Cryptomnesia is the repression or forgetting of information learned. Forgotten information that surfaces in Mediumship may be attributed to communication by spirits of the dead.

The forgetting of information is an essential process to keep the conscious mind uncluttered. However, during trance or dissociated states of consciousness, repressed information may break free of the subconscious and rise to the surface, where it appears new and “unknown” by the medium. Psychical researchers consider the possibility of cryptomnesia when investigating Mediums, as well as cases of alleged past-life recall in Reincarnation. If the information said to be obtained paranormally in fact can be found in existing sources, researchers consider the likelihood of the medium or individual seeing those sources in the past.

The earliest known case of cryptomnesia investigated by psychical researchers occurred in 1874, when the English medium William Stainton Moses purported to contact the spirits of two young brothers who had died in India. The deaths were verified. However, it was discovered that six days prior to the Séance, an obituary of the brothers had appeared in the newspaper. Moses’s information contained nothing beyond the obituary; thus researchers concluded he had seen the obituary without making conscious note of it, or had forgotten that he had read it.

Two mediums investigated by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson claimed not to have read the obituaries of persons they contacted through their TALKING BOARD. However, one of them regularly worked the crossword puzzles that appeared on the same newspaper page as the obituaries. Stevenson concluded that the obituaries fell within vision range and were absorbed unconsciously.

It is difficult to eliminate cryptomnesia as a natural explanation in many afterlife and Reincarnation cases, because it is not known how much information the brain can store and for how long. The difficulty was Demonstrated in the 1960s when Finnish psychiatrist Reima Kampman hypnotized secondary school students and directed them to recall “past lives.” While the students were still under hypnosis, Kampman asked them for the original sources of their memories. Some cited books they had read as a small child.

Cryptomnesia is ruled out when information goes beyond accessible records to facts that can be verified only by other persons or in personal diaries. However, other theories, such as telepathy and Super-PSI, are then proposed and are equally difficult to eliminate.



  • Gauld, Alan. Mediumship and Survival. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1982.
  • Stevenson, Ian. “Cryptomnesia and Parapsychology.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)52 (1983): 1–30.
  • Wilson, Ian. All in the Mind. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

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