Blog 2: Why I Believe in the Paranormal 1: Canine ESP

Kings Road, Chelsea, London 1968

I am in a rush.  Suit cases lie scattered around the flat, zips unzipped, lids open ready to be force-fed the last of the belongings I wanted to take with me for my summer holiday at my parents home near Truro, Cornwall in the South West of England.

I had planned to leave tomorrow but, unbeknown to my parents, I decided to travel a day earlier having stowed things away in the research lab for the summer faster than I expected.  Time was short: the taxi to take me to Paddington Railway Station to catch the Intercity Express Train down to Cornwall would be arriving any minute.

Millbrook, Truro, Cornwall

Nearly three hundred miles and six hours of travel away, in their riverside home on the outskirts of Truro, my parents  already knew that I was on my way.  They were altered not by a letter or phone call, but by a canine alert that I would be arriving a day early than planned.  Over the last three years, without fail, whenever I set off to travel from anywhere in Britain to my parents’ home in Cornwall, our family dog, a Golden Retriever named Brandy, would walk over to the big picture window that overlooked the long lawn that slopped down to the tree-shaded bridge over the River Fal that was the only way onto the property.  Ignoring invitations to go for a walk, his usual favourite pastime, and refusing to eat or drink, he sat for long hours staring out of the window  watching for me to cross the bridge.

New Brandy Photograph

Even before arriving at the road side of the bridge which was out of the line of sight from the window, Brandy would stand up and start barking wildly.  I have no idea why, but I was always the dog’s favourite in the family although I was normally out of Cornwall in London or in Wales.

As the pattern of behaviour continued, I began to think, what for me as a post-graduate science student was unthinkable, that by some form of mysterious telepathy, the dog knew instantly when I planned to visit my parents in Cornwall.  With the intention of disproving this idea and solving this mystery, my parents and I kept logs recording the day and time that I set off on my frequent trips home to Cornwall.  Far from disproving the ESP hypothesis, the log records confirmed that, to the minute, the dog responded to my conscious decision to travel. Unbelievably, it seemed that some unconscious mental communication travelled hundreds of miles through the ‘ether’ to Brandy’s mind in Cornwall.

The Decisive Experiment – The Unscheduled Kennel Pickup.

Quite by chance, the opportunity arouse in 1969 for me to conduct what I hoped would be a carefully controlled experiment.

Brandy had been put in a Kennels in the small country village of Tregony, Cornwall, while my parents visited my sister in Zambia where she was living with her husband, an expatriate mining engineer.  My father contacted me from Africa asking me to pick up Brandy and open up their home a day before they were due to fly back to Heathrow.  I said I was happy to do that with one proviso – he was not to tell the kennel in Cornwall of the planned pickup.

I made a check list of all the obvious rational clues that might alert Brandy that I was near the kennels; the sound of my car, preparations by the kennel manager for my arrival, my scent.  The car clues were eliminated since I was driving down to Cornwall in a hire car I had never used before. The kennel manager later confirmed he didn’t know that I would be picking the dog up-he expected my father to do that two days later.

On the day of my trip down from London, I stopped three or four times when I crossed the county boundary into Cornwall to test the direction of the strong wind which proved to be a southwesterly.  Approaching from the east along the B3287, I would be downwind and my scent would be blown away from the car in the opposite direction to the kennels. 

New Tregony Map

On my arrival at Tregony, I stopped the car as planned on the hill above the village (see map) about one kilometre from the kennels.

Wind Direction Arrow

Even before switching off the engine, the wind blowing up the hill carried the sound of loud barking down in the valley below.  I was sure I recognized that bark – it had to be Brandy.  As I walked down to the village, the barking, if possible, became even more frenzied.  A smiling Kennel Manager was standing at the door. 

Brandy alerted me hours ago that someone was on the way to pick him up.”  He refused to eat this morning and  take his regular morning walk. He just sat in his cage staring in the direction of the front door.  I asked the manager if the dog had behaved like this or barked so much at any time during his two-month stay with them.

No way,” came the reply, “he was the quietest, best behaved dog in the kennels, and didn’t bark once.”  I checked with the kennel maid who independently confirmed the manager’s story.

You look surprised,” the manager commented as I managed to disentangled myself from Brandy who as usual, without hurting my hand or arm in any way, had dragged me down to the ground.  “This happens all the time – most of our doggy guests let us know that their owners are on their way to take them home.”

Many cat and dog owners I have discussed this story with are convinced that their pets indeed have a ‘sixth sense’ and are aware of supernatural entities that are invisible to us humans.

A sceptic is likely to explain the events of that day many summers ago as being due to chance.  Considering the length of the dog’s stay, the odds that Brandy had a ‘barking fit’ the very morning I travelled him to pick him up must be hundreds to one against.  Taking into account all the other numerous occasions when the dog gave my parents his canine alert, the odds must be millions to one against.

Repeatability of results is a key element in scientific research and I was sorry that practical constraints prevented me repeating the experiment on a different date.  Humans and everyday life is not as easy to organize as test tubes in the lab.

This was my first, reluctant introduction to the realm of paranormal phenomena.  I cannot explain the mystery and I am sure of only one thing: the story is 100% true. 

The final section of the blog suggests a electromagnetic theory of consciousness is that might just explain how the brains are capable of transmitting data in a mysterious way over impressive distances.

Consciousness and Brain Physiology 101 – Part 1

How could my brain transmit a signal that was received by Brandy hundreds of miles away?  To attempt answer this challenging question, it will help to review the pieces of jigsaw puzzle we discussed in the introductory blog:

a) Neuroscientists have identified what seems to be a consciousness centre (the NCC – neural correlates of consciousness) located on the lateral sides of the human forebrain.

Brain Consciousness Centre

b) Neurophysiologists also believe that consciousness is due to the interactions between          neighbouring neurons in a neural network rather than the activities of a single cell.

c) An important point raised last week, that is really mentioned in the scientific literature is that the brain neurons in the ‘conscious centre (the NCC regions) are surrounded by the ‘salty’ fluids of the intercellular fluid and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that fills the internal cavity of the forebrain (the lateral ventricles) and subarachnoid spaces of the protective membranes (the meninges) that cover the outside of the brain.  These fluids act as a natural ‘Faraday cage’ isolating the brain neurons from external electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves.

Meninges Faraday Cage

How then could the signal I suggested travelled from my brain to Brandy’s brain if the CFS natural Faraday cage prevents the movement of electromagnetic waves into and out of the neurons in the grey matter of the ‘consciousness centre’?  To answer this question we need to digress for a moment to consider the problematic communications to and from submerged submarines.  Sea water, a relatively concentrated solutions of salts, is very efficient at absorbing short  (high frequency) wavelengths.  To overcome this problem the US navy’s  E-6 mercury aircraft tows behind it a five-mile-long antenna in flight to communicate  using very-long wavelength radio waves with submarines.  These long wavelengths can penetrate through the sea water to submarines below the plane. 

Our highly speculative model of consciousness suggests that short wavelength electromagnetic waves might be responsible for generating consciousness inside the brain’s Faraday cage, while much longer brain waves escape from the brain and skull to transfer data and memories to other locations. 

What are Electromagnetic Waves?

A wave is a disturbance in a medium that transmits energy and information from one region to another.  Radio waves of different wavelengths, and light of different colours, are all examples of electromagnetic waves.  As their dual name electro  / magnetic waves suggests, these form of radiation are a combination of an electrical and a magnetic waves that travel at the speed of light at right angles to each other.  

Electromagnetic Radiation 1

The values of both the electrical and magnetic waves rise in a repeated cycle from a maximum, to a minimum value.

Wavelength 2 Variation in Value

Brain Waves

What type of wave are brainwaves?  The ECG recordings reviewed last week show clearly that brain neurons create electrical disturbances that give rise to radiation that can pass through the brain, the bone, muscle and skin to recording electrodes attached to the scalp. Experiments with human and animal subjects show that the brain and the consciousness it generates are very sensitive to magnetic fields.

There seem to four logical possibilities:

Brain waves are either:

  1. Purely electrical in nature
  2. Electromagnetic waves
  3. Consciousness waves which are a distinct form of radiation not yet characterised by science.

(The recent confirmation that Einstein’s prediction that black holes should generate gravity waves show that additional types of wave do exist in the universe.)

4. Perhaps electromagnetic waves might be involved in the formation of consciousness     consciousness  waves.

Evidence that Consciousness Involves Electromagnetic Waves.

Besides the effects of strong magnetic fields on the brain, there are many clues that point to the conclusion that consciousness directly, or indirectly involves electromagnetic waves.

a) Ghost hunters of TV reality series fame use EMF detectors which seem, as will discussed in a future blog, to flash wildly when ghosts are around. The general view of ghost hunters is that ghosts emit electromagnetic radiation.  Perhaps ghosts are in fact a form of local, concentrated EM radiation.

EMF Detector 2

b)    The floating, unexplained floating orbs of light featured in many of these shows also clearly involve visible electromagnetic radiation

Light Orb in a Church Yard

c)  More controversial still are the electronic voice phenomena (EVP) – electronic recordings that are interpreted as being spirit voices.

d) The propagation of any type of waves requires energy and this might possibly why a fall in air temperature when alleged ghosts appear.

A Suggested Electromagnetic Model to Explain the Generation of Consciousness.

Final Pond Ripples

The video below suggests how the electrical activity (action potentials) of brain neurons might produce electromagnetic radiation that passes into the fluids filling the natural Faraday cage of the brain’s consciousness centre (NCC).  Like the multiple ripples on the surface of water produced by falling rain drops, these individual waves would interfere with each other to produce a final output that we experience as consciousness.  The simulation is highly conjectural but it is hopefully a useful model to refer to in the blogs in the next three weeks when we look, in a very simplified way, the generation of brain waves.  Most of this is good solid, accepted neuroscience, but the interactions of brain waves produced by adjacent neurons in a neural network is more conjectural.

Please play the following one-minute simulation which attempts to present in graphic form, one possible electromagnetic model of the synthesis of consciousness. (Click the large triangle to view the model.)

Next Week – Blog 3.  Why I Believe in the Paranormal 2: Oscillating Pendulums and Ions.

I hope you will be able to join me next week when we look in a little more detail at brain waves and their connection with conscious and paranormal phenomena such as ghosts.  I will also describe a second experiment I performed under controlled conditions in the lab which helped convince that at least some paranormal phenomena deserve serious scientific investigation.

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