Well, I just finished the first draft of my (500+ page) dissertation. But what does one do with a PhD in mind reading?… And then I saw this poster up at my friendly neighborhood McDo. Problem solved. Would you like fries with that? 😉
In Marrakesh I once wandered hopelessly through the labyrinthine Souk vainly searching for my hotel. I asked a young vendor about the address and was handed off without delay to an elderly gentleman who led me through twists and turns for what felt like kilometers leading into days. Just before turning a corner, plainclothes men on motorcycles holding radios arrived and the man disappeared into the twists and turns of the Souk. They claimed to be police and led me the rest of the way to my hotel, which was just around the corner. The desk clerk spoke as much English as I spoke French. It was his first day on the job and he didn’t know how to book me into my room. I would need to wait for “his friend” to return. The old man who fled from the police reappeared with his hand out. I gave him what I considered to be a generous tip by local standards. He wanted more. Sorry my friend, not tonight.
Amidst all this frenetic activity poised on the razor’s edge of chaos, a melodious voice coming from the staircase behind and above me, with all the nuances of a classical James Bond villain, pleasantly proclaimed in the comforting accent of an elderly New Yorker, “Welcome to Marrakesh…” At breakfast the next morning, we exchanged a few pleasantries. He was in his seventies. The following morning I sat in a dark corner for privacy. He asked if he could join me. Forcing myself to be social, I asked questions and he laid out one of the most fascinating life stories I’ve ever heard. I still follow his travels and I hope that I age as gracefully as he has. What prompted me to recall this memory and describe it with such melodramatic prose at 3am? Oh, it’s just that a driver shortage has left me stranded in a Greyhound Bus terminal in Columbus on my way to New York and the lady just said, “Watch your step, you’re steppin’ in blood.”
One day later… Arriving finally in New York City, I am happy to report that Derek DelGaudio’s show ‘In & of Itself’ was brutally good. I expected to be impressed with the theatrical experience. I did not expect to stumble out of the show muttering to myself that Derek must apparently be able to do real actual magic, because that’s the only answer that goes any distance toward explaining some of what I saw. After the show, I spent some time backstage with Derek and David Blaine. (I’m not even going to tell you who’s holding the camera…) We discussed being real and feeling fake and everything in between, and Derek eloquently summed it up: “Welcome to the crisis.”
These two guys are simultaneously the most real and the most unreal people I’ve ever met. This is the sort of paradox that one can really wrap one’s mind around at 4am while spending the night in an airport. But you know what they say: Spend the night in a bus station/airport once in a week; shame on you. Spend the night in a bus station/airport twice in a week; shame on me. I’m starting to suspect it might have something to do with my last minute approach to planning. At least I’ve identified the problem.
On Friday the 13th — appropriately enough — my paper, ‘The End of Mind Reading’ was published in the University of Huddersfield’s Journal of Performance Magic. Regarding this paper, the editor of this edition, Franc Chamberlain, writes:
‘Of the nine papers presented at the symposium only three are included in this issue of Performance Magic, those by Todd Landman, Nik Taylor, and Edward James Dean. Each of these… questions in one way or another, magic in an age when the magician is openly playing with questions of truth and fiction, reality and illusion, instruction and diversion, and enchantment and disenchantment. Edward James Dean draws on some ideas from Richard Schechner’s work on play and the concept of ‘dark play’ to explore some of the ambiguities in performance magic and makes links to the world of wrestling and the openness of contemporary kayfabe.’
To read ‘The End of Mind Reading’ by Edward James Dean, click here
My first paper published in the JPM, ‘(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism’ can be found here: click here
Eddie Dean, “Telepathy Rock Star” was in the news again. Stripping psychics? That was me. (No need for the plural, Mz. Bruton.) ‘To quote a mystified Jason Byrne, “I was off me banger watching you”.’
Well, that and three Euro will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Look ma’! No physical communication!
I’m delighted to announce two prize winners in the Official Eddie Dean Fan Club Coloring Contest. Tadhe. Lilly Rose. Keep an eye on your mailboxes. All of your wildest dreams are about to come true! Details to follow…
The new Motley magazine has a very nice review of Eddie Dean, Telepathy Rock Star: Smells Like Dean Spirit courtesy of the editor-in-chief Lauren Mulvihill… That’s the spirit, Motley! May you live long and prosper!
Check out the current international issue of Rogue Illustrated: An excellent interview with Turner Dixon. A DIY home-testing telepathy kit. A smoothie recipe. It pretty much has it all… Thanks Rogue Illustrated, you’re so cool!
Cork City Council and Arts Council Ireland are kindly supporting Pitch’d, the First Cork Circus Festival.
The final performance in this festival will be my brand new show:
Eddie Dean, Telepathy Rock Star: Smells Like Dean Spirit
His incredible telepathic demonstrations have made him a rising star. You’ve seen him melting William Shatner’s mind on the Discovery Channel’s Weird or What? And he’s the subject of the upcoming documentary, Project Viola Ten. Meet Edward James Dean – the world’s only Doctor of Telepathy.*
As the mastermind behind Project Viola Ten, he’s passed every test scientists have thrown at him. His research has gotten the attention of the academic and the entertainment worlds, as well as a handful of governments. In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, Eddie Dean prefers to call himself a motivational speaker, a fitness guru, a communications consultant, or just a Rock Star.**
LIVE at the Circus Factory, Eddie Dean will do what Eddie Dean does best: Reminisce about destroying a laboratory during Project Viola Ten. Recount stories about famous people. Promote his pulp telepathy novel, It’s the Thought that Kills. And give the most convincing – and dangerous! – demonstrations of telepathy ever brought to the Circus Factory. Or to any other factory. Or circus. Or anywhere. Ever.
Is he telepathic? Or just a damn good cheat? You be the judge.***
* Not officially a Doctor yet.
** This show is rated “R” for Rock Star.
*** This show is 100% family friendly.
Round two of testing took place on 3 August 2017 in the observation rooms of the UCC Applied Psychology building. The research team included Nurse Una Cronin from the UCC School of Nursing and four researcher/lecturers from the School of Applied Psychology (Dr.’s King, Dempsey, Murphy, and Ryan). The researchers proposed two significant changes from the previous round of testing. Firstly, replacing the physical Zener cards with randomly computer-generated Zener card images. Secondly, the expulsion of both the videographers and cameras. In total, 109 trials were conducted with randomly computer-generated Zener card images. Of these trials, 59 were conducted after the expulsion of the cameras and videographers. In all of these trials, there were no significant deviations in my overall hit rate, which remained nearly 25% above MCE. My hit rate, however, did fluctuate more widely than in Testing Round One, reaching a new low (8 of 25; or 12% over MCE) and a new high (13 of 25; or 32% over MCE).
Two series of trials yielded particularly interesting results, but were not included in the overall statistical analysis. In one instance, the researchers decided to conduct a series of 25 trials in which the computer monitor was covered so that the randomly generated Zener images were not seen by any of the researchers. I was not informed that this procedure was taking place. I completed nine trials before becoming demonstrably shaken and faint, and requesting that the series of tests be stopped. I said that I felt ‘very unsteady’ and ‘like fainting’ and that I felt as if I was ‘only guessing’ and that I ‘did not feel pulled toward any particular shapes.’ I was then informed that there had been no sender for those nine trials. I was also informed that during those nine trials, I had scored – for the only time in the two days of testing – at chance levels (1 correct out of 9). This was the only series of trials with Zener cards which was stopped.
The second noteworthy instance involved a series of 30 trials conducted with clear plastic casino dice provided by the researchers. In consideration of my unpleasant physical response to the nine Zener card trials without a sender, the conditions were disclosed to me in advance. It was proposed that in 50% of the trials, the researchers would look at the die after I made my call. In the other 50% of the trials, they would look at the die before I made my call. I would have no knowledge of which trials were which.
After consenting to the experiment, the trials were conducted and the following results were obtained: In trails in which the researchers looked at the die after I made my call, my guesses yielded a hit rate of 5 out of 24 (20%) versus the MCE of 4 out of 24 (16%). The 4% over MCE is considered statistically insignificant considering the low number of trials. In trials in which the researchers looked at the die before I made my call, my guesses yielded a hit rate of 12 out of 24 (50%) versus the MCE of 4 out of 24 (16%), yielding an extremely significantly deviation from chance of 34%. While these results were regarded as highly statistically significant – since dice and Zener cards do not share a common MCE, and because of the low number of trials with dice – these trials were not included in the overall statistical analysis.
Nevertheless, the two series of senderless trials would seem to support – if not confirm – the importance of the physical presence of human senders in these experiments. Several theoretical hypotheses for this will be explored in subsequent sections of this document. At the conclusion of Testing Round Two, the researchers concluded that they were unable to detect any instances of, or possibilities for, fraud in these trails. They were also unable to offer any explanations for the anomalous results which I had consistently achieved under such conditions. It was determined that further tests should be conducted in the following academic year.
At the conclusion of Testing Round One of Project Viola Ten, the researchers were in agreement that the results were clearly statistically significant, and that there were no apparent opportunities for fraud. Nevertheless, fraud was clearly assumed to play a role, since neither was the psychophysical methodology apparent. In the 24 hours following these experiments, a rather fanciful explanation emerged from amongst the psychologists revolving around the camera provided by the university to video document the sessions.
While it was agreed that video documentation was a very important consideration – for rebutting skeptical criticism, preventing researcher and test subject fraud or collusion, as well as for the creation of a documentary on Project Viola Ten – it was also suggested that perhaps the cameras contained image recognition software which somehow provided me discreet audio (or other?) cues. The existence of such a system would be news to me, but nevertheless a second round of testing was proposed by the researchers which would take place under undisclosed conditions.
I protested that I would be unable to properly train or prepare for testing without an awareness of the parameters of the tests, and that a failure to properly train and prepare might result in a regression to the mean, which could unfairly undermine the significant results of Testing Round One. I sent a playful email addressing these issues, which read, in part:
Firstly, let me thank you in advance for your sympathy and your support.
Secondly, I am quite eager to take Project Viola Ten at least one step further, as it seems that the psi hypothesis has not yet been accepted as real and proven for all time. 😉
Once again, I have been reminded that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I must admit that I was hopeful that overcoming odds of one in a million under rigorous and thoroughly documented conditions might be accepted as ‘extraordinary.’ But alas, apparently not.
I have stated from the outset of this project that in order for a psi study to be disregarded as fraudulent, it is not necessary to prove fraud. It is enough to simply invent some fraudulent solution (no matter how fanciful) by which the results might have been achieved. Often, these proposed situations are as hard to imagine as the psi hypothesis. I was hoping that the test design would eliminate all such fanciful ideas. But the human imagination is boundless.
I do not hesitate in the slightest to participate in another testing period. I am happy to take tests sans cameras, sans videographers, sans Zener cards, and sans underwear, if necessary.
My only request would be that we try to arrange the next round of testing sooner rather than later, as the training which is required to obtain these results is more intense than might be readily apparent. I have had very restless nights since our first testing period, and it might be nice (after this next round of testing) to shift my attention back toward my writing and preparations for my new show, Eddie Dean Telepathy Rock Star: Smells Like Dean Spirit.
Hubert Pierce being tested with Zener cards by Dr. J.B. Rhine
The hit rates which I obtained during the Project Viola Ten Experiments shatter the record set by Hubert Pearce in the 1930s at Duke University in the Pearce-Pratt experiments conducted by Joseph Pratt and overseen by Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine. Pearce’s score with Zener cards at a distance (100 and 250 yards) was 558 out of 1850, yielding a hit rate of 30% versus the MCE of 20% (10% over MCE). My own score of 194 out of 400 yielded a hit rate of 48.5% (28.5% over MCE) which nearly trebled Pearce’s benchmark. The greater number of trials, however, in the Pearce-Pratt experiments yielded odds against chance of approximately 22 billion-to-one, which were considerably higher than my own million-to-one outcome.
Rhine and Pratt in their paper, ‘A Review of The Pearce-Pratt Distance Series of Esp Tests’ write that ‘the test procedure and conditions provided special safeguards against any undetected errors, and subsequent critical scrutiny has revealed no flaw in the series as evidence for the occurrence of ESP.’ It is worth noting that after Pearce’s abilities became clear, Rhine introduced protocols to screen for collusion between Pearce and Pratt. Pratt’s hit rates were not affected by these protocols.
   Rhine, J. G., & Pratt, J. G. ‘A review of the Pearce-Pratt distance series of ESP tests.’ Journal of Parapsychology. 1954. pp. 165-177.
NOTE: The names of researcher are being temporarily withheld pending official approval of these posts.
June 27. After a power packed smoothie, the day kicked off by being stripped and searched (hair, ears, mouth, armpits, private areas) by the delightful Nurse Una Cronin from the UCC School of Nursing. The search took place under the watchful eyes of Dr. Q and Dr. X. Once I was given the all clear, I was blindfolded with cotton gauze and a roll of bandage.
In order to conduct document these tests in as bulletproof a way as possible, I developed an original system of hand gestures which I would use concurrently with my verbal call. Thus, the card and the hand gesture would be recorded simultaneously, in order to prevent audio manipulation in the editing process.
I completed 277 tests before the day was over. The first 250 tests were conducted with Zener cards. The next 25 tests were also conducted with Zener cards but at a considerable distance (separate buildings). My hit rates while at a distance were comparable to my other hit rates (over twice the Mean Chance Expectation).
The final two tests were conducted with playing cards. The first was a near miss. The second was a direct hit. I requested that the tests be stopped at that point. The two tests with playing cards are not included in the statistical evaluations.
The data is still under review, but the general consensus of the researchers was that the odds of my results occurring by chance were beyond one in a million.
Their conclusion? A classic one: Further research is needed.
A second round of testing was scheduled for three months later. In this coming round of testing, the number of researchers would double. All subsequent tests would be conducted: at a distance, behind a one-way mirror, in an electromagnetically shielded room, and cameras would be prohibited in the testing areas.
(Spoiler alert: these conditions would not impact my results.)
NOTE: The names of researcher are being temporarily withheld pending official approval of these posts.
Dr. X brought a second researcher to the team, a clinical psychiatrist and psychology lecturer at UCC known at this time as Dr. Q. Our first informal preliminary testing took place after a long conversation over dinner (hand made tortelli) and drinks (pink wine).
The two researchers moved to the opposite side of a long table, and we set up folders to act as privacy barriers. Using a pack of vintage Duke University Zener cards, we conducted two runs of 10 cards, alternating our roles as sender and receivers.
In the first run of 10 cards, Dr. Q and Dr. X acted as senders, and I guessed 5 out of 10 cards correctly (30% above Mean Chance Expectation). In the second run of 10 cards, I acted as sender, and Dr. X and Dr. Q guessed 4 out of 10 correctly (20% above MCE). The cards and calls were recorded privately and compared at the end of the runs.
Of course, these informal tests meant nothing as the presence of alcohol, the lack of video documentation, and the lack of strict controls were not exactly scientific. Nevertheless, the results were striking and we agreed to move into the laboratory as soon as possible.
After a number of setbacks and delays caused by television auditions in London (mine) and a detached retina (Dr. X’s), the date for the first official round of Project Viola Ten testing was finally set for June 27th. In order to prepare for these tests, I needed to conduct preliminary experiments with human subjects. Ideally, I wanted to work with students trained in physical theatre with experience in ensemble work. The nature of ensemble-based physical theatre requires an extreme psycho-physical presence, body awareness, and non-verbal communication bordering on inter-kinesthesia.
The roadblock I encountered was that the students at UCC who possessed this training were my own students, and there are obvious conflicts of interest and ethical concerns when conducting human experiments on one’s own students. I considered working with athletic teams or string quartets, but ultimately contacted my Alma-mater in Tuscany, the Accademia dell’Arte, (a music and physical theatre conservatory) and explained my circumstances.
The ADA informed me that I was welcome to conduct and video document my workshops, tests, and experiments. In the following weeks, I worked with many students and even trained several high performing subjects to employ my own Viola Ten techniques. Sometimes I paired the students with each other and at other times worked along side them myself, in roles of both sender and receiver. The results were nothing less than stunning. These sessions will be shown in the documentary Eddie Dean: Project Viola Ten which is currently in production.
A full day of being tested in a laboratory calls for a sensible breakfast. In other words… it’s smoothie time.
The Piddingtons – the original telepathy superstars on BBC radio in 1950 – have been a huge inspiration for me. They were once accused during a broadcast of having a “little green man” who flew between them whispering information.
In their honor, I call this the Little Green Man smoothie. It’s a pear, a banana, some spinach, some yogurt, some chopped ginger, half a lime (squeezed), and some orange juice.
Give it a try some time… It may not make you telepathic, but it sure can’t hurt!
NOTE: The names of researchers are being temporarily withheld pending official approval of these posts.
With the termination of the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge for proof of psychic or paranormal ability, I needed a new way to sharpen and disseminate my PhD research on the psycho-physical replication of telepathy (non auditory/non-visual communication techniques at a distance). Accordingly, I approached Dr. X, a psychologist and lecturer in the School of Applied Psychology at UCC.
Dr. X is noted for his background as an amateur conjurer, has spoken for the Cork Skeptics on the topic of neuroscience and free will, and posseses a strong interest in evolutionary psychology and philosophy of mind. It seemed that if anybody would be able to test my claims thoroughly and have the credibility to validate my communication techniques as legitimately being independent of the classical senses, it would be Dr. X.
Over a year of meetings took place before formal Project Viola Ten testing began. During that time, Dr. X joined my PhD supervisory team, first in the role of Pastoral advisor, and ultimately as full Supervisor. He has given me the lovely (if back-handed) compliment that, ‘You are not just a bullshit artist. Or, if you are, you are approaching the boundaries of bullshit in a unique and interesting way.’ Why, thank you, Dr. X. I’ll take it!
Ultimately, Dr. X agreed to provide the facilities and a team in order to offer a controlled test of my claims. I agreed to a post-testing debriefing period in which I would disclose all techniques and processes which I consciously employed during the tests. He is fond of quoting physicist and Nobel laureate Dr. Richard Feynman who famously warned, ‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.’
Dr. X began the testing with the attitude that telepathy does not exist, and even if I were to “demonstrate” telepathy in a controlled environment it would not constitute “proof” of telepathy. Rather, it would only prove that I had “fooled” him, he had “fooled” himself, we had “fooled” ourselves, or that some sensory leakage was taking place of which we were not consciously aware.
Beginning the testing with such a forgone conclusion was an annoyance to say the least. But what else could I do? It was also an understandable position. Dr. X observed that all of the findings of science cannot be overturned by a single set of experiments, in a single place, by a single team of researchers. Such findings would need to be replicated many times, in many places, by many teams, in order for anything to be “proven.”
Fair enough. So, when do we start?
In August of 2015, as part of my PhD research on the performativity and psychology of telepathy, I began a residency at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle. The purpose of the residency was to develop genuine psycho-physical techniques which could replicate “telepathic” communication. In other words, could I learn to communicate without the use of sight, sound, or touch?My intention was also to assert telepathy as an act of contemporary circus; an entertaining (and sometimes dangerous) display of psycho-physical skill. The techniques which I developed during this residency used nothing other than the human bodies involved and replicated telepathy so closely (even when working at a distance) that the difference between these techniques and “genuine” telepathy – if such a thing can be said to exist – became somewhat blurred.
I was encouraged to apply for the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge for proof of psychic or paranormal phenomena. According to the JREF, ‘if you can prove your psychic ability in a fair controlled test, we’ve got a million dollar check with your name on it.’ While I was not claiming to be psychic or telepathic, per se, my claimed ability to communicate without the use of the known senses did constitute a paranormal claim.
I was informed that in order to pass the preliminary test I would need to overcome odds of 1 in 100,000 against chance. To pass the Million Dollar Challenge, I would then need to overcome odds of 1 in 1,000,000. I was further informed that the testing process would most likely include a strip search, distance, blindfolds, sound proofing, and electromagnetic shielding. Of those conditions, only the distance was slightly intimidating, but I had succeeded at a distance before, so I was willing to proceed. Regarding the odds, I consulted my friend, mathematician and well known ghost hunter, Philemon Vanderbeck. In light of my results with Zener cards, (in which I was achieving, on average, double the mean chance expectation), Mr. Vanderbeck replied in part:
‘Use a combinatorics formula. P(X=10) = (25 C 10) * (1/5)^10 *(4/5)^(25-10). 25 is the number of cards in the deck. 10 is the number that you get right. 1/5 is the odds of getting a card right. The (25 C 10) is “25 choose 10” which involves factorials. 25!/(10!15!). You can also write that as the Combination function C(25,10). The odds of getting 10 out of 25 correct is about 1.18% per trial. So, it’s just a little more than 1 out of a 100. If you got these results in two trials it would get you to 1 in 100,000. And in three trials, it would get you your 1 in a 1,000,000 odds.’
Three trials of 25 Zener cards could be completed in less than two hours! I wrote another email, accompanied with extensive video documentation, detailing the conditions under which I was prepared to demonstrate this non-sensory communication, as well as the anticipated results of the tests, and stated that I was ‘quite certain that I will be out of your hair before lunchtime.’ I was informed that I was very unlikely to succeed under the conditions imposed by the JREF, and that the attempt would most likely not be a wise investment or career move.
In another email, I stated that while I appreciated the concern, ‘concern doth butter no bread. Consequently, I would still very much like an opportunity to “prove it and win.”! I am quite happy to proceed at my own expense.’ Weeks passed. On the 1st of September, I was informed that the JREF was no longer accepting applications from private parties.
According to the JREF:
‘We plan on continuing the Million Dollar Challenge as a means for educating the public about paranormal claims, but the process for consideration of claims has been changed effective September 1, 2015 and no application submitted under the previous procedures or relying in whole or in part on the previously published terms of the Challenge will be considered.
‘Effective immediately, JREF will no longer accept applications directly from people claiming to have a psychic or paranormal power. Previously available Application Forms shall not be used and will be rejected without any review of the contents. We anticipate providing minimum required protocols for the preliminary test early next year. No one should make any effort to pursue the Challenge until those minimum required protocols are issued.’
And with that my dreams of winning a million dollars evaporated, and Project Viola Ten was born. Two years later, I am still waiting for the issuance of the minimum required protocols…
Look what just arrived in the mail. It’s my certification in parapsychology from the University of Edinburgh! It’s just what I’ve always wanted!
I’m really happy to say that I’ll be debuting my new show Eddie Dean, Telepathy Rockstar: Smells Like Dean Spirit this October at Pitch’d: The Cork Circus Arts Festival!
On June 11th, I presented my paper, “The End of Mind Reading” in the Sir Patrick Stewart building at the University of Huddersfield in England. They liked it, and will likely publish it after peer review, but I was warned that it will be very controversial. Hahaha. Awesome!
On May 26th, I presented my paper ‘Love, Luck and the Paranormal’ at the 4th International Expert Meeting on Parapsychology in Heidelberg, Germany.
I opened with this joke: “I’ve come here from Ireland, so just walking in the sunshine this morning has been a paranormal experience…” (It’s funny because it’s true.)
The Zener (pronounced Zee-ner) cards, consisting of five shapes (circle, cross, wavy lines, square and star) were developed by Dr. J.B. Rhine at Duke University in collaboration with Karl Zener in the 1920s. The cards were used in tests for extrasensory perception at Duke’s department of parapsychological research. These cards have had four different back designs since the 1920s, and all four designs are shown below. (From the private collection of Edward James Dean.)
On Halloween — appropriately enough — my paper, ‘(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism’ was published in the University of Huddersfield’s Journal of Performance Magic. Regarding his paper, the editor of this edition, Madelon Hoedt, writes:
‘In “(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism” by Edward James Dean, the author discusses the role of the body in the performance of mentalism, or rather, the perceived lack thereof. As Dean argues, the performance of mentalism, in particular, is seen as an activity of the mind, first and foremost, foregoing any notion or interpretation of the physical. In his essay, Dean is opening a discussion as to how the body of the mentalist needs to be reassessed in order to create a different, and perhaps more effective, type of performance.’
To read ‘(Re)Discovering the Body in Mentalism’ by Edward James Dean, click here