Ted Serios

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Serios, fighting with a camera in 1967
It's fun to pretend
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Fails from the crypt

Theodore "Ted" Serios (1918–2006) was a Chicago bellhop who, during the 1970s, achieved fleeting fame for his alleged ability to produce images on Polaroid film by using psychic powers alone.[1]


An alleged thoughtograph

The idea of 'thoughtography' was first proposed by Japanese psychologist Tomokichi Fukurai in 1913,[2][3]:155 which was later translated in to English in 1931.[4] Fukurai resigned from his university professorship in 1913 after being accused of using unscientific methods.[5]:354

An unemployed alcoholic bellhop, Serios not only convinced Denver-based psychiatrist Jule EisenbudWikipedia (1908–1999) that he could imprint images on Polaroid film with his mind but that it worked best when he was totally drunk. Serios used what he called a “gizmo”, a paper tube placed against the camera lens that he claimed helped him focus his mental energy. Eisenbud expended three years from 1964-1967 (and who knows how many bottles of whiskey) testing Serios and concluded that Serios was undoubtedly capable of "thoughtography" because he couldn't find any evidence of trickery or fraud,[6] which since there is scant detail of the nature of the tests one may ascribe to credulity on the part of Eisenbud.

Trickery and fraudulence[edit]

Serios agreed to a public challenge, but when magicians asked to examine the paper tube immediately after a photo exposure was made, "Serios backed away, putting his hand in his pocket." Investigators guessed that Serios' "gizmo" concealed a second, much smaller tube, most likely a common jeweler's loupe or transparency magnifier. With a tiny magnifying lens at one end and a section of a 35mm transparency affixed with tape at the other, the device could effectively project the transparency image into the lens of the Polaroid camera. Photos produced by investigators using this method were nearly identical to Serios' "thoughtographs."[7] After being summarily debunked and exposed by various photo experts and James Randi (when Randi replicated Serios' tricks on a live TV show, Eisenbud was reportedly "flabbergasted"), Serios faded into obscurity.[8]

External links[edit]


  1. About Ted Serios Leonardo Sirios
  2. 透視と念写 (Tōshi to nensha) by Tomokichi Fukurai 1913) Taishō.
  3. The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult by Clément Chéroux et al. (2004) Yale University Press.
  4. Clairvoyance & Thoughtography by Tomokichi Fukurai (1931). Rider & Co.
  5. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology: Global Perspectives, edited by David B. Baker (2012) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195366557.
  6. The World of Ted Serios: "Thoughtographic" Studies of an Extraordinary Mind by Jule Eisenbud (1967) Morrow
  7. Joe Nickell Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation University Press of Kentucky.
  8. James Randi Yellow Bamboo Surprise, Fear of Technology, and Answering Montague Keen James Randi Educational Foundation.