Nina Kulagina (1926-1990)

Ninel Sergeyvna Mikhaylova Kulagina (Nina Kulagina) was a Russian woman who was able to move light objects, deflect compasses and perform other psychokinetic feats. She was, and still is, attacked and vilified by skeptics, but was never proved to be fraudulent, despite their claims. 

Kulagina was an unassuming housewife and former Russian soldier from Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. (Her given first name, Ninel, is Lenin spelled backward, a name given to many girl babies of that city, not, as debunkers later charged, an assumed name for publicity.)

Nina Kulagina deflecting a compass needle with PK

Nina Kulagina deflecting a compass needle with PK


She discovered her unusual powers one day when she was extremely upset and angry. She walked toward a cupboard in her kitchen and saw a glass pitcher move to the edge of a shelf, fall off, and break to pieces on the floor.  That incident set off a series of poltergeist-like events:  moving objects, lights going on and off, doors opening and closing—in other words, the usual poltergeist stuff—except that she was in her forties, a little older than the usual adolescent subject. Possibly because she was mature, she was aware that she was the cause of the disturbances.

Also unlike most RSPK subjects, Kulagina found she could control the “force” with her will.  Reportedly she made use of it by causing a toy to move closer to her while she held her grandson in her arms, or by moving a bottle of nail polish without touching it and smearing her still-wet manicure.


Kulagina was a very brave woman.  She was only about 14 when Hitler’s army invaded Leningrad.  She, like many Russian youngsters, joined the Red Army and endured terrible hardships: bitter cold, starvation, lack of fuel or electricity and constant bombardment and artillery fire for three years.

She served as a radio operator in a tank and became senior sergeant of her regiment.  She and her family later served in an armored train bringing provisions to the besieged city.  Her fighting days ended when, at 17, she was seriously wounded in the abdomen by artillery fire.

She would later demonstrate this courage and self-sacrifice again in her work with scientists.  She allowed them to place demands on her that taxed and weakened her and probably contributed to her too-early death in 1990.


At the end of 1963, married with three children and having endured a nervous breakdown possibly owing to her chronic pain from her war wound and PTSD, she heard about a woman who could “see” colors with her fingers.  She declared, “I can do that!”

While she was hospitalized she could pick different colors of embroidery thread out of her bag without seeing them and know what color she was choosing. She demonstrated for her husband and they found she could not only “read” colors by touch, but read words and the dates on coins as well. She could also reproduce simple drawings he made while she was in another room.


A Russian professor of physiology Leonid Vasiliev, who had written a book on psychokinesis, invited her to his lab to demonstrate her abilities under carefully controlled conditions.

Kulagina would generally warm up by moving a compass needle.  Gazing intently at it, she would move her hands over it and to its sides, her face showing the strain of her efforts. Her body would lean forward and sometimes circle around as if its movement could cause the needle to do the same. After a (sometimes long) while, the needle would deflect slightly, and eventually spin around. Often the case would turn as well.


In the many films that were made of her you can see her causing small objects to move along a table top. (You can see many on YouTube.) The items were light in weight such as wooden matches, small boxes, and pen caps and such.  She was adept at getting tall slim objects to move standing on end without falling over.

At first she seemed to always draw the objects toward herself, which debunkers pounced upon to allege that she was using hidden threads to pull the objects. (Did they really think she managed to pull a cigarette standing on end without having it fall over?) This tendency was remarked upon by skeptical observers of a film that Felicia Parise, who emulated Kulagina, saw at Maimonides Hospital.  It was part of the reason Parise learned to move objects away from herself.

Nina Kulagina in the lab

Nina Kulagina in the lab


As she developed, Kulagina was able to selectively move one object among many, move two or three objects in one direction and another few in a different one.  She could stop a pendulum from swinging or cause it to change direction.  By concentrating on a lab scale she could make one side move downward while loads of up to an ounce were placed on the opposite side.

She could also levitate and “suspend in air” objects such as a Ping-Pong ball.  One such suspension was captured on film of rather inferior quality but reliable witnesses confirmed that she was able to do this on many occasions. 

Shields of many different materials—plastic, paper, lead, steel, copper—proved ineffective in blocking the force.

Fluorescent crystals, which usually must be exposed to a light source to glow in the dark, would luminesce after Kulagina concentrated on them.  She was also successful in getting substances that normally only begin to react at temperatures of about 158 degrees Fahrenheit, to react at room temperature.

Nina Kulagina levitating a ball in a Russian lab

Nina Kulagina levitating a ball in a Russian lab


Kulagina was able to create invisible barriers in plastic cases containing insects and in glass aquariums so that the insects or fish turned and changed directions when they came up to the “psychic boundary” she imposed.  When asked to suppress the vital functions of mice, she moved her hands over them and they became still, as though they were unconscious.  When she removed her hands, they immediately returned to normal.

There was a great hue and cry when the media reported that Kulagina had stopped a frog’s heart.  Not only was this condemned as cruelty but even worse, if this were true, this power could be misused to perhaps harm or kill people!

What actually happened was that Kulagina was asked to influence a surgically excised frog’s heart that had been placed in a saline solution to keep it beating and had electrodes attached to it in order to record its activity.  Generally such a heart will continue to beat for 30 to 60 minutes or more after it has been excised.  When it stops it can be reactivated by electrical stimulation.

Kulagina was asked to try to make the heart beat faster, which she did.  She was then requested to stop it using her PK.  About 40 seconds later the heart stopped and would not start again when they tried to reactivate it electrically.


Electronic experts in Leningrad and Moscow studied Kulagina from the late 1970s to 1984. Their published reports noted that her hands emitted strong electromagnetic and acoustic impulses.  The magnetic impulses far exceeded the intensity of the Earth’s magnetic field, and the acoustic impulses were in the ultrasound range.

She was able to affect a laser beam, reducing its intensity by almost 80 percent and perhaps changing the properties of gas in the vessel through which the laser beam was passing.


Despite the scientific validation of her abilities, Kulagina was subjected to vicious and defamatory accusations of fraud by individuals, papers and magazines.  In1988 she sued one publication for defamation and won, forcing them to print a retraction of their statements, probably a first in Soviet Russia!


The cost to her body from these experiments was great.  As with the physical mediums presented on this site, she suffered various levels of debilitation after the sessions. During them she would perspire and her pulse would race sometimes at more than 200 beats per minute. She would lose several pounds of weight, her blood pressure and blood sugar level would increase, and afterwards she would experience debilitating symptoms such as pain, dizziness, confusion, and temporary inability to speak and to see.

Kulagina died in 1990, after many years of courageous, selfless contributions to science. She not only had to deal with the suspicion and restrictions of the pre-Gorbachev Soviet regime, but with the inevitable fanatical skepticism that greets anyone with powers that don’t fit in with the current level of scientific knowledge.

Film of Nina Kulagina demonstrating her psychokinetic abilities

Read about other “outside the séance” people:
Felicia PariseGilbert RollerKenneth BatcheldorNina KulaginaSir William Crookes
Ted SeriosThe Philip ExperimentUri Geller