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1940~1945 (ca.): The Sven Türck Experiments

I was Familiar with the Spirits
[Larger version here]

In 1945, well-known Danish photographer Sven Türck [1897-1954] published his book Jeg var dus med Aanderne... which translates as "I was Familiar with the Spirits." Türck had taken an interest in Spiritualism, a belief that certain people -- called "mediums" -- had a talent for not just communicating with spirits, but for allowing spirits to create physical effects. After attending a number of séances (meetings for the specific purpose of having a 'medium' call spirits to communicate with the living) Türck decided to try to document the activities he was seeing at the séances by conducting a series of them in a controlled environment, with three infrared sensitive cameras positioned to watch the action. These experiments appear to have been conducted sometime between 1940 and 1945, and Türck's book relates what happened during these experiments.

        Türck was apparently skeptical about the phenomena reported happening in seances, but intrigued enough to create the controled experiments... and after several months of these experiments, he was no longer a skeptic. Türck's photographic negatives are said to have been examined by five photographic experts (including Theodore Andreson, the Director of the Danske Fotografiskole -- 'Danish Photography School'), and all agreed that there were no signs of manipulation in the photos.

A Photographer's Collection of the Weird

        Although I've been unable to find a copy of Türck's book for my own direct reference, the photographs he presented in his book were of an unusual enough nature that many websites reproduced them... but no one website has ever presented them all together. The photos below have been collected from a variety of sources, and likely do not represent all of the pictures from the original text; for a complete list of sources I culled them from, as well as larger version of most of the photos, Click Here.

        Most of the photos below seem to have come from just two séances (judging by what people are wearing). Many of them are said to show the medium Børge Michaelson, who was apparently well-known for being carried through the air by spirits... though from the photos, it looks as if he was caught jumping.

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        Unlike the previous shots, this picture is more interesting... because the person being lifted (presumably Michaelson), has another participant attempting to hold them down! Note the headbands everyone is wearing, by the way; in following shots, many pieces of furniture seem to have similar strips on them. I suspect it was because of the use of the infraed cameras and low light conditions; the strips were more visible for both participants and the cameras.

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        The following shot appears to show a chair being levitated; the copy of the page below it and the odd position of the man leaning on the table seem to indicate the chair was lifted from under the man though oddly, the two pictures on the page below show two different chairs. Note the lack of movement blur on main portions of the chair; it's very unlikely it was simple thrown for the camera to capture in mid-air... it appears to be moving slower than a throw would cause.

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Experiments

        A very classic séance phenomena was table lifting... having disembodied spirits raise a table off the ground while participants had their hands on top of the table. This was a classic phenomena not just because it often happened at s
éances, but because it was extremely easy to fake by charletons, typically just by putting one foot under a corner of the table to raise it on command. What you see here is more what spiritualists mean when they talk about the phenomena... note that given the position of the participants' hands, they cannot possibly be either lifting nor holding up the table.

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Experiments

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        These following two shots appear to feature the same woman as seen on the cover of Türck's book. This is a more classic séance phenomena, first told of in the late 1800's... she is exuding a substance called 'ectoplasm,' which is theoretically generated by the spirits attending the séance through her body, and can then be used by said spirits to form physical objects such as hands. In this instance, we can see the face of a spirit represented in the end of the ectoplasm in the first shot.

Ectoplasm

        Not surprisingly, scenes like this are heavily criticized by skeptics both because the 'spirits' in these case look like photographs that have been introduced, and because a wide variety of ways to fake the 'ectoplasm' have been demonstrated by professional magicians and known fake mediums. That doesn't necessarily mean that ectoplasm is always fake; but it does mean that without witness statements and known controled circumstances, a mere photo like this will not convince anyone who's looking for proof of paranormal activity.

Ectoplasm

The Incident

        One last topic to touch on where Türck's photos are concerned. In 2004 a Scandinavian website called "The Incident" was launched; it claimed to tell the story of a strange book that appeared to document paranormal experiments, with a good conspiracy overtone to the whole matter. The actual book, the site claimed, had been mysteriously stolen; but the site's creator had made copies of seven pages, and it was these seven pages the site explored.

        Each page featured a strange photo, with a caption that didn't really explain much of what was going on... and every photo originally came from Türck's book. Apparently, however, Türck's photos weren't strange enough, so the creator of "The Incident" photoshopped in additional details to make the picture match a newer idea of what a 'paranormal' image should look like. The pictures used are all altered versions of differing pictures above, except for one...

The Incident

The above image, which clearly includes the same place and people from earlier photos, is currently only available on the internet as The Incident's altered version. For more about "The Incident," follow the 'See Also' link below.