The Trickster Comes to NYC – George Hansen at the Observatory

George Hansen - Trickster and the ParanormalMy friend George Hansen has a pretty succinct biography:

George P. Hansen was professionally employed in parapsychology laboratories for eight years—three at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, and five at Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. His experiments included remote viewing, card guessing, ganzfeld, electronic random number generators, séance phenomena, and ghosts. He has been active in a number of psychic, UFO, and New Age organizations, and he helped found a skeptics group.

His papers in scientific journals cover mathematical statistics, fraud and deception, the skeptics movement, conjurors in parapsychology, and exposés of hoaxes. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Reading all that you’re given no clues to the fact that his book The Trickster and the Paranormal offers one of the most detailed examinations of the psycho-social factors of anomalous experiences written in the 20th century. That little bit about “his experiments included…” actually means he has spent the last few decades doing ethnographic immersion in the entire field of psychical and anomalous research.

His understanding comes from working in laboratory experiments with some of the top researchers in the field, conducting field investigations which included time with the SORRAT physical mediumship group, and maintaining a critical eye for the social factors that play a part in any human experience. Add to this the fact that he is a tenured performance magician, his unique set of qualifications bring rare insights to the field. One mark of his achievement is that he’s ruffled the feathers of believers and skeptics alike with his biting critiques and demand for rigorous scientific inquiry.

Mark Pilkington, of Strange Attractor, provides a good introduction to the depth of Hansen’s work in an interview conducted for Fortean Times:

“It’s rare for an author to take the position of what we could call Schrödinger’s Fortean, in which one can study the field simultaneously from within and without, thus gaining an intimate understanding of the unusual, often bizarre dynamics of our chosen arena while also being aware of its relationship to the wider culture.

In his book The Trickster and the Paranormal, George Hansen manages to do this admirably, and with enough gusto and enthusiasm to carry the reader through 400 pages that encompass trickster mythology, all manner of paranormal phenomena and their attendant personalities, sociology, anthropology, folklore, semiotics, even literary theory. It’s a bumpy, disorientating ride at times, and Hansen’s conclusions remain open to multiple interpretations, all of them sure to be as refreshing and controversial to the hard-nosed skeptic as they are to the literalist believer.”

With this in mind it’s very exciting for me to invite all those in NYC this weekend to attend a series of talks that Hansen will be presenting at the Observatory in Brooklyn. Shannon Taggart and I have been looking forward to organizing this event for quite some time, and it’s exciting to see it finally come to fruition. So please excuse me if I cease to fluff up Hansen’s character portrait and get straight to the details.

Hansen’s talks will focus on the history and decline of psychical research, and provide an excellent opportunity to discuss what’s next for those still interested exploring the outer edges of society and mind. Here’s the details if you’re in the area and interested in attending:

On Saturday, June 15th, join us for an evening of parapsychology lectures and discussion with George Hansen, former parapsychology researcher and author of The Trickster and the Parnormal.

5 pm A History of Parapsychology and Psychical Research

The scientific investigation of psychic phenomena will be discussed—from the rise of Spiritualism in 1848, to the founding of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, to the laboratory research and the U.S. government’s psychic spying program of the 1970s and 1980s. Methods, findings, and applications of research will be discussed, including some examples from Hansen’s own research. The rise of organized attacks on paranormal research and belief will be covered.

6:30 pm  
Break for Refreshment / Discussion

8 pm  The Decline of Parapsychology, or Whatever Happened to Parapsychology?

About 1990, U.S. research in parapsychology began a steep decline. Laboratories closed, attendance at professional conferences dropped, the average age of attendees trended strongly upward, and professional journals became thinner. This failure to flourish can be understood in terms of rationalization and disenchantment—concepts developed by sociologist Max Weber. Openness to, and engagement with, paranormal phenomena is rarely found in the large, hierarchical organizations of government, academe, business, or religion. The side effects of psi phenomena will be discussed.  Those effects are often overlooked, but they lead to the paranormal’s marginalization in our culture.  Although parapsychology is now nearly moribund in the U.S., growing paranormal interest is found in the academic fields of religious studies, anthropology, and studies of Western esotericism.

This event is event is produced as a joint collaboration between Liminal Analytics and photographer Shannon Taggart.

For more information on the event please head over to The Observatory Room event page.

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David Metcalfe is an independent researcher, writer and multimedia artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, the online journal of NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, and The Daily Grail. He writes regularly for Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Modern Mythology, Disinfo.com, The Teeming Brain and his own blog The Eyeless Owl. His writing has been featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012). Metcalfe is an Associate with Phoenix Rising Digital Academy, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.

For more information on Santa Muerte, and the sanctification of death in the popular faith traditions of the Americas, check out http://skeletonsaint.com, a collaborative project hosted by Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, David Metcalfe and Liminal Analytics. 

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  • Simon Valentine

    mathematical statistics
    ah, gotta love the final arm-twist before the truth
    nothing like a good beating before teaching combinanumetorics

  • Cyprus Mulch

    I recently read Hansen’s “The Trickster and the Paranormal,” and think it’s an excellent, well-researched book that covers a lot of bizarre and fascinating subjects — from psi phenomena to UFO hoaxes to “skeptics” to totemism to Derrida — all linked by what Hansen calls “Trickster effects.” Hansen’s clear style of writing is neither sensationalistic nor reductionist, and demonstrates a refreshing balance of accessibility and academic rigor. Highly recommended to all Disinfonauts, paranormal enthusiasts, and anyone who enjoys good interdisciplinary scholarship!

  • BuzzCoastin

    interesting that this treatise on tricksters is decidedly western
    Journey to the West is a Chinese novel about trickster gods & their tricks
    it’s considered one of the four great literary works of China
    you’d be hard pressed to find someone Chinese who does not know about
    Sun Wukong

    what passes for parapsychology & the occult in the literate West
    is common knowledge in the oral traditions of Asia

  • billy_mavreas

    just finished this tome. enjoyed it muchly. lots to chew on. i drew a star next to an important point on nearly every page.

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