This experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that the sensed presence, the feeling of a proximal sentient being, can be evoked within the laboratory. Under double-blind conditions, 48 university men and women were exposed to weak (100 nT to 1 μT), complex, pulsed magnetic fields that were applied primarily over the right temporoparietal region, primarily over the left temporoparietal region, or equally across both hemispheres (one treatment per group) for 20 minutes while wearing opaque goggles in a very quiet room. A fourth group was exposed to a sham-field condition. Subjects who received greater stimulation over the right hemisphere or equal stimulation across both hemispheres reported more frequent incidences of presences, fears, and odd smells than did the subjects who received greater stimulation over the left hemisphere or who were exposed to the sham-field condition. The results suggest that the sensed presence is subject to experimental manipulation. This experimental procedure could be employed to explore the idea that the experience of a sensed presence is a resident property of the human brain and may be the fundamental source for phenomena attributed to visitations by gods, spirits, and other ephemeral phenomena.
1 Behavioral Neuroscience Program, Department of Psychology, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6. Send reprint requests to Dr. Persinger.
We thank Mr. Bruce McKay and Professor Ghislaine Lafreniere for constructive comments, and Mr. Stan A. Koren for the construction and maintenance of the equipment