Conjuring Up Philip: An Adventure in Psychokinesis
Iris M. Owen and Margaret Sparrow
Harper Collins – 1976
In the early 1970s a group of Canadians with an interest in the paranormal decided to try to create a ghost. They came up with a name and backstory for their ghost and then spent a year meditating together, focusing their attention on Philip, the character they had created. After a year, Philip started talking to them.
There’s no denying that that is a cool set up for a horror story, and at least two films have been loosely based on the Philip experiment. Copies of this book are hard to come by for a decent price at the moment too. That doesn’t always mean a book is good, but it does add to the mystique. I had to read this.
Unfortunately, this book is the literary equivalent to eating a cooked turd.
Philip chose to communicate with the group by knocking on a table. The group would ask a question, and he’d knock once for “yes”, twice for “no”. Occasionally he would excited and bump the whole table around. Ugh.
The book is a horrible read. It’s incredibly repetitive, and none of the sources it references are trustworthy. It gives the story of the Fox sisters as evidence of real poltergeist activity, but the Fox sisters themselves admitted that they had produced the noises that brought them attention. There was a chapter towards the end that discussed the psychology of poltergeist activity. It was so frustratingly stupid that I literally couldn’t bring myself to read it thoroughly.
I’ve never encountered a table rapping poltergeist, but I have encountered many, many idiots in my life. It’s much easier for me to believe that the people involved in this experiment were morons than it is for me to believe they created a ghost. Also, the whole way through the book, the authors discuss how the Philip experiment is going to have profound effects on the fields of psychology and even physics in the future. Here we are, almost 50 years later, and their work has had no effect on anything.
This is an poorly written, extremely boring book. When I was finished it, I was completely unconvinced in what the authors were saying. Directly after finishing the book, I watched the documentary referenced therein called “Philip the Imaginary Ghost”. This footage was shot during the experiment, and some of the scenes are discussed in the book. If I had watched the video before starting the book, I wouldn’t have bothered. Reading the book, you can’t fully appreciate how lame the people involved in writing it were. The footage is actually hilarious. It’s a bunch of dithering idiots singing at a table and pushing it around, pretending that a ghost is making it move. I genuinely don’t know if they were stupid enough to not realise that it was in fact them moving the table or if they were only stupid enough to think that people seeing them wouldn’t realise that they were moving the table. Part of me hopes that they were fully aware of how dumb they looked and were just acting like fools for a bit of fun. It truly boggles the mind.