Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ESP and the Dead

Artifact of the Week:
Grateful Dead ESP!
Original copy of the Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, Volume 20, No. 1, 1973
Tape of the Week: 2/18/71

This week, we are going to be taking a look at one of the good 'ole weird Grateful Dead ESP "dream telepathy" experiment done across 5 shows in February, 1971 at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. Dark Star Palace has a copy of the original publication from the Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine from early 1973 that contained the first official publication on the experiments.  We are going to pair this artifact with a tape of the opening night of the run... which happens to contain a version of Dark Star known simply as "Beautiful Jam." It is also the first known "Betty Board" tape, the last full show with Mickey Hart on drums until 1975, and contains the debut performance of Playing in the Band, Wharf Rat, Loser, Greatest Story, and Bertha!
This week's Artifact of the Week was a really great original copy of the Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine from 1973. Now, this is one WEIRD publication.  First off, when I first opened up this journal, there was a poem written by one of the Doctor's...interesting to say the least! Then, the article after the Dead's ESP experiment was on "Personality Correlates of Venereal Disease Experience."  The fact that this is a society of "Psychosomatic Dentists and Doctors" makes one really wonder what other professions I could have landed in over the years.  Anyway, it's weird, that's all.
Moving along, Dr. Stanley Krippner was the main doc behind the experiment.  He was very interested to see how psychedelics and an audience of 2,000+ people would affect "mind to mind transmissions."  As written up in 2007 when the ESP / Dead experiment was revisited in another blog, here were the basics (link to the article):

"The purpose of the particular experiment with the Grateful Dead was to look at how the dream ESP experience of the receiver was affected if the number of senders was multiplied by about 2,000. In other words, would dream ESP improve if more than one sender was used; in this case, nearly 2,000 senders? The band members of The Grateful Dead, having visited the Maimonides sleep lab and learned about the dream ESP research going on there, agreed to try a dream ESP experiment with their audience during a series of six concerts they were giving in early 1971 (Krippner, Honorton, & Ullman, 1973).
The concerts were being held at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York- about 45 miles away from the Maimonides Hospital. The experiment was focused on dream telepathy, with the senders being the audience of “Deadheads” and the receiver being English psychic subject Malcolm Bessent, who had scored well in previous ESP experiments, particularly in those testing for precognition. Each night in the sleep lab at Maimonides, Bessent would go to bed early so that he would be asleep by 11:30 PM, when the experiment would begin. At that same time, the audience in attendance at The Grateful Dead concert would be shown a series of six slides that were being projected onto a large screen above the stage. The first five slides shown to the audience read:
   1. You are about to participate in an ESP experiment.
   2. In a few seconds you will see a picture.
   3. Try using your ESP to “send” this picture to Malcolm Bessent.
   4. He will try to dream about the picture. Try to “send” it to him.
   5. Malcolm Bessent is now at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory in Brooklyn.

The audience would then be shown the sixth slide, containing a randomly selected art print or a photograph, for 15 minutes while The Grateful Dead continued to perform on stage. Observers at the concert noticed that the majority of the people in the audience were already in an altered state of consciousness by the time of the experiment, having been brought about by the rock music, by the contact between people in the crowd, and, of course, by people “tripping” on LSD and other psychedelic drugs during the concert.

Unbeknownst to the audience, there was also a second receiver involved in the experiment in addition to Bessent. This second receiver was Felicia Parise, a medical technician at Maimonides who also had been successful in previous dream ESP experiments. She spent the night in her apartment and was called every 90 minutes during the experiment and asked about any dreams she was having. Since the focus of the audience was on Bessent, the researchers thought it would be interesting to see whether a “control” receiver whose name the audience did not know could pick up on ESP information being “sent” by 2,000 senders, or whether the information would be limited only to Bessent, a finding that might tell us something about the interpersonal nature of ESP.
....In all, Bessent was able to successfully dream about the picture the concert audience was sending a total of 4 times (out of 6 concert nights), a result that is greater than chance alone by statistical standards. On the other hand, Parise was only to successfully dream about the picture once out of six times. This suggests that the ESP information was mostly limited to Bessent in real-time, and that some kind of focusing by the senders toward the receiver may play a role in the manifestation of telepathy. However, when looking closely at Parise’s data, there is some indication that her ESP was displaced in time. As the example above shows, it seems that Parise was able to dream about the concert picture a few nights after it was shown, and in some cases, she apparently was able to dream about it before it was shown (in other words, she was dreaming about a picture that would be shown at a Grateful Dead concert a few nights into the future, suggesting precognition). In general, it seems that this dream experiment with The Grateful Dead was successful for the most part, giving us a hint about how using multiple senders may influence the telepathic experience of the receiver." 
Below are a few links if you want more detailed info on the Grateful Dead ESP experiments, including the full text from the original journal publication.

The Tape of the Week this week is the opening night of the Port Chester ESP run: 2/18/71.  This show is a real beauty..and in fact, the portion that has been officially released (the Dark Star jam) on the "So Many Roads" box set named the jam "Beautiful Jam" in honor of how gorgeous this improvisation (ESP in action!) is. 

This 2/18 tape is special in other ways too. It is the first Dead show that Betty Cantor-Jackson recorded and was one of the first that circulated after Betty's treasure chest of master reels was put up for auction (sources show that this current tape first circulated on DAT and cassette in 1996).  In addition, it was the LAST full show Mickey Hart would play with the band until 1975 (outside of his 1-song encore at the Winterland "The Final One" show on 10/20/74). It also showed the debut of 5, count em...5, classic new songs (Playing in the Band, Loser, Bertha, Greatest Story and Wharf Rat).  Wow!!  It was recorded on multi-track for the Skullfuck album, but was not used. The Palace predicts a Road Trips release on this down the road apiece....
Since the next night of the run, 2/19/71, has now been officially released via the master multi-track reels on "Three from the Vault," a lot of Dead Heads have overlooked 2/18.  Don't miss it!  I've provided some links below so you can do your own ESP tests at home with some of your friends by streaming or downloading the soundboard. Enjoy!!
Until next time at Dark Star Palace....


  1. When I read the book The Lost Symbol from Dan Brown recently, this experiment was the first thing I thought about when they get in to Noetic Sciences. Fascinating stuff. I bet John Kadlecik would dig this, he loves this stuff.

    thanks for the great post!

    Jay (

  2. excellent post, love the detailed information, good job!!!

    the amount of psychic energy at shows was outstanding. I always wanted to know if the casinos lost more money after the Vegas shows, because peeps were so tuned in...!

  3. I was there,4th row in front of Jerry.Ned Lagin also sat in on keys.Mickey attacked his drums with wild abandon.I remember seeing the images projected during the concert.

  4. I've been Stanley's assistant for over 25 years ... and, I met him when I was a 20 year old - thanks to Mickey, who introduced us!


  5. It was a pleasant surprise for me to see this website. There are two minor errors. In one place, the number of nights given is five and in another place it is six. The latter is correct. And the experiment was not idea; Jerry Garcia suggested it to me and I designed the study. The entire ten year investigation can be found in the book DREAM TELEPATHY by Ullman, Krippner, and Vaughan.
    I am a member of a group, the Grateful Dead Scholars, that meets once a year and discusses their research in to Dead's musicology, sociology, psychology, and history. Nicholas Meriweather, a former president of this society, now supervises the Grateful Dead archives at the University of Calaifornia, Santa Cruz.