The Psychomanteum: Contacting the Dead and the Transformative Experience

Looking for ideas…

Often when thinking of ideas for new blog posts I find myself looking through my collection of paranormal books and skimming through the internet to see if anything catches my eye. As I did this one word actually caught my attention and also pulled me in quite a bit to be honest. That word was of course; “Psychomanteum.”

The word sparked my imagination as it sounded very much like and Indiana Jones story line to me. Especially when I discovered the references to it on the Week In Weird website. Nelson’s article on the website outlines an interesting background of this mystical sounding artefact, which Greg and Dana Newkirk helped Amy Bruni and Adam Berry use on their TV show; “Kindred Spirits.” I will not go into detail about the TV show use of the psychomanteum as Nelson’s article does a brilliant job of that.

oracle of the dead…

The psychomanteum (oracle of the dead) was something the ancient Greeks used to consult and was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. In that case, Odysseus gazed into a pit of filled with the blood of sacrificial sheep, and was reassured by his dead mother that her passing was neither violent or painful. As Nelson mentions in his article; “The Psychomanteum: How an Ancient Tool for Contacting the Dead is Making Breakthroughs in Paranormal Investigation,” and also Wehrstein’s entry in the Psi Encyclopedia on the same subject; in the 1950’s an actual psychomanteum was excavated at Ephyra in the western Greek province of Epiros. It was found in a subterranean complex where fragments of a giant bronze cauldron were found. This would have been the reflective surface along with the liquid it contained.

However, it was Raymond Moody’s modernisation of this approach that is more familiar with the method used by the Newkirk’s in Kindred Spirits. Moody had conducted a great deal of research into near-death experiences (NDEs) and observed that there was a very real therapeutic effect following an encounter with their deceased loved-ones. Wondering if these encounters could be artificially stimulated, Moody began to look into mirror-gazing.

moody’s modern psychomanteum…

Moody’s modern psychomanteum was a special room, which was blocked off from the sunlight. On one wall was a large mirror that was angled forward, so to prevent the person sat in the chair facing the mirror from seeing their own reflection. Behind the chair would be placed a low voltage lamp and this would be the only light source. Prior to entering Moody’s psychomanteum the subject would focus on their loved-ones they wish to contact. Then once inside the subject would gaze towards the mirror thinking of those loved-ones.

Around 300 people were interviewed following from 1990, as Moody continued his mirror-gazing research in a purpose-built; ‘theatre of the mind.’ This allowed him to discover quite a bit about the varying experiences of those involved. The Psi Encyclopedia notes these experiences and they are quite interesting considering they are recorded as being both visual and audible. In some cases there were even reports of conversations held with apparitions. This certainly highlights some interesting possibilities and experiences that could be obtained through the use of the psychomanteum. 

horrific history used in modern science…

Now you’ve probably spotted that I have left both Nelson and Wehrstein to fill in the blanks and greater details around the psychomanteum; please follow the links to read their articles in order to gain a good understanding of this ancient tool and Moody’s modern version too. However, this is a Psi Theory article, so it’s now time to flip this on its head perhaps a little.

The psychomanteum has a contrasting story; on one side the Ancient Greek background paints a picture that possibly aligns with the horror of Halloween; whilst Moody’s story shows a more scientific approach that he worked on with the understanding that these encounters provided individuals with a type of therapy. Something that could potentially assist with their bereavement. Both stories give us that continued link to belief though and its importance within the experience of the individual. This is greatly present within the ritual or process used too, with each having the subject focus on loved-ones prior and during the mirror-gazing. This in turn provides us with intent followed by attention, two things greatly important in the paranormal experience process.

However, the numerous reports through history; including the Report on the Census of Hallucinations, published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research back in 1894; Moody’s research and more, show that there may be something in this mirror-gazing approach. Many have seen apparitions through mirror-gazing too, but what is really going on? Taking into consideration the conditions that are generally in place, especially when using the psychomanteum, we must consider many other possibilities too.

making the psychomanteum mobile…

Personally I believe that Moody’s psychomanteum is a little like the Ganzfield Experiment. Of course they are very different too, one places the subject in sensory deprivation whilst the psychomanteum provides specific sensory stimulus. However, the concept of closing the subject off and having them focus is kind of similar. In fact, the Newkirk’s have created a more portable version of Moody’s psychomanteum by swapping the quiet darkened room for headphones and white noise. This approach, plucked from the Ganzfield Experiment, means that in theory paranormal investigators could potentially use a psychomanteum on location during their investigations. Something which the Newkirks do with their Travelling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult.

So, if the approach is playing with our sensory input somewhat then is everything what it seems. As investigators we have to question everything. Although there is anecdotal evidence supporting that many people were experiencing something following and during the use of the psychomanteum, what that experience actually was is still debatable. It was initially related to individuals that had passed away, but this was because the process focussed on the subjects loved-ones before, during and after a little. This oddly is a little like some ghost hunts where those involved appear to attribute all oddities to something paranormal, but only because that is on their mind before they arrive at the location and whilst they are there.

The thing that I find quite interesting about Moody’s psychomanteum approach is that it has similarities to other more spiritual techniques; like a Victorian Séance for example. It also highlights something which I have experienced personally, the fact that perhaps in order to suspend reality as we know it enough, we must follow certain processes or rituals that lean more towards the spiritual in order to gain greater success in regards to paranormal activity. A great example of this being the Scole Experiment.

interesting success…

It would seem that the Newkirk’s have had some success with their variation of Moody’s psychomanteum, which I can certainly understand. I have also been on numerous investigations where mirrors have played a part in relation to a few paranormal experiences. I think I even recall one such experience that one of my own team had during one of our investigations of the Royal Oak pub. I can certainly understand why many would try this approach and some may even have success too.

I would also like to know more about you the readers experiences around the psychomanteum approach if you have used it yourself during an investigation? If you haven’t give it a try next time you’re out at a haunted location. Equally, if you have used mirrors during your investigations with some success, please share your stories of those too.

Thank you for reading, don’t forget to like, rate, share and comment below.

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