Archive for August, 2015

Cleve Backster

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

[…] this was all a prelude to Backster’s real life’s work, which began in the early morning hours of Feb. 2, 1966. Backster had been up all night in his office on West 46th Street and had just poured himself a cup of coffee when he noticed a houseplant, a Dracaena fragrans his secretary bought to brighten the office. On a lark, Backster, who had a playful streak that belied his military background (he studied astrology, dabbled with LSD and supposedly spent a summer as a stunt diver in a circus), decided to hook the plant up to his lie-detection machine.

In human subjects, a polygraph measures three things: pulse, respiration rate and galvanic skin response, otherwise known as perspiration. If you’re worried about being caught in a lie, your levels will spike or dip. Backster wanted to induce a similar anxiety in the plant, so he decided to set one of its leaves on fire. But before he could even get a match, the polygraph registered an intense reaction on the part of the Dracaena. To Backster, the implication was as indisputable as it was unbelievable. Not only had the plant demonstrated fear — it had also read his mind.

Josh Eells