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Born in New York City, New York, November 20, 1908, Jule Eisenbud was heavily involved
with psychoanalysis and psychology throughout the early stages of his professional
career and opened his own private practice in 1938. Eisenbud was a clinical faculty
member at the University of Colorado, and an honored member of the American Society
for Physical Research and Parapsychology Foundation.
Eisenbud met his main subject, Ted Serios, in 1961 in Chicago. At the time, Serios
was an unemployed bellhop who claimed that he had the ability to put images on film
with his mind. Although initially skeptical of Serios, a significant number of successful
experiments under tightly controlled conditions convinced Eisenbud that Serios's talent
was legitimate. Ted Serios's ability, which came to be known as "thoughtography",
gained national attention with his appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson
and an ongoing challenge between Serios and renowned magician "The Amazing Randi."
Eisenbud offered a large sum of money to any magicians who claimed they could duplicate
Serios's actions under the same conditions, but he never received a challenge.
The actual process of producing a thoughtograph was fascinating to watch, as Serios
often required vast amounts of liquor to get going and became very restless before
he could produce an image. Once he was "hot", or ready to produce, Serios placed a
paper tube, or "gizmo" on his head (supposedly to channel the paranormal energy),
and has a photograph taken of his face from very close range. These 'gizmos', were
tube like constructions of varying length, width, and diameter improvized from paper,
plastic, or other materials available at the site of the experiment. The fact that
Serios uses a "gizmo" in many of his thoughtographs is one of the most criticized
parts of the experiment, as many have accused him of placing some sort of micro-lens
in the gizmo while the observers looked away. Eisenbud has often countered by ensuring
constant close observation of Serios, and examining the gizmo for such a lens before
and after shots. The debate and skepticism of the experiments is detailed greatly
throughout much of his correspondence, and witness statements as well.
The images that are produced consist of "whities", blackies", and various forms of
images, often buildings of various sorts. These images are supposed to relate to randomly
selected "target images" chosen without Serios's knowledge beforehand, of which he
is asked to determine on his own and create. While some of his thoughtographs have
corresponded to the target photos or verbal requests of the observers, the success
rate in this regard is generally very low. For example, following a selected target
photo of an iron, Serios produced an automobile that was mysteriously shaped like
the same iron. In one of his more spectacular feats, Serios produced a clearly distinguishable
image of Eisenbud's ranch right on the spot, after Eisenbud's wife Molly suggested
that they take a trip there. The majority of the results are "whities" or all white
images, and "blackies" or all black images, which are abnormal themselves, as the
image produced should have always been Serios. The majority of Serios's successful
thoughtographs are of various buildings or landmarks, to which similar photos could
often be found in travel books. The images are in various degrees of focus, with many
in a "zoomed" in appearance of a small part of a larger image. In addition, many of
the images have abnormalities, such as being slightly skewed, turned side-ways, or
slight alterations from the corresponding image that could be found to match the thoughtograph.
Serios continued to produce thoughtographs until the late 1960s, at which point, Serios
seems to have "lost his ability" to produce. At the peak of Serios's success, Eisenbud
published his first book on Ted Serios, titled "The World of Ted Serios," in 1967.
Although Serios lost his ability to produce photographs, Eisenbud stood by his conviction
that Serios's thoughtography was real, groundbreaking, and deserving of much more
attention than it was given. Furthermore, Eisenbud asserted that the Serios thoughtographs
were not replicated under the same conditions by any magician or scientist. To this
day, whether or not Serios was a fraud is still unclear. However, no one has been
able to successfully demonstrate how Serios could have produced such images through
any method other than Eisenbud's theory of psychic energy, or 'thoughtography'.
Eisenbud also worked with several other research subjects, including a man who claimed
he could bend spoons with his mind, a woman who claimed she could predict cards before
they were chosen at random, and another woman who claimed her hand was "possessed"
and wrote things on its own. However, Eisenbud's main focus remained on his work with
Ted Serios, on which he actively gave speeches, promoted, and defended until his death
in March 1999.
Serios's photographs continue to be displayed in various photographic conventions
to this day, and at the publishing of this finding aid in 2005, scriptwriter Chris
Carter (of X-Files fame) was working on a script for a movie documenting the relationship
between Ted Serios and Jule Eisenbud.
Organized into 11 series: Series I. Correspondence, 1931-1999. Series II. Medical
and Legal Documents, 1942-1999. Series III. Financial Documents, 1966-1998. Series
IV. Experiments, 1964-1988. Series V. Eisenbud Writings, 1937-1995. Series VI. Non-Eisenbud
Writings, 1935-1987. Series VII. Awards, 1941-1972. Series VIII. Session Notes, 1936.
Series IX. Artwork, 1967, n.d. Series X. Multimedia, 1964-2001. Series XI. Photographs,
1964-1989. Series XII. Artifacts, n.d.
Series I. Correspondence
Series II. Medical and Legal Documents
Series III. Financial Documents
Series IV. Experiments
Series V. Eisenbud Writings
Series VI. Non-Eisenbud Writings
Series VII. Awards
Series VIII. Session Notes
Series IX. Artwork
Series X. Multimedia
Series XI. Photographs
Series XII. Artifacts
The Jule Eisenbud collection on Ted Serios and thoughtographic photography contains
Jule Eisenbud's collection of documents from his lifetime of research on a variety
of subjects, with the bulk of material relating to his work on Ted Serios. Although
the various documents span from as early as the late 1930s until his death in 1999,
the bulk of the material is from the 1960s, the years of his most intensive work with
Ted Serios. The series have been organized by document type, including impressive
numbers of correspondence, legal and medical documents, financial documents, experimental
data, Eisenbud's clippings, Non-Eisenbud clippings, multimedia, and photographs.
The first series, Correspondence, is indicative of Eisenbud's dedication as a correspondent.
The colleagues he communicated with most include Steven Braude, R.A. McConnell, Emilio
Servadio, and Ian Stevenson. This correspondence in particular contains a great deal
about Eisenbud's work with Serios and his work in parapsychology. The correspondence
between Serios and Eisenbud illustrates the unique relationship between the two, and
the tension created by Serios's constant disappearances, periods of inability to produce,
alcoholism, and frequent trouble with the law. "Doc", as Serios liked to call Eisenbud,
spent a lifetime attempting to keep Serios in line, often bailing him out of tight
financial situations and unpleasant circumstances.
The second and third series contain medical, legal, and financial documents relating
to both Serios and Eisenbud. Particularly interesting is the legal documentation surrounding
Serios, including his frequent arrests and medical expenses. A complete trust fund
agreement belonging to Serios is included in the financial documents.
The fourth series contains a vast number of documents pertaining to Eisenbud's experiments,
which have been divided between Ted Serios, and all other experiments. These other
research projects include work on Susie Cottrell, a woman who believed she could predict
cards before they were selected, Masuaki Kiyota, a man who claimed the ability to
bend spoons with his mind, and the "handwriting experiments" conducted by a woman
who felt her hand was "possessed" and wrote its own poetry, songs, and drawings. Also
included is a large number of witness statements pertaining to the experiments with
Series five and six include Eisenbud's various clippings, and clippings of those of
his colleagues. Eisenbud's book "The World of Ted Serios," is included in series five,
along with conversation transcripts involving Carl Sagan and the House of Un-American
Activities Committee (HUAAC). Also of interest is a screenplay, with the experimentation
with Serios as the main plot, created by an unidentified author. Series seven contains
Eisenbud's various awards and certificates accumulated throughout his professional
career. Series eight contains a set of session notes from the 1930s, apparently created
by Eisenbud during one of his psychoanalytic sessions with an unnamed patient. Series
nine contains artwork, including unidentifiable drawings, advertisements, and cartoons.
Series ten contains most of the multimedia in the collection, including over 100 filmstrips
of various formats, a number of VHS tapes, and DVDs, some of which are not duplicated
in the other formats. There are several interviews with Dr. Eisenbud, including one
during the last years of his life, discussing his lifetime of research and touching
a good deal on his work with Ted Serios. There is also a VHS with coverage of Ted
Serios in action creating thoughtographs, which is wonderful in illustrating precisely
how the process worked. Experiments with Susie Cottrell (the psychic card reader)
fill the majority of the cassettes, with the same experiment continuing over several
cassettes. Filmstrips are of various sizes and formats, and may require special projectors
to view them.
The final and largest series of the collection, photographs, is divided into five
subseries: experimental, thoughtographs, numbered, Eisenbud's private collection,
and Ted Serios' personal photographs. The experimental sub-series contains large numbers
of photographs produced during the experimental process; the thoughtographs sub-series
differs in that it contains selections from the experimental photographs and contains
only thoughtographs. The photo binders put together by Jule Eisenbud are of particular
interest, as they include captions and dates for a large number of successful thoughtographs.
Mounted "thoughtographs" include some of his most famous photos, including those which
are often put on display. The numbered sub-series contains photographs included in
the two editions of Eisenbud's book, "The World of Ted Serios"; the container list
specifies which edition contains the picture. Those photographs listed under Eisenbud's
Private Collection are mainly pictures of fertility symbols and statues, an apparent
interest of Eisenbud. Photographs labeled as Ted's personal photos show Ted in later
years, and include shots of him with family members.
At this time, the only item in the twelfth and final series is Eisenbud's Polaroid
The collection was donated by Eric Eisenbud, son of Jule Eisenbud, arriving in three
separate accessions. The first came from Denver Public Library on November 5, 2002,
consisting of 14 boxes, including several boxes of books on various subjects in psychology.
The second donation was delivered from the home of Eric Eisenbud, arriving in March
of 2003 in 10 additional boxes. In August 2008 Eric Eisenbud sent the camera that
Eisenbud and Serios used during the experiments as well as 16 DVDs created from film
and BetaSP masters. Portraits of Jule Eisenbud, requested by a researcher and located
in Series XI.4, were donated by Eric Eisenbud in May 2010; both digital files and
prints were provided.
This collection was processed under the supervision of Marcia Peri and completed in
October 2005. The Jule Eisenbud Collection on Ted Serios and Thoughtographic Photography
arrived with varying degrees of organization. Some correspondence, photographs, and
experimental data was kept neatly organized, while the bulk was largely disordered.
Whenever possible, original organization was maintained, and documents were simply
transferred to archival folders. Due to the large amount of correspondence, only those
contacts with at least 15 letters were given their own folder and organized alphabetically.
The remainder was organized chronologically.
In the case of photographs, all original negatives and contact prints were kept with
the actual shots, and left largely in the organizational manner they arrived in. The
images have been arranged alphabetically by subject matter, with the majority of the
images pertaining to some aspect of experimentation with Ted. These photographs were
left in their original organization with the same titles, and simply transferred to
archival folders. The photographs were reprocessed in March 2008 by Lindsey Loeper,
Visiting Librarian; this phase of processing addressed preservation concerns and increased
access to the numbered photographs used to illustrate Eisenbud’s book, The World of
Offprints have been organized by date, with no more than two copies of each offprint.
Any duplicates beyond a second were deaccessioned. Films have been assigned the original
title whenever possible, which is indicated by quotation marks. When the film could
not be viewed, or was an audio or video track, and had no title, it was labeled as
unidentified. The majority of films were placed in archival film boxes, although those
with metal tins in good condition were left in their original containers. Boxes 12
and 13 contain large films, and boxes 13-18 contain smaller films. The remaining containers
that could not fit in boxes are notated as "Loose Film Canisters". The oversized VHS
cassettes could not be played in a standard VCR, and as a result, the original titles
have been maintained whenever available. The set of 'session notes' arrived in a mixed
box in one large pile, and as a result of their peculiarity, have been placed in their
Describing Archives: a Content Standard (DACS)
Archives Processing Manual: Description (2015): The processing manual used in Special Collections for all descriptive platforms, including
Finding aid available.
Finding Aid: http://library.umbc.edu/speccoll/findingaids/coll023.php
Reproductions allowed for research purposes. Copyright maintained by the creator.
Eisenbud, Jule -- Archives
Date: 1931-1999; bulk 1966-1970
Extent: 2000 items (2.5 linear feet)
Correspondence organized alphabetically by name. Remaining letters have been organized
in date order and placed in "General Correspondence". Eisenbud's correspondence with
Serios is also included in this series.
Extent: 2 folders
Medical and legal documents include traffic tickets, publishing agreements, affidavits,
prison release statements, death certificates, and other medical and legal documentation
pertaining to either Eisenbud or Serios.
Date: 1966-1998; bulk 1966-1968
Extent: 3 folders
Financial documents include receipts, bills, pay stubs, and other financial records
arranged by recipient.
Date: 1964-1988; bulk 1966-1968
Extent: 800 items (1 linear foot)
Date: 1967, undated
Extent: 12 folders
Experiment files have been organized alphabetically by subject.
Date: 1964-1988, undated
Extent: 5 folders
Includes a large amount of miscellaneous experimental data organized by type of
Extent: 1 linear foot
Arranged into two subseries, offprints and clippings.
Extent: 5 folders (.5 linear feet)
Offprints organized by date. Eisenbud's book, "The World of Ted Serios" is also
included in this subseries.
Extent: 400 items (.5 linear feet)
Clippings arranged by format.
Extent: 4 folders (.5 linear feet)
Clippings, Offprints, and Screenplays arranged by document type.
Extent: 1 folder
Session notes have some form of original order, and appear to document a psychological
evaluation of a subject. Dated February 28 - June 1, 1936.
Date: 1967, undated
Includes miscellaneous materials, including a drawing by Serios, various lecture
advertisements, cartoons, and artwork.
Date: 1964-2001, undated
Extent: 10.5 linear feet
Arranged into three subseries: films, videocassettes, and digital media.
Date: 1964-1972, undated
Extent: 120 films (9.5 linear feet)
Films are arranged by box size, with several boxes containing multiple related
films. The films were previously stored in boxes 12-18 but were rehoused in Fall 2009.
Date: 1979, undated
Extent: 1 linear foot
Included is a VHS cassette of Ted in the "thoughtograph" creating process titled
"Experiments with Ted".
Extent: 16 DVDs
Date: 1964-1989, undated
Extent: 2100 items (3 linear feet)
Arranged into five subseries; experimental photographs, thoughtographs, Eisenbud's
private collection, Ted Serios' personal photos, and numbered photos.
Date: 1964-1967, undated
Extent: 1500 items (1.5 linear feet)
Arranged alphabetically by the titles assigned by Eisenbud; those without titles
are listed at the end of the series by format.
Digital images available
Date: 1964-1976, undated
Extent: (1.5 linear feet)
This subseries contains 'thoughtographs' that were unlabeled, 20 mounted 'thoughtographs',
and three binders of photos with captions left in their original condition.
Digital image available
Digital item available
Extent: 200 items
The numbered photographs in this Subseries correspond to the figure numbers in
Jules Eisenbud's book, "The World of Ted Serios". The edition number is included in
the folder title because in some cases the figure numbers differ between the editions.
Some photographs have informational tabs attached; the page number included on this
tab refers to the second edition. Originals, negatives, and/or duplicates of the photographs
Digital items available
Extent: 300 items
These photos are mainly of fertility statues and symbols, and are presumably part
of Eisenbud's personal collection.
Extent: 40 items
These photos include more recent shots of Ted and family members. Also, there
are a number of shots of Ted performing experiments.
Extent: 1 item
Contains Jule Eisenbud’s Polaroid camera, which was used during his experiments
with Ted Serios.