Modern scientists typically maintain that nothing can rise into the air without there being some physical explanation for such a rising that scientists can explain. Those who maintain this opinion have typically never studied any of the very many accounts refuting such an opinion, accounts often written by very reliable observers. Such accounts seem to establish very well the reality of inexplicable levitations utterly beyond the power of scientists to explain.
In his massive two-part 1857 work A Treatise on Turning Tables, the Supernatural in General, and Spirits, Agenor Gasparin described some examples of inexplicable levitation, along with innumerable accounts of tables mysterious turning or tilting. On page 53 we read the following description of the levitation of a table:
"Let us return to the demonstration par excellence the elevation without contact. We began by accomplishing it three times. Then, as it was suggested that the presence of witnesses exercised a more certain influence over a small table than a large one, over five operators than ten, we caused a round table, made of spruce, to be brought in, and which the chain reduced one-half, sufficed to put in rotation. Whereupon, the hands being raised, and all contact having ceased, the table elevated itself perpendicularly seven times at our command."
In Volume 9 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, beginning on page 245, we have a long account of paranormal occurrences at seances of the very well-respected figure William Stainton Moses. The account includes numerous reports of levitations. For example, on page 301 we read a witness stating, "The table was floated to the level of our heads; this in clear light."
In a previous post I quoted an account of how a large number of distinguished professors witnessed the levitation of a table at a seance of Eusapia Palladino. Here is part of the account quoted: "By the light of three lamps the table round wbich the experimenters were seated was seen to rise as high as nearly half a yard (4oc.) or to float in the air untouched, without any contact with Eusapia, for about twenty-five minutes." Such levitations were observed very many times on many different days by professors during experiments with Eusapia Palladino, under conditions in which she was physically constrained or observed so closely that no secret fraud was possible. (Transgressions under looser conditions do nothing to discredit such observations under stringent conditions in which secret fraud was impossible.) Numerous photographs of such levitations have been published. Below is one, from a page of an Italian book:
In the previously mentioned post of mine I also quoted a professor Murani who reported seeing levitations of the medium M. Amedeo Zuccarini. In the photos preceding page 136 of the publication here we see a man suspended about 18 inches above a table, with two observers holding his hands (something done to rule out trickery such as using a hand to hold on to a wire hanging from the ceiling). On page 136 we read this:
"Our hands, not bent at all, but drawn upwards by the medium's arms, simultaneously felt that his body was ascending. The duration of the suspension was variable, lasting while we could count from four to thirty-six, as also was the distance of his feet from the surface of the table (approximately from two to twenty inches)."
The key issue here is whether Zuccarini could have been propping himself up using the hands that held his. The testimony that such hands were "drawn upwards by the medium's arms" rather than pushed downward rules out such a possibility.
Volume VIII of the Annals of Psychical Science (July-September 1909) has a long account by the distinguished scholar and psychical researcher Julian Ochorowicz, author of the long and fascinating work Mental Suggestion. Ochorowicz describes at great length a long series of experiments with Stanislawa Tomczyk, who among other wonders could apparently manipulate the dials or needles (under glass) of various instruments. Tomczyk was also apparently able to levitate a variety of objects. The beginning of the volume contains nine very clear photos of such levitations. Two of them are below.
Mysterious rise of a magnet
Although there is no sign of such a thing in any of the photos I mentioned, Ochorowicz mentions sometimes very faintly seeing a thread-like thing between Tomczyk's hands, but only seeing such a thing during some of the levitations. On page 369 he describes levitation which cannot be explained by any thread between the hands:
"From the moment when I mentioned having seeing a thread, the medium behaved as if she wished to contradict these suspicions in various ways: the thread being no longer visible, the medium held her hands motionless for the greater part of the time, and in spite of this, objects were raised and removed, sometimes to right and sometimes to left, sometimes even turning, and when she raised her hands parallel with the object, she moved the fingers about or executed little descending and ascending movements, independent of the object. Her hands, always very cold and very wet, were, moreover, empty, and did not leave the table a single instant."
On page 370 Ochorowicz formulates the following remarkable hypothesis compelled by his strange observations:
"It is possible to create mediumistically, between the medium's hands, a sort of thread, possessing for some minutes a certain consistency, which diminishes and disappears with the putting apart of the hands. The formation of the mediumistic thread is accompanied by a sensation of chill. This thread, created by the unconscious imagination of the medium, seems to present a case of objective material ideoplasm : the strong desire to raise a small object at a distance, brings by association the idea of a thread which would do this."
In investigations of the medium Indridi Indridason, many reports of levitations were made, both of inanimate objects and of Indridi Indridason himself. Below are some excerpts from a paper by the distinguished researcher Erlendur Haraldsson:
"At the Second Congress in Warsaw in 1923 Nielsson reported on violent poltergeist phenomena around Indridi, much of which took place in full light and involved violent levitations of Indridi and those who tried to protect him from attacks... After the summer of 1905 movements and levitations of objects continued. For example, a table would levitate without anyone touching it, and on another occasion the sitters were unable to thrust a levitated table down with their hands. Knocks and bangs on walls and floor and in mid-air were common. There were levitations of the medium....Movements and levitations were frequent, of objects, small and large, light and heavy, and over short or long distances within a room or hall and sometimes quite high....Many levitations are reported, often with the medium holding onto another person."
Below are some quotes from the work "The Icelandic Physical Medium Indridi Indridason" by Loftur R. Gissurarsun and Erlendur Haraldsson:
Page 70: "A small table with three legs levitated so high that it 'bumped' into the sitters' faces...The sitters then tried with a very heavy table, which tilted a few times without being touched and once levitated completely off the floor."
Page 71: "A small table was abruptly levitated off the floor and up onto another table....Then another table behind Indridason levitated and landed on the table they were sitting at."
Page 76: "Very soon the medium was levitated in the basket chair a great distance from the floor -- the creaking in the chair being heard while it glided, containing the medium, above our heads -- and was eventually rather noisily deposited on the floor behind the chairs."
Page 116: "The zither levitated many times. It was seen flying at different speeds in various directions (the phosphorescent tape indicating this). There is no doubt that some of the movements were so far away from Indridason that he could not have reached them."
Page 126: "Many of the objects that moved and levitated around the hall were borrowed from various people."
The eminent scientist William Crookes was the co-discoverer of the element thallium, and was the inventor of the Crookes tube that was the forerunner of all television sets. Crookes reported observing inexplicable levitations of both objects and people. In his Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spirtualism, he states on page 37, “On three successive evenings a small table moved slowly across the room, under conditions which I had specially pre-arranged, so as to answer any objection that might be raised as to the evidence.” Crookes states on page 40, “On five separate occasions, a heavy dining table rose between a few inches and 1 ½ feet off of the ground, under special circumstances, which rendered trickery impossible.” He also states on page 41, “At another time two children, on separate occasions, rose from the floor with their chairs, in full daylight, under (to me) most satisfactory conditions; for I was kneeling, and keeping close watch upon the feet of the chair, and observing that no one might touch them.”
On page 5 of his book Mysterious Psychic Forces, the astronomer Camille Flammarion states the following:
Very specifically, Flammarion states on page 6 that on March 29, 1906, he saw a table rise 15 to 20 inches above the ground while he and the medium Eusapia Palladino were standing above the table with their hands on it (the other observers being at a distance), and also while one of Eusapia's hands was resting on Flammarion's hand. On page 7, Flammarion says, “This phenomenon of levitation is, to me, absolutely proved, although we cannot explain it.” He also states this on page 7:
"I will add that quite often the table continues to rise even after the experimenters have ceased to touch it. This is movement without contact."
On page 47 of his book On the Threshold of the Unseen, the physicist William Barrett describes an experience in observing a levitation:
"Then the table began to rise from the floor some 18 inches and remained so suspended and quite level. I was allowed to go up to the table and saw clearly no one was touching it, a clear space separating the sitters from the table. I tried to press the table down, and though I exerted all my strength could not do so; then I climbed up on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off. The table of its own accord now turned upside down, no one touching it, and I tried to lift it off the ground, but it could not be stirred, it appeared screwed down to the floor. At my request all the sitters' clasped hands had been kept raised above their heads, and I could see that no one was touching the table; — when I desisted from trying to lift the inverted table from the floor, it righted itself again of its own accord, no one helping it."
Below is a report from page 340 of Volume 18 of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, involving the medium Stella Cranshaw, and referred to as Stella C.:
"The sitters having taken their places at table, incense lighted, and musical - box started , the ' Slade' table began to move almost immediately . It then started turning ( compelling the sitters to leave their chairs ), and was at once levitated to the height of several inches. Within the next twenty minutes the table was completely levitated at least six times — once for six seconds at a height of about six inches. During these levitations , which took place in the full light of the 60 - watt red lamp, the finger-tips only of the sitters were on the table top . Ceaseless movement of table followed , and once it turned over ; and then , upon request, righted itself....The sitters and medium pushed their chairs well away from the table; linked hands and held them high in the air; and without the slightest contact with sitters or medium , the table ( weight 43.5 lbs . ) , with a few preliminary raps and creaks, slowly moved . These movements without contact were kept up for nearly ten minutes, the table moving in every direction , with decided attempts at levitation...During one of these violent manifestations , the table was poised upon two legs, and the combined efforts of Captain Bennett ( exerting his entire strength ) , who was pushing the table - top in a downward direction , and the other sitters , who were trying to pull the table down , could not shift the table from its poise on two legs."
On page 341 of this account, the observer (Harry Price) states that once when a table was moving "of its own volition" during one of the seances of this Stella Cranshaw, the temperature inexplicably dropped to 43 degrees in the seance room. On page 343 we read this about a seance with Stella Cranshaw:
"Several complete levitations were accomplished, the table finally turning over with its four legs upwards. In this most difficult position, again the table rose completely, some of the levitations being of 4 , 5, or 6 seconds’ duration."
Following page 285 of Volume VIII, No. 50 of the Annals of Psychical Science (April - June 1909), we have a long description of levitations at seances of Francesco Carancini, which are preceded by quite a few photos, one of which (Figure 37) shows a violin floating in the air. Figure 5 shows a table levitating above the shoulders of the medium, and Figure 7 (shown below) shows a trumpet levitating in the air. The text describes observers witnessing levitations matching those shown in the photos.
On page 305 of this account we read this: "At the seance held on the evening of November 27th, 1908, the phenomenon of the levitation of the medium occurred; he was levitated to the height of one yard, a phenomenon distinctly visible to the spectators; the controllers verified all absence of support from the table or chair."
W. J. Crawford was a lecturer in mechanical engineering, and the author of some conventional scientific works such as Calculations on the Entropy-Temperature Chart. After years of research, Crawford wrote the book The Reality of Psychic Phenomena: Raps, Levitation, Etc. The 270-page book describes in precise detail Crawford's exact experiments in which inexplicable levitations abundantly occurred.
On page 44 Crawford states this:
"The levitation of the stool was the most spectacular case of the phenomenon I have seen. So high was the stool in the air, it is no exaggeration to say that if I had bent my head I could have walked right under it from one side of the room to the other."
On pages 62-63 Crawford tells us that he saw a 16-pound table levitated to a height of 2 feet, 5 inches, and that this occurred at his own house. We are told the table was "levitated many times, the longest period being certainly over a minute." The location of his own house rules out any possibility of some trickery prepared at some special room of a psychic. A similar situation occurred with Crookes, who reported observing levitations at his own house. Of course, since Crawford was an expert in mechanical engineering, he would have been the type of person most likely to have spotted any mechanical trickery if it had been rigged up at someone else's house, and he never reported seeing such a thing.
On page 63 Crawford tells us this about one of these levitations of a 16-pound table observed at his own home:
"During one of the levitations...I entered the circle and pressed down with my hands on the top of the table. Although I exerted all my strength, I could not depress the table to the floor. A friend who is over six feet in height then leaned over the circle and helped me to press downwards, when our combined efforts exerted to the limit just caused it to touch the floor."
While such a thing might happen if there were very powerful air jets coming from under the table, such jets could never have been installed through trickery in Crawford's own home, undetected by a mechanical engineering expert such as him.
In his book The Reality of Psychic Phenomena: Raps, Levitation, Etc. (which can be read here) and his book Experiments in Psychical Science (which can be read here), Crawford describes exhaustive experiments with mysteriously levitated tables, none of which revealed any evidence of fraud or trickery. Below is Figure 1 from his Experiments in Psychical Science.
Here from page 8 of the book is the text describing this figure, and the next figure:
"At a recent seance the table turned over on its side with edge of surface and two legs on the floor, surface remote from medium. Then it levitated in that position (Fig. 1) remaining in the air for about half a minute, with lowest edge about a foot above the floor. The surface (S) was about 4 feet from the body of the medium. It levitated again in the same way and then turned over in the air, very slowly at first and then jerkily, until its surface was horizontal and it had attained a normal levitated position. Fig. 2 gives successive positions."
Here from page 9 of the book is the Figure 2 mentioned in the text above:
Given unlimited piano wire and air jets to play with, a magician would be unable to achieve such a manipulation of a table in the air.
Quite a few witnesses have reported levitations occuring during poltergeist incidents. The Psi Encyclopedia's article on the famous 1977 Enfield poltergeist case includes reports of several levitation observations.
Claims are sometimes made that levitation is unthinkable, as it would involve a violation of the law of gravitation. Such a thing is not at all true. We need not believe in any suspension of gravity during levitation, but merely the application of some unknown force exceeding the weak force of gravity. Every time you jump in the air you are exceeding the weak force of gravity that acts like it was trying to keep you from rising.
As remarkable as inexplicable levitation is, I do not regard it as anything like the most impressive paranormal manifestation ever documented. As described in the accounts above, levitation does not involve any extremely precise control over matter. I think a far more impressive manifestation is the unexplained phenomenon of dramatic patterns very massively occurring during photography of falling water drops, with hundreds or thousands of consecutive repetitions of very distinctive patterns or motifs, which has been enormously documented in published photos. That phenomenon involves a degree of precise control over matter far greater than takes place during any reported paranormal levitation.