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Ted Serios, holding the "gizmo".

Theodore Judd Serios (November 27th 1918 – December 30, 2006)[1] was a Chicago bellhop, who became known in the 1960s by producing "thoughtographs" on Polaroid film. He claimed these were produced using psychic powers.

Contents

History and method

Serios' psychic claims were bolstered by the endorsement of a Denver based psychiatrist, Jule Eisenbud (1908–1999) who wrote a book called The World of Ted Serios: "Thoughtographic" studies of an extraordinary mind (1967) in which he argued for the reality of Serios's feats.

Many of Serios's photographs were produced while Serios was drunk or at least drinking. Serios' images, which often appeared surrounded by dark areas on the film, were often curiously altered versions of known photographs. Serios was not only able to produce his photographs while holding "a small section of tubing fitted with a piece of photo squeegee" to his forehead: he could also project from several meters, or without the 'gizmo'. Also, he performed sober on several occasions, e.g. producing 'blackies' or 'whities' (utterly black or white polaroid photos, which should be impossible with this technology) [2] . On some occasions his photos were distorted and altered versions of real places or images, e.g. a photo of Eisenbud's ranch showing the barn as a different structure to the reality: "In one of his more spectacular feats, Serios produced a clearly distinguishable image of Eisenbud's ranch right on the spot, after Eisenbud's wife Molly suggested that they take a trip there. The majority of the results are “whities” or all white images, and “blackies” or all black images, which are abnormal themselves, as the image produced should have always been Serios. The majority of Serios's successful thoughtographs are of various buildings or landmarks, to which similar photos could often be found in travel books. The images are in various degrees of focus, with many in a "zoomed" in appearance of a small part of a larger image. In addition, many of the images have abnormalities, such as being slightly skewed, turned side-ways, or slight alterations from the corresponding image that could be found to match the thoughtograph." [3].

Serios was fascinated by the NASA space program. Once, when he was to produce another inage, he was following the commentary about a Voyager-2 mission development, so his photo was of part of the satellite. In the 1980s, Eisenbud claimed that previously unidentified thoughtographs were images of Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Pictures of Ganymede had only become available a year before thanks to Voyager 2. "Unfortunately," wrote Eisenbud, "I couldn’t get an astronomer or optical scientist to agree."

Psychology

According to Eisenbud, "Ted Serios exhibits a behavior pathology with many character disorders. He does not abide by the laws and customs of our society. He ignores social amenities and has been arrested many times. His psychopathic and sociopathic personality manifests itself in many other ways. He does not exhibit self-control and will blubber, wail and bang his head on the floor when things are not going his way."[4] However, in later life, Serios abstained from alcohol for years at a time. He appeared more normal in his behaviour in these periods [5].

Media

Recently, it was alluded to in the fourth season episode of The X-files, Unruhe, and in 1999, The X-Files producer Chris Carter signed a deal to base an entire movie on Dr. Eisenbud's book.[6]

Criticism

Stage magician and noted skeptic James Randi took an interest in investigating Serios. Though he produced photographs similar to Serios's, Randi stated that he refused Eisenbud's request to perform the trick with the same degree of blood alcohol that Serios had when producing his photographs and wearing a rubber suit. [7]

Randi's Website comments: "If Mr. Serios did not use a trick method, all the rules of physics, particularly of optics, everything developed by science over the past several centuries, must be rewritten to accommodate Eisenbud's opinion. No such revisions have been found necessary." [8]

Stephen Braude, however, claims that Randi reneged on an agreement to perform the trick because he was incapable of it, since Serios could also project images when he was several metres from the camera, at which distance the 'gizmo' (usually just a rolled bit of plastic from the polaroid wrapper) would appear as a small detail in a normal polaroid photo of Serios [9] :

"I submit, in fact, that this is why James Randi has never made good on his much-touted acceptance of Eisenbud's challenge to reproduce the Serios phenomena. Neither Randi nor anyone else can fraudulently duplicate the Serios results on Polaroid film under the most stringent conditions in which Serios succeeded. See Eisenbud 1967, 1977; and Fuller, 1974." [10]

In an New Scientist article 'The Chance of a Lifetime' (24 March 2007), an interview appears with the noted mathematician and magician Persi Diaconis. During the interview Persi mentioned that Martin Gardner had paid him to watch Ted Serios perform, during which Persi caught Ted sneaking a small marble with a photograph on it into the little tube attached to the front of the camera he used. 'It was', Persi said, 'a trick.'

See also

References

External links

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