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Sam Towne was watching an upturned plastic pudding container crawl crablike back and forth across the smooth surface of the laboratory floor.
The technical name for the device was a tychoscope, derived from the Greek tukhe, meaning "chance," and skopion, meaning "to examine." The prototype had been invented by a Frenchman, Pierre Janin, in the late seventies. It rested on two wheels set parallel to each other and a fixed pivot leg, enabling it to move in a straight line either forward or backward, or rotate clockwise or counterclockwise.
All these movements were radio controlled by a random event generator (REG) in the next room. An REG was essentially no more than an electronic coin-tossing machine, its circuitry governed by some unpredictable physical process such as radioactive decay or thermal electron motion. A computer, programmed to sample this process at preset intervals, generated arbitrary series of numbers or movements accordingly.
The tychoscope's next move, in consequence, was always anybody's guess. Statistically there was a known probability that it would make any one of the possible moves open to it, just as a coin, every time it is tossed, has a 50/50 chance of coming down heads or tails. Over ten, a hundred, or a thousand tosses it will come down approximately half the time heads and half tails. That is the law of probability.
Yet what Sam and his assistant, Pete Daniels, were witnessing was a consistent and dramatic violation of that law. The little pudding-container robot was literally huddling in one corner of the floor. Each time the REG switched it to a new tack that looked liketaking it away, the next few switches would inexorably bring it back to the same area.
Sam and Pete exchanged a look, neither concealing his excitement from the other. Both knew that this was a historic moment: a repeatable demonstration, under laboratory conditions, of something utterly inexplicable.
"Okay, let's move the cage," Sam said.
There was an anxious twittering from the fifteen seven-day-old chicks as their world swung up into the air and came to rest two yards from where it had been. It took only a few moments for them to reorient themselves and begin calling for the featureless moving object that they had been conditioned to regard as "mom," and which was now farther away from them than they found comfortable.
Pete came back from the next room with a printout from the computer. He handed it to Sam in silence. The numbers spoke for themselves.
"That's almost three times," Sam said, doing a quick bit of mental arithmetic. "The goddamn thing spent three times longer hanging around the cage when the chicks were in it than when it was empty."
They both turned as the chirping of the little birds grew more agitated. The tychoscope was making a turn of almost three hundred and sixty degrees. Sam caught Pete's eye, each of them knowing the thought that had shot through the other's head, followed by a jolt of self-reproach at such a cockeyed notion. It was absurd to think, as they both instinctively though briefly had, in terms of the tychoscope actively searching for its brood. It was a mindless machine without even the pretensions to ratiocinative thought of the simplest computer program. Any kind of program was an ordered process, and the whole point of the process by which the little robot's movements were controlled was that it lacked all order.
The only possible force causing the machine to move as it had been moving for the past twenty minutes was the will of the tiny caged chicks to keep it near to them. Like most baby birds, they had adopted as their mother the first moving object they had come in contact with on hatching from the egg. After their birth they had spent one hour every day for six days in the presence of the robot as it meandered on its random path. Today was the first time they had been caged and therefore unable to follow the machine in their accustomed way.
So, instead, they were making it come to them.
An hour later Pete brought in another cage of chicks to replace the first. The only difference was that these chicks had never seen the tychoscope before and therefore had no attachment to it. To establish this Sam did a twenty-minute control run during which the robot, as the computer printout confirmed, followed its normal random path while the chicks in their cage paid it no attention.
"Okay, Pete, pull the blinds, will you?" Sam said as soon as he had satisfied himself about the result. The lab became pitch dark, and the twittering of the chicks grew agitated.
"See what I mean?" Sam said. "They hate the dark during waking hours. It throws them into a panic."
The noise that the chicks were making certainly bore him out. They subsided somewhat as a small flame leapt from Pete's lighter, which he touched to a candle. He attached the candle to a clip on top of the tychoscope, which had remained stationary on the far side of the floor since the end of the previous run.
When the candle was in place—the only source of illumination in the room—Sam pressed the switch on his remote. The tychoscope began to move.
The chicks clamored for the light to come to them ...
"I'll never eat one of those things again," Pete murmured as they analyzed the data after several runs. "The little buggers are magicians."
Sam smiled. "Then you'd better become a vegetarian," he said, "because anything more awake than a carrot could pull off what you just saw. And some people have theories about carrots."
"You want to run a test with a basket of vegetables?"
"Nah—people would think we were nuts."
"They already do."
"Yeah, well," Sam shrugged, "maybe we are."
Pete shot a covert glance in his boss's direction. Sometimes he didn't understand Sam. By rights he should have been ecstatic at the results they were getting, but a sudden despondency seemed to have settled on him, as though everything they were doing was a waste of time.
"What's up?" he asked. "You found a flaw in the procedure, or what?"
"There's no flaw." Sam's voice was flat.
"So why the long face?"
There was a flash of annoyance in Sam's look that warned the younger man to back off and not push the question further. But Pete wasn't in this job because he liked being told what to do or what to think. He respected Sam, liked him, and admired what he was doing; because of that he wanted to be taken into his confidence.
"Don't look at me like that," he said, aware of a slightly whining note of protest in his voice that he disliked. "If there's something on your mind, I'd like to know."
Sam sighed. It was a form of apology. "It's nothing to do with the experiment."
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is figuring out what, if anything, it all adds up to."
Posted September 10, 2011
This was such an interesting and original story. I found the science behind it all well researched and not at all overbearing. If you don't have the stomach for technical details and science/philosophy this book is probably not for you. If you like an intelligent, deep, and unique paranormal story you will like this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
In fact, I see that the film rights have been sold. This is not a great book, but not a book that you will soon forget, either.
The descriptions of surroundings and phenomena are evocative and detailed -- very visual. One gets the feeling that the author is describing places that he's been, they seem that real.
The early chapter on fraudulent mediumship was unfortunately unrealistic, but given the premise of the book, it works. I kept visualizing Lily Dale new York.
If you have read other reviews, you already know that this book explores a mediumship experiment gone horribly wrong. If you have actually practiced in this field, you know that the events in this book are not typical, if even possible. Still, that does not detract from this being an exciting read and an interesting trip.
The ending should contain at least some elements of surprise for everyone, even if some of the closing events are foreshadowed.
Posted December 19, 2004
This is truly an amazing story that shook me to the core. David Ambrose masterfully leads the readers into a reality, which then unnoticeably changes into a hellish experience. I recommend this book to all fans of the psychological horror. No other book really touches the thin line between nonexistence and hell except probably Simon Cleveland's 'Basenji Revelation'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2004
Don't read this book when you are alone in the house at night! Fans of 'The XFiles' will love this book which concerns a psychologist named Dr Sam Towne who gathers a group of people together for an experiment in PK.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2001
Posted January 30, 2001
Posted November 29, 2000
Because there are some things that we haven't fully explored, and the line between reality and the unknown has never been measured, this is frightening. This book isn't full of monsters and gore that you forget minutes after closing the book. It has a suggestion that plants itself into the subconscious mind and suddenly makes you wonder.... could this happen to you? What would you do if it did?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2000
Everyone is superstitious to some degree. They have to be. Look at the fact. Every cause has an effect. Cause and effect are opposites. so are black and white, right and wrong, good and evil - the list is endless! Opposites, like the two sides of a mirror. One cannot exist without the other. OR CAN IT? <BR><BR> Sam Towne was a Parapsychologist that believed ghosts came from the human mind, not from beyond. For an experiment he got eight volunteers, including reporter Joanna Cross and physics professor Roger Fullerton. They would use 'psi' to make 'tulpas'. To put it simply, they would make up a person, give him a pretend life, discuss him until he became 'real' to all of those in the group, and then have the 'thought-form' respond to them! They would make a real ghost! <BR><BR> Soon, Adam Wyatt was made. He was a tragic Revolutionary War hero. Everyone was thrilled when he began rapping on tables and spelling out messages. But then members of the group began to die in awful ways! And there was no way to exorcize Adam. He was killing them one at a time! <BR><BR> *** Scary and unprovable! I felt a couple chills as I read this one. Perfect for fans of horror or those who just enjoy a good ghost story! Should not give you nightmares. But you will remember this story, and wonder, for the rest of your life! Excellent! ***Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 23, 2000
I was really engrossed in this story and find myself still thinking about it a week after having finished it. It's a lot more than just a ghost story; the characters, who participate in an experiment in parapsychology, become mere pawns in a supernatural game of chess, powerless to control their own fate. Much was left unexplained, putting the reader in the same unsteady boat as the subjects in the experiment, facing the terror of the unknown and fast losing hope. I'm looking forward to the sequel -- there has to be one!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2000
This book gets 4 stars because sometimes the author rushes through plot developement and sometimes just a little farfetched in ideas, but over all, a very good read with an ending that disturbs and gives the creeps !Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2000
I thought this book was just incredible! I couldn't stop reading it. I loved the twists and the way the story kept my interest was great. I fell in love with the characters and the whole idea of the 'paranormal'. I thought Ambrose did an excellent job writing this novel. I would love to see a movie of this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2000
This plodding story revealed stock characters it was impossible to care about and a contrived story that one got the feeling the author was making up as he went along. A bad, boring novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2000
Comparing this book to the X-Files is sheer heresy. Even the less acclaimed X-Files episode is more well-researched, well-conceived and well-told than this. I expected much from this book, but found virtually nothing in it. The characters are lame, the plot ridiculous, the prose juvenile. Even if you're into pseudo-cientific-spiritualist-parallel-world kind of stuff you'll regret this one. The main characters go to bed several times before disappearing into pointless oblivion, so I hope *they* had some fun.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 23, 1999
Posted August 4, 2010
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Posted August 14, 2010
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Posted August 19, 2011
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Posted February 22, 2010
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