The Philip experiment
In the 1970's, a group of Canadian parapsychologists wanted to attempt an experiment to create a ghost, proving their theory that the human mind can produce spirits through expectation, imagination and visualization.
The actual experiment took place in Toronto, Canada, in 1972, under the direction of the world-renown expert on poltergeists, Dr A. R. G. Owen.
The members of the experiment proposed an idea... by using extreme and prolonged concentration, they could create their ghost through a collective thought form: Non-physical entities which exist in either the mental or astral plane. In order to create this ghost and make it as 'real' as possible, it needed a life story; a background in which the ghost could 'relate' to.
They named the ghost they were attempting to bring into focus "Philip Aylesford" and created a tragic story, explaining to the fullest and in great detail, his life, and the few actions that lead to his tragic death.
Step two was contacting Philip. In September 1972, the group began their "sittings" and after some initial problems the group attempted to duplicate the atmosphere of a classic spiritualist séance. They dimmed the room's lights, sat around a table and surrounded themselves with pictures of the type of castle they imagined Philip would have lived in, as well as objects from that time period.
Within a few weeks, Philip made contact. Although he did not manifest in spiritual form, appearing as an apparition or ghost, he did make contact through a brief rap on the group's table. "Philip" answered questions that were consistent with his fictitious history, but was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived. However, "Philip" did give other historically accurate information about real events and people. The Owen group theorized that this latter information came from their own collective unconsciousness.
The sessions took off from there, producing a range of phenomena that could not be explained scientifically. His "spirit" was able to move the table, sliding it from side to side. On more than one occasion, the table chased someone across the room. All hands were clear of the table when this occurred.
In conclusion the experimenters were never able to prove the 'how' and the 'why' behind Philip's manifestation. Was Philip a direct result of the group's collective subconscious or perhaps did they conjure an actual entity that simply latched onto the story?
While some would conclude that they prove that ghosts don't exist, that such things are in our minds only, others say that our unconscious could be responsible for this kind of the phenomena some of the time.
Another point of view is that even though Philip was completely fictional, the Owen group really did contact the spirit world. A playful (or perhaps demonic, some would argue) spirit took the opportunity of these séances to 'act' as Philip and produce the extraordinary psychokinetic phenomena recorded.
Whatever caused the manifestation it seems that it adapted itself to the expectation of the audience, playing the role of the spirit they intended to contact. Since all was based on fiction it could not be the spirit of Philip so what else could it be?