Thoughtography is also known as nensha (念写, meaning thought copying), or projected thermography. Practitioners claim the ability to copy images from their mind onto various surfaces, or in to the minds of others.

The study of thoughtography is a fairly new, and there are three main people known in the field. At one time or another, each of these have been denigrated as frauds.

Tomokichi Fukurai

In 1910, this associate professor in psychology studied a woman named Ikuko Nagao. Earlier that year, he had experimented with a clairvoyant named Chizuko Mifune, though the experiments were unsuccessful. Nagao claimed to be skilled in nensha (spirit photography). In time, she was labeled a fraud. She died from a fever shortly after. Fukurai was undeterred and continued his studies.

In 1913, Fukurai met with a woman named Sadako Takahashi, who claimed to have clairvoyant and nensha powers. Fukurai published a book called Clairvoyance and Thoughtography which outlined his theories. He later worked with Koichi Mita, who claimed to have created a thoughtographic picture of the dark side of the Moon.

Unfortunately, Fukurai’s theories were unpopular. He resigned his post at the University of Tokyo in 1919 so he could continue his studies. The organization that he founded, the Fukurai Institute of Psychology, still investigates paranormal activity.

Ted Serios
In the 1960s, this Chicago resident claimed to have produced nensha using only his psychic powers and Polaroid film. The Denver-based psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud lauded his talents,even writing a book on Serios. The images that Serios created were often surrounded by dark areas in the film.

Most of the thoughtographs produced by Serios were created when he was imbibing in alcohol. Eisenbud recorded information on Serios’ psychology – his character disorders, psychopathic and sociopathic personality, and lack of self-control. When frustrated or angered, Serios would bang his head on the floor, wailing and blubbering. Professional photographer and independent investigator Nile Root was present during a session in March 1966. According to his observations, Serios may have falsified the photographs. Root accuses Serios of intentionally acting in a wild manner to distract viewers from the prestidigitation needed to insert the photo into his camera.

Most people who studied Serios’ feats – most recently James Randi, magician and professional skeptic — accused him of perpetrating a hoax. On the other hand, Eisenbud continued to support him as late as the 1980s.

Uri Geller
Uri Geller, the famed psychic, attempted thoughtography in 1995. He placed a 35mm camera near his forehead with the lens cap still on. Geller took photos of his forehead, ensuring that the lens remained on the camera. When the photos were developed, Geller claimed that the images shown had come from his mind.

The skeptic James Randi also studied Geller’s attempts at thoughtography. He accuses Geller of fraudulently misleading the public, much as Serios did. Randi also believes that Geller may be using film which has already been exposed. Geller has repeatedly denied these allegations.

A purported example of thoughtography (nensha), performed by early 20th century Japanese psychic Sadako Takahashi. Courtesy Wikipedia.