Sir William Crookes Experiments

Sir William Crookes, (1832 – 1919) a British physicist and chemist, was a student of spectroscopy, and he attended the Royal College of Chemistry, London. He was a pioneering inventor of vacuum tubes, and he invented the Crookes Tube.

This article will be covering the Sir William Crookes Experiments into the Paranormal and the Spiritual…


In 1870 Crookes began to study paranormal phenomena associated with spiritualism. Having already established himself as a serious scientist, he was more than equipped to use his talents and knowledge to study the paranormal in a scientific way. However, his scientific research and test results were much maligned at the time.

He was not studying the paranormal at a time when it was considered appropriate. However, Crookes believed it was the duty of science to study paranormal phenomena, and he spent his entire later adult life trying to prove that paranormal phenomena was real and that there was “an outside intelligence”.

Other reasons for his studying spiritualism possibly include his brother dying an untimely death from Yellow Fever at 21, as well as the prodding from some of his more open-minded colleagues in the scientific community.

He approached the study of the paranormal with no preconceptions, and he believed that science could help humanity better understand the paranormal. He thought that measuring instruments would help to explain, or even classify, the phenomena. Or, he thought, he would be able to throw out all of it as mere superstition.

He did not approach the subject with any preconceived notions or prejudices, but interestingly for people who believe in the paranormal, he came to firmly believe in it over the last three decades of his life.

Sir William Crookes Experiments

Crookes had several conditions for his experiments, and he imposed them on the mediums he studied:

  • It had to be at his own house
  • It had to be his own selection of colleagues, friends, and spectators
  • He would set the conditions
  • He would choose the apparatus

Crookes studied notable mediums, including Florence CookDaniel Dunglas Home, and Kate Fox.

Crookes asserted that he witnessed varied paranormal phenomena, like the following:

  • Bodies moving at a distance
  • Rappings
  • Bodies changing weight
  • Levitation
  • Seeing luminous objects
  • Sightings of phantom figures and ghosts
  • Writing without human agency
  • Various circumstances which pointed to the agency of an outside intelligence

Met With Outrage

Crookes published a report on his research in 1874, but it was met with hostility and suspicion from the scientific community. He said that his results couldn’t be explained by mere conjuring, and that he needed to conduct additional research.

The scientific community met him with a lot of hostility and outrage, and he became almost mum on the subject. However, when he was much more secure in his position several years later, he began to speak out again.

Interviews and letters show that Crookes was a believer in the paranormal until his death in 1919.

When Crookes wrote the introduction to his book, he stated that before he was persuaded into conducting the experiments by some of his colleagues he personally believed that most so-called paranormal phenomena was just trickery or superstition.

Crookes just wanted to shed some light on the matter, and he didn’t really care which conclusion he arrived at.

Sir William Crookes Experiments Into The Spiritual

Sir William Crookes once gave an account of a séance with the famous medium, D.D. Home. He said that he and an associate sat with D.D. Home at a three-footed table, and they both looked closely at his knees and feet while all of three of them were seated.

Crookes wrote that the table clearly levitated and that there was no mechanical explanation.

Crookes conducted a second experiment with Home to test whether his ability to play an accordion without touching the keyboard was real or not.

Crookes reported that he supplied his own accordion so as to avoid any possibility that Home would bring his own trick accordion.

He and a colleague kept a close eye on the one hand of Home clutching the accordion (which was placed in a cage under the table as another safeguard against sleight of hand), and they observed that the accordion would play with Home just touching the instrument.

They also observed that the accordion seemed to be floating about in the middle of the cage.

In a third experiment, both he and a colleague named Wallace reported seeing Home levitate. Crookes reported that Home at one time stood in a clear part of the room and informed him that he was rising.

He then saw Home rise about six inches off the ground and stay that way for several seconds, after which he slowly descended.

On one other occasion, he said that Home rose a foot-and-a-half off the ground and that he waved his hands under his feet, around his sides, and over his head and detected nothing that could be holding him up in place.

These experiments were significant for Crookes, and they suggest that paranormal phenomena is sometimes centered around a single individual, rather than something that is available to all.

The study of the paranormal was at that time a subject of intense curiosity for laypeople, and the scientific community had adopted either a skeptical or a hostile position.

Crookes changed the way people looked at the study of the paranormal, and whether or not it was a proven reality.

Science & Spiritualism

Parapsychological and paranormal research is often met with misunderstanding or hostility by the mainstream scientific community.

Most people don’t know that several Nobel Laureates were involved in this kind of research, like Pierre and Marie Curie.

Interestingly, Pierre Curie came to the conclusion that the paranormal research he observed was genuine. Even the co-writer of the theory of evolution by natural selection studied paranormal phenomena.

And, of course, Sir William Crookes was a Nobel Laureate in physics, and he was also the President of the Royal Society. He was by no means a marginal scientist. The Royal Society was the most prestigious scientific body in England at the time.

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