Estabany, Oskar

Estabany, Oskar

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Oskar Estabany, one of the most important psychic healers of the twentieth century, was a Hungarian army officer who migrated to Canada following the failed Hungarian Revolution in 1956. At some point around 1970, when Estabany was approaching his seventieth year, he contacted Bernard Grad (b. 1920), an associate professor of gerontology and noted cancer researcher, with claims about his healing abilities. Grad had become open to such alternative ideas earlier; he had researched the mysterious orgone energy and was a member of the Indonesian mystical group called Sabud.

With oversight of a large research laboratory and staff at McGill University, Grad decided to test Estabany’s healing powers. He set up a series of experiments, which from the beginning improved on many previous experiments by focusing on life other than human life. The experiments concentrated first on increasing the rate of growth of barley plants and then of improving the healing rates in mice. The experiments were methodologically precise and carried out with double blinds. Among the many experiments were some in which Estabany was asked to concentrate on the water used to irrigate the barley, rather than seek directly to empower the seeds. The hypothesis of the experiment was that a healing power would have to be communicated to the water through the glass container and then conveyed to the plants. The spectacular results were presented in a set of papers in the early 1970s.

Estabany then moved to work with Justa Smith, a biochemist at Rosary Hill College in Buffalo, New York. Smith worked with enzymes and asked Estabany to increase the activity of enzymes previously damaged by ultrasound irradiation within a complex mixture. Again he was successful.

The aging Estabany finally went to work with theosophist and nursing instructor Dolores Krieger, who was seeking a nonreligious form of psychic healing that she could introduce into nurses’ training. The technique they developed was given the name therapeutic touch in 1972.

Estabany’s work with Grad and Smith are among the most interesting experiments in psychic healing and to date stand unrefuted and little discussed in skeptical literature. They (and some additional experiments inspired by them) remain among the best evidence for the existence of a healing power as claimed by so many over the years.


Grad, Bernard. “Some Biological Effects of the ‘Laying on of Hands’: A Review of Experiments with Animals and Plants.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 59 (1965).
. “Telekinetic Effect on Plant Growth.” International Journal of Parapsychology 3 (1961); 5 (1963).
Sayre-Adams, Jean, and Steve Wright. The Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Touch. New York: Churchill Livingstone Inc., 1995.
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