Hammer’s supernatural movie The Quiet Ones, in which a University physics professor assembles a team to help create a poltergeist, is actually based on a true story which happened way back in the 1970’s, when a group of Canadian scientists similarly tried to create a ghost of their own. What they discovered turned out to be quite shocking.
These Canadian parapsychologists wanted to prove their theory that those unexplained bumps in the night are actually attributable to the workings of the human mind. The famous poltergeist expert Dr. Alan Robert George Owen headed the group, which was known as TSPR (Toronto Society for Psychical Research). The group consisted of eight people: Dr. Owen’s wife, an industrial designer, an accountant, a housewife, a bookkeeper and a sociology student. A psychologist named Dr. Joel Whitton also sat in on many of the experiments as an observer. The group’s aim was to change our whole perception of the supernatural.
The so-called “Philip Experiment” began in 1972, when their first task was to create a fictional historical character. To achieve this, they pulled “facts” out of thin air to attach to the life of this fictional character, writing a complete life history of this person, who they named Philip Aylesford. In his biography, they stated that he was 17th Century English noble who had a beautiful, yet cold and hostile wife named Dorothea. One day, he chanced to meet a stunningly beautiful gypsy girl named Margo, with whom he immediately fell in love. Consequently, Philip and Margo became discreet lovers. However, their illicit affair didn’t last too long, for his wife, Dorothea, found out about Margo and accused her of practising witchcraft. Because Philip wanted to protect his reputation, he didn’t defend Margo against these witchcraft allegations, and so she was tragically burned at the stake. Subsequently, he became full of remorse, and the only way he could deal with this remorse was to fight in the battle of Diddington. He was eventually found dead one morning on the battlefield.
The Owen group then moved on to the next phase of their experiment: contacting the spirit of Philip. They had even drawn a picture of him to make the whole biography of their concocted character even more authentic. Thus, in September 1972, the commenced their sittings, in which they would discuss Philip’s life and try to picture him in as much detail as they could. These settings continued for nearly a whole year. However, nothing really significant developed from them, apart from the occasional sense of a presence in the room.
The group began to try different tactics in the hope of contacting Philip’s spirit, and this involved recreating a typical spiritualist s?ance: sitting around a table in a dimly-lit room with various objects from the era in which Philip would have lived. As it turned out, and much to the group’s excitement, this technique soon produced the results they were striving for, as Philip finally made contact. He would dim the lights, knock on the table, and move it around, and even envelope the group in a strange blanket of icy cold air that would blow right across the table. He would also express strong views on various topics by table rapping.
The culmination of this experiment occurred before a live audience of around 50 people, and this was actually filmed as a documentary. Philip performed his awesome paranormal tricks in front of them without any reservations whatsoever. He made the lights flicker and the table levitate. However, because Philip had been messing around with the lights, it actually prevented the cameras from capturing these amazing feats on film.
Although The Philip Experiment exceeded the expectations that the group had originally hoped for, it never actually met the group’s main goal: to actually see Philip materialize into a spirit. And in regard to what conclusions can be drawn from The Philip Experiment, well, some say that it proves conclusively that ghost do not exist, that they are simply products of our own minds. Others believe that the group did actually contact the spirit world and an entity just used this opportunity to “act” as Philip. So if this spirit wasn’t Philip, who could it have been?
There is also the argument, of course, that the whole thing was just an elaborate hoax. You can actually see the documentary of the experiment on YouTube, and it does seem to suggest that it was all just a set up. For all that though, The Quiet Ones is still quite an interesting story that will delight all fans of supernatural movies.