The Psychic Polaroid Projections Of Ted Serios

photo_10247_carouselExtrasensory abilities, or hoax? The University of Maryland has a retrospective on the work of Ted Serios, an alcoholic bellhop who, though intense concentration, could produce dreamlike “mind photos” using a Polaroid camera. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a believer:

Strange as it may seem, such “thought” photographs do exist, and a selection of them are on display in an exhibition through March 27 at the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

“Psychic Projections/Photographic Impressions: Paranormal Photographs from the Jule Eisenbud Collection on Ted Serios” features a series of images produced by Theodore Judd Serios (1918-2006), a bellhop from Chicago who appeared to possess a genuinely uncanny ability. By holding a Polaroid camera and focusing on the lens very intently, he was able to produce dreamlike pictures of his thoughts on the film; he referred to these images as “thoughtographs,” and many striking examples are on display in the exhibition. The images are contextualized by a selection of notes and letters written by Serios’s chief supporter, defender, champion, and sometime minder, a psychiatrist named Jule Eisenbud.

In this book, Eisenbud describes how he worked with Serios. Their method varied considerably, but it turned out that Serios was able to produce images using various kinds of cameras and in many different situations, sometimes under quite stringent test conditions. Most often, however, the two men would get no results at all. At other times they would get what Serios called “blackies,” in which the film would look as though it had not been exposed at all, or “whities,” in which the film would appear overexposed. In a few rare cases, however, bizarre images would emerge, perhaps in a fuzzy circle of light or a ghostly shape.

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  • emperorreagan

    I went to the presentation for the opening. Was he a con-man or could there be something to it? The presentation didn’t really convince me one way or the other – though I was amused that good ole James Randi claimed he could duplicate the effect then backed out.

    Looking at some of the pictures in the collection, I did think there were a few that might simply be the human mind imposing a pattern on the image – the picture of soldiers in the article being one of them. Some of the others were more compelling and do force one to weigh whether he was a con-man or not.

  • emperorreagan

    I went to the presentation for the opening. Was he a con-man or could there be something to it? The presentation didn’t really convince me one way or the other – though I was amused that good ole James Randi claimed he could duplicate the effect then backed out.

    Looking at some of the pictures in the collection, I did think there were a few that might simply be the human mind imposing a pattern on the image – the picture of soldiers in the article being one of them. Some of the others were more compelling and do force one to weigh whether he was a con-man or not.

    • http://twitter.com/jrients Jeff Rients
      • emperorreagan

        Randi claims he did, others claim he didn’t. I haven’t seen the video personally, so that leaves two people whose accounts I find to be untrustworthy (Eisenbud who has a horse in the race, and Randi who is a media whore & at times comes across like as much of a flim-flam artist as the people he hopes to discredit). He backed out of a subsequent test.

        I think Serios was a con-man and indeed there are people who viewed the experiments the photos were drawn from that guess at how he was creating them with the gizmo. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t exploiting something else entirely with the camera and the gizmo was merely a distraction.

        More generally, to fringe phenomena and entertainers like Randi or Penn & Teller, I think they do everyone a big disservice. Take homeopathy, for example – homeopaths are not able to produce properly orchestrated studies that demonstrate the treatment is effective. It has basically been dismissed as a placebo treatment by mainstream science. However, they have an easier out than actually engaging the scientific community – engage an entertainer in debate instead! Two untrustworthy sources, one of which (the entertainer) can readily keep the idea in the media. Who do you believe? Which party is milking things for attention? The only thing better than having an entertainer-adversary is the entertainer-advocate like Jenny McCarthy.

  • FREEK power ULTD.

    I read about this recently in Colin Wilson’s book ‘The Occult’. He goes into greater detail than this article and makes a pretty convincing case that this is real. And its just one example among many in the 682 page book of descriptions of phenomena which science ignores, but which are well documented. An eye opening read that says, as a species, we haven’t grasped reality yet.

  • FREEK power ULTD.

    I read about this recently in Colin Wilson’s book ‘The Occult’. He goes into greater detail than this article and makes a pretty convincing case that this is real. And its just one example among many in the 682 page book of descriptions of phenomena which science ignores, but which are well documented. An eye opening read that says, as a species, we haven’t grasped reality yet.

  • http://twitter.com/jrients Jeff Rients
  • emperorreagan

    Randi claims he did, others claim he didn’t. I haven’t seen the video personally, so that leaves two people whose accounts I find to be untrustworthy (Eisenbud who has a horse in the race, and Randi who is a media whore & at times comes across like as much of a flim-flam artist as the people he hopes to discredit). He backed out of a subsequent test.

    I think Serios was a con-man and indeed there are people who viewed the experiments the photos were drawn from that guess at how he was creating them with the gizmo. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t exploiting something else entirely with the camera and the gizmo was merely a distraction.

    More generally, to fringe phenomena and entertainers like Randi or Penn & Teller, I think they do everyone a big disservice. Take homeopathy, for example – homeopaths are not able to produce properly orchestrated studies that demonstrate the treatment is effective. It has basically been dismissed as a placebo treatment by mainstream science. However, they have an easier out than actually engaging the scientific community – engage an entertainer in debate instead! Two untrustworthy sources, one of which (the entertainer) can readily keep the idea in the media. Who do you believe? Which party is milking things for attention? The only thing better than having an entertainer-advisory is the entertainer-advocate like Jenny McCarthy.

  • emperorreagan

    Randi claims he did, others claim he didn’t. I haven’t seen the video personally, so that leaves two people whose accounts I find to be untrustworthy (Eisenbud who has a horse in the race, and Randi who is a media whore & at times comes across like as much of a flim-flam artist as the people he hopes to discredit). He backed out of a subsequent test.

    I think Serios was a con-man and indeed there are people who viewed the experiments the photos were drawn from that guess at how he was creating them with the gizmo. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t exploiting something else entirely with the camera and the gizmo was merely a distraction.

    More generally, to fringe phenomena and entertainers like Randi or Penn & Teller, I think they do everyone a big disservice. Take homeopathy, for example – homeopaths are not able to produce properly orchestrated studies that demonstrate the treatment is effective. It has basically been dismissed as a placebo treatment by mainstream science. However, they have an easier out than actually engaging the scientific community – engage an entertainer in debate instead! Two untrustworthy sources, one of which (the entertainer) can readily keep the idea in the media. Who do you believe? Which party is milking things for attention? The only thing better than having an entertainer-advisory is the entertainer-advocate like Jenny McCarthy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ted.serios Ted Serios

    Up until now most of the discussion about thoughtography has revolved the question “is it real or fraud?”. Since I am dead I have lost all interested in adding scientific proof to the case.

    And if I were more interested in “the process” I would call myself an artist.

    It takes a lot of psycich energies to make the image appear and it is very tempting to define thoughtography as a magick practice. A piece of paper can be a spell in the same sense as a film by Kenneth Anger is a spell. Mental power frozen into an objet d’art in the course of a ritual(1).

    But I see a major difference, i.e. thoughtography does not have that kind of direction, to create the picture you need to be in a state of mind that is free of intention.

    “Creating a picture” is different from “taking a picture”. Thoughtography is about resemblance where photography is about representation.

    And I am not interested in the resemblance to the outside world, I don´t need to identify the road or the number, nor do I want to know about the century(2).

    This resemblance is informal, it creates a non hierarchic pattern of images. Documents(3).

    I prefer the dark, fragrant poem to your game of chess.

    I am dead and I am serious

    I AM TED SERIOS

    (1) The Spell in the Age of Digital Reproduction.

    (2) Whatever we cannot identify might as well be the future.

    (3) Documents was a Surrealist art magazine edited and masterminded by Georges Bataille. Published in Paris from 1929 through 1930, it ran for 15 issues, each of which contained a wide range of original writing and photographs.
    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ted.serios Ted Serios

    Up until now most of the discussion about thoughtography has revolved the question “is it real or fraud?”. Since I am dead I have lost all interested in adding scientific proof to the case.

    And if I were more interested in “the process” I would call myself an artist.

    It takes a lot of psycich energies to make the image appear and it is very tempting to define thoughtography as a magick practice. A piece of paper can be a spell in the same sense as a film by Kenneth Anger is a spell. Mental power frozen into an objet d’art in the course of a ritual(1).

    But I see a major difference, i.e. thoughtography does not have that kind of direction, to create the picture you need to be in a state of mind that is free of intention.

    “Creating a picture” is different from “taking a picture”. Thoughtography is about resemblance where photography is about representation.

    And I am not interested in the resemblance to the outside world, I don´t need to identify the road or the number, nor do I want to know about the century(2).

    This resemblance is informal, it creates a non hierarchic pattern of images. Documents(3).

    I prefer the dark, fragrant poem to your game of chess.

    I am dead and I am serious

    I AM TED SERIOS

    (1) The Spell in the Age of Digital Reproduction.

    (2) Whatever we cannot identify might as well be the future.

    (3) Documents was a Surrealist art magazine edited and masterminded by Georges Bataille. Published in Paris from 1929 through 1930, it ran for 15 issues, each of which contained a wide range of original writing and photographs.
    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

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