A book test is a mediumistic test in which a discarnate communicator directs a sitter to a passage in a certain book; in successful tests, the passages have some special meaning to the sitter. Book tests were first proposed by Feda, the spirit Control of Gladys Osborne Leonard, and it is Leonard who is best known for them.
In one Leonard test, a communicator who claimed to be a young officer killed during World War I said he had a passage for his father. He said this was to be found on page 37 of the “ninth book on the third shelf counting from left to right in the bookcase on the right of the door to the drawing-room as you enter.” The book so designated turned out to be one called Trees, and the passage referred to a tunnelling beetle. The officer’s father was extremely interested in forestry, and his obsession with the beetle was a family joke.
Not all book tests are so striking. In 1921, Eleanor Sidgwick published an analysis of 532 book tests with Leonard. Of these, she judged 92 (17%) to be successful; 100 (19%) approximately successful; 96 dubious; 40 nearly complete failures; and 204 complete failures. However, these results must be considered in comparison to a control experiment involving 1,800 sham book tests. Here there were 34 successes and 51 partial successes (together less than 5% of the total), which gives an idea of what would be expected by chance.
Some paranormal factor evidently is involved in many book tests, but this need not necessarily imply survival after death since book tests are easily susceptible to explanation in terms of Super-PSI, the idea that the medium gets his or her information directly through his or her psychic faculties.
- Gauld, Alan. Mediumship and Survival. London: Heinemann, 1982.
- Sidgwick, E. M. “An Examination of Book-tests Obtained in Sittings with Mrs. Leonard.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)31 (1921): 241–400.
- Smith Susy. The Mediumship of Mrs. Leonard. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964.