had spontaneous out-of-body experiences was studied in a sleep laboratory for four nights. She reported several partially out-of-body experiences and two full ones.
During a conversation with a friend (whom we shall call Miss Z) a couple of years ago, she reported that she had spontaneous out-of-body experiences approximately two to four times a week and that she would be interested in being studied in the laboratory. As this afforded an unusual opportunity for research, I studied her for four nights in a sleep laboratory in order to determine what, if any, psychophysiological correlates of her out-of-body experiences occurred. This paper will describe Miss Z and her spontaneous experiences, and report on the psychophysiological studies which were carried out.
She would wake once or twice during a night's sleep. Each time she would find herself floating near the ceiling, but otherwise seemingly wide awake. This condition would last for a few seconds to half a minute. She frequently observed her physical body lying on the bed. Then she would fall asleep again and that was all there was to the experience. As far as she could recall, these experiences had been occurring several times weekly all of her life. As a child, she had not realized that there was anything unusual about them. She assumed that everyone had such experiences during sleep, and never thought to mention them to anyone. After speaking about them to friends several times as a teenager, however, she realized that they were looked upon as "queer" experiences, and she stopped discussing them. At the time of the experiment, she had never read anything about such experiences. After initially hearing about her experiences, I asked her to refrain from reading anything about them until our experiments were completed, and she complied with this request. Note that Miss Z had never made any attempts to control her out-of-body experiences, nor did she attach any great significance to them. She definitely felt that they were not dreams, but she was otherwise puzzled as to what they were.
I was able to observe Miss Z in my sleep laboratory for four non-consecutive nights, over a period of approximately two months. The procedure was essentially the same on all nights, and will be described here. Miss Z's electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded each night. The sleep laboratory consisted of two rooms, each lined with acoustic tile for sound attenuation. A large window was between the rooms for viewing, but in this experiment it was covered with a Venetian blind in order that the subject's room could be reasonably dark for sleeping. This blind allowed enough light to come through so that the subject's room was dimly illuminated, but not enough to disturb sleep. The polygraphs were located in the second room, and the door was kept closed. An intercom system allowed hearing anything the subject said. I monitored the recording equipment throughout the night while the subject slept and kept notes of anything she said or did. Occasionally I dozed during the night, beside the equipment, so possible instances of sleep talking might have been missed. The subject slept on a comfortable bed just below the observation window.
The leads from all electrodes were bound into a common cable running off the top of her head, and terminating in an electrode box on the head of the bed. This arrangement allowed her enough slack wire so that she could turn over in bed and otherwise be comfortable, but did not allow her to sit up more than two feet without disconnecting the wires from the box, an event which would show up on the recording equipment as a tremendous amount of sixty cycle artifact. Thus her movements were well controlled. Immediately above the observation window (about five and a half feet above the level of the subject's head) was a small shelf (about ten inches by five inches). Immediately above this shelf was a large clock, mounted on the wall.
Each laboratory night, after the subject was lying in bed, the physiological recordings were running satisfactorily, and she was ready to go to sleep, I went into my office down the hall, opened a table of random numbers at random, threw a coin onto the table as a means of random entry into the page, and copied off the first five digits immediately above where the coin landed.
These were copied with a black marking pen, in figures approximately two inches high, onto a small piece of paper. Thus they were quite discrete visually. This five-digit random number constituted the parapsychological target for the evening. I then slipped it into an opaque folder, entered the subject's room, and slipped the piece of paper onto the shelf without at any time exposing it to the subject. This now provided a target which would be clearly visible to anyone whose eyes were located approximately six and a half feet off the floor or higher, but was otherwise not visible to the subject. The subject was instructed to sleep well, to try and have an out-of-body experience, and if she did so to try to wake up immediately afterwards and tell me about it, so I could note on the polygraph records when it had occurred. She was also told that if she floated high enough to read the five-digit number she should memorize it and wake up immediately afterwards to tell me what it was. My conversation with Miss Z after I had prepared the target was, of course, minimal and could not have given her any clue as to the target number.
On reporting to the laboratory on the fourth night, Miss Z seemed to be determined to have the right kind of out-of-body experience. Although I had indicated complete satisfaction with her performance so far, she was angry at herself because she had not been able to float up and read the target number. Miss Z went quickly to sleep, entering Stages 3 and 4 less than fifteen minutes after going to bed. The night was uneventful for the most part - there were several Stage 1 dream periods in the first two-thirds of the night, as would be expected for any normal subject. After four and a half hours of sleep, she had a Stage 1 dream period with REMs which lasted for half an hour. The EEG was technically rather poor on this night, being obscured with a great deal of sixty cycle artifact and requiring rather heavy high frequency filtering to make it clear, so the EEG findings should be taken with the realization that they are subject to more error than usual. Miss Z's Stage 1 dream terminated with several minutes of intermittent body movements and EEG artifact. Then (at 5:50 A.M.) the occipital channel showed an enlarged, slow wave artifact, the REM channel showed no REMs, and the record looked like a Stage I tracing; however, I could not be sure due to the considerations mentioned above. At 5:57 A.M. the slow wave artifact was lessened and the record looked somewhat like Stage 1 with REMs, but I could not be sure whether this was a waking or a Stage I record. This lasted until 6:04 A.M., at which time Miss Z awoke and called out that the target number was 25132. This was correct (with the digits in correct order), but I did not say anything to her at this point; I merely indicated that I had written the number down on the record. I then told her she could go back to sleep, but twenty minutes later I awakened her so that she could get ready to go to work. At this time, she described her experience as follows:
"I woke up; it was stifling in the room. Awake for about five minutes. I kept waking up and drifting off, having floating feelings over and over. I needed to go higher because the number was lying down. Between 5:50 and 6:00 A.M. that did it ... I wanted to go read the number in the next room, but I couldn't leave the room, open the door, or float through the door ... I couldn't turn off the air conditioner!"
It should be mentioned that Miss Z had expected me to prop the target number up against the wall on the shelf; actually, I had laid it flat on the shelf, which she correctly perceived. Also, I had put a second number on a shelf in the equipment room, but she reported she could not get into this room to see the number. Neither could she turn off the air conditioner, and she complained - that although it had been stifling, it was too cold in the room by that time. Since Miss Z's correctly calling a five-digit number (P = 10^-5) [i.e., odds of 1 in 100,000] was the first strong evidence that her out-of-body experiences contained a parapsychological element, I inspected the laboratory carefully the next day to see if there was any way in which this number could have been read by non parapsychological means.
As a first alternative to an explanation involving extrasensory perception, we decided that "sophisticated" cheating by Miss Z was not impossible. She might have concealed mirrors and reaching rods in her pajamas and used these during the period when the EEG was difficult to classify (due to movement artifacts) to read the number. While this is possible, I personally doubt that it occurred. The second alternative is that she might have seen the number reflected in the surface of the case of the clock which was mounted on the wall above it. This was the only reflecting surface in the room placed in such a way that this might have been possible. Both Dr. Hastings and I spent some time in the dimly lit room to dark-adapt our eyes, and tried to read a number from the subject's position on the bed, as reflected on the surface of the clock. As the room was dimly lit and the surface of the clock was black plastic, we could not see anything of the number. However, when we shone a flashlight directly on the number (increasing its brightness by a factor somewhere between several hundred and several thousand) we could just make out what the number was in the much brighter reflection. Thus, although it seems unlikely, one could argue that the number constituted a "subliminal" stimulus in its reflection off the clock surface. Therefore, Miss Z's reading of the target number cannot be considered as providing conclusive evidence for a parapsychological effect. After calling out the number, Miss Z again returned to sleep and spent approximately twenty minutes in a stage where the EEG was again quite difficult to classify. It was a generally low voltage, flattened record which looked rather like a poorly developed Stage 1 record. However, there were no REMs to speak of, and there was only a small amount of alphoid activity. Upon awaking, she reported that she had had a number of floating sensations during this time. [Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1968, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 3-27.] http://www.near-death.com/tart.html