Nina Kulagina

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Nina Kulagina
Ninel Kulagina.jpg
Ninel Sergeyevna Kulagina

(1926-07-30)30 July 1926
Died11 April 1990(1990-04-11) (aged 63)
Known forReported psychic ability

Nina Kulagina, Ninel Sergeyevna Kulagina (Russian: Нине́ль Серге́евна Кула́гина, born Ninel Mikhaylova[1][2]) (30 July 1926 – 11 April 1990) was a Russian woman who claimed to have psychic powers, particularly in psychokinesis. Academic research of her phenomenon was conducted in the USSR for the last 20 years of her life.

Kulagina was suspected of utilizing hidden magnets and threads to perform her feats.[3] She was caught cheating on more than one occasion, according to British authors Joel Levy[4] and Mike Dash[5] and American science writer Martin Gardner.[6] In 1987, Kulagina sued and won a partial victory in a defamation case brought against a Soviet government magazine that had accused her of fraud.[7]


Kulagina, who was born in 1926, joined the Red Army at age fourteen, entering its tank regiment during World War II,[8] but she was a housewife at the time that her alleged psychic abilities were studied and she entered international discourse in the 1960s.[9][10] During the Cold War, silent black-and-white films were produced, in which she appeared to move objects on a table in front of her without touching them. These films were allegedly made under controlled conditions for Soviet authorities and caused excitement for many psychic researchers around the world, some of whom believed that they represented clear evidence for the existence of psychic phenomena. According to reports from the Soviet Union, 40 scientists, two of whom were Nobel laureates, studied Kulagina.[11] In Investigating Psychics, Larry Kettlekamp claims that Kulagina was filmed separating broken eggs that had been submerged in water, moving apart the whites and yolks, during which event such physical changes were recorded as accelerated and altered: heartbeat, brain waves and electromagnetic field.[12] To ensure that external electromagnetic impulses did not interfere, she was placed inside of a metal cage while she supposedly demonstrated an ability to remove a marked matchstick from a pile of matchsticks under a glass dome.[13]

Kulagina claimed that she first recognized her ability, which she believed she had inherited from her mother, when she realized that items spontaneously moved around her when she was angry.[14] Kulagina said that in order to manifest the effect, she required a period of meditation to clear her mind of all thoughts. When she had obtained the focus required, she reported a sharp pain in her spine and the blurring of her eyesight. Reportedly, storms interfered with her ability to perform psychokinetic acts.[13]

One of Kulagina's most celebrated experiments took place in a Leningrad laboratory on 10 March 1970. Having initially studied the ability to move inanimate objects, scientists were curious to see if Kulagina's abilities extended to cells, tissues, and organs. Sergeyev was one of many scientists present when Kulagina attempted to use her energy to stop the beating of a frog's heart floating in solution. He said that she focused intently on the heart and apparently made it beat faster, then slower, and using extreme intent of thought, stopped it.[15]


Many individuals and organizations, such as the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims on the Paranormal (CICAP) express skepticism regarding claims of psychokinesis. Massimo Polidoro has written that the long preparation times and uncontrolled environments (such as hotel rooms) in which the experiments with Kulagina took place left much potential for trickery.[16] Magicians and skeptics have argued that Kulagina's feats could easily be performed by one experienced in sleight of hand, through means such as cleverly concealed or disguised threads, small pieces of magnetic metal, or mirrors and the Cold War-era Soviet Union had an obvious motive for falsifying or exaggerating results in the potential propaganda value in appearing to win a "Psi Race" analogous to the concurrent Space Race or arms race.[16][17][18][19]

Russian journalist Vladimir Lvov published an article in Pravda[3] which accused Kulagina of fraud. Lvov wrote that she performed one of her tricks by concealing a magnet on her body. The article also reported that Kulagina had been arrested for cheating the public out of five thousand rubles.[3] Science writer Martin Gardner described Kulagina as a "pretty, plump, dark eyed little charlatan" who had been caught using tricks to move objects.[20] According to Gardner, she was "caught cheating more than once by Soviet Establishment scientists."[6]

However, Kulagina countersued and won a partial victory on the suit.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chughtai, M. H. H.; S. G. Abbas (1980). Life. Majlis-e-Milli. p. 190.
  2. ^ Ebon, Martin (1983). Psychic warfare: Threat Or Illusion?. McGraw-Hill. p. 70. ISBN 0-07-018860-2.
  3. ^ a b c Planer, Felix (1980). Superstition. Cassell. pp. 230-234. ISBN 0-304-30691-6
  4. ^ Levy, Joel. (2002). K.I.S.S Guide to the Unexplained. DK Publishing. p. 44. ISBN 978-0789489418 "Tricks were employed by Russian housewife and psychic Ninel Kulagina, who was caught using invisible thread to lift tennis balls and hidden magnets to move saltshakers."
  5. ^ Dash, Mike. (1997). Borderlands. William Heinemann Ltd. ISBN 978-0434003358 "The Russian psychic Ninel Kulagina, who in the 1960s, produced effects very similar to those of Tomczyk - moving a salt cellar and levitating a table tennis ball - was eventually caught by Soviet parapsychologists using concealed magnets and invisible thread to effect her tricks."
  6. ^ a b Kravitz, Jerome; Hillabrant, Walter. (1977). The Future is Now: Readings in Introductory Psychology. F. E. Peacock Publishers. p. 301. ISBN 0875812155 Quoting Martin Gardner: "Ninel has been caught cheating more than once by Soviet Establishment scientists."
  7. ^ Randi, James (1995). "Encyclopedia of Claims: Kulagina, Nina". James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved June 20, 2017. When the newspaper Pravda [sic] declared her to be a trickster, she sued the editors and won, largely on the basis of testimony given by Soviet parapsychologists.
  8. ^ Buckland, Raymond (2003). The Fortune-Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Visible Ink Press. p. 317. ISBN 1-57859-147-3.
  9. ^ Randall, John L. (1975). Parapsychology and the Nature of Life. Souvenir Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-285-62177-7.
  10. ^ "Soviet stare gets action: Woman's look puts mind over matter". The Hartford Courant. 1968-03-18. p. 36. Retrieved 2008-09-11.
  11. ^ Mishlove, Jeffrey (1975). "The Roots of Consciousness: Psychic Liberation Through History, Science, and Experience". Random House. p. 164. ISBN 0-394-73115-8.
  12. ^ Kettlekamp, Larry. (1977) Investigating Psychics: Five Life Histories William Morrow & Company, New York. 16-17. Reproduced, Understanding a Midsummer Night's Dream: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents by Faith Nostbakken. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. pp. 179-180. ISBN 0-313-32213-9
  13. ^ a b Parodi, Angelo (2005). Science and Spirit: What Physics Reveals about Mystical Belief. Pleasant Mount Press, Inc. p. 233. ISBN 0-9767489-3-2.
  14. ^ Bowater, Margaret M.; Diane Stein (1999). All Women Are Psychics: Language of the Spirit. The Crossing Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-89594-979-2.
  15. ^ Moss, Thelma (1979). The Body Electric. J. P. Tarcher. p. 79.
  16. ^ a b Polidoro, Massimo (December 12, 2000). "Secrets of a Russian Psychic". CICAP. Retrieved July 28, 2009.
  17. ^ Kulagina, Nina in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. James Randi Educational Foundation.
  18. ^ Couttie, Bob (1988). Forbidden Knowledge: The Paranormal Paradox. Lutterworth Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-7188-2686-4 "A piece of thread can be stretched between the hands and used to move objects across smooth tables. If, like the famous Russian psychic, Nina Kulagina, one works on a lighted table even a heavy thread will be lost in the glare, especially on film and photographs."
  19. ^ Stein, Gordon (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 384. ISBN 978-1573920216 "Nina Kulagina, Geller's Russian counterpart, used invisible thread to move matches across a table and to float Ping-Pong balls. The thread was manipulated by her husband in a side room. Any magician present would have recognized the method at once and simply passed a hand through the space where the thread went before Nina's husband could draw it out of the room."
  20. ^ Gardner, Martin (1983). Science: Good, Bad and Bogus. Oxford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-19-286037-2
  21. ^ "This Russian woman’s psychic powers ignited a paranormal arms race between the U.S. and the USSR". Retrieved 31 December 2021.

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