Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ted Serios - Chicago Thoughtographer

Ted Serios (1918-2006) was a Chicago bellhop who claimed to have the ability to psychically expose images onto Polaroid film.  Initially experimenting with remote viewing in an attempt to find lost treasure, Serios was given a camera by a fellow bellhop and eventually found he had a knack for taking creating photographs remotely.

The idea of Thoughtography / Nensha / Nengraphy did not originate with Serios - experiments of this type were carried out almost as soon as photography was invented.  In 1931, Japanese scientist T. Fukari published his findings on the subject, titled Clairvoyance and Thoughtography (in recent years, Kessinger has reprinted this book).  Both Uri Geller and the young Masuaki Kiyota would attempt similar practices, but were proven to be faking it.

Dr. Jule Eisenbud ended up taking Serios very seriously, traveling with him and publishing a book, The World of Ted Serios - "Thoughtographic" Studies of an Extraordinary Mind in 1967.  There are many skeptics, as would be suspected: professional partypooper James Randi blows him with delight, as do a few people on the Internet.  Most of these however ignore some of the more interesting details regarding Serios's images.  Other people provided their own film and cameras, loading them while Serios was not in the room and not allowing him to touch them at any point.  Serios created images after being stripped and inspected, then put into a faraday cage or standing 66 feet down a hallway.

 Serios photograph with target image on right.

Ted would get drunk, often strip naked, yell and scream while calling everyone names.  Then suddenly he'd yell to someone to take a photograph of him.  A Polaroid camera would be pointed at his face, and an image of something entirely different would appear when the film was opened.

Most interesting is this fact:  Serios always worked with a target image.  Someone would provide a "target," place it into an envelope and have Serios concentrate on what this image was, having never actually seen it.  His resulting images often matched the target.  Since Serios was both an alcoholic and bordered on illiteracy, his images would sometimes show real places with signs misspelled or small details out of order. 

At one point Serios was given a target of the Chicago Hilton, his previous place of employment.  Instead he produced this photograph of the Denver Hilton, from an angle that nobody could find a way to duplicate in real life.

One more amazing character to come from Chicago.  The Ted Serios archives are now held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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