Also called psychic photography, thoughtography is the use of thoughts to make photographic images by mentally influencing photographic film. Some believers in extrasensory perception say that thoughtography offers proof of the existence of psychokinesis, the ability of the mind to affect the physical world. In fact, because of the phenomenon’s potential for proving psychokinesis, numerous tests have been conducted on apparent thoughtographers under tightly controlled conditions. For example, the film and the camera are kept away from the test subject, sometimes at great distances, to eliminate the possibility of tampering. In some tests, the film is also kept away from light, while in others the test subject tries to influence the photographic image as the camera’s shutter is being snapped to let in light.

The first known scientific studies of thoughtographers took place in Japan in 1910 using sealed photographic plates. In these investigations, which were conducted by Professor Tomokichi Fukurai, some test subjects were able to reproduce basic images of people and structures as well as certain characters of Japanese writing. In recent studies, Japanese researchers have used devices inside special cameras to measure mysterious pulses of energy during the thoughtography process, which some people think is the energy produced by psychokinesis.

In the United States, thoughtographer Ted Serios, a Chicago bellhop, underwent extensive testing in the 1960s by psychoanalyst Julie Eisenbud of Denver, Colorado. To eliminate the possibility of the film being influenced during the developing process, Eisenbud used Polaroid film for her tests, which would require Serios to form a strong image in his mind, usually related to a previously agreed-upon scene, and then look into the lens of the camera as the shutter was clicked open. In some of these tests the film showed a blurred image from the intended scene; in others, the film would have odd distortions, superimposed images, or other abnormalities. In still others, the film showed no abnormalities, seemingly unaffected by Serios.

Sceptics routinely accused Serios of cheating, but none could figure out how this could be accomplished given the tightly controlled testing conditions. Moreover, when Eisenbud challenged sceptics to duplicate Serios’s unique effects on the film through any normal means, none was able to do so. Other thoughtographers, however, have been exposed as frauds. This was particularly true of the first thoughtographers, who were late-nineteenthcentury mediums and spirit photographers. One such medium was David Duguid, who would hold a glass photographic plate (which was used in photography at the time instead of the flexible film of today), still in its original wrapping, and supposedly through spirit communication would mentally transfer an image of a spirit onto the plate. Though Duguid was never caught faking thoughtography, he was caught faking spirit paintings, which cast suspicion on his thoughtography as well. Sceptics argue that all thoughtographers are like Duguid—somehow faking their skills, though they have yet to be caught.


  • Spirit Photography


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning