Philip The Artificial Ghost

Philip The Artificial Ghost

The Philip Experiment was undertaken by the Toronto SPR, in the mid 1970’s to prove psychokinesis or PK (the power of the mind to move objects) existed. This research was very much a product of its time. This was the time of Uri Geller, his spoon bending etc. The membership included Dr. APR Owen and his wife Iris. Dr Owen had for some time had been working on, and writing about poltergeist hauntings. They recently had done work with the Psychic Matthew Manning, who had visited Toronto. However they wanted to prove PK could be produced by everyone not just a gifted medium.

As this had been most often seen in séances, they organised a  group of eight people to hold séances. These people had no known history of being a medium, so that they could prove “normal” people could produce PK. To show that any PK effects were not the product of a dead person, a ghost, they had to “make” one. They started their project in September 1972.

They then produced the story of Philip, an aristocratic Englishman living in the middle of the 17th Century. This was the time of the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell. He was a Catholic royalist (when in fact at this time most Catholics kept a low profile from both sides). Married to a cold and frigid wife of a neighbour called Dorothea. One day Philip comes across a gypsy encampment, and a gypsy girl called Margo and falls in love with her.

He puts her in the gatehouse and meets her there from time to time. Eventually the secret is found out. Dorothea finds her, accuses her of Witchcraft, and sealing her husband. Philip is too scared of losing his reputation and influence locally, does not step in to help her.

Margo is found guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake (which is incorrect witches in England were hung). Stricken with remorse, he spends time alone walking his battlements in misery.  One day he is found at the bottom of the battlements dead his guilt causing him to finally kill himself.  

With this story or legend completed, and a real place Diddington Manor chosen as the location (although they did not know it’s history). They discussed the character between themselves, filling in the imaginary details. Food, clothes and his habits. They even had one member draw his portrait. They read up books etc. on the mid 1700 century.

The Group consisted of Iris Owen, Margaret ‘Sue’ Sparrow (Chairwoman of Mensa Canada), Andy H, Lorna H his wife, Al P, Bernice M, Dorothy O’D, Sidney K. Occasionally  Dr ARG George Owen, and psychologist Joel Whitton were observers.

They started meeting twice a week, and meditating for longer and longer times. Always done in some light or by coloured lights, ever in the dark. They were looking for an apparition to appear. They did get occasional mists appeared but never a ghost. They talked about his back story, to refine it. It anyone felt they personally had been contacted by Philip, they were reminded that it had to be a group experience, to prove that “normal people”, not mediums could  get these results.

After about a year had nothing really happened, but they were being moulded into a tight knit group. Relaxed in each others company, they had become friends.

Then in Summer1973 Iris Owen came across the work of three people. Colin Brookes-Smith, D.W. Hunt, and Kenneth Batcheldor, who had done research on KP, ghosts and séances in the 1960’s. They had researched into the Victorian séance room, were singing and a more relaxed atmosphere were sometimes used. They developed certain rules, using a relaxed and jolly mood, even cracking jokes, and singing. The light was left on, and most importantly they had a total belief in the existence of the phenomena they were looking into.

It took them three sessions to get the right psychological state they needed. On the fourth session a feeble rapping begin on the table. They checked and were convinced that no one was moving the table. Someone asked “is that you Philip?”, then there was a rap.

Now they were on their way. They asked Philip to answer, one rap for yes, two raps for no. This yes/no code was quick, but could result in using leading questions. However they did not always get the answers they expect. They did not get really anything outside the information they had created. Some answers as we have seen were historically incorrect. If he don’t know the answer he would scratch the table. If it was an obvious right answer to all the group, it would be a firm rap, If the question was put in a complicated form or they had no worked out this part of the story, there would be a delay. If there disagreement in the group on this part of the story the rap would be very feeble. Later he would lift one or two table legs, and even levitate the table.

Successful séances were filmed many times, (once by the Canadian Broadcasting Company,) over the years. It would only need four from the group of eight to be present to work. This happened even with strangers at the table. Over the long length of the experiment, member of the eight would be some time absent for at least one of the successful séances were raps were heard.

Precautions were taken so that members at the table could not move it. Hands were put on doilies, even then the raps continued under hands of the person asking the question. The table sometimes lifted on two legs and even levitated.

Another group of  Toronto SPR tried similar work with a manufactured  French Canadian Spy call Lilith, with similar  results. In the end several entities  produced by several local groups. These included: The Artful Dodger, Santa Claus, Silk the Dolphin, Sebastian a medieval alchemist, Axel a ghost from the future (who only  spoke French like his group,) Venus, a green eyed, raven hair beauty who came from Venus! When groups worked together, they always could tell which raps belonged to their our character by the sound they produced.

It did not matter what the character was, as long as the group concerned believed in them, they worked in producing PK like raps. The Philip group was the most patient and disciplined group, and they kept it going into at least 1977. They were invited to Kent State University Ohio USA for a weekend. Were they were encouraged  to get Phillip to rap on a metal sheet as well as the table. Which he did causing a pinging noise. Sometimes even pinging on pipes in the room. It was a distinctive ping. Both the pings and the raps, had a particularly strange waveform, which has also been found in recorded poltergeist raps over the years.

Philip eventually developed many skills. He could beat out a whole tune on the table. They asked him to bend a small light medallion. It bent slightly at the edges during the seance, but it being left on the table over night was found to be completely scrunched up, the next morning. A guest asked if Philip would bend his key, it only slightly bent at the time. However he  found by the next day it had bent so much, that he had trouble opening his front door.

Another group within Toronto SPR was working with Raudive recordings. What we now call EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) using recordings to pick up the voices of the dead. One session was done with them and the Philip Group. Philip managed to knock down the two microphones above the table with an ashtray he levitated. However when everything was set back up they did get very faint recording of a voice with, or instead of the raps. Mainly one or two words which were very hard to make out. However the phrase “You’d be surprised” was heard clearly.

The story of this experiment seems to have gently faded out. Of the many groups doing this work around Toronto, the Philip group because they were the most determined lasted the longest.  They felt they were getting definite and repeatable results with their raps and table lifting (at one time the lifting force on the table was measured at 20 pounds), but no one could tell them how these things were produced. Boredom and frustration set in and at some point after 1977 they gave up

This case is very famous and still talked about to this day. It  raised a lot of questions about ghosts and the séance room. Spiritualists for instance, contacted them at the time, to tell them this was the work of mischievous spirits, fooling them. They were told they need to get a trained medium to get rid of them.

Given the fact that the group were saying they were getting constant and reliable results, even in front of cameras. It seems strange that no one has repeated work this since.

To get a fuller account of The Philip Experiment, please use these links below.

Here is a link to the Journal of the Toronto SPR, New Horizons covering this work.

Here is a link to one of the many videos showing the Philip Group at work.


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