|At our last meeting, the National Organization for Psychic Energy (NOPE) reviewed some of the recent Russian research in ESP and decided that most of it is hogwash.
We had hoped to hear that they were making important strides. Instead, we find out they're having psychokinesis demonstrations to show that their most famous woman psychic can concentrate on a small plastic sphere and make it suspend in mid-air. How do you like that? World energy supplies dwindle, big work awaits the untapped resources of the human mind, and they're fooling around with parlor tricks!
Our guest was Dr. Roxby, who visited Russia and saw another PK session—a "sensitive" focused her mind on an ashtray and made it slide across a desk. He was quite excited about this, but we couldn't understand why.
We decided to send another press release to the Times (and they left it out again), reminding all these so-called researchers that fundamental scientific discoveries are supposed to do somebody some good. We propose to remain very clear-headed about this (hence our stand against going to the moon but in favor of coming back), and we can't see what difference it makes if a plastic ball in the Soviet Union falls down or not.
That at least was the consensus at this meeting, which was a productive one, albeit sparsely attended. Our first action, unfortunately, had to be the cancellation of our number-one effort toward a practical application of ESP. After an awp_postst to notify members telepathically about the meeting, no one showed up but the officers and our guest speaker. When Dr. Roxby offered to call a friend of his who can concentrate on a calendar and change Tuesday to Saturday, we concentrated on Dr. Roxby and caused him to leave.
Most of the discussion had to do with the story in the March 18 SR about Nina Kulagina, the Russian sensitive who claims to suspend the plastic sphere, to separate the yolk from the white of an egg, and to stop the heartbeat of a frog. She also moves paper clips, matches, and compass needles. So much for Russian research. We think they need some new people in there.
Meantime, NOPE's own search for genuinely useful applications of psychokinesis is having its trouble, but we're going to go ahead with interviews of all the supposed sensitives who have written to us.
One correspondent from San Diego claims that by concentrating on the idea of sunrise at midnight, he can wind his watch; also that he can make marshmallows explode and can telepathically comb his hair, or the hair of others, often in fanciful or humorous patterns, and sometimes change the color. We think he's a fake, but we'll talk to him.
Another man (a friend of his—wouldn't you know?) can flush his commode from thirty feet away and can change the page numbers of news magazines.
There's a dentist in Atlanta who claims to have enough mind power to melt chocolate, turn tea into coffee, untie people's shoes, and make bus drivers lose their way. He's trying an experiment to induce grass to withdraw back into the ground. That could be trouble.
There's the usual flood of letters from people who say they can cause doorbells to ring and zippers to jam, control the flight patterns of insects, and unravel knitwear.
A discouragingly small percentage of sensitives even claim to do anything useful to society. One woman has been turning salt into sugar but reports that she can't turn sand into sugar no matter how hard she tries. She has, however, used psychokinesis to remove stains from furniture fabrics.
We were enthusiastic about the milkman in Baltimore who can cause fog to lift, but we called him, and it turns out he can lift it only a couple of inches. What is even more disheartening is the number of psychics who can't seem to cause anything but mischief. One makes milk curdle and peels bark from trees, another grows feathers on fish, and still others make pens leak or underwear shrink, or they shatter stained-glass windows, set carbon paper on fire, blow fuses, straighten pretzels, and make paint slide down from the walls. We can't wait to meet the lady in Erie, Pennsylvania, whose only claim to psychic powers is that she can make the librarian blink, or the one who makes sparks jump from the nose of her cocker spaniel.
But the search continues. The mind is a wonderful mechanism, and we're not going to rest until someone discovers a practical use for it.
(from Saturday Review, 1972)
"If Instead of Apes
We Had Come from Grapes"
is a book of light verse
written and illustrated
by Alan Van Dine