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THE BINDELOF STORY, PART II

Montague Ullman

EXCEPTIONAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE 14(2)

Exceptional Human Experience, Vol 12, No. 1 June 1994

SUMMARY OF PART I (Ullman, 1993)

In Part I, an overview was presented of a series of séances conducted by a group of adolescent boys that began in 1931 and lasted until the spring of 1934. Part I covered the period prior to my entry into the group. The core participants were Gilbert Roller (Gil), Leonard Lauer (Len, Jeff) who were soon joined by Gilbert Lawrence (Larry). Gil had a history of poltergeist as a preadolescent and was brought up in a household where his mother (Olga) had a deep interest in psychic phenomena. Len was a neighbor and a friend of Gil's. Lenny was a friend of both. Their sittings were sporadic during the early phase (1931 - 1932). I joined the group in the fall of 1932. An enlarged core group (Gil, Len, Larry, Monte, Howard, Tom, and George) then began regular sittings until the group's termination in 1934. Six of the core members came together again for three reunions (1966, 1969, 1971). We devoted a full day each time to mutual reminiscing to check our memories and to explore the areas of consensus. The experience left its mark on each of us. It is presented here as an EHE and not as a scientific account of a controlled experiment. All who participated felt that genuine paranormal effects occurred.

MY INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHIC PHENOMENA

In September of 1932 the fall term of my sophomore year at City College had started. Len, whom I had known since high school, was in several of my classes as we were both majoring in science. We were both 16. I had a distinct recollection of Len and me walking home from school one day when he began telling me the story of how he, Gil and later Larry had been holding séances and that a number of incredible things had happened as they sat about a table in the dark, holding hands. I believe I knew what a séance was, but that was the limit of my knowledge when Len started to educate me about the world of psychic phenomena. He described the results the three of them had obtained, progressing from creaks and dubious movements of the table to definitive movements, knocks and finally, levitation. He then introduced me to words I had never heard before. He described the "poltergeist" that plagued Gil and his family several years earlier. He spoke of "materialization" and "ectoplasm." He had done an impressive amount of reading and rattled off such names as William Crookes, Oliver Lodge, F.W.H. Myers, William James and Thomas Jay Hudson. My initial incredulity was tempered by my respect for the written word, especially when it was the word of someone who held a place of honor in the pantheon of science.

Len also told me that after a lapse of several months, they were about to resume sitting and wanted to know if I would like to join them. My high regard for Len combined with the impressive list of names he reeled off (including Schrenk-Notzing who, Len told me, was a psychiatrist who had written about séances with a famous medium capable of producing materialization and ectoplasm), all made for a ready acceptance of Len's offer. Looking back at an event that occurred over 60 years ago I cannot say with any certainty precisely what my reaction was. My deepest feeling is that I responded with interest and was somewhat flattered to be part of whatever Len was involved in. He suggested that I read Hudson's (1899) book, The Law of Psychic Phenomena, which I promptly did. I think that eliminated any vestiges of doubt I may have had. Sometime in the fall of 1932 I joined Len, Gil, and Larry and began a series of regular Saturday eight sittings that lasted through 1933 and for some, even later. During that time a number of others, mostly other boys our age, joined and sat regularly, forming a core group of seven (Gil, Larry, Len, Howard, George, Tom, and myself). Others, including girl friends, came sporadically.

SOURCES

Aside from memory, this account is drawn from the following sources from which extensive quotations are given in the present paper.

1. A thesis I wrote for a course in Logic in the spring semester of 1933.

2. An account I wrote in 1946.

3. An account by Howard in 1966.

4. Transcripts of the reunions held in 1966, 1969, and 1971.

5. An account by Len in 1985.

The transcripts and accounts run to several hundred typed pages. I have excerpted brief sections to illustrate our collective effort to check our memories relative to a particular incident. The completed first draft of Part II was sent to the surviving members of the core group (Gil, Larry, and Howard) for any changes they cared to make. There are, of course, discrepancies in some of our recollections, and these will be noted.

AMBIANCE

The arrangements were much as described in Part I. The early sessions I attended were held in the living room of Len's apartment. Most of the later ones were in the bedroom of Gil's apartment. Occasionally sessions were held elsewhere (notably, Len's and Tom's apartments).

Sessions were held in the evening. The procedure was to darken the room to the extent possible and then to sit around a bridge table in Len's apartment or a bedside table in Gil's with our hands in contact with each other and held lightly on the table. Gil's bedroom could be darkened to eliminate any accommodation to the light. It was not possible to get the same degree of darkness in Len's living room, and some degree of light adaptation occurred. In the various accounts the sittings at Gil's were described as occurring in total darkness.

We sat for periods that averaged 15-20 minutes at a time. Len usually acted as spokesman, speaking as if to an unknown force and saying something like: "Will you make your presence felt by moving the table?" We would then wait patiently for any manifestation involving the table. If nothing happened, Len would repeat the request. Whether or not we got results, we generally did not sit for much longer than 20 minutes. The lights would then be turned on. If we were in Gil's apartment, we would gather in the living room and relieve the tension with horseplay or by listening to music (it was my introduction to classical music) or talking about what had happened during the sitting. I recall very boisterous interludes as if we were working out the tension and excitement generated during the sitting. It was as if we couldn't get the record player to play loud enough. Scheherazade and Honneger's Pacific 231 were our favorites. Larry (a budding actor) and Gil, both with a quick-witted sense of humor, played off each other, keeping the rest of us in hysterics. After the break, we would go back to sitting. This cycle repeated itself three or four times in the course of the evening. Depending on how productive the sittings were we might continue until eleven or twelve at night. On leaving Gil's apartment, several of us would have a late night snack at a nearby cafeteria before returning home.

For the most part, I don't believe anyone else was in either apartment at the time we sat. There were occasions at Gil's when his mother, Olga, was at home or Gil's stepfather, Eddie, would be there and entertain us with his piano playing and singing. When we did get results our mood was buoyant and self-congratulatory.

EARLY RESULTS

I don't recall what happened at the very first sitting I attended. According to the 1966 reunion, Leo (Lance), a cousin of Len's, was also there at the time I joined. Whether or not anything did happen that first night, I joined in the resolve of the group to sit regularly in the hope of again generating the effects that had occurred earlier when only the three met.

A description of the very early results involving the table is described in the following account taken from my thesis. (Ullman, 1933):

The first phenomena we developed goes by the name of telekinesis, or super-normal movement of objects, not due to any known force. In these experiments, we (there were four of its) used an ordinary bridge table, keeping contact with the table and with each other by means of our hands. The room is usually light enough to permit us to see what takes place. After one or two moments the table would start to move, and distinct knockings are heard, seemingly coming from beneath the table. One of the sitters titters commands (it is immaterial who does the talking as long as all the others are thinking along with him), and response is almost instantaneous. The table cloves to the one whose name is mentioned. We then managed to get the table tilting in whichever direction we asked. After continued experiments of this type, we finally decided to get this unknown force to elevate the table. Our early attempts in this direction all ended in failure. However, one night we were all thrilled by the sight of the table rising from beneath our hands to a height of two or more feet! We repeated this and were successful at a following trial. One time, when we had the table tip, we each individually removed our hands from its surface. To the astonishment of all, a simple, ordinary bridge table remained suspended in mid-air for about two seconds before collapsing to the ground. Encouraged by our success, we kept on trying. The height of our accomplishment with telekinesis was an experiment in which we made the table come up to our hands which we held about two feet above. (Success without contact of the hands we had always found rather difficult.

The following summary of these early results involving the table was prepared by me in 1946 in an abortive attempt to prepare a complete account of our experiences.

In common with other novice investigators, we found that it was very easy to mistake creaks and slight movements of the table, resulting of course, from unequal pressure distribution, for knocks and telekinetic effects. It was at the third sitting (?) when movements of the table occurred which seemed to be much more pronounced than those slight movements which had occurred previously and which we attributed to the sheer physical effort of sitting about tire table with our hands resting on it. The first phenomenon noted was a slight tilting of the table. In the course of succeeding sessions the tilting became more frequent and more pronounced, and there was a concomitant development of movement of the table in the horizontal plane along the floor. At first, both the tilting and the horizontal movement of the table were unpredictable in their occurrence and intensity. Certain sittings were characterized by a complete absence of results, or very meager results in comparison to what had gone on before. (Similar streaks of failure occurred sporadically throughout the entire year of work, although blank sittings became less frequent as we went along.)

In the course of either the second or third month (again the exact time relationships are not clear) it became apparent that the "force" (a bland designation for whatever it was that was responsible for the telekinetic effects) was capable of responding to simple commands such as a request to tilt or move the table in a specified direction. At this stage of development, the hands of the sitters were at all times resting on the table. The first attempts to obtain knocks, made during this period, exhibited the same general development. After initial failure there were at first feeble noises, easily interpreted as movements on the part of one of the sitters - creaks, etc., later giving way to occasional definite but random knocks, and finally unmistakable sharp raps occurring on command. These raps seemed to come from the center of the table.

By the end of the fourth month (this may be inaccurate to the extent of several weeks), the situation was somewhat as follows: the movements of the table, apparently apart from any physical effects of the sitters, had developed to a remarkable degree. Levitation, unsuccessfully sought at first, did occur after repeated attempts. The table, with our hands resting lightly on its surface, would rise a few inches, all four, legs being completely off the floor. Later on it rose a foot from the floor, and finally to a point so high above our heads that we could no longer make contact with it. During these sessions the table would often move about the room so fast that it was difficult for the sitters to keep up with it.

The knockings continued to vary considerably in intensity and seemed to be the most difficult and erratic of the physical phenomena to evoke. At times the raps would come through with frightening intensity and at other times they would be barely audible. It soon became possible to obtain a specified number of knocks on command. The spokesman, Len, would address the "force" as if it were an intelligent entity. At a time when the knocks were occurring with considerable regularity, an attempt was made to elicit "yes" and "no" answers by having two knocks signify no and one knock yes. Concomitant with this was an attempt to elicit messages by having the spokesman call out the letters of the alphabet and requesting a knock after the letter desired. Here again, the account will suffer by generalization and limitation of memory since there remains no written record of what happened during these particular sittings.

What was uppermost in our minds was to determine, if we could, whether or not we were dealing with discarnate entities; and, in any event, to learn more about the nature of the force that was operative. We did establish (at least to our own satisfaction) that we were now in contact with an intelligent force, although it is not clear whether up to this point we had received any definite information such as the name of any specific deceased person, etc. This problem, in any case, was soon lost sight of in our absorption with new lines of endeavor. Drifting along as we had been, our general policy up to that point had been to attempt to develop each type of phenomenon to its highest pitch, and then turn to another phase of investigation. In the phase which followed, which dealt with paranormal photography, materializations, and direct writing, our approach was somewhat different in that we struggled with all three phenomena simultaneously. The circle had increased in size by this time and included Howard, George, and Tom.

Howard, George, and Tom became regular members of the group during this early period (late 1932, early 1933). Howard noted the following in his 1966 account of what was occurring at the time he joined the group.

I immediately became a regular, indeed a never-failing attendant. There were violent table thumpings and table risings, sometimes high into the air so that we had to literally stand up in order to keep our hands on the edge of the table.

In this next insert, taken from a tape of the 1966 reunion, Gil expresses the sense of the group that, until levitation and gross movement of the table, there was no way of differentiating spurious from genuine effects. Larry recalls a levitation that occurred during the period when just he, Gil, and Len were sitting.

GIL: Now when you came into the circle, we were at that point getting levitation, weren't we?

HOWARD: Yes.

MONTE: Now this confirms my recollection, you see, because I recall being in at a point where we were just sitting around waiting for a little knock to occur or a tilt to occur.

GIL: Well, yes and frankly I had no feeling of anything for these elementary manifestations because table rappings are so deceptive. In other words, you can have a table which creaks and raps beautifully and it's of course no indication of a psychic manifestation. Also tilting, I think, is questionable in all good faith. I believe if you have eight or ten people around a table, all concentrating, and one subconsciously without meaning to gives a slight pressure in one direction, I think all the others, wanting the thing to happen, automatically will contribute to this motion and therefore you can have a spurious manifestation which everyone will think is valid. So I think these phenomena being very basic, are not necessarily impressive. As Howard says, he came in when we were getting levitations and I think our method of sitting was that our feet and hands were always in contact. One basic rule that we did have was that all - everyone's feet - had to be touching and also all hands had to be held. In other words, no member was free.

HOWARD: Just one thing. I'm almost sure that at my first sitting (my first attendance) the table was raised so high in the air that we were practically standing up. Now I'm almost sure that was my first sitting - standing, as a matter of fact.

LARRY: The mention of levitation brings to mind the fact that quite early we got levitation, because I think that's what kept us going. I don't think we would have kept going with just creaks, and I remember the table not only rising completely off the ground, but actually at one point, we began getting levitation without touching the table. We removed our hands from the table and I remember being very impressed with the levitation and also ...

GEORGE: Was there enough light to see this?

LARRY: Yes. That was the point I was going to make. The room was not in total darkness during this period.

GIL: Where was this? In my place?

LARRY: Yes, in your bedroom on Fort Washington Avenue. I can remember that very vividly. Even trying to push the table down. I remember especially Gil saying, "You can't get the table down." We were all pressing on it, and we worked with different tables because in the beginning we used that little night table, but then later we used a bridge table.

PSYCHIC PHOTOGRAPHY

Sometime in the spring of 1933 our interest shifted to psychic photography. By that time we had gotten a bridge table to dance around the room so rapidly that it was hard to keep up with it. We got a bridge table to levitate. We felt we were in contact with an intelligence of some kind, even though no clear cut message came through by knocks in response to spelling out the letters of the alphabet. We were ready to move on.

Gill had an interest in photography and earlier had set up a makeshift darkroom. No one else had any experience in developing film. In what follows, I will supplement my own recall by references in the various accounts about the purchase of the photographic pieces and the procedure we followed.

The Purchase and Preparation of the Plates

The following recollections are taken from the transcript of the 1966 reunion:

LARRY: Now my recollection is going with Gil and Leonard to a photography store right on Broadway several doors away from Loewe's Rio Theatre, buying the plates.

MONTE: That box (see Figure 1) is the box we purchased the plates in. And what did the plates come in? How were they prepared? How were they wrapped?

GIL: Well, they were sealed as any commercial plates are; light-proof paper and sealed carton, which you have there. Of course, the seals are broken ... Then the package itself in which the plates were not opened until the entire group had met, and then I don't remember which of the group was present - who was there - when the metal plate holders were loaded ... Weren't you present, Monte, when they were loaded?

GIL: I think they were loaded into the plate-holders in the presence of two or three people, and then the proceedings we were going to use were then decided upon after the plates were loaded.

From Len's 1985 account:

LEN: Three of us bought the film pack together. Eastman Kodak plates came in a sturdy cardboard box with a sealed wax coating all around, wax paper that was sealed very thoroughly. There was no way it could have been opened without somebody knowing. I was in the darkroom, the bathroom in Gil's house, for the loading of all the plates, when the plates were taken from the box and put in the plate holder under a red lamp. Monte was there when two were loaded. We couldn't fit everybody into the john so different people were in at different loadings. Glass sheets with emulsion on them.

Photographic Results

From my thesis, 1933:

We gradually became so accustomed to the table motion that it no longer interested us. Our efforts were then turned to the field of photography. I would like to note a curious experience we had in this connection. In our first attempt we took a photographic plate and placed it in a tin case (in this position it could not be affected by any physical force). The plate was placed on the table with one of the sitters' hands resting on it. The room was absolutely dark during the whole process, and the usual contact was kept. After several moments we put the plate aside thinking that it would not be worth developing as it was impossible for the plate to be affected. We then went back to the table and asked the "force" to give us a message, if it had any, by knocking after the appropriate letter in the alphabet as it was called off by one of the sitters. In this manner the word "P-L-A-T-E" was spelled out. We developed the plate immediately and sure enough, there was a distinct imprint of the hand. We repeated this and obtained several other imprints not only of hands but of any object we placed on the metal case holding plate.

After the first sitting, I accidentally performed an experiment which convinced me that there was no trickery at all in the matter. While one of the sitters had his hands on the case containing the plate, I placed my thumb over his hand and an imprint of my thumb came out on the plate negative. If the plates had been fixed beforehand (they certainly could not have been handled after the sitting because I, myself developed them), this would not have happened (Figure 2).

From the 1966 reunion:

MONTE: It was my impression that the very first plate was the picture of somebody's hand that had been placed on it, and I also remember putting my thumb over it, so there was a hand and a thumb on the first picture. Does anybody want to add to that?

GIL: Did you do that for any particular reason? Was there any motivation for that?

MONTE: I don't recall whether I was just testing or whether this was just a spontaneous gesture.

GIL: Because you remember having slipped your thumb over it, and I wondered if you had a reason for remembering it.

MONTE: Well, I don't recall whether it was with the idea of testing out what was being done, or ... I think it was more that I wanted to get in on the act.

Several additional pictures of hands also came out on the plates. On one occasion a cluster of keys was placed on the metal container. (see Figure 3)

Undaunted, we went on to experiments in thought photography. We followed the same procedure but decided to project a thought onto the unexposed plate. These were noted in my thesis (1933):

Thought-photographs were the next step ahead. Below is a list of the objects thought about and the objects received on the plate:

 

Objects Thought About

Objects Received

Page from a book

Column from a newspaper

Bottle (Large, corkless, label-less) 

Corked, small iodine bottle with label

Message

The letter "C"

Picture of a girl's face

Indian idol

A brief explanation of the above experiments is necessary. In the first one we got a picture of an ordinary newspaper column and we managed to make out some of the words. In the second one the bottle we got on the plate was entirely different from the one we thought about. It was an iodine bottle, later found to be in the medicine chest in the bathroom. In the fourth one we thought about a certain girl; however it seems during this sitting one of the fellows could think of nothing else but Indians. The only possible object suggested by the image on the plate is an Indian idol. (It seems as though the thought of this one person determined the results on the plates. In his absence, we could not get any action on the plates at all). We later found, in one of the rooms, a small souvenir the exact shape of the image on the plate. None of the sitters had been thinking of this idol; only one of them had ever seen it before and that was several years previous.

Later accounts provided further detail.

From the 1966 Reunion:

LEN: It was an attempt to produce a thought photograph. This was not done in the dark. It was an ordinary milk bottle and this was a common object in those days. It was placed on the table. Larry was the center of activity here in the sense that he concentrated on the bottle, although I daresay the rest of us did too, and a plate in a plate-cover - in a plate-holder with the cover in place, was held in front of his brow just in front of his head while he concentrated on this milk bottle. Just how long we went through this or just how long he concentrated, I don't know and I don't know if we had any method of deciding how long was long enough.

After developing it, one of us noticed in carefully examining the plate a couple of things: One, that there seemed to be one side of a skull and crossbones on it which was very exciting. Then the excitement was somewhat reduced when we found the end of the word "pharmacy" on this label and a check through your medicine cabinet produced an iodine bottle, one of which I had at home too, because we lived in the sane neighborhood - came from the Rio Pharmacy...

MONTE: You mean duplicate bottles?

LEN Yes ... and we both had bottles like this with the same poison mark oil it. It was not the milk bottle staring at them. It was a picture of an iodine bottle (see Figure 4).

In 1985 Len commented on this:

LEN: Then they got involved in thought photography, the possibility of projecting a thought onto film. The results are interesting but confusing. Bottle: In those days milk came in bottles. We took an ordinary empty milk bottle from Gil's kitchen and put it on the night stand, held the photographic plate, unexposed and closed, against Larry's brow. he was going to project - we were going to help him - the image of the milk bottle.

What came out was an iodine bottle. In the originals you could even see the skull and crossbones on the corner of the label. Its shape was unique. On the original you could barely read the name of the pharmacy.

There was one in Gil's medicine cabinet and one in our medicine cabinet, exactly the same. It's also not a good shadowgraph in that it's distorted, geometrically, as though it was heated and pulled a little out of shape. You could get a picture like that if you had a plate that wasn't held flat. You could get that kind of distortion by curving the surface of the thing it was against, except that in this case it was a flat plate. We all wanted that bottle (to come out).

MONTE: The fifth one looked like a column of print, and very difficult to make out. What was the thinking there?

GEORGE: It was an attempt to produce a page of a book.

LEN: That I remember. It was done under similar conditions to three or four,[1] and I can't be sure whether you were looking at an open book at the time or not. Or just trying to visualize a page of a book. We seemed to have been satisfied at the time, after it was printed, that this was a section of a piece of newspaper because of the columnar structure of the printing and because we were able to read some of it. We were able to read some of it then.

MONTE: Not on the printing.

LEN: Maybe it was on the original.

MONTE: Did everybody else seem satisfied that we identified this as a newspaper thing?

GIL: Yes, because that's the way I remember it.

LEN: But again, it was done under thought conditions with the object that we actually got not being in the immediate vicinity at all. Again, with an unexposed plate, no camera...

MONTE: Was it dark?

GIL: I don't know whether it was dark or not, but I do know that the ... that we didn't expose the plate.

MONTE: Now, the next object is a picture of an Indian idol ...

LEN: (interrupting) ... The disturbing thing about this is that in each case the actual object apparently existed ...

MONTE: Yes, and this is marked on the back: "Without camera." Does anybody want to tell us how this came about?

LEN: This was taken, I think, directly after the "bottle photograph." It was another attempt at thought projection and getting such an impression on a photographic plate. Again, it was a head of Larry concentrating on somebody who none of us knew. This was a young woman - Olympia - who was an acquaintance of Larry's of considerable importance at the moment, and he was concentrating on what Olympia looked like; none of us had any idea of what she looked like, and we were hoping that we would get a projection of her image. The development of the plate proved to be a little amulet or Aztec image. The original, which was found to exist in Ellie's[2] possession. She had gotten once while Arizona or something.

MONTE: Had you ever seen that amulet?

GIL: Not that I was conscious of.

LEN: As an interesting side point, I don't think incidentally, that any of us had ever seen that amulet except Gil - (those present in the room).

MONTE: You had seen it before?

GIL: I don't know. I suppose I had since Ellie had it. I don't think I had any reason to associate it.

LARRY: I don't think I had any conscious recollection of it.

LEN: No, I don't think you had any reason to associate it with his girl friend ...

LEN: We're just assuming that. We didn't find the amulet immediately. No, we didn't. It was behind the bookcase. I think the existence of the amulet was revealed after Ellie saw the pictures and she recognized it, and then when it was produced, then you remembered having seen it.

MONTE: Was Ellie there at the time, do you know?

LEN: No. I can't think of even a remote chain of linkage, I mean paranormally, that would produce the amulet.

LARRY: No. We tried very hard at the time, and the people were suggesting that perhaps somebody was thinking "Indian." Or, did anyone think Indian when the name Olympia was suggested because it did look like an Indian or an Egyptian figure to us initially. We didn't know what it was or what to make of it.

Len added the following in 1985:

LEN: This was an attempt to project a picture of something only Larry knew. He was seeing a girl named Olympia and none of us had met her. Larry was going to project her picture. What they got was the amulet. A silver Aztec amulet "Gel's half-sister" (aunt) had brought it home from the far West. Silver, beaten flat, etc. truncated hands and feet and slot for ribbon. No one knew where it was, Gil recognized it. The following week we asked (Ellie) but she couldn't find it. In spring cleaning it was found behind a book case in her room (in Gil's apartment). It could have been anywhere. The force we're dealing with could have moved it anywhere.

Evaluative Comments:

There was something strange about the images that resulted. We spoke of them as shadow-graphs. They resembled X-rays more than true photographs. In my 1933 thesis I note:

There was one peculiar thing about all these plates; the negatives were actually positives. That is, the objects on the negatives were light when Ellie, although Gil's aunt, was a contemporary in age and was referred to by Gil as his half-sister normally they should have been dark. It appears as though the plates were affected around the object. On printing the plates we naturally found the positives to be dark, when normally they should have been light. This fact in itself is a strong argument against fraudulent manipulations, as it would be a difficult task for even a skillful photographer to produce results such as ours.

From the 1966 Reunion:

GIL: There was no preconceived idea of what we were going to do, so whatever occurred was spontaneous after the plates were loaded so - I mean, one of us would say, "Let's put keys on the plates," and that would come up on that particular plate. Now, from a technical point of view, the only way this could have occurred normally would have been for the plate itself to be uncovered and the object placed over the plate and then for the light to strike the plate, you see, and then you would have that shadow-graph that you have there. That would be the only normal procedure to get that, but these plates were definitely sealed in the holders and if the holders were faulty you would have had a leakage around the edge - you would have a flare, so apparently the plate was thoroughly protected from any normal radiation and whatever radiation did hit the plates was of an abnormal nature. But then again, talking about trickery, from an objective point of view, it would have been impossible in this case because there was no predetermined method of procedure to arrive at these particular results. That's about all I can contribute. I would say they were developed in the presence of the same people who saw the loading.

LEN: Well, the point I think is of importance possibly from an objective scientific point of view is that the things we did with these plates were not prearranged. In other words, we did not say we are going to do this, and this, and this, prior to loading the plates. What we did was spontaneous and pretty arbitrary as far as body getting an idea what to do, so there could have been no pre-arrangements with the plates as such. At least this is my opinion of it, and this is one of the things that convinced me of the genuineness, again, being very objective about the phenomenon at this point, from a purely scientific point of view. The plates could not have been pre-prepared - let's put it that way, and in developing them - I believe Monte made some mention of putting his thumb over somebody else's and again, this was an entirely spontaneous gesture, and that recorded on the plate. Now they were developed. As you say, shadow-graphed, and I suppose they were actually because there was a radiation or whatever it was. Now the only way this could have occurred normally would have been to have a leaky plate holder and actual light in the room which would then have given you a nominal shadow-graph. In other words, you could have duplicated these normally by not having it in the same plate holder. Right? Even a phony plate holder would not do it. So, in the absence of a plate holder, you would have duplicated this, but otherwise I would say they were genuine. And then we developed them in your presence, I believe. Monte, were you there?

MONTE: I was there. I remember we all crowded in that bathroom, and the thing came up as we said.

LEN: I can only add that that's so, and that if these had somehow been tampered-with plates, I would have had to have been in on the tampering, and I wasn't.

MONTE: Any indication that they could have been produced by tampering?

GIL: You could duplicate these plates.

MONTE: What would you have had to do?

GIL: Well, we would have had to preprepare them. In other words, we would have decided: now, we're going to use a hand, and then that plate would have to have been exposed and the light would have formed a shadow-graph as you have it here, then that plate would have to be put back in the plate-holder, I mean, in the plate box, in the right order and each step would have required very elaborate preparation.

LEN: The point that I'm thinking about regarding the validity of this particular thing is that our plans were entirely spontaneous. In other words, no one had predetermined what we were going to do with these particular plates and you say we fairly arbitrarily just put keys on them or hands or other things which were not prearranged. The question is how much control we really had in terms of eliminating other variables. Now for me, then and now, because as far as photography is concerned, I'm naive. You may be delighted with that camera[3] he brought in but to me it's just a camera. I have an idea what he can put into a camera, but I have no real feeling for it. To me, I saw the photographic studies, what we did from the point of view of my part in it, as completely controlled. I was there when the plates were purchased; I was there when the stupid seal wax outside came off when we opened them. I was there when the plates were loaded. I was also there when they were developed. I was like his other hand all during this whole thing, so that this seemed to me to be about as controlled and as foolproof a thing as could be, for me, at least.

State of the plates

The plates and original photographs came into my possession in 1946, when I recorded the following:

In 1946, when the members of the group were again in contact with each other, it was discovered that Len had in his possession a great many of the original plates (negatives) and several of the original prints. They were kept in the box in which they had originally been purchased and this bore an Eastman Kodak label stating that the plates were 9 by 13 cm, using emulsion number A062. There were 16 plates.

All of the plates have undergone considerable deterioration. Five are sufficiently well preserved so that the object on the plate is identifiable. This includes three plates of hands, one of the keys, one of the iodine bottle. On the rest of the plates the emulsion is completely gone. In 1971 I sought advice from Eastman Kodak with regard to preventing further deterioration. I received a three-page single-spaced letter. It provides an extraordinarily detailed analysis and a highly technical set of procedures. The last paragraph is worth noting as that was the only course I could follow.

It is recognized that you may elect to provide a lesser degree of protection than recommended because of the limited value of the plate in terms of its end use, cost of providing storage facilities, etc. Simply storing the plates at the recommended temperature and humidity conditions and in a container made of inert materials will add immeasurably to their storage for long periods.

As a matter of historical interest, I note in my 1933 thesis:

These plates and prints were shown to several members of the American Society for Psychical Research,[4] and it was learned that various other experiments had produced like results, but that ours were outstandingly successful; so successful, in fact, that we received invitations to hold séances at the homes of the different officers of the Society.

This brings us up to September 2, 1933 when an entirely new series of phenomena came on the scene. These will be considered in Part III.

REFERENCES

Hudson, T.J. (1899). The Law of Psychic Phenomena. Chicago: A.C. McClure.

Ullman, M. (1933). A Working Hypothesis in the Field of Psychic Phenomena. Unpublished thesis. City College of New York.

Ullman, M. (1993). Exceptional human experience 14(I): The Bindelof Story, Part I. Exceptional Human Experience, II, 17-28.

 Jump to Bindelof Story, Part III



[1] The numbers refer to the order in which the pictures were considered by Len at the time.

[2] Ellie, although Gil's aunt, was a contemporary in age and was referred to by Gil as his half-sister.

[3]Here he refers to later experiments with a camera described in Part III.

[4]Hyslop House: 23rd St. and Lexington Ave., New York City.