Problems and Methods of Afterdeath Communication and Mediumship Research

Julie Beischel’s article, “The Reincarnation of Mediumship Research,” offers excellent fodder for discussion of methods and problems in the study of mediumship and afterdeath communication. It is published in EdgeScience, vol. 3, April-June 2010/11, a free online journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration. In  it, Beischel outlines the research problems that occur working with mediums and explains a few of the methodologies used at Windbridge Institute.

Researchers call the process by which mediums commune with the dead Anomalous Information Reception, or AIR. AIR means that mediums can pick up information about a discarnate without any prior knowledge of that discarnate and without any sensory feedback from the sitter. The sitter is the living person to whom the deceased discarnate is connected. Although from what I know of other research and from my own experience, the first condition, no prior knowledge of the discarnate, is not a problem. In fact, for me as a medium I would prefer not to know anything. When I do learn of something before a reading or séance, my tendency is to block it.

The second condition, no sensory feedback, is also something that I require whenever I work as a medium or do psychic readings. I do not allow the sitter to intervene, make comments or ask questions until the last 20 minutes of the session. Still, I have the energy of the sitter before me, an energy I can telepathically search and interpret for information. In afterdeath communication trials with mediums at the University of Arizona (see below), accuracy levels dropped when sensory feedback was totally withdrawn, that is, when the sitters were screened from the mediums and not allowed to respond. In my experience, the most significant factor of accuracy is the level of need of the sitter to make contact with the deceased or the need of the deceased to communicate with the sitter or with people at large. As far as I know, the element of desire and human emotion as a factor of accuracy has not yet been tested or measured. The complete withdrawal of sensory feedback would seriously diminish the impact of the sitter’s need on the medium.

Since the most common deception in mediumship is attaining knowledge of someone or something before the séance, which the medium then passes off as coming from the dead, careful investigators go to great lengths to make sure that the medium has no prior knowledge of the sitters participating in experiments. Early researchers have gone to extremes. The great Bostonian medium Leonora Piper, one of those who was cut, pricked, burned, and exposed to ammonia while in trance, was perhaps subject to the harshest scrutiny so far recorded. She conducted several thousand sessions over three decades around the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century under the stringent control of five experienced researchers from the Society for Psychical Research. These were all scholars in their own fields, including William James, a professor of Harvard and James Hyslop, a professor of Columbia University and a true skeptic. They brought hundreds of sitters to these sessions under false names. They hired detectives to follow Piper. While she was in England, she was kept in seclusion in the home of the physicist, Sir Oliver Lodge, and closely watched. She was not allowed to go out without a member of the Society for Psychical Research by her side. Her mail was read in order to be sure she was not receiving clandestine information. Lodge even went so far as to change his domestic staff during her stay to prevent her from learning anything about his private life. She was also forbidden to read newspapers around test days. In over three decades of this treatment and stressful examination, Piper never once came close to committing a fraud.

In modern times, the control measures are not so extreme and have taken a vastly different turn. Researchers at the Windbridge Institute have designed what they call a quintuple-blind protocol. This method has five separate levels of controls exerted on the medium, the sitter, and three experiment conductors, each of whom is blinded to different pieces of information. Most communication occurs on the phone, thus separating the medium from the sitter and the intermediary experiment conductors. The conductor calls the medium on the phone with the first name of a discarnate which was emailed to the conductor by another experimenter. Neither the medium nor the conductor have any other information about the deceased or the sitter. The conductor asks the medium specific questions about the deceased which are answered in the form of a reading of the deceased. The sitter is not permitted to hear it. The medium then does a second reading at a different time for a second discarnate and a second sitter. The two readings are then transcribed and all references to the discarnates’ names are removed. The two sitters then score each of the two readings for accuracy without knowing which is which. The experimenters don’t know either. This quintuple-blind protocol is meant to prevent information from leaking. Because the medium and the sitter never meet each other, it also prevents what is known as a cold reading. Cold readings are when a person makes guesses informed by the sitter’s verbal responses, body language, and so forth.

Regardless of the accuracy of the mediums’ statements, such clinical trials still do not furnish proof for genuine afterdeath communication or survival after death. In The Last Frontier (chapters 1-5) I go into the problems of proof at great depth, specifically with regard to afterdeath communication in chapter 2. Here I can only summarize. One explanation for how mediums retrieve information is called super-psi. The super-psi explanation poses that the medium may be getting information through clairvoyance (such as rewitnessing the death of the discarnate), precognition and/or telepathy, skills mediums and intuitives routinely use in doing readings on the living. Another common skill is remote viewing, which could be used to see death certificates or photos of the deceased, with or without the sitter.

Telepathy, in this instance, would be what is called direct mental interaction between living systems, or DMILS. DMILS between a sitter and a medium is a justifiable concern. Although I am risking voicing an unpopular view among survival advocates that DMILS can and does operate in readings and séances, normally it operates only to a certain degree. The better the medium and the stronger the contact, the less the medium will unwittingly fall back on information telepathically retrieved from the living sitter.

Distinguishing between genuine contact, which is after all largely a telepathic process, and DMILS is not always easy for researchers and mediums alike. The greatest and most infallible distinguishing factor for me is the physical sensation of the presence of the dead, a sensation I call the tingling. The tingling is pleasurable, focused, directional and occurs in the context of invoking the deceased, whether by just casually talking about the deceased or by deliberate invocation. It can be so strong that it makes me sway on my feet. It is also laden with information and emotion. What is especially remarkable about it is that the living “sitters” who are associated with the deceased also feel it, even if communication between us is conducted on the phone. Other mediums have noted differences in the way communication with the dead feels and the way clairvoyant activity feels.

An additional explanation for how mediums retrieve information is what Beischel calls the psychic reservoir hypothesis which maintains that all information is stored in the universe, like a “cosmic database,” formerly called the Akashic Records. Mediums draw information from this reservoir, rather than from the dead. I would add too, another closely related source of “public” information, mass consciousness.

Oddly enough, the philosopher Michael Sudduth has coined a term “survival psi,” a term that acknowledges survival of consciousness after death but assumes that mediums garner information by telepathic communication with discarnates. This is no news to me. Of course, that’s what we’re doing. The problem is, however, that our current view of telepathy, as thought transference from one mind to another alone, is not just extremely limiting, it is also inaccurate. I discuss broader meanings of how thought manifests in, and drives, nearly all paranormal phenomena in chapter 15 in The Last Frontier, a chapter devoted to telepathy.

For quite some time now, parapsychologists have been debating which hypothesis best explains so-called afterdeath communication through mediums, the survival after death hypthesis, the super-psi hypothesis or the reservoir/mass consciousness hypothesis.  These last two have been combined by Beischel and her colleague, Adam Rock, to form a new term, “somantic psi.” So far, no agreement has been reached.

Clearly one of the chief problems in afterdeath communication research is that verification of information must inevitably come from the living, a requirement that in all cases admits the possibility of DMILS. I would like to see researchers move in new directions, directions that for me, reassure us that the dead we mediums think we are communicating with are in fact individual, independent identities that have survived. Those directions involve the before-mentioned physical sensations of the presence of the dead. Because they are electrical sensation, they can surely be measured. Another direction is studying the element of surprise and the unexpected, quite common characteristics of afterdeath communication. Furthermore, DMILS or any form of super-psi and reservoir hypotheses cannot explain afterdeath communication that takes the form of dialogue, even arguments. Nor can they explain instances in which the dead tell us about something that they and only they know, something that occurred after their deaths. Fortunately, the dedicated researchers at Windbridge Institute seem to be going in these directions.


More information about Windbridge publications, investigators, news, studies, opportunities, and certified research mediums is available at Julie Beischel , PhD, is Director of Research at the Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential.

The Windbridge Institute was founded by Beischell and her husband, Mark Boccuzzi, to continue research begun at the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona. The University of Arizona mediumship trials were directed by Gary Schwartz. Beischel was co-director. If you are interested in reading about these trials, see Schwartz’ book, The Afterlife Experiments, (Atria Books, 2002). I should mention that At Windbridge Institute, researchers on afterdeath communication uses only those mediums whose abilities have been clinically demonstrated.


  1. Fantastic: philosopher David Rousseau finds strategy to defeat Super-ESP through NDEs! - Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of

    […] And I think he missed something in his analysis of mediumship. Here are 2 quotes from 2 websites: Problems and Methods of Afterdeath Communication Research | The Last Frontier "Furthermore, DMILS or any form of super-psi and reservoir hypotheses cannot explain […]
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    […] quotes on the matters that I found interesting: Problems and Methods of Afterdeath Communication Research | The Last Frontier "Furthermore, DMILS or any form of super-psi and reservoir hypotheses cannot explain […]

  3. john joseph

    I feel very blessed to have found your book and website, and have read your entries here with great interest. I do, however, find your description of spirit people as “the dead” to be extremely off putting, however. I am no medium, nor a psychic, but since my dad passed in 2005, I have had about a dozen or so contacts, some of them very dramatic – my sister recently had my father come to her and explain how each part of her leg works (she has a broken ankle). My father is not “dead”, because something “dead” can’t be so alive and full of idiosyncratic humor and love.

    I wish we could put that term to bed. Speaking strictly for myself, all the good feelings and raised vibrations I get from reading through this kind of material shuts down and makes my blood run cold when I read that word “dead.” Thank you for allowing me to express that.

    • Julia

      John, I totally agree with you and in The Last Frontier discuss the negative impact of all words we now have concerning death, dead, grave, Grim Reaper. All of them are macabre. And yes, your father is not any more dead than we are. We need either a whole new vocabulary or whole new associations. Near-death experiences, for instance, now carries a positive association. But “the dead” maybe never!

  4. joseph zodiaco

    Julia I listen to Coast to Coast often, and last night you were on the show. I have had some weird experiences since my wife of 62 years passed : The day my wife passed,when  I came home from the hospital,and found a card with a picture of Jesus on the floor, infront the fireplace, It really shook me up!  The saying on the card was that she is safe at home at last and happy. It goes on and too lenghty. My second experience was when at her grave site waiting for the delivery of her monument. While thinking of her,I heard. from the tree tops at the rear of her grave site, three cooing’s of a dove. Ironically she is buried on the street called DOVE LANE  The second time I heard the three cooing’s of a dove was out my office window while working on my computer. My office is adjacent to our bedroom on the second floor. Now I hear,and pretty much on a daily basis while working in my office, foot steps as I have heard over the years of her getting out of bed & going down stairs.  I am an ealry riser and go on line early in the morning.  Am I imaging these hearing of things .or are they real.? Any comment would be appreciated; She was very precious to me and I am still grieving over her, since she passed on January 28 2012.

    Thank you         

  5. sandar roland

    I just spoke to my late grandfather after he dead in the hospital with liver problem.Life has not been so easy for me since he left me.I talked to people if there is a way i could speak to him for once because i was dreaming of him since he was buried and him keep appearing to me probably wanting to speak with me.I was confused and i told a friend of mine my situation and he told me that he can help me to find a diviner that communicates with the dead.That was how i came to know Doctor Jefferson.He did everything within his power and i finally talked to my late grandfather,ever since my mind as been on rest.Thanks to Jefferson for making my dreams come through.i decide to live his email address just in case you guys will like to contact him

    • Julia

      Thanks, Sandar, for the link. It is amazing how much an encounter with our late loved ones can heal us, no? As you might know, in my book, The Last Frontier, I give directions for making contact on your own without the assistance of a professional.

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