There are various categories of physical phenomena which provide evidence of survival, or life after death. There is physical mediumship, ITC/EVP (Instrumental Trans Communication/Electronic Voice Phenomena), and then there are poltergeists, ghosts and hauntings.
The problem with all these is testing under laboratory conditions. With physical mediumship this is particularly difficult, as not only are the phenomena sensitive to light, but they are also sensitive to negative energy, so the very presence of skeptics can stop the phenomena occurring.
ITC/EVP does provide documentary, recorded and photographic evidence but the problem there is that all this is very easy to fake. So you have to be absolutely certain the evidence obtained was done so under strictly controlled laboratory conditions, monitored by independent witnesses.
With poltergeists, ghosts, hauntings, etc. again the presence of cameras and scientific equipment often seems to adversely affect the phenomena, but even when they do occur it is not necessarily evidence of survival. Poltergeist activity is probably related to telekinesis, the power of mind to affect physical objects, and often an adolescent is present in the vicinity of the recurring phenomena, so may well be the person unconsciously responsible. Ghosts and hauntings could be entrapped Earthbound spirits, but many are much more like recordings of traumatic events absorbed by the environment and played back over and over again on certain occasions.
Physical mediumship was much more prevalent and popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has to be said that it was tested rigorously by some of the top scientists of the day, and whilst there were fraudulent mediums, many were pronounced genuine. So many scientists and inventors, initially skeptical, became convinced by the evidence for survival.
The Helen Duncan trial in the UK at the end of the Second World War effectively put paid to public demonstrations of physical mediumship in this country. In that trial Duncan was allegedly framed by false witnesses sent to her seances by the intelligence agencies because she was revealing wartime secrets, such as the sinking of Navy ships before the Admiralty had announced them, which was considered bad for morale. In actual fact most of the witnesses at her trial testified that the phenomena she produced were real and that they had been put in touch with relatives and friends who had died.
Indeed, the very fact that Navy intelligence officers attended the seances and then apparently testified against her are itself proof, surely, that she was not a fraud. Why would they get involved at all if she were not revealing information she could not have obtained other than by genuine mediumship? Had they suspected she was obtaining the information from the Axis powers, then she would have been tried not for Witchcraft but for spying or treason.
How Helen eventually died shows the problems of proving or disproving physical mediumship. Police burst into one of her seances in 1956, shone lights on the scene, and the ectoplasm present being extremely sensitive to light shot back into the medium’s body causing fatal injurities from which she later succumbed.
The fact that even today physical mediumship has to be conducted in complete darkness, with the medium usually sitting inside a cabinet to protect them from any light sources, etc. is not helpful at all in ascertaining that the seances are producing genuine phenomena evidential of survival. One would hope, in this day and age, that physical mediumship could develop and use energies not dependent, like ectoplasm, on complete darkness.
If physical phenomena can only be produced under these conditions then it not only creates opportunities for fraud and conjuring tricks (magicians also use cabinets of course, and like mediums are often bound and gagged like Houdini before apparently escaping from their bonds), but how can sitters be sure that the ectoplasmic forms produced really exist and recognize them? Even infra-red glasses and cameras inside the seance room seem to adversely affect the ectoplasm, and so are not permitted. All this gives rise to skepticism.
The only way it is possible to recognize the phenomena as being genuine is by touch and sound. Sitters are touched by ectoplasmic forms, hear footsteps, table raps, and other audible phenomena, including in many case voices which may or may not be recognized as that of people who have died. Under dim red light some ectoplasmic forms are dimly visible, and tables, etc. are seen to levitate. Also the medium him or herself often is levitated in their chair, still bound and gagged, and even on occasions appears to dematerialize and then rematerialize. Apports also sometimes appear – objects not present in the seance room initially appear from nowhere.
The trouble with all this, of course, is that unless conducted under strict laboratory conditions, most of these things can be reproduced by conjurors and illusionists. We’ve all seen things appear and disappear on stage and on TV, and seen escapologists get free from their bonds, which would suggest dematerialization in both cases, but in fact is just clever deception. The fact that physical mediumship always takes place in the dark makes deception even easier.
Because of the opportunities for fraud, the Duncan case, and the sheer time and patience it takes to develop genuine physical mediumship, there are now very few good physical mediums around. There is one in Australia and about three in England who demonstrate semi-publicly to groups of sitters (who have to be carefully vetted and searched because of what happened to Duncan and others).
It takes years of sitting in development circles for hours on end before even simple physical phenomena can occur, and to produce full ectoplasmic forms takes even longer. In the past some physical mediums were even able to produce ectoplasmic forms in full light, or so it is claimed. In the modern world, with so many distractions such as TV, computers, etc., few have the time or inclination to sit in darkened rooms for hours on end year after year, decade after decade trying to develop physical mediumship which would then probably be dismissed as fraud or conjuring tricks by most people anyway.
The most interesting aspect of physical mediumship for me is Direct Voice, whereby voices of spirits, approximating their voices in life but not exactly the same, are said to emanate from an ectoplasmic voice box created in the seance room some distance from the medium. Since the rooms are sealed and searched for any loudspeakers, microphones, etc. and the medium is usually gagged, these voices coming some distance from the medium are evidential of some unexplained phenomena. Moreover many have been recorded, and are freely available on the Internet.
There is a whole library of recorded Direct Voice messages from the late Leslie Flint, and there are also some by the living physical medium David Thompson. I have listened to many of these recordings and to me most do sound genuine.
I have the great disadvantage, as do most of us, of never actually having attended a seance where physical mediumship is demonstrated. Those who have had this opportunity, including as I say top scientists, also inventors, lawyers, etc. not easily fooled, have although initially often skeptical come away convinced of the reality and genuineness of the phenomena, and pronounced it evidence of survival.
I have seen pictures/photos supposedly of the afterlife dimensions – showing people and buildings, etc. obtained via ITC. I have to say I cannot pronounce them genuine as I have no proof they were produced under laboratory conditions, and photographic evidence is perhaps the easiest of all to fake. I could take a picture tomorrow of a home in the countryside, superimpose (if I had the technical knowledge), a picture of a dead person and claim I received the photo in a paranormal manner from the Spirit world.
However it does seem that there is much more to it than that. Recorded voices on all sorts of electronic equipment are often very evidential, as they appear to come from dead people who give information to loved ones only they could know.
All these physical phenomena need to be thoroughly investigated under strictly controlled laboratory conditions. Materializations and similar phenomena need to be able to be produced in at least dim light or filmed by infra-red cameras, which can be located outside the seance room thru glass windows, etc. Scientists on the Other Side are also reportedly trying to develop alternative energy sources to create materializations without using light-sensitive ectoplasm.
A little ingenuity and it should be able to film, record and thoroughly test physical mediumship and ITC/EVP under strictly controlled laboratory conditions.
I am convinced much of this physical phenomena is real and evidential of survival. Too many scientists and others have investigated it in the present and in the past for it all to be dismissed as fraud. At the same time I am not easily going to believe that some table raps and a cardboard trumpet with an illuminated strip apparently floating in the dark, and some voices or even the touch of a ‘spirit hand’ are genuine evidence of survival – it could just as easily be trickery since it all takes place in complete darkness.
Until I have been to a physical seance, I cannot give an informed opinion. I can only take the word of others, people who as I say are not easily fooled such as lawyers, scientists and others.
This is an exciting branch of mediumship which needs to be developed and thoroughly investigated, and put on film if at all possible. But until well-known deceased personalities can be materialized, filmed and interviewed it is unlikely to be accepted as proof of survival to those who haven’t actually attended a physical seance and had personal proof of survival from deceased friends and relatives who have made contact with them there.
There are plans to film physical seances, and one early attempt is on the Internet. Someone I was in correspondence with actually has plans to film a materialized Helen Duncan and witnesses at her trial, and thereby prove that she was genuine and was framed.
However, even without any of this physical evidence, other indications of survival from mental mediums like Colin Fry, Tony Stockwell, etc., from near-death and out-of-the-body experiences, etc. in themselves amount to overwhelming evidence of survival and the separate nature of mind and brain.