Ted Serios & Thought Photography


Ted Serios was “discovered” in Chicago where he was working as a bellhop or elevator operator in one of the large hotels. His career began when a fellow employee, George Johannes, an amateur hypnotist, discovered that Serios was an excellent subject. Johannes knew of work that had been done years ago called “traveling clairvoyance.” This technique involves inducing hypnotized subjects into mentally traveling to various places and reporting on what they observed. The procedure is akin to what is known as “remote viewing” today, but under hypnosis the entranced subjects would get startlingly accurate visions of details.

Ted Serios

Ted Serios


Johannes was convinced he could find treasure by using Serios’s abilities. The idea occurred to him that if Serios could somehow project the images he was getting onto film, the details might help them find the exact spot where treasure was hidden more quickly. He gave Serios a sealed camera and told him to go home and work on it. When the film was sent out for developing, it was returned with a couple of pictures on it.

Serios suspected that Johannes had played a trick on him, so he went out and bought his own camera. He began by pointing it at a blank wall from a few feet away. When Serios began to get “impossible” pictures, he began to think that perhaps he was unknowingly walking and taking pictures in his sleep. He had himself locked in his room at night, but the pictures appeared anyway.


These initial experiments were done with an ordinary camera and film. He finally bought himself a Polaroid camera and started working day and night, occasionally getting “hits.” He continued these exhausting experiments for many months but came up empty in the treasure department.


In trying to understand what he was experiencing he visited a hypnotherapist. The man had to take a phone call and Serios had to leave the office and wait in the reception room. Upon returning he showed the hypnotist six photos of India that he had shot while waiting. The receptionist verified that he had done nothing but point the Polaroid camera at the wall and shoot.

The hypnotist began a series of sessions with Serios in which Serios produced numerous pictures. This therapist suggested that Serios point the camera at himself, which became his standard procedure from that point on. More importantly, hypnosis lost its effect on Serios during this time and he could only produce pictures in his waking state. 

Dr. Jule Eisenbud

Dr. Jule Eisenbud


Serios tried to find scientists who would verify his work but didn’t meet with success until Curtis Fuller, owner and editor of FATE magazine, brought him to the attention of Jule Eisenbud, a Denver psychiatrist originally from New York who was interested in and knowledgeable about “paranormal” phenomena. 

Great credit must to given to Eisenbud not only for the intelligence with which he pursued the study of Serios’s ability but also for his patience and perseverance. Serios was not at all easy to work with. He was more often than not drunk, or on his way to being drunk. He would disappear without warning especially when he felt pressured and in many ways was quite a handful.


At their first meeting, in a Chicago hotel, after a few double scotches and some nervous preliminary shots, with camera and film—and more booze–supplied by Eisenbud, Serios produced some “blackies,” or photos looking like they had not been exposed at all. He would become agitated, his pulse rate would increase; his body wracked by tension as he sat cross-legged and pointed the camera at his face.


After the first two failed attempts he asked if he might use his “gismo,” a hollow plastic tube, which he would hold over the camera lens. Eisenbud, of course, examined the device carefully.

Finally, after about two hours of sporadic attempts, at Eisenbud’s suggestion they put aside the hidden targets (photos in opaque envelopes) that he had brought. Serios then produced a blurry, skewed image of a structure that was identified as the Chicago water tower. 


After another lull of a half-hour or so Serios said he had a hunch that he would produce something meaningful to both Jon (Eisenbud’s young cousin who was assisting him) and Jule. When he thought his heart was pounding at a significant rate, one of the signs that he was ready, he triggered the camera. At first the result looked like another blackie but Jon noticed something in the right hand corner that might have been part of a structure with a couple of windows. 

Serios declared that he was “hot” and wanted to shoot again. This time he produced a murky photograph of a building on whose marquee was an illuminated sign reading, “STEVENS.” The building was a hotel that would become the Chicago Hilton.

Jon and a Mrs. Morris, who had escorted Ted there, excitedly urged Serios to shoot some more but Eisenbud called a halt to the proceedings when he discovered that Ted’s pulse rate was 132 and “pounding like an angry surf.” 

The name “STEVENS,” Eisenbud revealed later, did have some meaning for him. On his way to Chicago earlier that day he was extremely upset by the negative response he received to his lecture at the university and especially by the criticisms of a “Dr. Stephens.”


Eisenbud arranged to have Serios come to Denver where he could enlist the aid of his many professional friends and colleagues—at least those who didn’t turn their backs on this embarrassingly crazy man—to study and document Ted’s unusual powers.

And as in many cases of poltergeists or psychokinetic (PK) phenomena, Ted sometimes needed to get angry and/or frustrated to perform. For instance, in the session mentioned above in which the investigator, Dean Conger of the Medical School at the University of Colorado wore the gismo around his neck, Serios was unable to produce anything for hours. Finally, “drunk as a skunk” and acting obnoxiously, Serios became furious because Jule wouldn’t give him any more to drink and pushed him into his chair when Serios lunged for the bottle.

Eisenbud suggested that they quit, at which point Serios exploded, “Goddammit, gimme the camera! I’ll show you I can get one.” He ordered Dr. Conger to put his hand over his own and hold the gismo. Serios held the tube with two fingers and Conger put his palm flat over it. Serios shot and exclaimed, “There, put that in your pipe and smoke it!” 

Ted Serios performing thoughtography

Ted Serios performing thoughtography

What emerged was a photo of a double-decker bus. The rather fuzzy, but clearly recognizable vehicle is bathed in a grainy striated or striped pool of light against a black background. It is at about a 45-degree angle “exiting” the upper right-hand corner of the photo. The dumbfounded witnesses signed the print on the reverse side. Jule insisted that witnesses do this before the photo was out of their sight to prove that this was the actual print they removed from the camera and that no substitutions had been made. 


Eisenbud always “assumed” that Serios was cheating and took precautions. For example, when it occurred to him that Serios might conceivably be flipping the time exposure knob as he handled the camera, Eisenbud experimented and found he could approximate a “whitey” or photo that looked as though it was totally exposed, by doing so. Thereafter he taped down this knob.

Serios had no trouble producing the whities with this new control. Some of them were produced with Serios holding the gismo over the camera lens and witnesses’ palms placed over it, blocking any light from being admitted into the camera. Under normal circumstances a whitey would be the last thing you would expect from such a situation.

(Later this gismo became the object of accusations of fraud by would-be debunkers, even though it was not always used. Gismos made of rolled photo paper were made on the spot by investigators who took all sorts of precautions to insure that no trickery was possible including stringing the gismo on a cord to make a 2-foot long loop that one scientist wore around his neck. He had to stay very close to Serios who needed to reach over to grab the gismo when he wanted to use it.) 


In these tests, by the way, witnesses often provided their own cameras and film and when they used cameras supplied by Eisenbud, they were allowed to inspect them before the sessions and to impound them afterwards for further inspection. Participants also made open paper gismos on the spot. These were always subject to inspection and often signed by the witnesses to avoid changes or duplication.


For about a year, from March 1965 to May 1966, during a “hot” streak of sessions, Serios began moving away from the camera. He first asked others to trigger it while he held it, then asked them to hold the gismo and trigger it while he held it, and finally gave up the camera entirely. 

From a distance of only a few inches he gradually moved farther away so that finally the camera was 10 to 15 feet and more away from him. Some 30-40 pictures were made at various distances from Serios with other people holding the cameras and gismos. The greatest distance was attained in a hospital corridor with Serios some 66 feet away from the camera; the image was a strange one but certainly not the expected blackie that should have resulted, given the way the camera was positioned.


It became clear too that many of the images Serios projected onto film were those of his unconscious impressions rather than literal reproductions and that they were acquired telepathically.  I cannot go into all the fascinating details here but suggest that if you are interested in learning more about Serios and seeing the thoughtographs, you acquire The World of Ted Serios: Thoughtographic Studies of an Extraordinary Mind, by Jule Eisenbud.  Or you can see the chapter on him in my “Bindelof” book.

Watch video interview of Prof Stephen Braude discussing Ted Serios

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