The Afterlife Experiments: Gary Schwartz, PhD

Well-known paranormal investigator Gary E. Schwartz's The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death continues to create curiosity and controversy regarding mediums and the possibility of contacting the dead. The investigation is a collection of case studies and experiments in which Schwartz, a former Harvard University professor, and his associates monitored mediums interacting with sitters (nonmediums present at séances and readings).

Dr. Gary Schwartz

Dr. Gary Schwartz is director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health (formerly known as Human Energy Systems Laboratory) at the University of Arizona. He is currently a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery at the University of Arizona. He is a graduate of Harvard University, and has taught at both Harvard and Yale, holding the positions of professor of psychiatry and psychology for nearly three decades. He has published more than 400 academic papers.

Schwartz's interest in the paranormal developed after he began teaching at the University of Arizona and after the death of his father-in-law. His wife's grief and her desire to make contact with her father spurred him to begin studying the survival of consciousness after death. Since the late 1990s, Schwartz has studied mediums and the afterlife, having the opportunity to observe famous mediums such as John Edward and George Anderson under laboratory conditions.

He has done considerable work with other top mediums, who have consistently received messages from the dead, to investigate whether there is life after death. Comprehensive reviews of mediumship research indicate that certain people — mediums — can report specific and accurate information about the deceased relatives, friends, and coworkers of people (the “sitters”) without having any prior knowledge about the sitters or the deceased people.

Receiving Information from Mediums Using Triple-Blind Protocol

The primary purpose of this study was to gather accurate information of deceased individuals through research mediums under highly controlled experimental environments. More innovations than single-blind and double-blind experiments were employed to remove any traces of fraud.

The triple-blind design had blinding at three levels:

  • The research mediums were blind to the identities of the sitters and the deceased.

  • The experimenter was blind to the identities of the sitters and the deceased.

  • The sitters evaluating the transcripts were blind to the origin of the readings.


Eight adult mediums, one male and seven females, who had earlier demonstrated abilities to report accurate information, were chosen for the study. Undergraduate students from the University of Arizona (approximately 1,600) were asked to answer “Yes” or “No” to a survey questionnaire about their belief in the afterlife, mediums, and their willingness to be sitters. Finally, eight sitters were chosen (three males and five females). A research assistant who did not interact with the mediums collected information about the discarnate and his or her associated sitter. Each medium performed two readings and they had no prior knowledge about the sitter.

What is a double-blind study?

A double-blind study is a type of clinical trial or experimental procedure in which neither the subjects nor the people overseeing it know the aspects of the experiment, thus helping to prevent bias. A tripleblind study would also have a statistician, who conducts the analysis of the data, unaware of the enrollees and the nature of the experiment.

The key studies described were:

  • Potential Medium to Departed to Medium Communication of Pictorial Information: Exploratory Evidence Consistent with Psi and Survival of Consciousness

  • Accuracy and Replicability of Anomalous After-Death Communication Across Highly Skilled Mediums

  • Accuracy and Replicability of Anomalous Information

  • Evidence of Information Retrieval Between Two Research Mediums: Telepathy and Continuance of Consciousness

  • Findings

    Schwartz's findings showed that the mediums he studied had an 85 percent accuracy rate, well above the 36 percent rate logged by a control group of university students — a difference of almost 50 percentage points.

    Schwartz's study of the mediums and their interaction with sitters led him to what he describes as a “scientific” conclusion that the mediums he observed were actually communicating with the dead, and that life after death was therefore proven.

    The conditions in which Schwartz conducted his experiments were stringent — in one experiment, mediums Laurie Campbell, Suzanne Northrop, and John Edward had to interact with sitters who were not allowed to talk to them — and their results supported the conclusion that the mediums involved were more than just hucksters or skilled cold readers.

    “I can no longer ignore the data and dismiss the words,” Schwartz wrote in The Afterlife Experiments. “They are as real as the sun, the trees and our television sets, which seem to pull pictures out of the air.”

    Schwartz's experiments, and their conclusions, have stirred up considerable debate. While the academic world was able to dismiss similar conclusions by less well-pedigreed academics, Schwartz's credentials have compelled the academic world to take his findings seriously.

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