a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


My time in Canada with the RAF


Why I was interested in mediums and my investigations in Blackpool
Richard Gregory Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments
Well, it was partly because my father was interested in the paranormal and, in fact, he studied what they call a physical medium called Rudy Schneider, obviously German, and in his observatory, there was a very nice workshop and they made apparatus for studying this physical medium and it had a table that tilted with an electrical contact, and it would fire a flash on a camera so the idea was that when spooky things went on, it would be caught instantly on the camera, you see, and he had a sort of tunnel with gauze on it and infra-red as well, and various things like that, so he did quite a sophisticated technique for that time, I’m talking about, you know, in the late 30s. Rudy Schneider, there was a record of him which I remember my father had, and he would breathe like this for minutes and minutes on end, you know, how on earth do you manage that? I don’t know, in his trance, he’d go into these deep trances and then physical things would happen. For example, he’d hold a handkerchief from nowhere, with no hand, and then you pulled it and the handkerchief, if it wouldn’t get torn, at least it got sort of pulled tight with only an ectoplasmic hand at the other end of it and stuff like this, you see. I was brought up with stories of these experimental seances that my father used to do with Lord Charles Hope I think it was in his sitting room. The argument was, of course, that as it was his private sitting room there wouldn’t be a secret trap door, the whole bit, whether there were or not, of course I don’t know but presumably there weren’t. He wrote a book with Charles Hope, I think, claiming really that there was some genuineness in these phenomena so that sort of set me up. It was interesting because when I was very small I used to get the dramatic stories of these wonderful things happening, you see, so that was sort of in my mind. So when I went to Blackpool with nothing to do because I’d done my square bashing, and I wasn’t posted as I should have been to the Gold Coast, I had to kick around to be posted somewhere else, you see. What did I do but investigate the local mediums because they were there and I found this really very interesting. So I tried little experiments and tricks on them and all that and I was admitted to the inner circle of one of these mediums where she had an evening at her house with things going on and I remember the thing that amazed them most, I can’t say it amazed me all that much, it must have been Christmas time because there was a load of Christmas cards on the mantelpiece and these voices and trumpets and stuff were all going on and all of a sudden these Christmas cards all fell off onto the floor, draught, somebody blew it, you know, this sort of thing, so that little manifestations like that would happen and you got these voices, which I’m perfectly certain were actors’ voices in a way, but it was rather fun and enjoyable. I used to enjoy it very much indeed. So I think this is what it was really. So there’s a paranormal streak in your makeup? Well, I never really believed it, no, but I enjoyed trying to find out and I suppose, you know, my later interest in the brain and the mind and perception and whatnot, is, in a way, related to that. What are the limits of human thinking and perceiving and understanding? In what ways can we be fooled both in perception and also with conceptions, if you like, with thoughts? I think if you’re going to study truth you’ve absolutely got to study untruth and you’ve got to be very, very aware that truth is damn difficult to attain, that one’s best ideas can be riddled with error, that if one’s teaching one can inculcate, is that the word I want, total nonsense to one’s students very, very easily, and what seems plausible may be wrong and what seems implausible, and this is very important, I think, could not only be right but when it is right, is going to be much more exciting than something which seems obvious. And so it’s always a game between the implausible, the improbable, but therefore new knowledge and exciting and that which is reliable and trustworthy but a bit tedious and I think this is something you’ve got to live with when you’re teaching and when you’re doing research and the paranormal is a wonderful test case where you can pit your mind not only against the universe as in physics, but against people who are trying to fool you and make money out of it.

The late British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, Richard Gregory (1923-2010), is well known for his work on perception, the psychology of seeing and his love of puns. In 1978 he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol – the first of its kind in the UK. He also designed and directed the Special Senses Laboratory at Cambridge which worked on the perceptual problems of astronauts, and published many books including 'The Oxford Companion to the Mind', 'Eye and Brain' and 'Mind in Science'.

Listeners: Adam Hart-Davis Sally Duensing

Born on 4 July 1943, Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and broadcaster. He has won various awards for both television and radio. Before presenting, Adam spent 5 years in publishing and 17 years at Yorkshire Television, as researcher and then producer of such series as Scientific Eye and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. He has read several books, and written about 25. His latest books are Why does a ball bounce?, Taking the piss, Just another day, and The cosmos: a beginner's guide. He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He is a keen supporter of the charities WaterAid, Practical Action, Sustrans, and the Joliba Trust. A Companion of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, an Honorary Member of the British Toilet Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Dyers and Colourists, and Merton College Oxford, and patron of a dozen charitable organizations, Adam has collected thirteen honorary doctorates, The Horace Hockley Award from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, a Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Medal from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers, and the 1999 Gerald Frewer memorial trophy of the Council of Engineering Designers. He has no car, but three cycles, which he rides slowly but with enthusiasm.

Sally Duensing currently is involved in perception exhibition work and research on science and society dialogue programmes and is working with informal learning research graduate students and post-docs at King's College, London. In 2000 she held the Collier Chair, a one-year invited professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol, England. Prior to this, for over 20 years she was at the Exploratorium, a highly interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco where she directed a variety of exhibition projects primarily in fields of perception and cognition including a large exhibition on biological, cognitive and cultural aspects of human memory.

Duration: 5 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008