In the early 1970s, members of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research decided to created a fictional ghost – and then see if they could conjure it up in a seance.

It was a case of “spook fiction”, but the spirit took on a reality all of its own.

Under the direction of eminent psychical researcher Dr A.R.G. Owen, the group invented the case history of a 17th century Englishman called Philip, who had an affair with a beautiful gypsy girl.

According to their story, when Philip’s wife found out, she accused the girl of witchcraft and saw to it that the girl was burned at the stake. Philip did not intervene and eventually committed suicide in remorse.

Having created this story, the Toronto group set about trying to conjure up the spirit of Philip. For several months there were no results. Then one evening, while they were all relaxing and singing songs, there was a rap at the table.

They used the standard code – one rap for yes, two for no – to question the spirit. It claimed to be Philip and corroborated and even elaborated on the story they had invented for him.

Amazingly, at later seances, Philip made the table dance all around the room, and even made it levitate in front of TV cameras.

Details of this case can be found in the book Conjuring Up Philip (published 1976) by Iris Owen and Margaret Sparrow, both members of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research.

There are many questions you could ask about this case. If you’re into magic, you’d likely see this as a case of the Toronto group having created a “thoughtform” which took on a life of its own. By creating the story of Philip and discussing it on a regular basis, not to mention visualising it in their minds’ eyes, the group collectively created the spirit – possibly as a result of the deeper parts of the subconscious mind.

Attempting to conjure up this fictional spirit would have reinforced all this even more – until eventually the fictional spook put in an appearance.

If you’re a believer in the literal reality of ghosts and spirits, on the other hand, you might contend that a rogue or mischievous spirit duped the Toronto group and played tricks on them.

Whatever the case, actually creating a discarnate entity with the power of the mind is quite a feat. Especially considering the spirit Philip apparently levitated a table.

Anyway, what do you think was going on with the Philip case? Do you think the Toronto group created some kind of poltergeist with their imaginations? And could this explain some or even all of poltergeist phenomena? Let me know your opinion in the comments below.

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