Serios, Ted

Serios, Ted

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the fall of 1963, Dr. Jule Eisenbud published a paper in a parapsychological journal, arguing that it was virtually impossible to devise a repeatable experiment in the field of paranormal phenomena. Eisenbud was a psychiatrist on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School. Curtis Fuller, then editor of Fate magazine and also President of the Illinois Society for Psychical Research, read the article and disagreed. He sent Eisenbud a copy of a Fate article about a man named Ted Serios. The article was written by Pauline Oehler, then Vice President of the ISPR. She said that Serios could impose his thoughts onto photographs and do it repeatedly, and copies of the photographs were published with the article as proof.

Serios was a bellhop in Chicago when the skeptical Eisenbud came in contact with him. On the insistence of Fuller and Freda Morris, Eisenbud met Serios and did some preliminary work that led to three photographs taken with a Polaroid camera. The photographs seemed to be paranormally produced. Serios worked with what he called a “gismo.” This was always suspect by those who had not worked with him for any length of time, but it was repeatedly examined by Eisenbud and many others and was shown to be no more than a short section of plastic tube—initially with cellophane taped over one end—that Serios held over the lens as the shutter was tripped. Examination had shown that there was no film transparency, or anything resembling that, on the end of the gismo. In later experiments, the gismo was no more than the short length of cardboard tube with nothing at all over either end.

Many of the attempted photos were failures, with totally black prints produced. But over a period of two years, Serios produced a wide range of photographs of vastly different subjects, all by concentrating his thoughts on the camera. Interestingly, some of the Serios photos were very similar to actual existing photographs … but with small changes to show that they were not exact duplicates (e.g. a change of angles, changes of lighting/shadows, a window being to the left of a doorway instead of to its right.) Eisenbud said, “What Ted appeared to present was the missing link par excellence in a still only dimly discerned and poorly integrated panel of problems.”

Serios moved to Denver, Colorado, and worked with Eisenbud in controlled experiments for two years. Every safeguard was taken to ensure there was no trickery, yet Serios produced photograph after photograph with his “thoughtography.” Eisenbud sought the participation of the scientific community, and eventually more than twenty-five doctors of science—medicine, physics, chemistry, psychology, etc.—signed statements attesting to the validity of the experiments. At times the lens was completely removed from the camera; at other times all visible light sources were blocked; some experiments were carried out with Serios in five inch steel-and-lead-lined radiation shield chambers. Dr. John Beloff of the Edinburgh University Psychology Department in Scotland said that the phenomenon was “likely to prove the most remarkable paranormal phenomenon of our time.”

Much earlier—in 1910—a Japanese woman was producing a type of thoughtography. Tomokichi Fukurai, Professor of Psychology at Tokyo University, tested medium Mrs. Ikuko Nagao to see if she could clairvoyantly identify an image on a photographic plate that had not been developed. He worked with photographs of geometric shapes, rather than actual scenes. Mrs. Nagao succeeded not only in identifying the figure but in putting the target image onto another unex-posed film plate that was one of two sandwiching the target plate. This was done without using a camera. She then consistently imprinted a middle plate while leaving clear two other plates on either side of the one she affected.


Eisenbud, Jule: The World of Ted Serios: “Thoughtographic” Studies of an Extraordinary Mind. New York: William Morrow, 1967
Holroyd, Stuart: The Supernatural: Minds Without Boundaries. London: Aldus, 1975
Shakers see Quakers and Shakers