-Rahul Singh in his column "Light & Shade" in Indian Express of 10.3.1991

I am flooded with enquiries about Indian Skeptic from all over India. Your one article has boosted Indian CSICOP, much more than my lectures for the past 18 years, which has gone beyond seven thousand and more than a crore of audience. My work being amongst the uneducated and the students it did not reach the intelligensia. And you have done it with just a stroke of your pen!

Dept. of Electronics, University of Southampton,

Highfield, Southampton S09 5NH, ENGLAND.

October 23, 1990.

Dear Mr. Premanand,

I am writing to you, as a fellow skeptic, in the hope that you may be able to shed some light on a specific case, reported to me by an eyewitness, of levitation in India.

First let me introduce myself. I am secretary of the Wessex Skeptics, an organisation, based in Southampton, which was formally constituted in November 1989. So far, most of our activities have been what one might loosely call educational - TV and radio appearances, and an adult education seminar - but we have done a couple of firewalks and made an attempt to investigate a poltergeist at a pub, which fell through for entirely human reasons - the publicans decided they were not interested in the attention. We have also spent the past summer looking into crop circles, which are occurring right in our backyard.

I am writing because the subject of levitation came up (excuse the pun!) during a discussion on the skeptical viewpoint which I had with an Indian woman acquintance some time ago. She challenged me with her eyewitness testimony of a levitation at the Red Fort in Delhi some two years ago. The conditions and characteristics, as recounted by her or elicited by questioning, were as follows:

* The event took place in bright afternoon sunshine.

* It involved two men, one of whom levitated on a white sheet.

* The levitating man rose many feet into the air.

* He was watched from the ground by a crowd of tourists who gave money.

* One of the men told my friend that the levitation was real but that they told the tourists it was only a trick so as not to alarm them.

* My friend saw the levitation from inside the fort, and vehemently denied the possibility of material support - for example, she asserted that she would have seen a wire.

* She also denied the possibility of guile on the part of these two "simple, uneducated" men.

* She said there were no buildings and no trees round about that might serve as attachment points, and that the walls of the fort were without overhangs. In fact, she said that the Red Fort is in the middle of desert.

Well, I have become somewhat dubious about the last point, since I have found pictures of the Red Fort which show large trees near it and substantial ornamentation to its walls, at least in some parts. It is clearly not in "desert", but seems more to be in a city park. Moreover, the claim that uneducated people cannot engage in trickery is, I think, one that has been oft refuted by experience. It is, of course, impossible to investigate this story in any detail at such a distance, so I was wondering if you know anyone in Delhi who might be able to give me some information. I have the impression that this levitation is a frequent, perhaps regular, occurence, so it may well have been studied previously.

Please don't waste too much of your time on this - I am sure you are extremely busy. The face-value of this story was so convincing - before I started to look in travel books - that I felt it merited open-minded examination, so I hope you will excuse my presumption in asking for your assistance.

Finally, let me say that if you or any other Indian Skeptic is ever in England, please feel free to look us up on Southampton. We are not far from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and just over an hour from London by train. We would be delighted to arrange transport and accomodation at our homes. My home address and phone number:

42 Oakmount Avenue, Highfield,

Southampton S02 1ED (0703) 553 040.

Yours sincerey,

Martin Hempstead.

The University of Regensburg neither approves nor disapproves of the opinions expressed here. They are solely the responsibility of the person named below.

[email protected]

Last update: 22 July 1998