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No. 125: Sep-Oct 1999

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SORRAT = Society for Research in Rapport and Telekinesis.

Science Frontiers would be remiss if it did not at least mention the work of SORRAT.

SORRAT was founded by J.G. Neihardt in 1961. Sittings similar to seances were held at Neihardt's home in Columbia, Missouri. The familiar table movements and other gross physical phenomena occurred. Another sort of psi experiment involved placing objects in a securely locked box. After a time, these objects were inspected and were found to be altered in some way! No wonder SORRAT experiments have been the subject of much derision and claims of fraud. Even the professional parapsychologists seem embarrassed. But are there limits to psi phenomena? If telekinesis exists, as claimed in the PEAR experiments at Princeton (SF#114), why not phenomena inside locked boxes? Or, perhaps, inside sealed letters consigned to the post?

In a recent issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, I. Grattan-Guinness recounted his involvement in a the SORRAT letter-writing experiments. Grattan-Guinness wrote questions on plain sheets of paper, sealed them carefully in envelopes, writing across the seams, and applying sticky tape. These envelopes were self-addressed, postage applied, and sent in a larger envelope to SORRAT in Missouri. There, they were placed in a secure "isolation room." Three to five weeks later, the envelopes came back to Grattan-Guinness in the regular mail. Many were posted at offices with colorful names, such as Carefree, AZ, and Deadwood, SD. After examining the envelopes for signs of tampering, Grattan-Guinness opened his mail. The enclosed sheets of paper contained answers to his questions. Often the responses were vague -- like those given by mediums and oracles. Occasionally, the envelopes contained extraneous objects, even sheets with questions posed by other SORRAT members during this extensive experiment.

Who provided the answers found in the returned letters: the communicators! Grattan-Guinness explained.

"The most positive and insistent responses from the communicators, apparently also to many other correspondents and even in response to questions which are not directly relevant, are that they are the surviving residues (my word) of dead persons, and that they operate independently of our restrictions of space and time. For example, 'Remember that Our Side is vast in space, and outside physical/temporal dimensions, and many are here!'"

(Grattan-Guinness, I.; "Real Communication? Report on a SORRAT LetterWriting Experiment," Journal of Scien tific Exploration, 13:231, 1999.)

Comment. We have summarized a 26-page report complete with photos, tables, etc., published in a peer-reviewed journal published by the Society for Scientific Exploration, which is composed mainly of diploma-holding scientists.

Of course, mainstream science journals wouldn't touch SORRAT with a 10meter pole. SORRAT even stretches the envelope of most parapsychologists a bit far. Nevertheless, it is only a short belief-step from a human mind affecting the motion of a pendulum to the "spirit messages" in the SORRAT envelopes. Where does one draw the boundaries of acceptable science?

From Science Frontiers #125, SEP-OCT 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss