Friday 15 September 2023

Goodbye Doli, Welcome Jane: The Girl, the Ghost and the Gravestone

The Brother Doli case was originally reported by psychologist Michael Daniels in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR) in 2002.  Now the Penyffordd Farm case (Penyffordd fittingly translates as ‘end of the road’), it is the subject of a four-part BBC3 series presented by Radio 1 DJ Sian Eleri and produced by Twenty Twenty Television.  It is easy to see why it caught the attention of the producers, because of the sheer quantity, variety and dramatic nature of the events.

From 1997 the property, at Treuddyn in Flintshire, North Wales, was the scene of an extensive range of allegedly paranormal phenomena, much of it with a religious connection.  These included hundreds of stains and carvings of images and words, mostly in Welsh, both inside and outside the house.  In addition, there were photographic anomalies, noises, smells, temperature changes, puddles of water, displaced objects, flower petals transforming into dying wasps, electrical, telephone and computer anomalies, and more.  Throw in a sighting of the Virgin Mary and ghosts of a monk and a pregnant teenage girl and there’s plenty for a series.

These phenomena were promoted tirelessly at the time by owner Rose-Mary Gower in a number of media appearances, and investigated in a sober manner by Daniels (the page numbers in brackets below refer to his JSPR article and a following article contributed by Rose-Mary and her husband David).  Daniels made 14 visits totalling 54 hours between 12 November 2000 and 3 March 2001, with four further visits to discuss later developments between 9 December 2001 and 12 May 2002, and maintained a regular email correspondence (pp. 193-4).  His report occupies 29 pages of JSPR.

The Gowers moved into Penyffordd Farm in February 1997, and Rose-Mary told Daniels that previously they lived in an adjacent bungalow from May 1995 (p. 194).  Daniels lists the family living in the house as Rose-Mary, David and their adopted son John-Paul, who has Down’s Syndrome.  Daughters Nicolette, Adrienne (not named by Daniels but interviewed by Eleri) and a third (who is not named by either) lived elsewhere, but Daniels notes all three were regular visitors (p. 201).  

The programme presents new information but anyone expecting a breakthrough is going to be disappointed, though it is nice to see the people who had been involved and have a brief sample of the AV material Daniels collected.  The two hours are rather slow, with much filler focusing on Eleri rather than the case, the programmes particularly keen to establish her Welsh-speaking credentials (she tells us she grew up not far from Penyffordd).  For reasons not explained there is a pivot away from Brother Doli, now demoted from star to supporting player, with the mysterious ghostly teenager Jane Jones taking centre stage.

While not someone clued up about psychical research, or science, Eleri stands in for the uninformed viewer, asking questions in an attempt to make sense of the evidence, mulling over possible explanations and wondering what conclusions to draw.  Understandably the wide range of phenomena reported by the Gowers and recorded by Daniels has been slimmed down for television in the interests of time and credibility.  Eleri does have Daniels to guide her, and he gives her access to his research, his JSPR article, research notes, photographs and tapes, as her starting point (the JSPR issue containing his article, with its distinctive yellow cover, is the first item she takes out of his document box), so she knows from the outset what he found.

Unfortunately, the pretence Eleri was being filmed as she played detective, gradually uncovering information while filling a pin-board with bits and pieces from Daniels’ box (one hopes they were copies and not the originals), means information is not presented in a logical manner.  The investigatory pose also leads to some odd moments, such as when Eleri turns up at Penyffordd Farm on the off-chance of finding someone at home and the crew films through the window.  Being doorstepped is not always appreciated.  When nobody answers the door she pushes a scruffy note through the letter box, although a typed letter would have been more appropriate if less telegenic.

But it is not a wasted trip, as she knocks on a few more doors and speaks to neighbours, some of whom have memories of the media circus the Gowers instigated.  She concludes that it sounds as though they think Rose-Mary was making it up, which seems an accurate conclusion to draw.  Eleri claims on being told about the Virgin Mary from the neighbours that she had not heard about it before, when she would have known about it from the JSPR article Daniels gave her (pp.194-5).  This was the first event in the chronology, with a couple of holidaymakers named Dooley sending a letter to the Mold & Buckley Chronicle saying they had seen a vision of ‘Our Lady’ in a field owned by the Gowers, and they had subsequently found their ailments improving.  The story generated a great deal of interest, and members of the public began turning up at the field.  Eventually the story was picked up by the News of the World (p. 195).

Eleri meets Penyffordd Farm’s current owner, Michael Levy, not put off by an introduction in biro torn out of a notebook, who has lived at the house for a decade and runs a glamping business called Crazy Pheasant.  Eleri is invited to spend the night in the yurt, pitched in the field where the Virgin Mary was seen.  In correspondence following transmission, he told me he has not experienced anything paranormal during his time at Penyffordd Farm, nor has any of the hundreds who have stayed on the property told him of weird experiences (pers. comm. 22 August 2023).

Much hinges round the grave marker of the title, though Daniels’ article covers in it a couple of sentences (p. 208) so it was not considered to be important in the initial investigation.  It was made for a Jane Jones who died in 1778, aged 15.  When Daniels recorded a video in 2000 he filmed it leaning against the house, but a voice-over from Daniels’ notes says he was told the Gowers moved it somewhere more discreet in the summer of 1997 before daughter Nicolette’s wedding, as it was felt it might create the wrong atmosphere.  This does not appear in his article.

Daniels’ film shows it in a prominent position which his article identifies as ‘the outside front wall of the house’ (p. 208), so they may have moved again it after the wedding, or for Daniels’ benefit.  They later said to him that moving it was considered the catalyst for everything following, not a theory Daniels included in his article.  Why moving a grave marker, a not uncommon event, should have such far-reaching consequences in this instance, is unclear.

Eleri produces an audiotape of Rose-Mary saying they buried the marker when trying to sell the house in 2010.  The reason for the burial is confirmed by a typewritten note Rose-Mary put in the bin liner the slab was wrapped in when it was buried.  Eleri does not mention the note, but a photograph of it was kindly supplied to me by Michael Levy (pers. comm. 22 August 2023).  Dated 30 August 2010, it says the marker was found buried when the garden was being remodelled in the 1970s.

It was reburied, Rose-Mary continues, roughly where it was dug up because they did not want to put off potential purchasers.  Rose-Mary adds that while it is believed Jane Jones is buried in the garden, there is no evidence to support the theory.  That is a good reason for Eleri to exclude the note as the body being buried on the site becomes a key element in the Jane Jones story. Tellingly, despite being a ‘catalyst’ for the events, the note makes no reference to the marker’s supposed role in the phenomena.

In the programme, Michael Levy is initially unsure about the marker’s whereabouts but eventually finds it, and the camera crew records its disinterment.  For a slab nearly 250 years old and underground for over a dozen it was in remarkably good shape; too good as it happens, because comparing it to the film taken by Daniels in 2000 it appears to have been cleaned up.  Apparently, the Gowers decided to have the lichen removed at some point between Daniels filming it and when they buried it in 2010.  Michael Levy told me he has one of Rose-Mary’s photographs showing it inside the house (pers. comm. 24 August 2023), so it could be it was cleaned up after 2000 and made a feature in the home.  The cleaning has shown just how badly cut the lettering is.

Its provenance is obscure.  All we know for certain is that it was there before the Gowers moved in, because Daniels’ report notes it was visible in the estate agent’s photograph (p. 208).  Rose-Mary tells Eleri that David dug up a bit of alleged human spine while gardening at some point, but that is a long way from paranormal activity.  With a will, however, a narrative can be fashioned from disparate elements.  In ‘The “Brother Doli” Case: Family Perspectives’, short statements she and David wrote separately which were printed immediately after Daniels’ JSPR article, Rose-Mary claimed she saw a pregnant ghost, aged about 12, stroking the family cat on the patio.  The girl waved in response to Rose-Mary, who did not realise she was looking at a ghost (p. 223).

Rowe-Mary says her youngest daughter (i.e., Adrienne) suggested the figure was Jane Jones, as recorded on the grave marker (p. 223).  The pregnant ghost was not associated with Jane Jones in Daniels’ article and warrants only a couple of lines (p. 216).  Running with the link, Eleri quickly shifts from the marker’s presence on the property and the words ‘Jane’ and ‘Jones’ and the numbers ‘15’ and ‘1778’ among the writings on the wall inside the house to a local girl with the not uncommon name, especially in Wales, of Jane Jones born in 1763, as recorded in a register at the local archive.

A gentleman named Maurice, who lived in the house before the Gowers and believes he is related to Jane Jones, said there was a family story she died in childbirth and was buried in unconsecrated ground because of the shame.  That is taken as evidence of her dying in childbirth or as a suicide and being buried nearby.  Eleri ties together vague hearsay, someone called Jane Jones born at about the right time, a Jane Jones recorded on a grave marker that could have come from anywhere, and Jane Jones being the pregnant ghost-girl Rose-Mary says she saw.  These connections are purely speculative.

The monk finally turns up in episode three, though for some reason, the name Brother Doli, short for Adolphus, a nickname given by the Gowers (p. 197), is never mentioned, a surprising omission as it would help anyone searching for Daniels’ JSPR report.  It is obvious from the series’ title that the good brother is no longer the centre of interest even though Eleri says the monk had impacted the Gowers the most.  He does warrant coverage, and Eleri plots a pilgrim route from Shrewsbury to Holywell on a large wall map.  She finds a number of instances of alleged paranormal activity along it, many with the involvement of a monk.

Daniels’ article had referred to the pilgrimage route between Shrewsbury and Hollywell, associated with St Winifred (pp. 208-9).  While Eleri emphasises the religious aspect of the case, including the wall markings, as does Daniels (p. 217) and as is evident from the glossary in his article (p. 206), she does not call attention to Daniels’ information that David possesses a BEd in the unusual combination of Chemistry and Divinity (p. 200), suggesting, despite his sceptical pose, he would have possessed some theological knowledge.

Eleri’s embarrassing and pointless ouija board session with an English-speaking paranormal group in a pub on the pilgrimage route produces an encounter with a monk named William who claims to be able to speak Welsh, but not when Eleri asks him to say something in the language.  Eleri, while noting their sincerity, unsurprisingly looks sceptical when considering the value of their information.  The encounter fails to shed any light on Brother Doli, but then there was no reason why it should.

There is some business trying to locate Rose-Mary and David’s current address, and to add a little tension we see Eleri going through a phone book ringing up various Gowers like J R Hartley trying to track down a copy of Fly Fishing.  Rose-Mary makes a late appearance in the final episode, on the surface a strange choice as she had been the core of events, but apart from the attempt to build some suspense it quickly becomes clear why she is not prominent: while she is as ebullient as ever, and she and David come across as likeable, she sticks to her story and adds little that is new.

Rose-Mary tells Eleri she got ‘fed up’ with the attention the phenomena generated, but she looks pleased to have the spotlight back on her after all these years.  She maintains there must be a natural explanation for what happened, even if science hasn’t yet produced one.  In defence of the genuineness of their experiences, she points out that David was out all day and she was busy looking after John-Paul, so she was not faking for entertainment, nor for money.

Eleri does not put the obvious question, that she might have used the case and the public interest it generated, with all her media appearances, as a creative outlet to compensate for her constrained daily life; some of her appearances are listed by Daniels (p. 197), and there was press coverage in addition.  The attention would have been its own reward (Eleri observes she was thoroughly enjoying herself in the media appearances).   If so, other witnesses would then have colluded to protect her, or misinterpreted ordinary stimuli as paranormal.  On finishing her interview, Eleri concludes Rose-Mary was ‘the source of everything’, and on another occasion rather unflatteringly calls her ‘patient zero’ spreading perceptions of the phenomena to the rest of the family.

Rose-Mary asserts that at one time there was talk of a Hollywood film with the offer of thousands of pounds.  Daniels in his article listed motives for a hoax, a significant one being future financial exploitation, for example, a book or film (p. 219).  In the event, the Gowers said no because of the fictionalising approach the filmmakers planned to take.  Perhaps the family would have been subject to the same sort of treatment meted out to Enfield by James Wan in The Conjuring 2, Warren-style demonologists descending on Flintshire, but it is hard to imagine in what way Rose-Mary would be put off by that.

Whatever the motive, if she was hoaxing it is unlikely she could do it except in collusion with David.  That would make it easier for the critic to reach a conclusion, except there are statements from others about incidents, some of which occurred in Rose-Mary and David’s absence.  Adrienne, according to Eleri, was the first person to report seeing the monk.  Staying for a few days, she woke one night and felt a weight on the end of her bed.  Opening her eyes she saw a figure above her, a dark cloak covering its face, causing her to scream.  She claimed she hadn’t heard about the monk beforehand, which would rule out being influenced by stories from her parents.  Daniels includes this episode (p. 196), dating it to October 1998, with the detail that Adrienne saw a ‘young monk’ at the bottom of her bed, but she does not say how she could judge age when the face was covered.

Apart from Rose-Mary, the major witness is Nicolette.  She tells the story of going upstairs to the bathroom when visiting and hearing John-Paul in his room speaking, then hearing more than one male voice speaking Welsh, to which John-Paul responded.  Nicolette went in and asked who he was talking to, so he was clearly on his own.  John-Paul, it turns out, had quite a rapport with the monk, who, he said, lived in a corner of his bedroom, and Daniels was told he would report on the monk’s moods and (unspecified) activities (p. 201).

In February 2001, Rose-Mary emailed Daniels to say John-Paul had told her Brother Doli was leaving for a ‘happy, smiling place’ because John-Paul was about to turn 16 ‘and was too old’ (p. 215).  On John-Paul’s birthday the following month, Rose-Mary duly reported John-Paul had told her the brother had left and would not return (p. 216).  Brother Doli behaved more like an imaginary friend than a ghost.

It was not only Brother Doli whom John-Paul saw.  According to Daniels’ notes, read out as a voice-over in the programme, he said on one occasion John-Paul had reported he could see what was thought to be the ghost of Jane Jones sitting next to him while he watched TV, though this incident does not appear in his article, and in her ‘Family Perspectives’ article Rose-Mary states that ‘John-Paul has never mentioned seeing Jane’ (p. 223).  The contradiction is not explored by Eleri.

The programme does not make clear that Brother Doli and the ‘Jane’ ghost dovetailed.  John-Paul announced Brother Doli’s departure in early March.  Rose-Mary emailed Daniels on 23 March to say she had seen the pregnant ghost, ‘about 12 years of age,’ on the patio that morning (p. 216), just over a fortnight later.  As Rose-Mary put it in her JSPR article, it was ‘“Goodbye Doli, Welcome Jane!”’  (p. 223).  Perhaps she was thinking of the music hall song Goodbye, Dolly Gray, and as with the soldier wishing Dolly goodbye, the brother had belatedly heard the bugle calling.  It does seem quite a coincidence that one appeared almost as soon as the other departed, as if Jane arrived to fill the vacuum Brother Doli had left.

Although Daniels wound down his investigation at this point (p. 193), phenomena continued over the following months, and were said to have occurred even after David and Rose-Mary had moved to Eastbourne in 2002.  After the move, Nicolette and her husband Ewan stayed in the house with their new baby, with nobody else present.  Interviewed by Eleri, an emotional Nicolette recounts how the phenomena continued.  There were new wall writings, one of them their young son’s name.  They would see things in peripheral vision, and Nicolette saw a hooded figure, like a monk, looking over the cot in the night.  Nicolette heard the door latch raised and lowered, there was a cold spot in the lounge, and they heard children’s voices singing.

Even more startling is Eleri’s interview with Ewan.  He says that one day he came downstairs and found an enormous heavy wooden owl had moved from the living room to the kitchen.  The eldest child was four or five years old (suggesting they had been living in the house for some time) and Ewan does not think it possible for him to have moved it; Rose-Mary and David still own it, and during their meeting Rose-Mary invites Eleri to lift it; it does seem unlikely, though not impossible, that a young child could shift the thing.

On another occasion, Ewan came down early one morning, put the TV on and went to make coffee, and when he returned the owl was head-first in the fireplace, yet he had heard nothing.  He says it moved the full length of the room, though footage Daniels took in 2000 shows the owl standing by the fireplace.  Whatever the details, one wonders why, having gone through these extreme experiences, they stayed in the house, especially with two small children.

A voiceover by Daniels reading from his notes, said to date from March 2003, states the family is becoming increasingly distressed, to the point where the daughters are saying they must have an exorcism, though David dismisses it as ‘superstitious nonsense’.  The 2003 date is possibly an error as David and Rose-Mary were no longer resident, but he may be referring to Nicolette and Ewan’s experiences.  After working out exorcisms are really ‘a thing’, Eleri goes to Wrexham to find out from an Anglo-Catholic clergyman involved in deliverance ministry what it involves.

A tape recording of Rose-Mary speaking (no date given) says someone identifying as an exorcist came to the house, but the senior Gowers thought it silly.  She adds they would never have requested one.  Eleri makes the reasonable point that if you thought your house was haunted, wouldn’t you try anything to stop it?  Perhaps, she ponders, Rose-Mary was secretly happy for it to carry on, adding that it is always Rose-Mary who is interviewed in the extensive media coverage.

It was not just family members who said there was something spooky about the place.  Maurice said that during his residence he had felt a presence and as if he was being watched (though as he is only reporting it now, knowing about the Gowers and that it would likely get him on TV, his testimony has to be treated with caution).  A more substantial report, read from Daniels’ unpublished notes but not in his JSPR article, recounts the visit of a double-glazing salesman and his wife between Christmas and New Year 1999.  She sat in the car while he was inside, and when he returned 30 minutes later she was white, and said, ‘that house is haunted, isn’t it?’  She said she had seen a ‘shadow-like figure of a hooded monk passing back and forth in front of the house.’  We are not told, though, if Daniels interviewed them, or it was recounted by the Gowers, in which case we would only have their word for it.

Eleri interviews a Radio Wales producer, Alan Dolby, who was in the house making a programme in 2003 when he saw something moving out of the corner of his eye, as did a colleague at the same time.  The colleague in the recording says what is convincing is that there is just so much material; if Rose-May had been hoaxing, she would have been more subtle.  He does not consider the alternative, that she might have got carried away and wanted to keep it going so she would have more to say on programmes like his.  The over-the-top nature of the phenomena seemed to work well for her.

Then of course there is the report of the sighting by Irish holidaymakers named Michael and Concepta Dooley of the Virgin Mary very shortly after the Gowers moved into the house in February 1997.  Daniels’ JSPR report spends some time on the sighting and the ‘mini-Lourdes’ following it (pp. 194-95).  Rose-Mary sent a short account to the ‘Experiences’ section of the SPR’s Paranormal Review about the Virgin Mary sighting, published in the November 1997 issue.  A photograph she took said to show a face in a barn window was sent to Wales on Sunday, appearing on 1 June 1997 with the headline ‘Is this the face of Jesus’ mother?’ (p. 195).  Even at this stage she was obtaining publicity for strange events associated with her.

As the Dooleys could not be found, Daniels did not rule out a hoax, either by the couple or someone pretending to be them (p. 202).  This assumes they actually existed, but they may not have, despite Rose-Mary claiming to have met them in the lane in February 1997 (pp. 201-2).  Rose-Mary would seem a good candidate to have sent a letter to the newspaper purporting to come from a couple with names so Irish they sound fictitious.  She received a three-page hand-written letter purportedly from the couple addressed to ‘The Lady with the Labrador Dog’, dated 9 March (p. 194) confirming the sighting, but Daniels passes over it quickly.  He says nothing about comparing the it to handwriting samples taken from members of the family, and does not seem to consider it evidential.

If the Dooley episode was a hoax perpetrated by Rose-Mary, perhaps its success in fooling a newspaper and the resulting publicity gave her grander ideas, on which she quickly capitalised.  On the other hand, the programme may be the prompt for Michael and Concepta to come forward at last, in which case it will have served a very useful purpose.  Unfortunately, as Rose-Mary told the Mold & Buckley Chronicle they were in their late 50s or early 60s (p. 194), they may no longer be with us.

Ironically, despite their surname hinting at a south-west Wales origin, the Gowers are resolutely English.  Eleri states they ‘don’t speak a word of Welsh’ (even though Rose-Mary is heard on tape translating some words for Daniels), implying Rose-Mary was an unlikely source for words mostly written in Welsh.  What Eleri doesn’t tell us, but would have known from Daniels’ article, is that the family possessed a Collins Gem Welsh Dictionary, which he was told they bought after the initial Welsh word stains appeared (p. 207).  Spelling errors in the wall writings, he adds, would be unlikely to be made by a Welsh-speaker but are consistent with a non-Welsh speaker, possessing poorish eyesight, misreading the small font used in the dictionary (pp. 208, 218).  Although he does not say so, it can be seen from the programme that Rose-Mary was a spectacle wearer.

Daniels’s article also points out that words appear in isolation, not sentences (pp. 207, 218).  These would be much harder for a non-Welsh speaker to achieve convincingly.  Actually, Eleri does not seem to have read the article attentively.  For example, scrolling through a microfiche, she reads out from a local newspaper Rose-Mary’s account of dried flower petals being transformed into half-drowned wasps, which is dramatised for effect as she narrates, but she says it was in October 1998, the date on the newspaper, whereas Daniels tells us it was in August 1997 (p. 195).

Inspired by similarities to the Bélmez faces, referred to by Daniels (p. 217), Eleri learns what silver nitrate is and goes to Swansea University to see if it could explain some of the wall writings (but not the carvings).  Lab experiments with a similar surface are suggestive, the image appearing when exposed to light, then fading over time.  Eleri notes David would have had the requisite knowledge.  In his JSPR article, Daniels notes David has degrees in chemistry, David conceding it made him a prime suspect in a hoax (p. 218), and the stains could have been produced by chemical means, though Daniels does not finger silver nitrate as a possible candidate.

This is not, though, a brilliant insight by the Twenty Twenty team as three articles in JSPR about the Bélmez faces put forward the possible application of silver nitrate, and its use in photography is well known.  We are not told how long the images at Penyffordd Farm lasted compared to those created in the laboratory, so if they lasted significantly longer this would reduce the likelihood David purchased quantities of silver nitrate to create them, and indicate their creation, by whoever or whatever, employed some other method.

Most of the occurrences in the case point either to their reality, a hoax among the family, or one set in train by Rose-Mary which encouraged the family to interpret ambiguous stimuli as paranormal.  Malcolm Schofield of the University of Derby and also, though this was not mentioned in the programme, the current editor of JSPR (presumably how he came to be included), talks about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and how witnesses can be primed to accept a paranormal interpretation, a point made by Daniels’ article (p. 219).

Daniels runs through a number of possible natural explanations: ‘natural artefacts, suggestibility of witnesses, errors of perception, or lapses in memory’ (p. 217).  Such effects may account for some of the reports, but not the physical aspects like the writings, the wasps and the moving owl.  Eleri wonders if something ‘primed’ the Gowers, such as the Virgin Mary sighting, but much cannot be put down to cognitive errors.

Although we hear from two of the daughters, an obvious omission is the third daughter.  There is another son, also adopted and the second oldest of the siblings, who is not mentioned at all in the programme.  Daniels had interviewed all three daughters, who reported strange experiences, but the other son, according to Daniels, had made few visits home since leaving in 1994, and was not interviewed (p. 201).  It would have been useful if viewers had been told the reason for the missing daughter’s non-participation in the programme, after she had talked to Daniels for his article.  Perhaps she had come to believe the events were not genuine but did not want to speak against her family and instead chose to keep quiet; she could have been unavailable for some other reason.  Something should have been said to clarify the reason for her absence.

We know little about the family background, which is reasonable in a television programme but is bound to hamper a full understanding of what might have been going on.  Daniels in his JSPR article writes about poltergeists ‘often expressing indirectly underlying emotional tensions within the family’, and he thought Brother Doli’s influence ‘generally seemed to provide the family with a sense of common interest and focus’ (p. 217).

Who knows what tensions existed within the family, but it is intriguing that, as Daniels records in his article, four of the five children, born between 1970 and 1976, left home between 1989 and 1997 (p. 201).  It is possible David, and particularly Rose-Mary, were in part using Brother Doli and the rest of the phenomena, consciously or unconsciously, to keep their children within the family orbit.  Alternatively, the events, which started in 1997, could have been an emotional response to the moving away of the children, or an activity, ‘the hoaxer’s hobby’ as Daniels puts it (p. 219) to fill the void felt by empty nesters.

Painting scenarios, Daniels in JSPR talks about a mixed case, with low-level genuine phenomena to which were added ‘imitative fraud’ for the more elaborate elements (p. 220).  It cannot be ruled out, nor can the possibility that the bulk of the phenomena were genuine, perhaps with peripheral elements of misperception.  But there are good reasons for thinking this was a hoax, with Rose-Mary, for whatever purpose, miking it.

If so, it may have backfired, because when the Gowers put the house up for sale in 2010 she tells Eleri it took two years to sell and went for less than it was worth.  Perhaps it would have taken that long anyway (the damp Michael Levy found cannot have helped), or perhaps potential buyers were put off by the house’s reputation.  Michael Levy tells Eleri he thought when hearing of the phenomena the price would go down, correctly it would seem.  One suspects all was peaceful during tours by potential purchasers.

When Rose-Mary concedes there might have been a hoax, but they can’t think by whom, clearly she doesn’t really think someone crept into the house unobserved and fabricated the phenomena.  She is thereby implying their genuineness.  John-Paul was caught on camera making marks on the wall (pp. 213-14), but doubtless he was responding to what was going on around him and did not have the capacity to undertake the vast majority of the reported events.

Daniels was told stains and carvings had appeared during family trips away, and he floats the possibility that someone else could have had access (p. 219).  The article does not say if the entire family went on these trips, so it is possible a family member came in and made them, assuming the information that markings appeared while the house was empty is correct; Daniels does not say if he confirmed this independently.  That would not account for all the phenomena though.  A family conspiracy is not beyond the realm of possibility, as Daniels says (p. 219).  Adrienne’s argument which she puts to Eleri that something happened when each family member, including Rose-Mary, was absent is intended to support a paranormal explanation but ignores the possibility of collusion.

An omission in the programme is the lack of an acknowledgement of the SPR.  Eleri is filmed taking a copy of JSPR out of Daniels’ document box, and when speaking of Daniels’ ‘research notes’ she is flipping through his article.  She later refers to it, but without naming the publication.  The brief clip of Malcolm Schofield does not identify him as the current editor of JSPR.  It would have been polite if either Daniels or Eleri had mentioned the SPR’s involvement.  It is particularly significant that Eleri does not say, as Daniels tells us, that both Rose-Mary and David had been members of the SPR (p. 219).

They would therefore have had a great deal of information on hauntings and poltergeists, of which they had a long-standing interest, Rose-Mary in particular after her family in Guernsey experienced ‘poltergeist-type phenomena’ from before she was born to after she left home (p. 201).  Knowledge of the literature would be of assistance to anyone wishing to imitate poltergeist effects.  Eleri not referring to their knowledge of hauntings and poltergeists has the effect of suggesting that the Gowers were unfamiliar with their characteristics, but this was far from the case.

My final thoughts are that Michael Daniels worked hard to produce his JSPR report, which needs to be read by anyone who wants a more accurate picture than Eleri provides, but I still think, as I did when I first read it, that it did not warrant the space it took up.  It is flawed by Daniels muddying the water between treating the Gowers as the subjects of an investigation and collaborators.  While there is always a chance there were genuine paranormal phenomena occurring during the Gowers’ period of residence, on the balance of probability the events he reported on are too far in the direction of a hoax.  Several times in the programme and surrounding publicity Penyffordd Farm was given the accolade of ‘the most haunted house in Wales’ and ‘the most haunted house in Britain’, but it assumes there was a haunting, and that is by no means the correct assessment.

The Girl, the Ghost and the Gravestone, by contrast to Daniels’ investigation, is lazily produced and omits much pertinent information.  It is structured as entertainment, its primary function, so it fails properly to get to grips with the case.  The many shortcomings can perhaps be summed up by a moment at the end when Eleri has a final meeting with Daniels.  He tells her that when his article was in draft he showed it to the Gowers, and the couple wrote a response (actually two separate responses), i.e. the ‘Family Perspectives’ article following his.  He asks Eleri if she would like to see it and she says yes, as if it was new to her. 

She reads snippets from David’s statement, changing the odd word for clarity while making it sound like a continuous narrative.  She concludes with ‘but I can only say that it felt very real to me.’  Dramatic, yes, but that is the final sentence in Rose-Mary’s statement, which Eleri has tacked on.  The willingness to manipulate for effect damages the programme’s credibility, and left me wondering what the point of it was, other than to launch Eleri’s career beyond the confines of the BBC1 studio, with further television series promised.



I would like to thank Michael Levy for taking the time to correspond with me, and supplying a photograph of the note left with the grave marker.



Daniels, Michael. ‘The “Brother Doli” case: Investigation of Apparent Poltergeist-type Manifestations in North Wales’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 66, October 2002, pp. 193-221.  (Reprinted in Richard Wiseman and Caroline Watt (eds.). Parapsychology (The International Library of Psychology). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

Gower, Rose-Mary. ‘Marian Visions and Cures in a Welsh Field’, The Paranormal Review, Issue 4, November 1997, p. 11.

Gower, Rose-Mary and Gower, David. ‘The “Brother Doli” case: Family Perspectives’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 66, October 2002, pp. 222-24.

Romero, José Martínez. ‘The Faces of Bélmez: Its Mystery and Message’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 61, January 1997, pp. 337-9.

Ruffles, Tom. ‘Correspondence’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 67, April 2003, p. 158; Michael Daniels’ reply, pp. 159-60.

Tort, César J. ‘Will Permanent Paranormal Objects Vindicate Parapsychology?’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 58, July 1991, pp. 16-35.

Tort, César J and Ruíz-Noguez, Luis.  ‘Are the Faces of Bélmez Permanent Paranormal Objects?’ Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 59, July 1993, pp. 161-71.

Update 12 January 2024:

Television columnist Stu Neville reviewed the programme in Fortean Times, no. 437, November 2023, p. 61.  He repeated Eleri’s comment that the Gowers were not Welsh speakers, and I wrote to the editor on 21 October 2023 to point out that their Welsh dictionary would have supplied all the words they needed to conduct a hoax.  The letter was published in Fortean Times no. 441, February 2024, p. 67:

 Stu Neville’s television column discussing the BBC’s Paranormal: The Girl, the Ghost and the Gravestone, about the Penyffordd Farm/Brother Doli case (FT437:61), includes presenter Sian Eleri’s observation that Rose-Mary and David Gower were not Welsh speakers.  This implied they could not have been responsible for the appearance of Welsh words in the house.

However, Michael Daniels, the psychologist responsible for investigating the case, states in his lengthy report, published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, that they owned a Collins Gem Welsh Dictionary, so the manufacture of Welsh words was not beyond them.  Daniels also points out that words appeared in isolation, not in sentences which would be harder for a non-Welsh speaker to achieve convincingly.

He adds that spelling errors found in the wall writings would be unlikely to be made by a Welsh-speaker but were consistent with a non-Welsh speaker possessing poorish eyesight misreading the dictionary’s small font.  He does not say so in the article but it can be seen from the programme that Rose-Mary Gower was a spectacle wearer.

Sian Eleri knew all this because she had access to Dr Daniels’ records including his article in JSPR, a copy of which she can be seen holding in one shot (though any reference to the SPR is conspicuously absent in the programme).  Yet she omitted to mention the possession of a Welsh dictionary, an important piece of evidence in assessing the wall writings.

In fact, there was much information missing necessary to reach a balanced conclusion, not least that David and Rose-Mary Gower had been SPR members and would therefore have had some knowledge of hauntings and poltergeists, useful to someone contemplating a hoax.  Despite being structured as such, the programme was not a serious reinvestigation, and Penyffordd Farm, billed in the publicity as ‘the most haunted house in Britain,’ did not live up to the hype.


Monday 3 April 2023

My Mastodon Suspension

When Elon Musk took over Twitter there was a great deal of debate about what to do and if there was a more congenial alternative.  I have been on Twitter since August 2014 (@thomasruffles) but solely use it to log my writing activities, so post only occasionally.  I wasn’t happy with the way the new owner was behaving and kept hearing about Mastodon as a kinder, more caring, community than Musk-era Twitter was shaping to be, so thought I would take a look.

While not as sophisticated as Twitter, I thought there would be no harm in opening a Mastodon account while the Twitter ferment resolved itself one way or another.  I decided, like the majority, not to jump ship completely and close my Twitter account.  As it happens, while there are still controversies swirling around Musk’s interventions, Twitter seems to have settled down and I have retained my presence there.

Thus I have been running the two side by side for several months.  However, I thought I would be more expansive on Mastodon, and as well as list my writing note other things I do in what might loosely be called my cultural life.  So on 28 March, for example, I visited the Islanders exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and had a VR experience, walking round a Neolithic village on Cyprus, which I noted with a link to the relevant Fitzwilliam website page.

Recently I have been watching talks on YouTube.  Nancy Zingrone has been uploading lectures in her Parapsychology: Research and Education Massively-Open Online Course (ParaMOOC 2023) series, and C J Romer those given to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena in its regular weekly programme.  I have been slowly working through the backlog and recording my progress on Mastodon.

During the evening of Saturday 1 April I watched a ParaMOOC talk on poltergeists in Brazil and put it on Mastodon as usual, with a link.  To my surprise, on the morning of Sunday 2 April I found that overnight I had received the following email headed ‘Your account has been suspended’.   Initially assuming it was a phishing scam, I discovered my account really had been suspended:

‘You can no longer use your account, and your profile and other data are no longer accessible. You can still login to request a backup of your data until the data is fully removed in about 30 days, but we will retain some basic data to prevent you from evading the suspension.’

What had I done to contravene Mastodon’s norms of good behaviour?

‘Reason: Content violates the following community guidelines

‘Malicious or misleading information (such as, but not limited to, anti-science, fake news and hate brigading) are bannable offences. This also includes the encouragement and normalising of said information. Such content can, for example, include anti-vaccine and alternative medicine.’

Wow, that does sound bad, yet I was confused, and not merely by the use of brigading, as my posts seemed harmless to me and far from warranting such a severe charge.  Fortunately, Mastodon was on hand to point out the offending items.  There were five in total, each of which I had provided with a link to the relevant YouTube content:


I'm working my way through the excellent ParaMOOC 2023 talks organised by Nancy Zingrone and Bryan Williams. Fatima Machado gave a wide-ranging talk on poltergeist cases in Brazil. (1 April)

ASSAP Webinar - "Ghosts: S is for Survey" - another talk by C J Romer which largely focuses on the work of the early SPR, A large number of ASSAP videos have been uploaded to YouTube. (29 March)

ASSAP Webinar: CJ Romer on "Are Poltergeists A Thing?" - has lots of references to the SPR. (28 March)

ASSAP Webinar - Dr Kate Cherrell on "Death, Debt and Gin: Scratching Fanny and The Cock Lane Ghost" was a thorough overview of this seminal case. [OK, I concede I was a bit naughty there, slipping in the word seminal]. (27 March)

Allison Jornlin gave a thorough overview in her ParaMOOC 2023 talk 'The Hidden Ghost Hunter: Remembering Catherine Crowe', a figure who deserves to be better remembered in the field (the talk is also available on the Paranormal Women YouTube channel) (23 March)


It looked like my VR experience was not contentious, while Brazilian poltergeists were the final straw.  I was told: ‘If you believe this is an error, you can submit an appeal to the staff of'

Hmmm.  I wasn’t sure it was an error, because it felt like the sort of treatment the Guerrilla Skeptics and their allies mete out to Wikipedia entries they find not to their taste.  The bit I was deemed to have breached was probably the anti-science stricture, interpreted by the administrators to mean what they wanted it to mean.  What the hell, I fired off an appeal immediately:

‘These are parapsychology talks given by respectable researchers on serious topics.  You may not agree with the content, but they do not fall foul of your criteria.  If you feel that the ban is warranted, frankly you are a bunch of bigots and I wouldn’t want to be on your platform anyway.’

Take that, Mastodon.  They’ve not yet got back to me.  As well as my own, I also run the Society for Psychical Research’s Mastodon feed,, and so far it has remained untouched.  Perhaps the SPR’s name gives the posts more protection.  Alternatively, Mastodon has a federated system, and it could be the ‘social’ administrators are more liberal, or better informed, than the bunch.

It’s not even as if my account has much of a reach.  It is a lot easier to find people on Twitter, and my Mastodon follower numbers have remained stubbornly low – the only person who seriously engages with my posts there is my Parapsychological Association colleague Craig Weiler, author of Psi Wars: TED, Wikipedia and the Battle for the Internet (thanks Craig).

So if I am banned it won’t be much of a loss either to me or to Mastodon, but it rather dents their image as the softer, inclusive, somewhat counter-cultural alternative to Musk’s Twitter.  Their page exhorting people to join states:

‘Your home feed should be filled with what matters to you most, not what a corporation thinks you should see. Radically different social media, back in the hands of the people.’

It’s definitely not in the hands of this person, instead censoring content Twitter and YouTube have no problem with simply because the moderators happen to dislike it.  While I don’t believe Mastodon has fulfilled its promise as a viable alternative to Twitter I was happy to stick with it.  I never imagined it would have a problem with parapsychology and I would find myself accused of peddling malicious or misleading information.


Update 5 April 2023:

I had assumed that the administrators would have the courtesy to inform me of the outcome of my appeal by email.  Wondering why they were taking so long, I went to my blocked page to discover they had in fact made their determination very quickly on Sunday 2 April but had not bothered to let me know.

Their verdict was a curt ‘Your appeal has been rejected.’  I had failed to persuade them of my case.  Perhaps they didn’t like my attitude, though what I said was true, but it is possible that nothing would have made a difference because they had already decided my fate, and in their ignorance believed that by linking to ParaMooc and ASSAP talks I was promoting pseudo-science.

I am sorry I was kicked off unfairly, but it’s their service and they can do what they like.  Anyone who wants to post material relating to parapsychology should steer clear of this particular chunk of Mastodon.  I had intended to give up the whole site as a bad job, but although dispirited by my experience to date, I was curious to see if other nodes were more tolerant so I have signed up to

Doubtless I’ll post the same sorts of items I did on, and will see if their administrators have a more relaxed attitude to parapsychology.  Perhaps I was just unlucky in my initial choice, and administrators happy to embrace geekdom will find my posts acceptable.  In the long term, I’ll be interested to see how Mastodon develops, but my experience to date suggests it is never going to be a serious player in the social media landscape.


Update 23 September 2023:

My Mastodon experiment didn’t last long, as I put my last post on on 25 July, and I also abandoned the Society for Psychical Research account.  I wasn’t banned by the administrators, in fact they seemed tolerant of my whacky psychical research interest, but there isn’t much point being on a platform if nobody notices what one is posting there.  Almost as soon as I signed up to geekdom I felt it was not going to prove useful thanks to the difficulty in building a community when the federated structure is an obstacle.

Just as I was becoming disillusioned with my Mastodon experience along came Threads, Mark Zuckerberg’s rival to Twitter, or X as it is now annoyingly called.  This seemed a better option than Mastodon for building connections because it was launched on the back of Instagram, its many users forming a ready-made community, and it didn’t have the fragmented nature of Mastodon.  I already had an Instagram presence, though I didn’t use it much, so signing up would be easy.

I’m not a fan of Zuckerberg, and like others think Threads is a terrible name because of the connotations of nuclear war it evokes thanks to the film Threads.  Even so, I thought I would give it a go, so on 6 July I opened a Threads account (  Initially it was mobile phone-only, which I didn’t like because I find it a pain to use a phone for text, and I left it at a couple of test posts.  I was pleased when the desktop version was launched, news reaching me on 24 August, and I’ve been adding to my feed on an occasional basis.

My usage is much the same as with Mastodon, including links to my writing (duplicating my X posts), but including other activities which may be of interest.  Unfortunately, despite the advantage of having Instagram as a base, Threads is proving about as useful as Mastodon.  After the initial flurry of excitement, with huge numbers signing up, interest has waned and I am finding the same level of engagement – close to zero.  I’ll doubtless carry on using it, but without much enthusiasm.  Ah well, I gave it a go.

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Thoughts on keeping a dream diary

The first three volumes of my dream diary

After reading Gary Lachman’s article in the February 2022 issue of Fortean Times based on his book Dreaming Ahead of Time: Experiences with Precognitive Dreams, Synchronicity and Coincidence, I was inspired to begin recording my own dreams.  I started doing so on 6 February 2022.

Below I have listed my observations on the process of keeping a dream diary; describe a precognitive dream experiment I participated in, and an online course I undertook; and muse on the role artificial intelligence might play in assessing the content of dream diaries.  This is a work in progress, and I shall add to it as new thoughts come to mind, but at the present time I do not have anything earth-shattering to report.  Still, others contemplating keeping a dream diary may find my notes useful.  Readers will be relieved to learn that I do not describe the contents of any of my dreams.


A Thoughts on recording my dreams
B My participation in an online precognitive dream experiment
C The Science of Sleep and Dreams online course
D The use of artificial intelligence?
E References


A Thoughts on recording my dreams

1 Doing this properly is quite time-consuming.  Anyone contemplating keeping a dream diary should be aware of the commitment involved.  That is probably a major reason why keeping a dream diary is rare, and early enthusiasm can quickly tail off (Schredl and Göritz, 2019).

2 If waking in the night with a dream in short-term memory, do not wait until morning to write it down as there will probably be little if any of it left.  If I delay writing by a couple of minutes it quickly becomes increasingly difficult to recall it and soon retrieval is impossible.  Record it while it is fresh.

3 Turning on the light was disruptive, but I quickly found writing them on a pad in the dark and copying them out on getting up was quite a pleasant start to the day.  I write down everything I can remember, with no censorship.  If I think I have remembered a detail later, I do not include it because there is no guarantee it was part of the original dream.  I do not use paragraphs, as it would mean imposing an external structure.  Any commentary when transcribing a dream is placed in square brackets to emphasise it is not part of the dream itself.

4 Writing in the dark uses a lot of paper because lines need to be spaced out.  You may start to think more positively about junk mail leaflets, as long as they are only printed on one side and aren’t too shiny.  Pencil is kinder to the bed linen than biro.  Top tip when using a pencil in the dark: make sure it is the right way round.  If using loose sheets of paper, number them beforehand as it is easy to jumble them.

5 Some writers suggest using an audio recorder to transcribe a dream in the dark.  I have not tried this for two reasons.  First, audio is slower to transcribe than written notes because of stopping and starting, and the effort may be demotivating.  Secondly, it seems likely that speaking would wake me up more than writing would.  However, I am comfortable with writing in the dark, and others may find making a spoken record the better method.  It would still need to be transcribed for future reference.

6 Immediately saying a keyword or two helps me to remember the dream until I have started writing.  Occasionally I have remembered a dream after trying to grasp it for a few minutes, but it is rare and more often I’m left with the frustration of having the equivalent of a ‘tip of the tongue’ which doesn’t materialise.

7 The bulk comprise scenes that are personal and everyday, albeit sometimes containing highly unusual elements.  I am generally more gregarious in dreams than in real life.  The scenarios are generally arbitrary, though I can often trace aspects to my past history and to wider social and political events.  Disappointingly, there are very few surreal or erotic moments.

8 Elements rarely feel as though they are symbolic, though it is possible I have missed their significance.  Some feel symbolic based on a feeling, but it may be merely a random element which can be interpreted as symbolic: apparent symbolism could be in the (mind’s) eye of the beholder, reading into it more than the dream warrants.

9 Sometimes evidence of anxiety and emotional baggage is demonstrated, but a strong emotional component is infrequent.

10 There are various suggestions available for encouraging dreams, but good sleep hygiene, particularly regular hours, is important (Hooper, 2018).

11 Attempting to ‘seed’ [incubate] my dreams with particular thoughts before falling asleep has no discernible effect, nor does stating the intention to recall a dream to myself

12 Aspects of films I have watched in the evening though do seem sometimes to feed through, perhaps because of greater emotional impact.  I don’t detect overt influences from my reading, even psychical research.

13 Quite a few people from my past have made appearances, some of whom I have not (consciously) thought about for years, and many have no particular significance for me (one wonders how many dreams of others I might appear in).  If I recall enough dreams will everybody I have ever known (plus a few celebrities I haven’t) eventually appear – the dream equivalent of Piccadilly Circus, where it is said that anyone standing there long enough will eventually meet everybody they know?

14 It is doubtful any content is precognitive, but perhaps some are but have not yet been fulfilled, or I have failed to notice.  As most focus on me, there seems little scope for premonitions of large-scale events (Auerbach, 2017; Knight, 2022).  The possibility of a precognitive element is an excellent reason for keeping a dream diary; little to lose, much potentially to gain.

15 There may be some telepathic content, bearing in mind the number of individuals from my past and present who pop up, but it is impossible to tell unless someone confirms it, which is unlikely.  I could ask people I know who appear in my dreams, but it’s not something I care to broach (if anyone dreams of me and cares to admit it, I’d love to hear from them).

16 Auerbach suggests a psychic element may be signalled by a change in the dream’s quality, a sense it is different to the ordinary non-psychic dream.  I have not noticed anything of this nature, but as dreams often contain unusual elements, I’m not sure how I would be able to tell the difference in practice.

17 Age is a factor, dream recall (and dream theme diversity) reducing in adulthood (Nielsen, 2012), possibly related to decreasing amount of REM sleep.  This may influence the number I record.  It is a shame I didn’t do this sooner.

18 Sometimes when I recall a dream I seem to remember only a fragment of it.  I label it to indicate it is part of a longer dream I am aware of having had, but of which I cannot recall further details.

19 It can be impossible to know if I have run separate dreams together where there are disjunctions.  There may be a sense, either a vague feeling or thematic similarity, that part of an earlier dream has ‘bled through’ into a later one, and I cannot be sure if some aspect is left over from a previous dream, or is in fact part of the current one.

20 There is no way of knowing how much the dream content is altered by the act of recall, whatever the lag between waking and recording it, but it is reasonable to assume the longer the delay, the greater the chance it will be simplified.  I often sense there is a complexity just tantalisingly out of reach of verbalisation.

21 The transcript is an approximation of the dream, as any verbal description of a visual scene would be.  Some of the richness of the experience is lost in recording it, however comprehensive the attempt to capture the details.

22 Occasionally I go a night (or more) without recording a dream, but there does not seem to be any difference between those nights and the nights I do record a dream.  For example, I am not noticeably more tired, and there is no correlation with having drunk alcohol during the preceding evening.  Waking up not having recorded a dream is like having a party going on next door to which I’ve not been invited.

23 I have never recalled a lucid dream, even though I wake frequently during the night, including in the late stages of sleep, a condition said to be conducive (Oxenham, 2016).  Nightmares are not unknown, but are mild and fortunately rare.

24 Is this stuff really worth remembering, and does it have any value other than demonstrating the extraordinarily wide range of scenarios it is possible to generate effortlessly while asleep?  Is the recorded dream a product of bits and pieces generated by firing neurons compiled into what passes for a coherent narrative, having no meaning whatsoever?  A huge weight of historical testimony would say there is a meaning, but perhaps the meaning is read into the dream.  Or perhaps lack of meaning is the point: corrupted inputs to combat the problem of overfitting, thereby allowing learning to generalise to new situations (Hoel, 2020), in which case, while dreams may perform a crucial function cognitively, they have no wider purpose.

25 Either way, recording dreams regularly, if one has the time to do it in an unhurried manner, is relaxing.  There is a satisfaction in making something of material which otherwise would disappear and be wasted.  One comes to regret the ones that got away (Whyte, 2017).  Dreams may not be the royal road to the unconscious, but they provide a fascinating way of learning a little about what is going on down there, whatever their function.


B My participation in an online precognitive dream experiment

This was an experiment run by Dr Elizabeth Roxburgh, Dr Malcolm Schofield (both at the University of Derby) and Dr David Vernon (at Canterbury Christchurch University).  Malcolm is the editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and David is a former editor of JSPR.  Both are SPR Council members, so known to me.

The experiment was in three parts.  In the first I had to fill in a number of personality surveys.  The second was a trial so I could familiarise myself with the experimental procedure.  I was asked to keep a dream diary (which I was doing anyway) and over two nights try to dream about a target image I would be shown the following day.

Before I was shown the target, I was sent a form to describe my dream(s), including emotional content as well as the events.  Then I had to rate four pictures for closeness to the themes of my dream on a scale of one to a hundred, and finally choose the one which most closely accorded with my night’s dreaming.

That was a practice run, and the following week I did the same again, the result constituting data for the experiment.  On each occasion, after I had chosen my image I was sent feedback to show whether I had selected the target.  The first week I did select it, and I was hopeful I would achieve a clean sweep that hinted at psychic ability, but alas missed the second time, the trial which actually counted.


C The Science of Sleep and Dreams online course

The Science of Sleep and Dreams, run by the New Scientist Academy on the FutureLearn platform, is a reliable, albeit simplified, introduction to what is currently understood about sleep and dreams (though there is far less on the latter than the title suggests).  I took the online course in January 2023.  It is presented in clear terms in a mixture of text and short videos.  Prior knowledge is not required, though it can get technical at times.

The content is broken down into three weekly segments – sleep and dreams; learning in your sleep and sleep engineering; and how to sleep better – but in practice it can be completed in much less time.  A few links are provided to further resources.  Unlike some FutureLearn courses there is no interaction between tutors and students, but student comments allow for limited discussion of the topics.  Anyone interested in the subject of sleep will find it useful, but those whose focus is dreams can skip parts two and three.


D The use of artificial intelligence?

Difficulties with trying to link a dream diary to events in the real world in the search for possible psi influences are that the dreamer may either not make connections because of the volume to assess, or make connections that are spurious because criteria are too relaxed.  To help in avoiding these dangers it would be worth attempting to utilise methods that are automated, and objective compared to the efforts of the dreamer.

One possible approach is to employ artificial intelligence to scan dream diaries and link them to news databases for correlations.  Both dispassionate and able to handle enormous amounts of data quickly, it would be able to evaluate far more material than an individual could in an effort to discover meaningful links.

Similarly, the dream diaries could be compared to daily journals in order to take into consideration the influence of individuals’ experiences feeding through into dream content.  It would be able to discard those in order to focus on content that may have originated elsewhere.

By synchronising large collections of dream diaries, daily journals and news databases, possible instances of psi could be flagged.  Even if none was forthcoming, useful psychological insights might emerge.  Such a project would constitute a ‘mass observation of the unconscious’ of the sort Charlotte Beradt conducted in Nazi Germany (Beradt, 1968), but with the advantages of modern technology.


E References

Auerbach, Loyd. Psychic Dreaming: Dreamworking, Reincarnation, Out-of-Body Experiences & Clairvoyance, Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn, 2017.

Beradt, Charlotte. The Third Reich of Dreams: The Nightmares of a Nation, 1933-1939, Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968.

Hoel, Erik. ‘Dream Power’, New Scientist, 7 November 2020, pp. 34-38.

Hooper, Rowan. ‘Broken Dreams’, New Scientist, 24 March 2018, pp. 32-36.

Lachman, Gary. Dreaming Ahead of Time: Experiences with Precognitive Dreams, Synchronicity and Coincidence. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2022a.

Lachman, Gary. ‘Dreaming the Future’, Fortean Times No 415, February 2022b, pp. 32-38.

Knight, The Premonitions Bureau: A True Account of Death Foretold, New York: Penguin, 2022.

Nielsen, Tore. ‘Variations in Dream Recall Frequency and Dream Theme Diversity by Age and Sex’, Frontiers in Neurology, 4 July 2012. (retrieved 3 January 2023)

Oxenham, Simon. ‘Want to control your dreams? These tips may boost your chances’, New Scientist, 17 June 2016. (retrieved 4 January 2023)

Schredl, Michael, and Göritz, Anja S. ‘Who Keeps a Dream Journal? Sociodemographic and Personality Factors’, Imagination, Cognition and Personality: Consciousness in Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 2019, pp. 1-10.

Whyte, Chelsea. ‘We dream loads more than we thought – and forget most of it’, New Scientist, 10 April 2017. (retrieved 4 January 2023)