Helmut Schmidt (parapsychologist)

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Helmut Schmidt (February 21, 1928 - August 18, 2011) was a German-born physicist and parapsychologist.


Schmidt was born in Danzig, Germany. He was educated at the University of Göttingen (M.A., 1953) and obtained a Ph.D. in physics from University of Cologne in 1958.[1] He taught theoretical physics at universities in America, Germany and Canada.[2]

In the 1960s Schmidt carried out experiments into clairvoyance and precognition.[3] In the early 1970s he pioneered research into the effects of human consciousness on machines called random number generators or random event generators[4] at the Rhine Research Center Institute for Parapsychology. He was appointed Research Director of the Institute in 1969.[5]

Schmidt's early psychokinesis experiments involved machines with one red and one green light. Subjects would attempt to make one light illuminate more than another. Schmidt has reported success rates of 1–2% above what would be expected at random over a large number of trials.[6]


Critics have written Schmidt's experiments in parapsychology have not been replicated.[7] Schmidt worked alone with no one checking his experiments. He was accused of being a careless experimenter.[8]

The psychologist C. E. M. Hansel found flaws in all of Schmidt's experiments into clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. Hansel found that necessary precautions were not taken, there was no presence of an observer or second-experimenter in any of the experiments, no counterchecking of the records and no separate machines used for high and low score attempts. There were weaknesses in the design of the experiments that did not rule out the possibility of trickery. There was little control of the experimenter and unsatisfactory features of the machine employed.[3] Regarding the machine used in the experiments, Hansel wrote:

The most obvious weakness in Schmidt's machine is that the results are in no case recorded positively inside the machine. They are only revealed after processing data obtained from the resettable counters in the machine or from the paper punch connected it. While machines may be foolproof, human beings seldom are... If Schmidt had used two machines, his scores for high- and low-aiming runs could have been kept separate from the start. Nonresettable counters could have ensured that all attempts were recorded and some supervision of the use and recording of the counters would have instilled more confidence into readers of the reports than they are likely to have at present.[3]

According to the physicist Victor Stenger "While Schmidt claims positive results, his experiments also lack adequate statistical significance and have not been successfully replicated in the thirty-five years since his first experiments were reported."[9]

The psychologist James Alcock wrote that he found "serious methodological errors" throughout Schmidt's work which rendered his conclusions of psychokinesis untenable.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Helmut Schmidt Biography
  2. ^ Helmut Schmidt Obituary
  3. ^ a b c C. E. M. Hansel. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re-Evaluation. Prometheus Books. pp. 222-232
  4. ^ Daniel Druckman; National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance (6 April 1988). Enhancing human performance: issues, theories, and techniques. National Academies Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-309-03787-7. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  5. ^ John Beloff (15 June 1997). Parapsychology: A Concise History. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-312-17376-0. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Jim B. Tucker. (2006). Life Before Life. St. Martin's Press. p. 191
  7. ^ George K. Zollschan, John F. Schumaker. (1989). Exploring the Paranormal: Perspectives on Belief and Experience. Unity Press. p. 175
  8. ^ Gordon Stein. (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 609
  9. ^ Stenger, Victor J. (March 2004). "Can Prayer Change the Past". Volume 14.1. 
  10. ^ Back from the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair by James Alcock