55 Orlando Avenue, Ardsley, NY 10502
Over a period of about a year and a half, from the Fall of 1932 to the Spring of 1934, a group of adolescent boys, all about 16 at the onset, began to hold regular weekly séances in the classical tradition of sitting around a table, holding hands in a darkened room. There had been sporadic sittings in 1931 that were initiated by Gil and Len, soon joined by Larry. I joined in the Fall of 1932 and was followed by Howard, George, Tom, and others less regularly. During the period in question, physical manifestations occurred in a gradual fashion that convinced us that we were dealing with genuine psychic phenomena and that an intelligent force had been brought into play. From early dubious knocks and movements of the table we progressed to rapid movement of the table around the room and finally levitation. Psychic photographs were obtained by placing objects on a film enclosed in a light proof container. This led to thought photography and finally, and most spectacularly, a series of written messages when pencil and paper were placed on the lower shelf of a night table around which we were sitting with our hands resting on the top of the table. The messages were in answer to questions a group of teenagers might put to what seemed to be a surviving entity of some kind.
We soon learned we were in contact with a physician, Dr. Bindelof, who had died some 12 years earlier and who claimed to possess great healing powers. He was still driven by the urge to heal and hoped that through the force generated by our combined efforts, he would be able to manifest this ability. He did undertake to treat and was successful in relieving headaches and gastrointestinal symptoms in the case of Len's mother and the mother of another participant. On an earlier occasion, when asked about materialization we did have the experience of being touched by what felt like fingers. By the Spring of 1934, at the ages of 17 and 18 the circumstances of our lives made for a gradual dissolution of the group.
Outlining the experiences we had together as starkly as I have in the summary would make it seem more like a shared delusion fulfilling the needs of a group of adolescent youngsters for an all-powerful and benevolent father than an encounter with something so mysterious that it had a profound and lasting effect on our lives and that created a bond of friendship and trust in each other that has endured over the ensuing six decades.
Those of us who lived in New York City did make an abortive attempt to sit again in 1946. We met for a day of mutual reminiscence and retrospective evaluation of our shared experiences in 1966 and again in 1969 and 1971. At the present writing there are four survivors; Gil, Larry, Howard, and myself and we have kept in contact over the years.
For those who are coming upon this account for the first time, the core group consisted of:
Gilbert Roller: Retired television producer and writer, referred to as Gil or Gilbert.
Leonard Lauer: Deceased. Metal worker and then 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).
George Kaiser: Deceased. Died soon after the 1971 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.
Others who attended include:
Eleanor Turmo: Gilbert's aunt but contemporary with Gilbert in age (known as Ellie).
Horace Joseph: Engineer, living in California. Current status unknown.
Primary source material included the photographs, the written messages, and the accounts written at the time referred to in the earlier parts. Sources for this part include:
Notes taken of the 1946 sessions.
An account I wrote in 1946.
Transcripts of the taping of the reunions held in 1966, 1969 and 1971.
Howard's account written in 1966.
Summary of a taping of Len in 1976.
Transcript of a taping of an account by Len in 1985.
Transcript of a taping of Tom Newman in 1972.
Informal discussions with Gil and Howard held in 1993 and 1994.
Communications from Helen Lauer (Len's daughter), Judy Malamud (Len's step-daughter), Rachel Lauer (Len's wife), and Tom Lauer (Len's son).
Had we embarked upon a shared delusional experience or had we come upon something genuine that could only be described as an unknown force that connected in some mysterious way to the emotional field generated by the interplay of our personalities? Our neediness, our excitement, and our enthusiasm had kept us dedicated to and involved in the sittings for almost two years. Perhaps no final or informed judgment can ever be made about the nature of the "force" that came into being, but the one thing we all agreed upon and kept agreeing upon for over six decades was that it was real, unexplainable, and intimately connected to who we were and the cohesive effort we sustained for so long.
It might be helpful to the reader at this point to be more revealing about ourselves, our personalities, and our interaction both at the time of the occurrence of the phenomena and also as adults when the series of reunions occurred. As I am the one in the group who undertook to write this account, it will inevitably reflect my own bias. Despite this, and to the extent that I can, I will use direct quotes from the participants themselves. They have been altered only to smooth the transition from spoken to written language.
Gill re Monte: "You were remote because I didn't even know you personally."
Gill referring to himself and Larry: "We were crazy kids and we saw each other continually."
Gil: "I wasn't involved in any intense emotional attitudes. I was very close to Leonard. About George - I don't know. I mean I didn't know him too well."
Len re Gil: "My impression of you in those days was of a guy overladen with talent, with an artistic gift in almost any goddam thing you touched ... you could have played any musical instrument if it were given to you ... you could draw ... you had more sensitivity plus a helluva lot of creativity even in other areas."
Len re George: "I saw George as somebody less gifted, more plodding, more willing to make the effort to accomplish something where you (Gil) wouldn't make the effort."
Gil re Larry: "I thought Larry was a great actor and that he had a personality ... I thought he was the funniest guy in the world ... he had a great talent for the theater and (was) very musical. He was an actor by nature and that's one of the reasons I was attracted to him."
Gil re Len: "Len was a brilliant guy and I always admired (his) intelligence and (his) brain and the things (he) could do ... there are sympaticos that bring people together. You don't become close to people who don't intrigue you emotionally.
Gil re Monte: "As far as Monte my relationship was very objective and impersonal."
Gil re Tom: "With Tom there was a very impersonal relationship."
Larry re Gil: "I must have been awfully demanding ... to me you and Olga (Gil's mother) were the center of my universe."
Gil: I guess I was seeking something. I was a loner ... you know I was an only child except for the deep emotional connection to my mother. I was reaching out for other people. Whenever I found anybody that was warm and responded the way I did, I latched onto him."
George: I was a loner. I never had a close friend before I met Gil."
Larry re Gil: "I felt Gil was a very multi-talented person, not just artistically, not just in terms of music, but intellectually. He was very bright and very stimulating. We had what was a very rare rapport ... Gil was someone I loved as much as I was capable of loving anybody at that time because I think what I had started to do was to protect myself against the hurt at home I had received at the hands of my relatives."
Larry re Len: "I always admired what I considered his superior intellect. He used to go around holding his pipe, talking about Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony being Beethoven's expression of man's relationship to the cosmos ... I was very jealous of your (Len) relationship with Gil."
Larry re Monte: "I was very fond of Monte ... many Saturday nights (after the séances and midnight snacks at a cafeteria) we would walk home and we would talk."
Larry re Howard: "Howard always struck me as being nervous, as he is today. He could never sit still."
Larry re Tom: "Tom I never really liked because I thought he was such a phony. He lied constantly and he was unreliable, and also, I guess I was jealous because Dr. Bindelof showed such a great deal of interest in him . ..."
Monte re Len (Jeff): "Now Jeff, as a person, had a powerful influence on me. He was very bright ... he always seemed very sure of himself . ..."
Monte re Gil: "There was this prima donna or impulsivity about him that intrigued me because I was much more inhibited ... I envied his level of development as far as music ... the theater ... art. And his mysterious link to psychic phenomena. It made you a very mysterious guy."
Monte re Howard: "I liked Howard. Someone mentioned Howard being difficult to reach."
Monte re Tom: "Tom had a sharper tongue. He could let you have it with both barrels for no reason at all . ... He was intriguing. He was in complete revolt against everything. I was tremendously impressed with his reading of T.S. Eliot. He (had) a fantastically resonant voice ... what fascinated me about Tom was he was somebody who was living out the fantasies all of us had."
Len re Gil: "I think the most important person to me was Gil. We shared all kinds of interests . ... It was very positive, very affectionate ... He had a lot of things I felt I didn't have - talent in the arts and music and an inventive and creative flare."
Larry re Len: "At times there was a feeling of jealousy on two levels. One, when you became spokesman ... what you did to wrest a piece of control ... and on another level I think I resented the increasing intimacy and attention that you guys (Gil and Len) spent with each other."
Len re George: "I don't remember George making an impression on the group as a personality either in the social aspect of our interaction to the degree that many of the others of us did because of our need to dominate or our need to clown."
Len re Howard: "He was the guy I was most aware of as (having) a moat or big wall around him which he defended valiantly ... He was certainly amongst the brightest of us."
Len re Tom: "Newman was an important guy in my life ... because of the things Newman had to offer. There were a lot of things about him that were hard to like ... his compulsive fabrications and exaggerations. Some of his rebellion I found distasteful in the sense that it seemed almost ostentatious."
Tom re the others: (Interview Jan. 11, 1972) "Ellie was lovely. Gilbert was trying to make believe he wasn't the medium - it was really Larry. Jeff was a tower of strength and beauty. I loved him right away. You (M.U.) were a nice boy. George was a nice boy, obviously going to be a salesman. Larry was like somebody from the inquisition trying to find out what heresies you might have in your secret mind. He really wasn't secure then. Now he's very secure."
In 1966, after our first reunion, a letter Tom wrote to me included the following capsule impressions he had at the time: "Lennie still loves the multi-syllabic verbiage, Gil is still the self-doubting, witty, self-deprecating youth; George still the childish, unsure, indefinite person" (Dec. 3, 1966).
In Part I gave a brief account of the way I saw my fellow Bindelofians then and subsequently. In brief, my reactions to the others were as follows:
I have come to know Gil much better in recent years than I did at the time of the sittings. My own remembrance of him then jibes with much of what the others reported. He had a special aura for me because of his personal and intimate knowledge of psychic phenomena through his mother Olga's earlier experiences and her continued interest. I didn't feel close to him at the time but did admire his ready wit and his broad knowledge and ability.
I had a special feeling of closeness to and admiration of Len that went back to our days in high school together. I envied him for the things he had that I felt I lacked - good looks, self-assurance and a charismatic quality that made him a natural leader. I felt a deep sense of loss at his death in 1988.
Larry was a natural performer. I enjoyed his ready wit, his antics during our breaks between sittings and there were moments of intimacy on our walks home from the sittings. He could be abrasive and caustic at times.
I also knew Howard from high school on. While we never were close there was a self-effacing quiet honesty about him
I didn't have a clear recollection of George at the time of our sittings.
I didn't know what to make of Tom at the time. He was so different from anyone I had ever known. In open rebellion against authority, he had a superior air and a strong resonant voice that could deliver lines of poetry as if he had written them.
In general, I was excited about participating and content to follow the pace set by Len, Gil and Larry.
To repeat what my purpose has been in setting forth this account (see Ullman, 1993) it was to have on record an account of a shared set of exceptional human experiences. I am well aware of the fact that for anyone who was not there at the time it may seem too fantastic to believe. The question of belief is not the point. What is important is that it was experienced as real for those of us who experienced it, and it had a lasting effect on those of us who were part of it. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you, not in a spirit of proof, since I readily admit no scientific proof is possible at this late date, some of the specific events and certain aspects of the total experience that seemed utterly beyond our individual or shared ability to produce. As Ellie (Gil's aunt who was at many of the sittings) commented in an interview in 1985: "You were very clever boys. But to produce what you did would have had to be very, very clever. Besides, no one person could have done it. There would have had to be a conspiracy."
And, I might add, one that required being continued among the members of the core group over the ensuing decades (over six decades for four of us) and despite a growing closeness and deeper knowledge of each other.
Gil: "If you had three or four people conspiring together I'd say you could do it very easily ... I don't think one person could have done it."
Gil: (Referring to being felt by fingers in response to the request for materialization [see Part III]): "I think we had simultaneous contact ... there were three or four people saying 'He's touching me.' and you'd have to work collectively to produce this."
Larry: "As far as motivation there was no fraud over this passage of years. Nobody benefited from it in any way."
Howard (from his 1966 account): "The nature of the sitters, their youth, enthusiasm, earnestness mixed with exuberance, curiosity and bravado, hopeless confusion and ignorance, lack of guile - all these made it repugnant to suspect a calculated, continued fraud."
Horace (in a letter written Oct. 25, 1968): "As far as I could tell the events were not false, and if they were, they showed a remarkable persistence over several years."
"The intervening years have taught me something of the caution and care necessary in evaluating results. I can state unequivocally, however, that I have never been able to convince myself that any member of our group had either the talent or the motivation to accomplish and maintain by fraudulent means the great variety of phenomena that was obtained; this despite my naiveté when I first embarked on the adventure. In short, I am as convinced now as I was then of the genuineness of what we witnessed. In fact, my conviction has been strengthened by further knowledge and experience in the field of psychic research."
There were a number of specific features and happenings that are particularly difficult to account for on the basis of deception or unconscious collusion.
1. The photography experiments were carefully monitored by more than one person from the time of purchase to the development of the plates. In one of our very first experiments with the hand of one of the sitters resting on the metal container holding the film, my thumb slipped over the hand and appeared on the film as I witnessed its development (see Part II) indicating it couldn't have been prepared in advance.
2. The successive and very rapidly written messages in response to spontaneous questions from the group and that were asked at different times in a single session could not have been prepared in advance (see Part III).
3. Written messages came in response to thought questions put to Dr. Bindelof.
4. My distinct and lasting impression of a bridge table moving about the room so fast it was hard to keep up with it (see Part 11).
5. Several strange events occurred in the course of the healing efforts. On one occasion when Dr. Bindelof attempted to treat Tom's near-sightedness, Tom felt pressure from fingers inside the orbit of his eye (Newman taping, 1972). In a letter dated July 25, 1995, Larry described his recollection of a similar incident. "The night I had a toothache during a sitting Dr. Bindelof s fingers probed my mouth and teeth. After a few seconds I felt his hand slap my face. A written message following this chided me for neglecting proper tooth care. Since that time I have spent much time and money in dentist chairs and am pleased at still having my original teeth more or less intact."
At another healing session Howard, in an informal talk with me in 1994, had a vivid recall of where he was sitting at a time when Dr. Bindelof was massaging his eyes to relieve a headache. "Incidentally, as to possible fraud at the time of the sitting, I was in such a position (with my back to a corner where there was a piano) that it would have been impossible - not impossible - but certainly none of the sitters would have been in a position to do it."
In the final analysis, my conviction rests on my knowledge of the people who went through this experience with me and who joined me in exploring the meaning for and impact on their lives in the ensuing years.
When we met for the reunions beginning in 1966, one of the things that was disturbingly apparent was how little factual information we had about Dr. Bindelof We weren't sure of his nationality - German, Austrian, Russian, American? We recalled different years for the date of his death - 1919, 1921, 1929. We knew nothing about his personal life other than the fact that he was a doctor and that his interest in healing continued after his death.
His personality was that of a benevolent but firm father figure, acknowledging our efforts to maintain contact with him while at other times showing his impatience when one or another of us failed to show up or failed to follow his advice. He expressed his eagerness to be of help to us and to demonstrate his ability to heal any symptoms we or our parents called to his attention (only Len's and Horace's mothers took him up on this, relieving insomnia in the former and gastro-intestinal symptoms in the latter).
Was Dr. Bindelof a discarnate entity? Larry was the only one who took Dr. Bindelof at his word and still does. Several of us, including myself, felt that he was for real at the time. Len was skeptical and quick to point out incongruities in some of his medical references. With the exception of Larry, our retrospective view of Dr. Bindelof was that he represented a collective projective response to our needs for a father figure. This in no way accounts for or diminishes the mysteriousness and the significance of the phenomena we witnessed.
Len was the first to discern gaps in Dr. Bindelof's medical knowledge-errors that even a physician practicing in the 19th century would not have made. The most obvious was a reference in one of the written messages to "retina muscles," which in reality do not exist. There were other suggestions of medical ignorance that came through in the written messages. These included the assumption that myopia was a curable defect that could be ameliorated by massaging the eyeballs and that nerves could regenerate (at the time it was held that they could not, although this is not as absolute in the light of recent knowledge). A point was made about Dr. Bindelof s frequent spelling errors, but there may be ways other than denying the discarnate hypothesis to account for that.
Here are some reflections about Dr. Bindelof culled from the various accounts:
At a talk to the research staff at the Maimonides Medical Center in 1973, Gilbert indicated he did not regard Dr. Bindelof as a disembodied spirit. In interviews in 1989 and 1993, he referred to Dr. Bindelof as a conglomerate, a mysterious composite of adolescent yearnings. This didn't preclude his personal belief in life after death.
At the 1971 reunion Len said: "I don't think that at any time Bindelof said anything or wrote anything that wasn't within the mental ability of any member of the group or any combination of the group. At a talk in 1976 he referred to Dr. Bindelof as dull, crotchety, and patronizing. He regarded him as a synthesis created in response to the wish on all our parts for a benign and fatherly figure. At the 1971 reunion Leonard stated:
"I believe that Bindelof was a synthesis, that the phenomena we've been discussing was a product of the psychic capacity of human beings, generally classified as paranormal and that the intense interest, involvement and relative compatibility of some or all of the members of the group helped develop, with a certain amount of practice, a relatively high degree of physical force and a relatively high level of personality or intelligent structure that we came to call Bindelof The notion that Bindelof was actually an intelligence that once lived and died is not a hypothesis I hold."
In his 1934 account it was obvious Larry accepted Dr. Bindelof as a truly deceased entity, a physician still strongly motivated to share his remarkable healing powers. His adolescent awe and admiration came through in this account written at a time when the sittings were still going on:
"Here is a man, such as there have been few since or before Christ ... All his life he strived and worked, all in one direction, to cure. He loved his work, as a mother loves its baby ... He has nothing to gain, nothing, and still he wants to cure the people who spurned his helpfulness when he lived."
In the 1971 reunion Larry maintained his belief in the reality of Dr. Bindelof and still looked upon him as a father surrogate. He was impressed with the interest Dr. Bindelof took in him. "He was more interested in (in the condition of) my teeth than my father was." Larry's convictions about Dr. Bindelof s post-mortem existence continues to the present day.
In the 1972 interview Tom didn't believe we had been in contact with a deceased spirit. With regard to Dr. Bindelof, he said: "That's the way Gil would have imagined him, a typical, strong 19th-century German. In later life I can't figure out what the hell Bindelof was all about. I'm more or less inclined to take him at face value. I just have strong feeling it was Gilbert's personality. I could easily see where he would choose such a projection."
Howard, as I indicated, was highly skeptical of Dr. Bindelof as an actual entity, but not of the phenomena we generated.
I know I was more in Larry's corner than in Len's at the time in the sense that I knew Len was probably right but I was hoping he was wrong. I had found the father image I was looking for and was loathe to let him go.
Following my departure from the group at the end of 1933 or early 1934, I had no further contact with any of the group until 1946. Gil and Howard kept in touch with each other and with Larry. I don't think Len kept in touch with anyone except perhaps his cousin George. We all followed our individual career paths outlined in Part I.
One of the first things I did on returning from military service overseas was to visit the American Society for Psychical Research in the Fall of 1945. I had the good fortune of encountering Gardner Murphy on that visit and before I knew it I was sharing with him the Bindelof experience in its entirety. Those of you who may have known Gardner know his capacity for giving a young person an empathic and respectful audience.
Once in practice (psychiatry) in 1946, I attempted to locate Len but didn't succeed until that summer. Len and Gil had grown apart. That also might have been the case with Len and me if I had not taken the initiative in contacting him. He was a very self-sufficient kind of guy. We felt happy about coming together again. The years of medical school, internship, residencies in neurology and psychiatry and finally, the army years were not very congenial to uncloseting the Bindelof experience. The field of parapsychology was just in its infancy at that time and was not receiving a very warm welcome from the scientific establishment.
It was not long before Len and I began planning on a get-together with whomever was available to see if we could get any results if we resumed the sittings. We did succeed in contacting Tom and Larry and the four of us held a séance at my office on October 2, 1946 and then again on October 9th Gil and Howard and George joined us on November 21st and George the following week. Between October 2, 1946 and February 27, 1947 we had a total of 13 sessions. We sat around a rectangular table in my office in the dark with our hands in contact resting lightly on the table. The window was blanketed and the room was in total darkness. Our notes about these sittings were very fragmentary. I don't believe any unequivocal results were obtained. These were references to tilting, knocks, slight movement of the table and even levitation. Gardner Murphy sat with us on February 6, 1947. A tuning fork that was standing upright in the middle of the table fell over while the table seemed absolutely still. Not very convincing!
The general consensus was that nothing had happened that carried with it the definiteness and impressiveness of our earlier results. What these sessions did was to bring us together again and rekindle the shared feelings of 13 years earlier. It also set the stage for our later reunions beginning in 1966. In the interim my friendship with Len deepened. I corresponded with and had occasional visits with Larry who had moved to California. I corresponded with Tom until 1949 and then lost track of him. I didn't see George again nor did I have much contact with Gil and Howard until the first reunion. I succeeded in locating Tom shortly before the 1971 reunion and taped an interview with him on the west coast in 1972. He was in the last stages of metastatic cancer and died within a year.
It would be hard to convey the excitement, the mix of fun and seriousness that characterized our first reunion on July 31, 1966 at my home in Ardsley. We came to life in a way that denied the intervening years and that was not much different from the way we related to each other at the time the events were actually occurring - boisterous, wisecracking, taking shots at each other and, in general, relishing the shared specialness of our earlier experience. I was working full-time at the Maimonides Medical Center at the time and managed to get a small grant from the Jack Aron Foundation to defray the expenses of those who participated. Our stated goal was to review all the extant records, check against each other's recall of the events, try to fill in gaps, resolve any discrepancies, and note those aspects of the experience that made it so credible to each of us. As might be expected, the effect of the passage of time on our collective memory was such that very little was added to what the existing accounts from earlier times offered. Gil, Larry, Len, Howard and George attended. We continued along the same lines when we next met on November 22, 1969. Our final reunion occurred on May 15, 1971. Larry had succeeded some time before this last meeting in contacting Tom on the West Coast and arranged for him to call at our 1971 meeting. Tom was quite ill at the time. He did keep his word, and we each had a chance to speak to him. The phone call unleashed a flood of feelings at each end of the line.
All three reunions were taped and subsequently transcribed. It came to a total of 322 typewritten pages.
George died not too long after our last meeting. Len died in 1988.
I continued trying to salvage further information in meetings with Gil and Howard in New York and in discussions with Larry on his occasional trips to New York. I have gotten to know Howard a bit better and have spent many delightful days with Gil and his wife, Marion.
My interview with Tom took place in 1972 several months before he died.
Although it is the most important aspect of this account, this section poses special difficulties. Len, Tom, and George are no longer with us. I had lost track of George's wife and had no knowledge of how the experience affected his life other than his enthusiastic participation in the reunions and his conviction that we had produced genuine psychic phenomena. In the case of Len, my own personal knowledge of his life was augmented by the accounts of his daughter Helen, step-daughter Judith Malamud, his wife Rachel Lauer, and his son Tom. Gil, Larry, and Howard were asked to submit their own version of the meaning of the experience. To my mind, Leonard experienced the phenomena as deeply and as forcefully as I did, and although it didn't shape his professional career, it was obvious to me that just as in my case, when he joined me in coming back to it after the long hiatus, his excitement and feelings about it were just as strong as ever. In spite of his protestations, I believe the experience remained very much a part of Gil's life. He kept coming back to the subject of psychic phenomena in his writings, including one book (Roller, 1975).
Relying on my interview, the report of an interview he had with Larry, and the feelings that came out in his call to us at the time of the 1971 reunion, it was obvious that an unforgettable part of his past had come to life. Even though he was desperately ill at the time his memory of detail was remarkable. The same old feelings of excitement and wonder were there, including the memory of his being scolded by Dr. Bindelof for his misdeeds. In his own words here is his answer to my question of life impact shortly before he died.
And the main impact was that here I know about the existence of certain miracles and everybody would think I was crazy if I mentioned it. And then I was concerned about what was reality and unreality. What was the projection of Dr. Bindelof? But I wouldn't say it had any strong impact on my life except (for) maybe some people I met like Jeff. It just happened at that time you know - when I'd have more impact looking at a Montmartre sunset than anything else. But it was a gorgeous thing to do each week. In New York there always used to be trouble wondering what to do and that filled in time fine. Then we spent all night talking in the cafeteria.
From what I gathered in the interview, Tom had led a very checkered existence. After an abortive literary career (he had one story published in the New Yorker), he drifted about, ending up in Mexico exporting marijuana and, according to what he told me, at one time running guns.
In a 1988 account Howard told how he came into the group through his friendship with Len:
As I was a Marxist then (although I had never read a line of his) I was naturally a materialist.
What was my reaction. I remember it well. So it is true, after all, that there are non-material forces in the universe, and secondly, "What of it?" It never affected my own personal philosophy in all these years and I know as little now as I did then about the nature of psychic phenomena.
But, I was magically a member of a group of fellows who were instant companions, some of them, those who survived, to this day. We were, take my word for it, witty, sophisticated, even brilliant.
On one occasion in 1994 I asked Howard if there was more he could say about the impact of this experience on his life. He demurred at first, saying he had put all he had to say in his earlier accounts (1966, 1988). When pressed, he offered this enigmatic comment: "It could mean everything or nothing."
By that I presume he meant that the choice was to let it fade into insignificance or to face a reality that was too overwhelming to contemplate.
Although Larry offered only a short account when asked about the impact, I think it is fair to say that for Larry his acceptance of Dr. Bindelof as a beneficent discarnate entity resulted in a transformative experience that was more manifestly a part of his life than it was for any of the rest of us. Here is what he wrote in 1994 in response to my inquiry:
Ever since we received the first message identifying the writer as "Dr. Bindelof' I believed he had lived on this planet. I still believe that.
During the ensuing 60 plus years I have felt Dr. Bindelof s presence in my life. Obviously I cannot "prove" it - but I believe it and have tried to live accordingly.
I believe, as he wrote in one of his messages, that we could not comprehend life after death until we experience it - and that experience is not too far away.
Finally, I believe the Bindelof experience was the most important in my life.
Since all the successful séances we had read about in the classical literature of psychical research had required a medium, we simply assumed that Gilbert, with his history of poltergeist and, through the influence of his mother, immersion in things psychic like the Ouija board, from childhood on, had more mediumistic power than the rest of us. I don't think he particularly appreciated the honor. He never went into a trance nor did he ever act any differently than the rest of us. But things did happen in his adult years that suggested we were right. He told me of one such incident during a talk we had on December 23, 1993. During the mid-eighties he had held a séance at his country home with about 12 of his neighbors. They sat around a huge table with their hands resting on the table in semi-darkness, when suddenly the center board of the table separated and rose several inches off the table: There was much screaming and yelling when this happened, bringing the sitting to a sudden end. Gil's wife, Marion, described it as spectacular.
In an interview on April 15, 1993, when questioned specifically about the impact of the Bindelof experience, Gilbert said:
It didn't change my life. It had no impact. I had accepted it as a natural phenomena. Olga took it for granted and so did I. It was simply part of what remains mysterious and unknown. I didn't become a disciple of Dr. Bindelof as Larry did. It was part of nature yet to be discovered.
In letters to me written in 1993 and 1994 he wrote more about the impact, or rather, lack of impact:
Coming from a mother who took paranormal phenomena as entirely normal, I was never surprised by this kind of stuff. Poltergeist was something all little boys had. I was bothered more by its destructiveness than that it was not entirely usual. Furniture moving about and other substantial physical demonstrations were infrequent and odd but then so was Hamlet's ghost. My cherished Lionel engine was torn apart. I was shot in the ass with hairpins. Hieroglyphics inscribed on our walls advised us to "go."
So you see, I'm what remains of this little tike who spent his early childhood living with these phantasms of the occult. Therefore, you might say, like Minerva, I was born fully armed and prepared for all this stuff.
Since the phenomena we developed are a matter of record it remains only for me to state my gut feeling about what it all means. I can't accept Bindelof as an incorporeal entity but rather as the conglomerate product of a bunch of semi-hysterical adolescents looking for a daddy. Be that as it may (for Larry, Bindelof is an icon). So be it. To each his own. Reality has no place in the occult. As I've told (and written you) many times, the only thing I'm certain of is survival of the personality. How-why-where, I haven't the vaguest. I believe there can be fragile, tenuous cross-overs, reaching beyond physical dimensions as we understand them. I've experienced this. Lore abounds in such things but being what we are and where we are makes the acceptance of its reality difficult. The Bindelof experience has not affected my metaphysical beliefs. In retrospect, I'd say it's an affirmation of what I've always felt.
As to the charge of fraud (euphemistically, young pranksters) - this hangs over the entire experience. However, I don't think this invalidates what happened. Almost all psychic phenomena have been attacked on this score. The strongest argument against fraud was our devotion to the sacrosanct Saturday nights for two years to the exclusion of the more usual screwing around.
So now we jump another thirty years. I'm moving though an interesting, rational life with my good wife, Marion. Bindelof is a dim memory as are those who comprised the group except you (M.U.) and Howard, of course. Some, it seems, have died. Meanwhile, Gil Guerrico Roller Frederico has on and off dabbled in the occult and gotten results - oak tables opening in the middle with the flyleaf coming out - apparent tele-rotation of stones - all signifying nothing other than lots of middle-aged women becoming hysterical. I have developed a theory that if a sufficiently concentrated hysteria can be developed among a group of angst laden women and men, too, for that matter, paranormal physical phenomena will occur. I call it the Tristan and Isolde syndrome. (How's that for a book?). Meanwhile, I have acquired a distaste for experimentation in the occult. I feel it is an unwelcome intrusion into provinces which at this time of our experience, are not of our business.
It is now the 1990's. I have gone from film production to writing - sold one book. I find very little or no influence of psychic phenomena upon my life other than as a background source of information. I am writing about the Elberfeld Horses and see Kluge Hans as a metaphor for the stupidity of psychologists and people generally and the imminent demise of our moronic civilization. This is all (brilliantly) brought together to show how man is the victim of his hubristic God/Man mythology - the belief in which his final demise as a rational animal is ineluctably orchestrated and that the real horses asses are not on horses. Animals are far more psychic than any of us.
I must confess - that what has happened in the realm of the occult has left its mark on my psyche, but only as a resource rather than a part of my spiritual construct. That is to say, my views on life, death and the mysteries that these dimensions must hold for us have not been inculcated by the Bindelof experiences. I think they're genetic, instinctive and part of a cosmic concept that may be called religious. It is a secret knowledge and perception given to some of us for reasons I have yet to understand.
For Gilbert it seems the Bindelof experience was just another event on a path he had set upon earlier. He had his own convictions about survival before and subsequent to the experience. He found it every bit as exciting as the rest of us but never reacted with the same wonder and awe. This concern with the "psychic" remained a part of his life and continued to gain expression. He gave a course on "Paramechanics" at the New School for Social Research in 1971. His book, A Voice From Beyond, dealt with Sir William Crooke's investigation of the mediumship of Florence Cook and was published in 1975. He participated with Leonard and myself in a presentation of the Bindelof experience to my research staff at the Maimonides Medical Center in 1973.
Although Len and I grew closer after the 1946-47 meetings and had many talks about the Bindelof experience, he died before I had the chance to have him develop in depth what he considered to be its impact on his life. The only time that he himself touched on this was in the 1971 reunion.
One of the things that happened, I think, as a result of these experiences (was it) opened me up. Somebody ... referred to me as a guy who was very sure of the way things were, as very sure of myself. I think the first opening wedge into that fortress of certainty was my experience with psychic phenomena. . . when Gil reported about it . . . I was willing to try but I didn't expect to find anything. I don't think I was aware of it at the time, but I think it was really an opening wedge in this business of being sure . . . (of) the way things are. Now at fifty-five, I think I've reached some point where I can now feel comfortable with uncertainty, and for me that's a major step forward. So, if it was important, it was a big opening wedge in this attitude that there is such a thing as positive information; there is such a thing as "truth." It was important, like a first giant step in a significant personal development . . . It hasn't influenced my life style particularly, but as I say, it was a piece of philosophical epistemological advance.
Len's death was a deep personal loss to me as well as an end to my hope of his collaboration in this account. There isn't much I can add to his own assessment of its life impact except to say he did enjoy talking about it and sharing the wonder of it on the few occasions he did publicly. We gave a joint account of it at the 1971 annual meeting of the Humanistic Psychology Association. He also gave informal talks at the Maimonides Medical Center and the Institute for General Semantics. His keen recall of detail as well as his ability to be both objective and dramatic at the same time in his presentation intrigued his listeners.
What follows are the responses of Rachael Lauer, his wife with whom he was close until his death, his daughter Helen Lauer, and his step-daughter Judy Malamud.
In my judgment Jeff s extraordinary magnetism and charisma helped create the phenomena. Those same characteristics have greatly affected his relationships with me, you and many others. It's very, very hard to separate the phenomena, Jeff, and ripple effects . . .
Jeff himself rarely talked about it, or wondered about it, or pursued any books looking for explanations. He just went around being himself, stirring up excitement, mesmerizing people, creating strong reactions wherever he went, even in his last years. (Letter from R.L. to M.U., April, 1994)
Jeff was sure you guys created the experience. It was your cumulative powers . . . adolescent energies combined. He seemed satisfied with that interpretation and let it go at that . . . Jeff lived out his life as a mechanic . . . his creativeness apparently saved for his later years as an inventive engineer. I'm into supra-conscious education.
There was that evening a few years after his death that when he appeared to me in my living room - to say he was all right and to wish me well. If I created that phenomenon then I would say that Jeff s story made me receptive to such an experience. If he created it, then perhaps it was a further expression of his own magnetism or his ability to break through planes and boundaries, an ability that never seemed to impress or concern him nearly as much as it did you. He never really acknowledged he had any such ability - though he said he strongly suspected Gil had. (Letter from R.L to M.U., July 18, 1995.)
The life long implications of any of Jeff Lauer's experiences are not an easy subject for me to address since I was not very close to Jeff. But his earliest telling to me of the Bindelof Society - when I was 7 or 8 - was one of our closest moments. The fatherly presentation of the Bindelof facts, both as anomalous, jestworthy amusement and as profoundly significant truth, was a centerpiece in the legacy of reality Jeff gave to me, quite purposefully, and solemnly, and intimately. I have learned from my father - through his telling and retelling - that plain, brute reality as given and unadorned is awesomely mysterious and worthy of the respect other parents may insist their children reserve for some institutionalized authority.
I think that the basis of Jeff s humanism and compassion, and the impetus for his virulently independent thinking politically, is this core of humbling respect for the unknown that the Bindelof encounter may have given him, and which he unquestionably taught to me.
The kind of esoteric mysticism that attracted him with enthusiasm was the de-bunking, irreverent approach that quelled spiritual pretense and dogma. This was a down to earth, extremely macho, intensely critical kind of guy telling you about written messages with no writer present - you believed him. There was no reason nor basis for supposing that such a person would be privy to sensationalism nor leave himself open to being duped. Emotionally withdrawn maybe but never duped.
What was the impact on Jeff of his adolescent experience of joining with friends in a deep, prolonged exploration of reality's outer limits, of participating so tangibly and convincingly, at such a young age, in "otherworldly" happenings? Jeff was a good storyteller and enjoyed sharing with me and other family members his lifelong fascination with these phenomena. He encouraged my predilections, even giving me a Ouija board for Christmas when I was twelve. He seemed most impressed by the psychokinetic effects - the table tapping, levitations, thought photographs and materializations - and less interested in the concept or particulars of communication with a "discarnate entity." Although it was clear that he had given some thought to the physical, interpersonal and intrapsychic underpinnings of these events, he was not at all inclined to transpersonal or spiritualistic interpretations and seemed satisfied with the explanation that "Dr. Bindelof' was merely a product of the boys' subconscious minds. As far as I could tell, Jeff's scientific/materialistic world view was not fundamentally shaken, but his life was forever enriched.
A note from Jeff's son Tom (June 26, 1995) spoke of how Jeff s personality, his combination of openness and skepticism, impacted on his (Tom's ) life.
The impact of the Bindelof experience on my life was as profoundly transformative for me as it was for Larry, but in a very different way. For Larry it was an encounter with a discarnate entity whose benevolent presence was with him for the rest of his life. Larry still carries a picture of Bindelof in his wallet, and he attributes the prevention of some near catastrophes in his life to Dr. Bindelof s intervention. For me it was the beginning of a journey of exploration into the many ways these strange events, lumped together as the paranormal, impinged upon our lives. That journey, early on, pursued in secret, took many twists and turns but ultimately played a decisive role in every professional move I made in the course of my career. It began in 1932 after reading, at Len's urging, Hudson's (1893/1970) book, The Law of Psychic Phenomena. Fired by his description of the powers of hypnosis, I succeeded in inducing a trance in my 13-year old sister the first time I tried. Placing a penny at room temperature on her wrist and telling her it was red hot, she withdrew her hand in pain and in a short time a localized area of redness appeared where the penny had been. I did a number of other silly experiments, including getting her drunk on a glass of water, all of which bolstered my self-image at her expense. The fact that a circumscribed skin change could be induced psychologically made a lasting impression on me, resulting in a series of circumstances that led me to my first serious research project (Unman, 1959; Ullman & , 1960).
Driven by the curiosity these experiences generated, I could map out the entire future course my life took as a search for a way of giving meaning to these earlier adolescent experiences. It led to the pilot work with the REM-monitoring technique to study dream telepathy and later to the more formal experiments in dream telepathy at the Maimonides Medical Center. It shaped my 1970 sabbatical where, in Moscow and Leningrad, I witnessed the striking psychokinetic effects of Nina Kulagina and to my later and still current pursuit of the paranormal dream in dream sharing groups. Finally it led to the rekindling of the flame of the Bindelof experience, first in the forties and then in the three reunions beginning in 1966 and to the inner urge to preserve that experience in print.
In short, as a consequence of these earlier experiences, I found myself embarking upon a dual career, one in psychiatry and one in parapsychology. Had it not been for my early encounter with psychic phenomena I'm not sure I would have been as open as I was to the occurrence of telepathic dreams of patients undergoing psychoanalysis nor would I have been tempted to pursue the study of the paranormal dream at the Maimonides Medical Center.
When I was at the receiving end of a dream from a patient that contained specific, non-inferable information about my life that he or she could have no possible way of knowing, I knew that some complex transferential field effect was going on. I was able to conjecture about psychological factors at play but was at a complete loss as to how that way of toying with the ordinary concepts of space, time, and energy transfer could occur. Accepting the reality of these events opened my imagination to the implication of such happenings for our understanding of psychopathology in general and of schizophrenia in particular. More than that, it played into a growing area of interest to me, namely, the nature of dreaming consciousness. We knew that dreams connected with the three dimensions in which we live, the biological, the psychological, and the social, but here was evidence that they went beyond this to a transpersonal realm. My writings about dreams took a turn from physiological theory and clinical observations to a concern with larger issues such as the way dreams served survival needs by at times transcending the categories of space and time that so determine our behavior awake. There was nothing paranormal about the paranormal dream. It was simply a manifestation of the fact that though the content of dreams start with issues of immediate and recognizable significance to us, they don't necessarily stop there. If deep-seated survival needs are at stake they can bridge space telepathically to bring us information available but not currently known to us or bridge time and precognitively incorporate elements of the future not currently known to anyone.
Rhea White has written eloquently and in depth of the dissonance that pursued her throughout her brilliant and outstanding career in parapsychology. When she finally disengaged herself from the procrustean bed in which an army of talented and dedicated workers tried for so long to fit psychic phenomena in the effort to win scientific acceptance, it was an act of liberation, not only for herself, but also for those of us who feel that the panoply of psychic phenomena will never come into its own in the sanitized experimenter-subject model.
I responded enthusiastically to the more open, more human, more interesting idea of exploring under one umbrella the range of exceptional human experiences. More specifically, it struck me as the best container for the Bindelof experience. I had not proof but, more importantly, I didn't have to have proof. All I had to have was as honest a recall as I and the others could manage, helped by the earlier documentation, and a lifetime of the participants knowing and trusting each other.
In most of the EHEs that I have read about the transformative effect was brought about by a sudden peremptory experience. In my case it was different. The triggering experience went on for almost two years and the transformative impact rippled out over my subsequent life. It was in a sense a chronic EHE in its onset and in its transformative effect, which ran a chronic course over the ensuing six decades. It made its presence felt with each of the mysteries I encountered as my work and interests drew me to the paranormal, hypnosis, dreams and aspects of psychopathology, in particular the psychological content of the major psychoses. In each of these instances the Bindelof experience helped me eschew much of the conventional explanations in favor of a greater appreciation of the depth of our ignorance about the nature of reality.
In preparing this account I have come to more fully realize how pervasive these earlier experiences have been on my life. Getting it down on paper was a task I knew I had to do. Now that it's done I have a feeling of relief, a feeling of sadness that Jeff wasn't here to work with me on it, and a deep sense of gratitude to Rhea White for her recent writings that finally inspired me to get going with it.
Hudson, T.J. (1970). The Law of Phenomena: A Working Hypothesis. Salina, CA: Hudson-Cohan. (Original work published 1893)
Roller, G. (1975). A Voice Beyond. New York: Popular Library.
Ullman, M. (1959). On the psyche and warts. I. Suggestion and warts: A review and comment. Psychosomatic Medicine, 21, 473-488.
Ullman, M., & Dudek, S. (1960). On the psyche and warts. II. Psychosomatic Medicine, 22, 68-76.
Ullman, M. (1993). Exceptional human experience 14(1): Sitter group. The Bindelof story, Part I. Exceptional Human Experience, 11(1), 17-28.
 Here he is referring to his original forenames. Gil was born in Argentina.
 Reference to Clever Hans, a horse that could tap out with his hoof answers to comply complex mathematical problems under conditions that presumably ruled out sensory cueing.
3 A reference to an account of a strange but realistic vision of Jeff appearing near her in her living room and then fading.