Archive | October, 2011

Mechanic-Depressive Psychosis

27 Oct



            I  heard it said that in California all you need for happiness  is a good doctor and a good divorce lawyer. I would like to add that you also need a good auto repair mechanic. Once the magic of the warrantee wears off, this person will become one of your most intimate confidants.  As in all crucial relationships you must learn to choose wisely. Although some people have more than one mechanic at the same time (poly-mechanicogamy) most of  us practice the serial version.  The rest of this work is devoted  to cataloging and describing these important men in my life. I have  altered some of the identifying information as to avoid large lawsuits and perhaps a tire tool across the back of my head.

            I was young, it was spring  and it was my first car when I met Henry– my first mechanic. Henry worked for my step-father who ran a small auto and lawnmower repair shop. Henry was a short, phlegmatic alcoholic,  shaped sort of like a compact  bowling pin. Always dressed in oily coveralls,  he wore one of those train engineer striped hats. Taking to him was usually an exercise in futility, but when sober he had a knack for  instinctively identify the source of auto problems. Returning from  senior skip day  I  managed to tear  the oil pan off my Corvair by backing over an old concrete gasoline pump island. Henry became my hero when he savaged  a replacement part in the local junkyard. A short time later, however,  my step-father fired Henry for almost burning down the garage trying to barbecue a wild pig with a blowtorch.

When I graduated from college the first thing I did was impulsively buy a brand new MG Midget. I was thrilled with my “sports car”, although my mother said it look like a god damn roller skate and feared for my life. I soon learned that the MG had a clutch the size of an aspirin and was constantly in need of repair. That’s when I met Harold, my English mechanic, down at British American Auto Repair. Harold had this cool Ronald Coleman accent and event the most mundane oil change sounded like something from a Regency  novel. “It was a far far better  filter that I replaced than I had ever replaced before.”

 I liked impressing other people saying I had to call Harold, my English mechanic, but unfortunately I found my self saying this constantly. Soon Harold had acquired all my shillings and I had to dump both him and the MG.    

After this continental fling I settled down into a more mature relationship with Chuck from Chuck’s AMACO. From the very beginning Chuck  acted like we best friends. By that time I was married with two kids and the MG had been traded in for a used Chevette Hatchback. This car always had a strange haunting odor that lead the kids to call it the “cheese car”.  Chuck faithfully tended  the “cheese car” for several years until the fateful day it threw an oil plug and cooked the engine. Chuck towed it in and emotionally incapable of separating from the Chevette, he ended up buying it from me. I think he dropped new engine in and managed to find a buyer without  a sense of smell.

            We eventually  moved and there was a period of time when car repair became just a series of one-night-stands involving muffler shops and quicky lubrication places. We managed to upgrade our automobiles and a quiet period of mechanic celibacy followed until disaster struck and threw me into the arms of Eddie from Quadruple-A Transmission Universe.  Eddie recommended a complete transmission replacement and we were committed. For the next two years our car called Quadruple-A its second home. Due to some inscrutable  torque converter problem, Eddie and the guys at Quadruple-A replaced the transmission  at least three times. They even had to pay for a replacement  Transmission when it broke down on our vacation inTennesseejust outsideNashvillenear the machinegun factory. After that Eddie grew standoffish and  I think he wanted to break up. While in the mist of this looming relationship crisis, I was sitting at the lunch table at work and someone said, “Hey look at this article about these crooks at Quadruple-A Transmission Universe.” To my horror there was a photo of Eddie on the front page being arrested by investigators from the attorney general’s office for auto repair fraud. Eddy unsuccessfully tried to disguise himself by  putting his hands  in front of his face, but the transmission fluid stained fingers,  dark slick  hair, and the enormous name tag reading “Eddie”  on his work shirt pretty much gave him  away.  Eddie was never heard from again.

            Quadruple-A closed its  bright yellow doors and a few months later they painted the building blue and opened a taco stand which I always figured was  just a front  for another transmission repair shop. I always got a sinking feeling wherever I drove by there,  sort of like my transmission was slipping.


My Picks for the Scariest Halloween Movies in the World

25 Oct

Real life is full of real  scary things, like layoffs, newly discovered lumps, registered letters, or grown-up children threatening to come back home.   While we hope to avoid these things, Halloween is a time when people consciously seek out scary experiences as a form of entertainment.                

             If you’re the sort of person who wants to be scared this year, below are my recommendations for the scariest Halloween movies ever.

  1. Psycho: Somehow I saw this Hitchcock movie, accidently when I was about 10 years old.  It’s a good thing we didn’t  have a shower at the time  or I would have been stinky until high school.
  2. The Exorcist: I read the book first and it gave me nightmares. When the little girl’s head spun completely  around in the movie,  I almost displayed what they call in the Haunted  House trade a loss of “yellow control”.
  3. IT: Pennywise, the demonic clown played by Tim Curry, is the scariest character ever.  I still don’t look down storm drains, because he  just might be there, looking up.   
  4. The Amityville Horror: After watching the begining of this movie, Diane and I actually walked out of the  theater , so we could rush home and check on our children.  
  5. The Pet Sematary: I started this book,  but  never finished it. When I got to the point in the book where the little boy gets run over by a speeding transport truck, I threw the book against the wall and never read another word. A friend at work, who had read the whole thing, asked me, “Haven’t these people ever heard of a fence?”
  6. The Shining:  Who can forget Jack Nicholson bursting through the door, screaming  “Heeere’s Johnny”.
  7. Alien: I could never get past the scene where the alien creature bursts from John Hurt’s  chest.
  8. Jaws: My popcorn went all over the theater,  when  they found the corpse in the  sunken boat. I still  swear that they flashed a picture of a shark in that scene,  right before they showed the body.  
  9. Frankenstein: When I was a kid my older brother Norman insisted on watching all of these old Universal horror movies on a local Friday night television show called Spook Spectacular. I was terrified.        
  10. The Turn of the Screw: I never really understood the book,  nor the film version, called The Innocents, until it was    explained to me. Now I think the ghosts were real and it’s very creepy.

     Finally if you prefer something a little more current you might try the  Paranormal Activity 3, The Grunge, or The Ring.  Happy Halloween!

It is interesting that all the villians have the “square mouth” expression that psychologist Paul Ekman indentified  as signalling  unbridled rage as in the illustration below.  


Sage Advice for Thanksgiving

22 Oct


Like many holidays Thanksgiving can evoke strong emotions. I knew a fellow who told me how much he dreaded Thanksgiving, ever since he got into a knife fight with his brother-in-law. His story reminded me of a character in the movie The Ladies Man, who said that he always carried at least two knives and a gun to Thanksgiving dinner.

Comedian Al Franken once said that his family celebrated holidays by sitting in the living room viciously criticizing one another, until someone had a seizure and then they had pie. Thanksgiving is often a time when family members, who manage to successfully avoid each other all year, are suddenly forced to spend an entire afternoon together. It is not coincidental that Hollywood chose Thanksgiving as the backdrop for dysfunctional family movies like “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Avalon” and “Home for the Holidays.”

Although this is a time, when we should set aside our petty grievances to give thanks, the nerve-racking nature of the occasion often puts everyone’s teeth on edge. At one family gathering it was suggested to my overweight brother that perhaps he was eating too much. He responded by throwing a plate of spaghetti against the wall. Perhaps you also remember my story about how my father pitched a roasted turkey out the kitchen door one New Years day. Throwing foodstuff unfortunately is one Stawar holiday tradition that Martha Stewart never considered, even while in prison.

Holiday stress often reaches its peak during dinner conversation, which frequently serves as a trigger event. Seemingly innocent remarks can quickly escalate into open warfare. For mystified outsiders, with no person experience of dysfunction to fall back on, I have decoded several classic dinner table comments below.

1. How’s work going?

Translation: If you are working you deadbeat, when are you going to pay me back the money you owe me.

2. Who made the lime Jello mold?

Translation: What could they have possibly been thinking?

3. What’s your boy Jimmy up to these days?

Translation: Still on probation?

4. Cousin Billy, what a surprise to see you here.

Translation: Is your television broke?

4. And just exactly how much whipped cream do you intend to put on that thing anyway?

Translation: Don’t count on me administering CPR.

5. How’s your Atkinson’s “diet” coming along?

Translation: Hey, everybody, doesn’t he look just like a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

6. How does little Johnny like junior high?

Translation: Is the little monster any smarter than that dimwitted husband of yours?

7. How is your writing “career” coming along?

Translation: Have you got them up to $10 dollars a column yet?

8. Isn’t this turkey really moist, honey?

Translation: You’ll never be able to cook as good as my mother.

9. This wine is great, Bill.

Translation: I didn’t know Wal-Mart had a wine cellar.

10. Did you make this pumpkin pie?

Translation: We can’t expect much in terms of domestic skills from an overeducated egghead like you.

11. No thanks, I don’t need any help.

Translation: As a daughter-in-law you are not qualified to handle actual food.

13. It’s amazing how all this stuff just magically appears every year.

Translation: The fact that you are exhausted from cooking since 3:00AM this morning has completely eluded me.

12. No children yet?

Translation: You may have a big successful career smarty pants, but you will never be the woman I am.

Good luck making it through the minefield that is the dinner conversation and here are a few final tips to help you survive Thanksgiving.

1. Remember this is not a marathon family therapy session and not the best time to resolve lifelong resentments.

2. Keep communications superficial. According to some of Randy Newman’s lyrics “Feelings might go unexpressed. I think that’s probably for the best. Dig too deep who knows what you will find.”

3. Discourage alcohol consumption since that generally promotes uncensored disclosure, aggression, or flirtatious behavior, none which is particularly constructive at a family gathering.

4. Unless you have been up all night making stuffing and baking rolls, don’t rhapsodize about how much you just love Thanksgiving. That could engender some resentment on the part of the food preparer. Forty seconds of carving a turkey is not the same as actually fixing the meal.

5. Keep everyone busy. Watching parades or holiday movies usually puts everyone in a good mood. They limit actual interaction and avoid the latent hostilities that competitive activities bring out. Tryptophan induced naps can also serve this purpose.

6. Although it may annoy many women, marathon football watching is usually ok, so long as everyone is rooting for the same team or doesn’t care who wins.

7. Avoid touch football, Twister or any other activity that might involve physical contact of any sort.

8. And keep in mind the cardinal rule, no weapons allowed

(Based on a   article previous  in the Southern Indiana  News Tribune)

Tons of Pumpkin Fun

14 Oct

With Halloween and  Thanksgiving closing in,  the talk has turn to that venerable symbol of Autumn– the   pumpkin. Chris Stevens from New Richmond, Wisconsin currently holds the world’s record  for pumpkin growing with his 1,810.5 pound pumpkin. His pumpkin weighs more than the Smart Car. Steven took the  pumpkin title at last years Stillwater Wisconsin Festival . Growers are getting closer to that holy grail of  Pumkindom  the one-ton pumpkin- a squash bigger than a Killer Whale. Such a pumpkin could make a Jack O’ Lantern that could double as a summer cabin.

The word pumpkin is derived from the  Greek for “large melon”. The French called them   pompons. The British altered this  to pumpions in the American Colonies they were called simply “pumpkins”.    Pumpkin-like  seeds that are over nine thousand years old have been in Mexico.

Pumpkins are often included in the squash family and have also been seen as one type of vegetable marrow.

            In American over  1.5 billion pounds   of pumpkins are produced annually with Illinois and Indiana producing the most.  Pumpkins have  both male and female flowers on the same plant and hoiney bees are important  to provide pollination. The USDA recommends one bee hiove per acre of pumpkins.   The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety but the largest pumpkins are Cucurbita maxima. They were cross bred  from a  squash genotype,and the kabocha-pumpkin types in the1800’ s. The most popular pumpkin type today among competitive growers is called  the Atlantic Giant.   The 500 pound barrier was broken in  1981, by Howard Dill  of Nova Scotia and by 1994, the   the 1,000-pound mark was exceeded.

                They are approximately 80 competitive pumpkin festivals held each year around the  country. In some of these the cash prize  is based on the weight of the pumpkin. One contest in California pays 6 dollars a pound to the winner, so a one-ton pumpkin would net $12,000.  By the way the Smart Car cost about 8 dollar a pound.

Shocking Inventions

6 Oct




              It is usually assumed that inventors possess a high degree of genius. When we think about the electric light bulb or telephone, we figure that some advanced intelligence must have been at work. But perhaps this is    erroneous, it may be than inventiveness and intelligence is actually unrelated. As evidence for this hypothesis I offer the Stawar family inventions– prime examples of creativity without necessarily intelligence.

            My father was a self-taught electrician and as I grew up I was exposed to variety of his attempts to advance the science of electricity.  Nearly all of his inventions involved having several exposed live electrical wires hanging about so that any false move could result in a life threatening electrical shock. This danger may have never occurred to my father because he was personally immune to electrical shock. Like a snake handler who had been bitten so often that the venom was no longer toxic, my father had been shocked so many times in his 44 years as an electrician, be could literally hold two “hot” 100 volt electrical wires in his hands with no obvious ill effect—I’d like to see Thomas Edison do that.

            My father built an elaborate workshop that included a long workbench with a one inch thick rubber mat to stand on to keep from getting grounded—although he could longer feel shock,  he seemed to realize that it still could kill him under the right circumstances.

Dad built a test light into the workbench so he could test electrical circuits. This device consisted of two exposed live electrical wires which when touched together completed a circuit illuminating a 100 watt light bulb. The device was always on and could not be shut off. As a child I quickly learned to only touch the insulated part of the wires and I often played with the device, burning up flashlight bulbs and defibrillating small animals.

              I believe my father may have actually designed and built one of the first fully electric lawn mowers. Now this was in the time before plugs had three prongs (ground fault technology) so using an electric lawn mower on dewy grass was like sticking a wet fork into a toaster. And the ever-present lethal possibility of running over the cord was an added source of excitement.

My father never grasps the basic principles of mechanical engineering,  but he loved electrical motors. After several experiments  he decided that he needed an enormous electric motor to power the mower. This motor resembled a turbine from  Grand Couleedam. To support the gigantic motor he needed a very strong frame. Since he was able to arc weld a little,  he constructed a square box out of heavy gauge metal. He hacksawed pointy grooves in the front and fitted it with a push handle made out of thick steel pipe. The mower now resembled a Shermantank with sharp teeth and weighted about the same. Although it actually could cut grass, it was so heavy you needed to take a nap after every 10 feet.




After using this Frankenstein of a lawnmower for a while, our old push mower seemed virtually weightless. Dad may have inadvertently invented the first Nautilus exercise machine.

              In the fifth grade I took one of my father’s inventions to school to a sort of “show and tell” program. This was his famed electric hot dog cooker. He had soldered wires on to two nails, which he then mounted in a small wooden rack, the length of a standard hot dog. Then he attached the wires to a plug. When plugged in the hot dog completed the circuit and the meat was essentially electrocuted. Of course if you touched the hot-dog you stood the chance of also being cooked. A hot dog cooked in this manner develops an awful peculiar acidic taste. It also had the odor of searing flesh, which was reminiscent of the execution chamber at the state prison. When I demonstrated the device my science  teacher yelled at me about the general hazard this miniature electric chair for wieners represented and the horrendous smell, which quickly filled the entire school.

              Another time I took an electric magnetizer my father invented to school and was told to immediately take it home because it was too dangerous. Never discouraged by any setbacks,  one Christmas my father decided to put red and green lights  up on our front porch. However instead of using regular Christmas lights, he installed porcelain sockets and used full sized 200 watt red and green light bulbs with a timer which made them flash on and off. I thought it look pretty cool, my mother said it made the house look like a “God-damn tavern”. I suspect my father sort of liked that look.

How to Tell if Your Dog has Psychic Abilities?

4 Oct


Many people claim that their  dog can sense when they are coming home. The say that the dog   knows when they are going on a trip and even seems to respond to their thought commands as if they had telepathy.   Some dogs  howl orv behave oddly in   spooky places and even  dramatically there are stories  of lost  dogs that manage  to track their owners down over hundreds or even thousands of miles? 

 A California survey   revealed that 45% of dog owners claimed that their dog knew in advance when they were  on the way home. Sixty-five per cent said their dogs  knew beforehand when they were going out, long before the owner showed any physical sign of  leaving  and 46% said their dog responded to  their thoughts or silent commands. Surveys in London and the greater Manchester area in England yielded even high percentages of owners who believed that their dogs have psychic abilities.   

 Being psychic is  having the ability to obtain certain information or influence matter in ways that defy all conventional explanations–  in short possessing extrasensory perception (ESP). Mentally influencing matter is a forms of ESP called  psychokinesis (PK).

The most commonly reported canine psychic abilities include:

Precognition: This is the ability to forecast future events without using  reasoning or the normal sensory channels. In dogs this   involves anticipating when  owners are about to return or warning them about some  impending danger.   Frequently there have been claims that dogs can predict earthquakes or other natural disasters.

Clairvoyance: This is also known as remote viewing or second sight. It is the ability to perceive events  that are taking place some distance away– well beyond the range of the normal sensory abilities. It may involve hearing or smelling, as well as sight. A dog that somehow knows its distant owner is in immediate danger, may be said to be clairvoyant. Israeli psychic Uri Geller, is a firm believer in canine ESP. He says ,”When I was a child living in Cyprus I got lost in a cave. I was obviously distressed. My dog Joker appeared out of nowhere and led me to safety. He was at least 5 miles away from that cave.”

Telepathy: This is the ability to communicate using only the mind. This ability is usually manifested when a human sends mental commands which the dog then obeys. Occasionally owners claim that they receive thought messages from their dogs.  To rule out signaling, the sender and receiver are typically separated in telepathy experiments. This distance apart does not seem to be important and highly emotional messages are thought to be easier to transmit. Practically it may be difficult to distinguish among precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy. They often overlap. Geller says, “My dogs sense telepathically that I am about to take a trip, although it is about 3 or 4 days ahead of time. They go and lie beside my suitcase, showing sad faces to me.”

Mediumistic Sensitivity: The ability to detect other psychic phenomena or serve as a medium for psychic communication is called mediumistic sensitivity. Claims have been made that dogs are highly sensitive to manifestations of spirits, ghosts, or other so-called hauntings. 

Psi Trailing: This term is applied to the ability of some dogs to track down their lost owners, often over enormous distance. It seems to be related to the homing and migratory instincts in birds. For dogs, home is where the pack is. Richard S. Broughton, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Parapsychology in  Durham, North Carolina  says, “The claims for ESP in animals (mostly pets) are primarily in the form of anecdotes.  Typically the more impressive ones are cases where dogs or cats have tracked their owners over what appear to be impossibly long distances.  We have hundreds of such cases on file.  Unfortunately, while the accumulated weight of these tales may be

impressive, it doesn’t amount to proof of ESP in animals in any scientific sense.”

 There has been considerable research on the psychic abilities of animals. In addition to dogs, parapsychologists have studied cats, mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, chicks, cockroaches, and even paramecium.      

Anecdotal accounts of psychic dogs abound. Two  well known collections are    Bill Schul’s The Psychic Power of Animals and  John Sutton’s   Psychic Pets.  Stories in these anthologies range from Missie the amazing psychic Boston Terrier from Denver who accurately predicted both a birth and a death, to Pepsi the Border Collie-lurcher cross, who was tracked by a satellite transmitter, as she found her way home from an unknown location two miles away.   

While the belief in psychic phenomena is of ancient origin, some of the first modern experimental studies involved dogs. In the early 1920’s,  Russian scientists, Vladmir M. Bekhterev  and Alexander Leontovitch conducted extensive studies of canine ESP.  In Leningrad they studied telepathic communication between Mars, a performing  Alsation, and Vladmir Durov, a famous animal trainer and circus entertainer. Durov claimed to use telepathy to direct animals in his renown “Animal Theater”. Besides Mars, Durov also communicated mentally with a Scottish Terrier named Pikki, and  a St. Bernard named Lord. These dogs were said to obey complex  thought commands from Durov,  as well as other “senders”, even when the “sender” was several rooms away. Upon mental command these dogs were said to bark, fetch specific items, and even count out numbers.  From 1922 to 1924, over 10,000 highly successful telepathy experiments were reportedly conducted with these dogs. 

   Aristide H. Esser, M.D.,  a psychiatrist  with the Rockland Psychiatric Research  Institute in Orangeburg, New York, conducted a series of studies on canine ESP in the 1970’s. Using two specially constructed sound and vibration proof,  copper-lined rooms, he placed a dog owner in one room and two of his hunting beagles in the other room and then observed the beagles’ reaction when the owner shot an airgun at slides of animals he had previously hunted. The beagles reacted with great excitement at each shot, despite the fact that they could not have known what was taking place in the other room. In a similar experiment, Dr. Esser isolated a boxer   in one room and his owner in the other. The experimenters then suddenly and unexpectedly  frightened the owner. Simultaneously, the boxer immediately exhibited obvious distress, despite the physical separation. Dr. Essner conclude that there was an unmistakable  “psychic link” between some owners and their  dogs.    

In a early study, the father of American parapsychological research, Dr. J.B. Rhine,   from Duke University and his daughter Sara Feather employed a standardized   criteria and verified 54 bonafide cases of animal  psi trailing — mostly in dogs. Twenty-five of these cases involved distance more than 30 miles.  

In 1971 Dr. Rhine conducted a study with two German Shepherd dogs. The dogs and their trainer tried to locate  empty land-mine cases buried in sand under  6-12 inches of water. The dogs and trainer were highly successful for the first 200  trials, but then their performance significantly declined— precipitating an overall ambiguous result,  as is often seen in ESP research.  

One   canine celebrity who caught  the public’s imagination is a five-year-old mixed breed terrier named Jaytee, owned by Pamela Smart, an  administrator and counselor, from Northwest England. 

Jaytee’s  fame stems, in no small part, from his association with maverick scientist, Rupert Sheldrake.  In 1994 Dr. Sheldrake wrote a book entitled, Seven Experiments that Could Change the World, in which he suggested that public get involved in conducting important experiments that conventional science neglects.These experiments were chiefly designed to find support for Dr. Sheldrake’s controversial theory of morphic resonance, which he says is the basis for memory in nature.  A morphic field  is an energy  field which organizes the characteristic structure and activity of systems at all levels of complexity; including atoms, cells, organisms, societies, and even  galaxies. Such fields are shaped and stabilized by morphic resonance from previous similar   units, thus creating a cumulative memory over time. Such fields account for the interconnectivity and wholeness observed in nature , according to Dr. Sheldrake. 

Two of Dr. Sheldrake’s suggested experiments deal with animal  extrasensory perception—  studies of pets  that  anticipate   their owner’s   return and studies of the homing instinct in animals. If such phenomena were substantiated, the data would support Dr. Sheldrake’s notion of   morphogenetic fields linking humans with their pets.

In  1991, Ms. Smart’s   parents began to suspected that her dog, Jaytee, could tell when she was about to return home. They observed Jaytee  often waiting at the window, about the time Ms. Smart started for home. In  May of 1994, Ms. Smart  and her parents began  recording Jaytee’s behavior, as it related to Ms. Smart’s homecomings.  In a article  published by Ms. Smart and Dr. Sheldrake in 1998,  they describe the results of 96  sets of observations. According to this study, Jaytee reacted 10 minutes or more in advance of Ms. Smart’s return on 82 occasions, and showed no anticipatory reaction on 14 (an 85% success rate). They also reported a highly significant correlation between the times when Jaytee reacted and the times when Ms. Smart started for home. During the study Ms. Smart had been up to 51 kilometers away, but distance was not a significant factor in Jaytee’s ability to anticipate his owner’s return.  To rule out Jaytee’s possible recognition of the distinctive sounds of Ms. Smart’s car, other vehicles were also employed, and Jaytee still reacted on 4  of 5 occasions.  Jaytee also anticipated Ms. Smart’s  return on 4 out of 4 occasions when she was sent home at times randomly selected by another party.   On one occasion, an Austrian television crew recorded both Jaytee’s reactions and Ms. Smart’s movements on videotape. On section of the tape shows that eleven seconds after Ms. Smart was told to go home (at a randomly selected time unknown to her), Jaytee exhibited a significant anticipatory reaction.  Dr. Sheldrake and Ms. Smart concluded, “The evidence suggests that Jaytee’s reactions depended on an influence from his owner detected by the dog in a manner currently unknown to science.”

But Jaytee’s story doesn’t end here. Uri Geller’s archnemesis, James Randi, a professional magician and debunker from the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)  in Ft. Lauderdale is highly skeptical of canine ESP, saying there is, “No supporting evidence. Lots of anecdotal reports, but we at the JREF have tested these claims.  They fail.”  He adds, “We saw the Sheldrake experiment.  Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by. All that TV viewers got was the tiny segment in which the dog appeared to react to the distant event.”

The plot further thickened when well-known British parapsychologist, Dr. Richard Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire was invited by Dr. Sheldrake to conduct an  independent study of Jaytee’s abilities. After four  experiments,  Dr. Wiseman was unable to substantiate the phenomena and concluded, “Analysis of the data  did not support the hypothesis that Jaytee could psychically detect when his owner was returning home.”     Dr. Wiseman suggests that Jaytee’s behavior might be explained just as well by more familiar factors, such as responding to routines or sensory cues from people.

With more than a hint of betrayal,  Ms. Smart recently remarked, “Thinking that Wiseman was an open minded skeptic, he was offered the chance to test Jaytee for himself, which he did with his assistant Matthew Smith on two visits, where they did 4 experiments.  One of them didn’t work very well as the experiment was interrupted.  A fishmonger’s truck pulled into the neighborhood, stirring all the local cats in to a frenzy, as well as  distracting the hapless Jaytee. On all the other three experiments Jaytee did exactly as he has done on our experiments, which proves his telepathic link with me.  Last August Wiseman published a paper in the Journal of Psychology here in the UK with an analysis totally of his own making.  He decided to look at only 2% of the data and therefore rubbishing the other 98% and putting an artificial spin on all of the experiments. His results have very much validated our work.”

To these charges, Dr. Wiseman  cautiously replies, “We see the data in quite different ways.     However, I stand by the paper, but Rupert disagrees.” Such  conflicts are common  in parapsychology research.

When asked if Jaytee shows any other special powers Smart  says, “Jaytee doesn’t have any other psychic abilities that I am aware of. It is important to say that Jaytee is just an ordinary little mongrel terrier.  There are thousands of pets doing this every day out there.  Jaytee has just been tested more than any other dog and of course, I love him to bits.”

From Lancashire England, John G. Sutton is a teacher, feature editor of Psychic World Magazine, and   author of the aforementioned Psychic Pets. Being familiar with Dr. Sheldrake’s  work, he says “Electro-magnetic morphogenic fields of energy emit from every living thing in the universe. Animals are sensitive to such fields.” As to why dogs specifically  may have ESP, Sutton says. “They are natural not socialized creatures.”  Canine  ESP according to Sutton is, “…simply a fact denied only by the professionally blind.”

  Maureen Hall from North Hollywood, California has over 40 years experience as an animal communicator and trainer of theatrical animal and pets. She says, “People need to know that they are capable of conversing with their pets. And they need to know that their animals have deep thoughts capable of far more than the owner ever dreamed.   I teach people to ‘speak’ telepathically to their pets and in fact to all animals.  I have at least a 95% success rate with my students. TRY IT and you will become a believer!”

            Dr. Wiseman has described  seven possible natural  explanations for reported psychic phenomena in canines, such as Jaytee’s anticipation response. These include:

1. Responding to routines: Dogs are certainly able to develop a sense of time, as every owner has observed around  supper time. Dogs may also develop a sense for other aspects our schedules, such as our departures and arrivals. They may appear to read our minds, when they are just responding to learned routines. 

2. Sensory Cueing from the Owner: Whether conscious or inadvertent this is a major factor. Human-canine rapport can occasionally become so intimate, that communication becomes extremely efficient and abbreviated. This is called “calibrated communication” and it occurs when only minimal gestures or signals  are necessary to transmit  tremendous amounts of information and meaning.

Canine communication relies heavily on interpreting cues from the alpha dog and other  pack members and this skill is routinely transferred  to canine-human communications.  Dr. Caroline Watt, Senior Research Fellow at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh, says, People unwittingly give off clues as to what they are thinking.  For instance, say they are thinking of taking the dog for a walk, they may become restless, start to adjust their clothes, look to the windows to check the weather, drink up their cup of  tea, etc.  Animals are very observant and are known to be able to  detect these kinds of cues, long before the owner says ‘walkies’!” Dogs who exhibit separation anxiety are especially adept at reading cues suggesting the owner is leaving.

Dr. Broughton says of all the canine ESP claims, except for psi-trailing, “It is far more simpler to suppose that the dog is responding to subtle cues on the part of their master–so subtle that the human doesn’t recognize them, but the dog does. Our founder, J.B. Rhine, observed precisely that back in the late 1920s with a horse thought to be psychically reading the thoughts of its master.”

3. Sensory Cueing from Other People: Besides the owner, other people in the immediate environment may also be transmitting unintended messages. Animals, as well as humans, tend to respond in accordance with the expectations of others. A controversial book, Pygmalion in  the Classroom, by  Professor Robert Rosenthal, described how children’s grades improved significantly when teachers were simply lead to expect that greater achievement was imminent.  

4. Selective memory: This involves selecting observations that support the phenomena and simply forgetting  or disregarding all of those that do not. Selective vigilance is a principle  which is often cited in parapsychology research.  Dr. Watt says, “Another factor that may be important, is the human tendency to forget occasions when the dog ‘got it wrong’ and remember occasions when the dog ‘got it right’.  For instance, in a dog that seems to be able to anticipate the owner’s return, observers are likely to end up with an exaggerated view of the dog’s skills because they will overlook the occasions when the dog anticipated wrongly and the occasions that the dog anticipated rightly will be more memorable and impressive.   Finally, once people have a belief (e.g., my dog is psychic), psychologists have shown that they tend to make observations and  decisions that will confirm and support their belief (sort of  ‘I’ll see it when I believe it’).”

5. Multiple guesses:  This factor stems from not  operationally defining the target response. Firm criteria and an objective description of what behavior constitutes the target must be established in advance. In any situation, a dog is likely to make a variety of responses. Without set criteria, the owner must interpret what the various behaviors mean,  converting the experiment into a Rorschach Test for the owner.  

6. Misremenbering: In some instances participants in such research may simply forget or confuse critical details. Careful monitoring and data recording are therefore crucial.

7. Selective Matching: Like multiple guessing, this factor is related to ambiguity of animal behavior. In the case of Jaytee, according to Dr. Wiseman, if someone is attempting  to determine when the dog has made a  signal  of anticipation, this person should not be privy to the actual time selected for the owner to begin home, since it might bias the judgement. Such “blind” and even “double blind”  experimental conditions  are usually the rule in parapsychology research.

In addition to the factors above, many professional parapsychologists believe that much of canine ESP phenomena is simply a misinterpretation of normal canine capacities that we tend  to greatly underestimate. Besides their unique skills in interpreting visual cues, there is their phenomenal auditory and olfactory abilities. Dr. Watt says, “Animals also may be able to detect a wider range of acoustic frequencies than humans, and may be more sensitive to other physical cues such as vibrations and smells.  All of these factors may provide the chance for normal information transfer, that may look like ESP to the owner.”

Along similar lines Dr. Broughton  says , “Dogs probably have higher levels of sensory acuity than we do.  Their survival might depend on learning how to respond to very subtle signs on the part of humans that we do not pay attention to.  Consider some raptors.  They have far greater visual  acuity than humans, so they can spot tiny rodents from great heights. If a human were to be looking down from the height of a hovering hawk,  he might venture that hawks have a psychic ability to locate rodents

because he can’t spot them, but that would not be the case.”

            Many owners seem to really wish that their dog was psychic. Dr. Watt,  says, “One of my interests is human psychology, and the way in  which we may mislead ourselves into thinking that something psychic  has occurred, when in fact an ordinary explanation exists – what you might call ‘pseudo-ESP. Some general psychological principles may come into play with ‘psychic animals’, leading their owners to conclude, wrongly, that ESP has happened.”   

Randi’s explanation for such thinking is more direct and simple, He says, “It’s called  ‘anthropomorphizing ‘. They [the owners]  would like it to be true.” and Dr. Broughton says the claim for such powers, “Makes them feel their pet is special.”

There’s no doubt that many owners develop a very special rapport and keen ability to communicate with their dogs. Whether this can be considered  psychic phenomena, however, is in still in dispute, despite over 80 years of laboratory research. Dr. Broughton concludes, “I think current research would agree that many dog owners believe their dog possesses psychic abilities. Whether the dogs actually do have such abilities remains an open question.”


Testing  Your Dog’s ESP

Is Your Dog Psychic?

Developing a test for canine ESP is possible, although difficult according to Dr. Broughton, Director of the Institute for Parapsychology in  Durham, North Carolina. He  says,  “ The key is to see if one can demonstrate that the dog is obtaining and responding to information that it could not have obtained through its very good sensory system (not just vision, but hearing and smell).”

            Keeping this in mind I have devised these brief ESP tests that most dog owners can conduct. I have avoid testing for the anticipation response, because I don’t believe this can be conducted properly without considerable effort. These tests try to prevent the possibility of unintentional cueing by owners, but they are  far from foolproof. All of these tests employ both positive reinforcement for demonstrating psi ability and immediate feedback. The statistical standards are rigorous, but reflect generally accepted experimental methodology.  You may wish to  take a few days to complete these  tests, so your dog will not get overtired or overfed. Use very small bits of favorite food treat  as rewards or lures. Any time your dog stops  responding to the food treats, he is telling you it’s   time to quit. Respect this and try again later. Good luck and have fun.

Materials Required:     One experimenter and one assistant

Two small food bowls (one white, one black)

                                    One die  (from a pair of dice)

                                    One  whistle

                                    One marking pen

A supply of dog treats divided into small pieces

One stop watch

Two clipboards with paper and pens to record results


Experiment 1. Precognition: This a test to see if your dog can predict the future.

1. Take one die (from a pair of dice) and using the marking pen, paint all of the even sides black. These sides represent a black response, the unpainted sides represent white.

2. Obtain  two new small  food bowls (one white, one black). For a few  days before testing, familiarize your dog with the bowls by putting half of his food in each bowl at meal times. Vary the relative of the position of the bowls at each meal.

3. To begin the precognition test,  with your dog out of the testing room, place the two new bowls about three feet apart and put a very small amount of your dog’s favorite food treat into each bowl.

4. Keeping all other animals and distractions  away, bring the dog you wish to test into the testing area. Hold the dog at least ten feet away from center of the space between the two dog dishes.

5. Release the dog and make a note of what color dish he/she contacts first. Give the dog two minutes on the stopwatch to contact the dish. It doesn’t matter if the dog goes immediately to  the other dish.

6. Using a small cup, roll the die (letting it fall on a table) and if it is the same color as the dish that the dog contacted FIRST, reward the dog with another dog treat, petting, and praise.

7. If the color does not match the dish the dog contacted first, just lead the dog out of the test area.

8. With your dog out of site, switch the relative positions of the bowls and repeat  steps 3 through 8  until your have 21 trials. Not counting trial 1 (this was a learning trail), calculate  how many correct choices or “hits”  your dog has. 

Experiment 2. Telepathy: This is a test to determine if your dog responds to mental or telepathic commands.

  1. Use the painted die as prepared above
  2. Set up the two colored dishes as in steps 2,3, and 4 above. This time however have a partner restrain the dog, while you go (taking the whistle and stopwatch with you) into another room, out of sight of the dog. Using the cup roll the die to establish a target color. Then give your dog a mental command to go that that color bowl. Visualize the dog going there, and visualize  the color  of the bowl as vividly as possible.
  3. Blow the whistle one short  loud blast as a signal for your assistant to release the  dog. Your assistant should note  what bowl the dog approaches first. The dog should be given 2 minutes after the whistle is blown to  contact  a bowl. After two minutes, you should return to the testing area and reward the dog with an additional food treat, praise, and petting if he/she made the correct response. Not responding should be treated as a miss. 
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you  have 20 trials. You should keep close track of the dish color you tried to transmit for each trial.
  5. Determine the number of correct approaches or “hits”.

Experiment 3. Psychokenesis (PK): This experiment determines your dog’s ability to use mind over matter. 

  1. Take your prepared die and using a small cup and roll it on to a table in the presence of your dog.
  2. If the die  reads “Black” reward your dog with a small food treat.  If the die  reads “White”, ignore your dog.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2  until your have a total  of 21 trials.
  4. Calculate the number of times black appeared on the roll of the die, starting with the second trial. Again trial 1 results are omitted because it was a learning trial.

Scoring and Interpretation: All three experiments are based on  a 50-50  (equal chance) probability. So for each test, the expected score is always 10 hits out of 20 for average (non-psychic) performance.

0-14  Average performance—lovable perhaps,  but no Uri Geller. Scores in this range either reflect no  psychic ability, or have a high likelihood of being due to chance factors alone. Since you  are trying to detect ESP effects, we  are using what statisticians call a “one-tailed test” (only looking for high scores).  

14-20 Possibly a canine Kreskin!  Scores in this range are significantly better than chance, using the generally accepted probability  that scientists employ (p< .05). Which means that less than five times out of hundred, such differences would be due to chance alone.  Of course the more hits, the better the probability of detecting a genuine effect. For example  a score of 20 hits out of 20 trials has a probability of  p<.0000039.   But don’t collect your million dollars yet. These results have to replicated and all extraneous natural explanations have to be ruled out. Inadvertent or even unconscious signaling is the most likely culprit.  

Based on an article  originally published in Dog World Magazine