a rubber band which, of course, you could very easily shoot, but he completely ignored the fact that this thing occurred when I wasn't home, and things occurred that I couldn't have done. Well, the point I want to make is there were things he never saw. There were things that occurred while I was not there and mother was there alone, and mother always claimed dad had him do this to invalidate the phenomenon.

LARRY: I wish I had known about this when I went to visit him (Carrington) in Hollywood.

GILBERT: Well, anyway, he made out his report and he placed the burden on me.

*You don't have a copy of this, do you?

GILBERT: No, you may be able to find one though. But his conclusion was that I was responsible for it.

*How long a period would you say this went on?

GILBERT: I would say, and this is purely a guess, about a period of eight months. It began as an isolated thing and built to a climax.

Malamud's Tape of Leonard

The material that follows is from a tape of the recollections of Leonard (Jeff) Lauer made on January 20, 1985 in the presence of his step-daughter, Dr. Judith Malamud, who put questions to him from time to time. This excerpt describes Leonard's early encounter with Gilbert and his recall of what Gilbert told him of the poltergeist.[10]

In the summer of 1931 or 1932 I was living in Washingon Heights. A family that had recently moved in across the street had one child my age. I was 15. Gilbert and I got to be very friendly. I found that before they had moved here they had had a poltergeist experience in their home. One of the things in his house was the distribution of oatmeal uniformally over the carpets. The "spirit" in their house was called "Liz," and years after when we spoke of Liz we spoke of her as though she were a thing: Gil, his mother Larry and I. Oatmeal and hair-pins were Liz's thing. Olga's[11] hair was long, done up in a bun. One of Liz's games was to shower a door with hairpins on the floor.

JUDITH: And there was nobody else in the room?

LEONARD: Nobody else in the room. Gil's father, who was really his step-father, while he was enormously fond of Gilbert, never could buy the explanation of poltergeist. To him, somehow or other, Gilbert did all of this stuff and it drove him nuts because he was fond of Gil whom he saw as doing this to get even with him, for whatever I don't know.

There was a long history of this stuff and some of it I ran into at the tail end when it was never dependable. Before they had moved across the street from us . . . there was a period of time where they could depend on it every month. Near the end of it Liz started to take to writing on the walls in crayon: "GO, GO." They finally picked up and moved out. Gilbert and his mother left Eddie [Gil referred to Eddie as his father. He was actually his stepfather] in their flat. (Explains this was the home they lived in before, not too far away.) They moved out and moved across the street from us and it all quieted down. Then peace was made between Gil's mother and Ed, and further incidents of that were very, very few. Some of the hairpin business and the oatmeal business and one other: the destruction of a very beautiful electric train engine. Stuff like that. I had later seen enough of this to know that the reports were factual; I had it confirmed in front of my own eyes. At any rate, Gil suspected that his mother was slightly psychic and we decided if the Dolly Sisters could do it we could do it.

JUDITH: Did Gil feel he was psychic; did he think he was doing it?

LEONARD: I think Gil felt he was psychic.

[Next, Gilbert recalls Leonard's reaction to his disclosure about the poltergeist and the decision to hold sittings (Reunion 1966). - M.U.]

GILBERT: I do remember the actual beginning[12] of this thing started with my speaking of it to Leonard. He had no previous knowledge of such phenomenon [sic], and as a matter of fact, we had an argument about it because I told him some of these things which did occur and he expressed extreme skepticism about it. He had no patience with the whole subject . . . and he, as a matter of fact, had no use for the subject, you see-he was completely skeptical about it. However, I was rather offended about this because of the experience I had had and with his impatience with the whole idea, and so I suggested that he do some reading on the subject and I recommended Hudsons book, Law of Psychic Phenomena, and Leonard of course, being an extremely intelligent person, immediately saw that there was some area of interest here, so from that point on he became much more interested in the subject, and we sat alone for the first couple of times, I think, and got no results. However, it continued and I think that was the nucleus.

EARLY SITTINGS (PRIOR TO M.U.)

Because I was not a party to these events, what follows is drawn from accounts by those who were. The sitters were Gilbert and Leonard, soon joined by Larry and then Leo. There was general agreement at the reunions that the starting date for these sittings was sometime in 1931. Leonard recalls his initial reaction to having a sitting and to the results that occurred (Reunion, 1966).

LEONARD: My attitude was truly skeptical but because of the rapport between us, it didn't occur, and I couldn't conceive of the fact that Gilbert could be fabricating. It didn't occur to me. So it was a kind of skepticism which doesn't mean anything - one that defies somebody to show me, but invites and is anxious to be shown. And on the basis of this we sat that very evening! We darkened the room and the two of us sat at opposite sides of the table. I think it was a bridge table. It was the kind of thing where we couldn't be sure of any sounds and I don't know whether we had any results at all that first sitting or not, but we persisted, and for a while we may have sat several times in the next few weeks - two weeks even . . . I guess you talked about the table markings[13] . . . there were hiatuses.[14] Just how long they were I don't know, but when we finally got this rather light table to tilt, we had so much, we had to share this, and I think Larry was the first one to join. How often we three sat I can't say. I do know that after the first couple of times, again there was a major step in which we began to try talking to "this thing" by spelling out the alphabet and getting it to tilt at the desired letter. I wouldn't say that any of these communications were very interesting in terms of content, but that they occurred was very exciting. And, of course, the thing that I remember most about that particular trio - the climax of whatever developed with us three, was rather violent table movements in which we skidded around the dark room in order to keep up with this thing . . . and then some pretty dramatic and powerful levitation . . . A couple of times the thing would get beyond where we could reach and then there was this crashing down to the floor. At one time Larry reported - he was shorter in those days; we two fellows were tall - that he could no longer reach the top of the table and had grabbed the legs, and it was afterward that he had pulled himself up so that his feet were not on the ground. Do you remember that? Now this is a recollection. Apparently there's something that I may have added to this, but this was part of my memory - that this darn thing was up there . . .

LARRY: I remember it being up beyond my reach . . .

LEONARD: . . . yes, well I had the feeling that you had tried to pull it down but, then again, this wasn't my experience, but what I think I remembered from what Larry reported when we stopped. I think, again chronologically, this is hard . . . I can give you what I think the order was . . . I think the next addition to the group was Leo. If I'm not mistaken, I think Leo was the one who made it a foursome . . . In this area it began to be for us a demonstration thing. We didn't have the kind of intelligent phenomenon that later became identified with Bindelof, but we did have the ability to generate a hell of a lot of force and a very dramatic and convincing demonstration of telekinesis.

Leonard attempted to give a more detailed account of these early sittings (1969 reunion).

LEONARD: There were just the two of us and we were sitting there attempting to duplicate some of this [sic] phenomena intentionally, and we used a small night stand or night table. We sat for 10-15-20 mimes, with no assured results, then we turned on the light and rested. Then we rolled back the rug and put the table on the bare floor to see if it would slide; the motion was so imperceptible that we chalk-marked the floor around the legs in order to see whether or not what we thought was motion was in fact motion. This was where it was at the first couple of times. Yes, we thought it moved because there it was - out of the ring. It wasn't the kind of thing that would inspire one to go back immediately and try again the very next night, but we did try, and we had gotten to the point where the table would tilt, very definitely. Does this strike a resonant chord?

GILBERT: My memory isn't as good as yours, so go ahead.

LEONARD: Initially, most of the time we sat at my place. First we didn't get knocks, and we tried communication by having the table tilt at a desired level. I can't remember any messages or even words spelled out that meant a Goddamn thing, except all that seemed to happen as a result of this kind of concentration was the table tilting became more affirmative and less vague. It would tilt definitely at D, X, and Q. It didn't add up to make any sense, but it did help us develop. On other occasions we would get raps, as I remember, and it was at this point where we really had something to show. I don't remember what the occasion was, but we wanted very much to show it off to somebody, and you (Larry) were Sucker #l.[15] We started just about where we were, with table tiltings, and a new thing was added. We could no longer sit comfortable at the table with our hands on it because the table wouldn't stay in that one section of the room.

LARRY: The first time I sat at Gil's was later, within a few weeks or so, and it was at night when we went over to your house, because I remember your folks were out, and we sat at that bridge table in the living room.

LEONARD: All I can give you is an impression. One of the qualitative differences between sitting a trois and a deux was that instead of sitting to generate it to run around the Rosie, particularly when we were trying to get the table off the ground, many times we would chase all around the little table in my living room-all around the damn living room as though we were trying to generate a force to lift, but frequently it would not lift. It would fall over and frequently it would fall over on its leg.

MONTE: Let me just pin this down a bit. You're talking about a night table, right?

LEONARD: We used both a night table from my room and a bridge table. This happened for [us] three. In other words I tried to describe the quality of difference of the phenomenon as it developed or as a consequence of Larry's coming into the group; whichever variable was greater, I don't know. But this is one of the things that happened. And also, we had levitations. One of the earliest that I recall (and it may not be the first) was the one involving the night table (the small one) in which the thing went way-the-hell up, in the dark of course, and Larry exclaiming, "I can't reach the top of it; I'm holding on to the legs." This is like an indelible experience in my mind. Do you remember that?

LARRY: I was quite short then. I hadn't reached my height yet. I was only about 15 at the time and I hadn't yet grown to my normal 5'10" which I ultimately reached. It was one of those image recollections. There were other things that happened in the Bindelof group since then that are not nearly that precise and vivid.

In the taped interview conducted by his step-daughter Judith Malamud in 1985, Leonard recalled the following.

LEONARD: And they began, I guess, in the fall of '31. I decided we would sit, just the two of us. The structure and the format of our sitting was nothing we dreamed up. It would seem that it was kind of a tradition. I had been reading in some papers that were available in the public library, the Journal of the (London) SPR (JSPR). Generally speaking, they darkened the room, everybody was quiet, some person acted as spokesman, and you talked to thin air as though there were somebody there. And in these things I had been reading about, something responded. So we adopted a similar format, and the first half dozen sittings were in my house.

JUDITH: What was the format?

LEONARD: Originally we started with a bridge table, very light. We sat when the family was out and my brother was asleep. We turned out all the lights and pulled down the shades. You got a reasonably darkened room. Remember, this is New York City so there are lights all around and lights filter in and around the shades or the blinds that you draw, etc. so, as soon as your eyes dark-adapt, it isn't that dark at all. You couldn't read in that light but you could very clearly see one another and all the outlines in the room. But we used to get it as dark as we could. Then we'd sit down and we'd ask the table to move. And I guess in the beginning we sat for periods of 20 minutes long which, when nothing happens, is interminable.

JUDITH: What were you doing with your hands?

LEONARD: Oh, we used to hold hands across the table. One of the reasons we got rid of the bridge table-there were several reasons-was that it was a long reach, so you wound up resting your arms on the table inevitably and that made the table much heavier than it was.

JUDITH: When you say you wanted the table to move do you mean to slide across the floor?

LEONARD: Any way at all! We were expecting it to slide, hopefully. As I say, we sat all one evening, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, light on, light off; light on for a glass of water or milk, then back again, with virtually nothing happening and our changing some of our tactics, like sitting side by side at a table so we could just put our fingertips on it and hold one another's hands without adding any weight, rolling back the carpet so the table would be able to move over the polished wooden floor - to no avail.

JUDITH: How long did you keep this up with no results?

LEONARD: Well, the first day with no results. The next night we sat-the following day or two days after, I don't know-we began to get something very different: a lot more "threatened movements" of the table. It didn't really move because we put little chalk marks [around] the legs, because after you sit there for a while and the thing creaks and moans, you don't know if it's moved or not. That's where we started. We gave that up after a bit but, every strain, every shift that your arms made, produces a sound, crick, crack, crick, and there was much more of that the second night: That was all the encouragement we needed.[16]

We sat a third night and whether it was the 3rd or 4th evening of this, I'm not sure, this darn table actually moved: "You feel it move?" "You feel it move?" [Holding each other's hands, imitating their excitement.] "It did move, didn't it'?" ,I'm sure!" "Your side moved more titan my side." That kind of thing. We turned on the light and, sure enough, there was [sic] our chalk marks where the table legs were and here was the leg. Over on Gil's side there was the ring and here was the leg.

JUDITH: How many inches would you say?

LEONARD: Oh, maybe 4 or 5 inches. Big stuff! I don't know, but very quickly after that the motion became quite positive. Instead of waiting forever, we'd sit there and wait for a little while and all of a sudden you could feel life in the table. "Move to the right: zhoo (imitating). "Move back!" zhoo! and oh, wowie! And now it was a question of barely touching the table to make sure neither of us was doing it. And we did. "We're gonna communicate. I'm gonna call out the letters of the alphabet `zhoop' at the letter you want." It wasn't English. The thing would get eager. You'd say A, zhoo! B, zhoo! C, zhoo! Or you would say A, B, C, D. It was quiet, like chastised. Then you'd say try again. Then it wouldn't move at all. It was quite clear we were dealing with something that acted as though it understood what we were saying and couldn't act very intelligently about it. We had at idea that tilting the table would be better and it was around the tilting table thing that we switched from the bridge table to a very solid but much smaller night stand table. Between the twin beds in my bedroom there was a thing built like a brick shit house about 20" by 20." It stood higher than the bridge table, had a shelf underneath, four very big legs and you could not make it creak if you wanted to [laughs]. Very rigid little piece. And we started to sit with this and since it was much narrower, even though it was heavier, it tilted better. By the time we could get the table to tilt we would get some kind of response. By that I mean a word that [was] actually spelled. Didn't mean anything particularly but we didn't need meaning.

JUDITH: By tilting, you mean it would lift up on 3 legs?

LEONARD: On two legs. Two legs would stay down, two would come up and it would tilt. We used two tilts for no, one for yes.

JUDITH: How much did it weigh?

LEONARD: It was a heavy bastard, maybe about 50 pounds, maybe 40. A nice solid table. It was a night stand, easy to sit at, and it would tilt about 4-6 inches. It still only required maybe a force one third the weight of the whole thing at the most. Nothing significant was ever communicated that I remember. Once in a while we'd get a reflection of something that was going inside us. If it was getting late the thing would spell out "Your mother." And shit, I didn't want my mother to catch me at the séance. She didn't know about it in those days. That's about as close as anything that seemed intelligent or related to anything to real life. But one of the things that kept happening every evening that we sat down was increasing strength and dexterity. In the beginning of tilting it was a military kind of response (laughs) and we were very much encouraged. One day Gil said, "Let's try for levitation."

JUDITH: About tilting: I assume you didn't have your arms resting on one side or the other? How did you arrange it so that you didn't have pressure on one side or the other?

LEONARD: ff you had any pressure it was on the top, generally in the center. You didn't have enough overhang so that you could exert enough pressure to get a tilt. The overhang

on the top of the stand couldn't be more than 2" or an inch and a

half over the outside of tile leg. So there was no way virtually of doing that.

JUDITH: Did you watch each other to make sure?

LEONARD: Yeah. In the beginning there was a great deal of distrust. "Ya sure ya didn't lean on it?" "You put your hands on top of mine." That kind of thing. Later: "Yeah, I'll put my hands on top of yours." There was a lot of suspicion in the beginning. He (Gil) was as suspicious of me as I was of him. When suspicions really fell away was on the trials for levitation. Again, this was on [bare wood floor], on my night stand. We asked it to levitate and we sat there. The table started to rotate under our hands. You know, you had to let it slide underneath. And it not only rotated but it began to move so its center didn't stay in place. The center described a circle as it rotated, so that it was rotating and going through a rotation and describing a small revolution at the same time. There was no sitting down. The damn thing was all over the place and you had to give it some space. So we stood up and in the beginning we pretty much lost contact with one another's hands.

JUDITH: Were you at all times, one of you, touching the table?

LEONARD: Mostly. I can't guarantee it at all times. Because you couldn't turn and go around it. In the beginning we tried to go around it and keep up with it, but it would turn too fast for us to get around the darned table and we'd let it roll, slide under our hands. Maybe the second night of that kind of wild moving around the thing just came up off the deck! It was a very surprising thing. It was really heavy, maybe 40-50 pounds. We lifted the thing. We turned on the lights and looked at one another. The first time maybe it got off 6." But we went back and tried it (again) and before that night was over the thing was getting up to about shoulder high! We were standing and we really looked at each other in these in-between sessions kind of amazed. This is a psychically generated force? What the hell is this?

JUDITH: About how meetings began.

LEONARD: I don't think there was any conscious attempt to relate to each other. First place we're a couple of adolescent males in a pretty good state of rapport anyway. There wasn't anything done to improve a rapport sense. Further than that we were both eager as hell for the next thing-what we were going to do next. But, having got this thing to go off the floor, we now had a demonstration piece.

JUDITH: Did you get scared at any point?

LEONARD: I wouldn't say it was scared. It was mostly exhilarated, but what I was afraid to do was share it with anybody. Like, I didn't want my mother to catch me at it. It was like we were doing something kind of wrong in a way and there was no way I would get parental approval. And I don't think Gilbert was willing to share, at that point, with his mother that he was sitting at séances because she would have gotten all upset because of his poltergeist history.

JUDITH: She didn't like the poltergeist?

LEONARD: Oh, God! It split Eddie and her at one point. However, there was just no sitting on this. We had to tell somebody. A young man, I was going to school with at the time, this was, I guess, in February or January of 1931 - I started the freshman year at City College-this was sometime during that winter or fall of 1931 and I told Larry about it. "C'mon," you know. He didn't believe this at all. Ya gotta see it to believe it. And Larry was an instant believer. The first day that Larry joined us we had a very powerful elevation. ZHOOM!

JUDITH: What happened? Did it come crashing to the floor or did it gentle itself down?

LEONARD: When Gilbert and I were doing it, it gentled itself to the floor. It did one crash. That was the first day that Larry was with us because he was 4" shorter that Gilbert, maybe 3" shorter than me, and we had it up there and you had a feeling that you were holding it down. And Larry said, "I can't reach the top." I said, "Hold on to the legs." He grabbed the legs and he pulled and it came down and we smashed a leg, fractured one leg. I remember making up some kind of a crazy-assed story to explain that to my mother, how I broke the leg on the table. But we had reached a point of being able to develop an enormous amount of physical power very readily and within 10 or 15 minutes of sitting down in a quiet, dark room.

*****

In sum, these early sittings convinced Gilbert, Leonard, and Larry that genuine physical phenomena occurred. These involved movement, tilting, and finally, levitation of the table. There is some uncertainty as to whether or not there were any convincing manifestations of a paranormal intelligence at work. It was the beginning of Leonard's and Larry's passionate interest in psychic phenomena and, through Leonard, it led to my own enduring interest. In 1931, when these effects were noted, the sitters were all 15 years of age.

Because I believe the emotional context in which these phenomena unfolded may very well be an important contributing factor, I want to stress the playful and fun aspect that characterized these and later sittings. It was the sense of adventure, fun, and excitement that kept these 15 year olds at it. The results, combined with their reading, heightened their interest and deepened their belief that the events they were witnessing were truly in the tradition of psychical research.

Jump to Bindelof Story, Part II 



[1]The name of a purported entity that appeared at séances I participated in the early thirties.

[2]There had been sporadic sittings before that time and prior to the time I joined the group. These will be noted later.

[3]In 1933, we decided to call ourselves the Bindelof Society in honor of the purported entity who announced his presence at one of our sittings. Larry and I had calling cards made at the time which simply said The Bindelof Society. I have carried one in my wallet ever since.

[4]There were subsequent reunions in 1969 and 1971.

[5] Coincidentally, in the course of my job at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island, I had occasion to deal with Howard Frisch by mail and phone on several occasions. He also obtained out-of-print books for me personally. It was exciting to learn that Howard Frisch had been involved in sitter-group activities with Monte Unman and others. - Ed.

[6] A Vaudeville team Gil's mother was associated with in her youth.

[7]Gil later (p. xx) corrects himself and says it was his father. He also corrects himself later (p. xx) about Carrington considering it genuine. In a recent interview (1993) 1 again queried him about this. He said it was his father who insisted on Carrington coming in. He feels his father, who wanted none of this "psychic business," may have had an influence on Carrington's negative report.

[8] When the speaker identifies himself, he or she will be designated by name. When the voice is not recognizable or not identified, any change in speaker will be designated by an asterisk.

[9] Referring specifically to the writing on the walls.

[10] The reader will note discrepancies as the same events are recalled at different times in different accounts. Memory being what it is and the accounts ranging from 33 to over 50 years from the time of the events, such discrepancies are inevitable. For the most part they concerned minor details but in a few instances our failure to get further clarification was frustrating.

[11] Gil's mother.

[12] The early sittings.

[13] Referring, to chalk marks Leonard put on the floor, outlining the legs of the table to detect any motion.

[14] Referring to intervals between the meeting.

[15]The reader should understand this was a playful reference, not a serious one. - M.U.

[16] Leonard's joy and enthusiasm in reliving this section is contagious, filled with wonderment, fun, excitement, etc. -Judith Malamud.