Can the dead communicate with cell phones? A $44,500 BIAL Foundation research study aims to investigate the claims
May 18, 2023
In Victorian times, using a Ouija board to communicate with the dead was a popular parlour game. Today, there are some people who believe they receive messages from the deceased in other ways including on their cell phones.
The phenomenon is widespread enough that Dr. Imants Barušs, Professor of Psychology, has been awarded a $44,500 BIAL Foundation Grant for Scientific Research for his study After-Death Communication with Cell Phones.
The Portuguese foundation supports the scientific study of the human being from both physical and spiritual perspectives.
Dr. Barušs will carry out his research over two years with the collaboration of research assistants.
“I’ve had an interest in the survival hypothesis - the hypothesis that consciousness can continue to exist, at least for a time, after the death of the physical body - since I was a child,” says Dr. Barušs, who joined the King’s department of psychology in 1987. He currently teaches courses about consciousness, altered states of consciousness, and the psychology of religion and spirituality.
About eight years ago, Dr. Barušs was approached by the editors of Wired Magazine who were looking for experts to weigh in on the significant number of people claiming to have experienced communication with the dead on their cell phones.
Last year, Dr. Barušs and Durra Kadiragha, a Health Sciences student from Western University, completed a pilot study involving 21 participants who claimed to have received phone calls (35%), photos or videos (20%), text messages (20%), non-vocal sounds during telephone calls or on voicemail (15%), or extraneous voices during telephone calls (10%), from deceased family or friends. Their findings were presented at an online joint meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration and the Parapsychological Association in July 2021.
Dr. Barušs says the BIAL Foundation grant will allow him to build on this study, as well as his previous research into instrumental transcommunication (communication with deceased persons through an electronic device). His 8th book, Death as an Altered State of Consciousness: A Scientific Approach, is being published in July by the American Psychological Association. It comes out on Amazon Kindle sooner.
“The first stage of the research is to find people who say these things are happening to them,” he explains. There is a Facebook group whose members believe they have experienced instrumental transcommunication, but Dr. Barušs hopes his study will attract a wide range of people with diverse accounts.
“The second stage will be connecting with some of these people,” he says. “In addition to their participation in a survey, we will do interviews to get a better sense of what happened and to try and determine if something unusual did happen, or not.”
Then, Dr. Barušs will dig further into any anomalous findings. “When we have phenomena we don’t understand, we want to find the critical variables that have to do with those phenomena,” he explains. “It could be a psychological variable, or it could be the type of phone.” The goal is to try and determine why some people appear to receive cell phone communication from the dead, while others don’t.
Dr. Barušs hopes his research will increase awareness of the fact that an estimated one-third of the population believes they have had some sort of communication from deceased people. “I think it’s important to research the reports that people are having these kinds of experiences,” he notes.
With expertise in Consciousness Studies, Professor Barušs teaches courses about consciousness and altered states of consciousness at King’s. He is an author of eight books and more than 80 papers and reviews, and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and a co-founder of the Society for Consciousness Studies.