Cultural and Historical Studies



The Department of Cultural and Historical Studies at IGPP engages in a broad range of research including (1) cultural-historical aspects and problems of social receptivity to parapsychology and other "anomalous" phenomena within the history of science; (2) historical analysis of key concepts for understanding the mind-matter problem; (3) socio-psychological and personality-centered investigations into "occult" and esoteric attitudes; and (4) analysis of reports on unusual experiences and other subjective anomalous experiences in their historical, sociological and psychological contexts.




Dipl.-Psych Eberhard Bauer +49 (0)761 20721 11
Frauke Schmitz-Gropengießer +49 (0)761 20721 20
+49 (0)761 20721 99 (fax)
Staff Members
Andreas Fischer (Artist) +49 (0)761 20721 63
Uwe Schellinger, M.A. +49 (0)761 20721 61




Holes in Everyday Life. The Reception of film imagery with occult contents. ( Project completed)

This project deals with individual factors at play in the reception of occult or non-rational contents in films by young persons. Furthermore it investigates whether there are differences in various dimensions of personality between horror fans and other young persons.

A part of a horror film was shown to 50 adolescent subjects in single sessions. The film was stopped at several points, and then the subjects were asked questions about what they had just seen in a guided interview. This method made it possible to work immediately and very close with the impressions and cognitions induced by the film. More data were collected in interviews after the film had been played and by giving a questionnaire on sociodemographic items, dimensions of personality, experiences with occult themes, occult belief systems and on their actual life situation.

It was found that an orientation to non-rational contents in films seems to be a relatively constant character trait that is not dependent on development of ego identity. It correlates with emotionality, a pessimistic attitude and also with the development of occult belief systems.

However there seemed to be a relationship to the development of ego identity in the case of those liking the horror genre. These people had dealt thoroughly with their political beliefs and sexuality. Contrary to our expectations horror fans do not have a specificly strong orientation to non-rational contents in films. Also there was no significant correlation with the development of occult belief systems. Other topics such as aggressivity and sexuality are more important, and the films' close relationship to social taboos seem to be the deciding factor that makes horror movies a prefered film genre for some young persons at a certain period of development.

In addition to the quantitative evaluation of the data seven case studies were analyzed in order to get a close picture of individual differences in the reception of such films.

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo

Staff Member:

Dr. Gerhard Mayer
+49 (0)761/20721-22


Mayer, G. (2000). Risse im Alltäglichen. Die Rezeption okkulter Darstellungen in Filmen. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.



Parapsychology and Frontier Areas of Psychology in the Printed Media: A comparative diachronical analysis.

Our project investigates, whether press reports on parapsychology and frontier areas of psychology have changed substantially in recent decades. We suspect, that a structural analysis will show that the mentality towards and the meaning ascribed to those areas has changed. This issue has been investigated using selected newspapers and magazines (BILD, BILD am Sonntag, and DER SPIEGEL).

There are 1698 records in all concerning articles from the magazine DER SPIEGEL appearing in the time period from 1947 to 1999. Another 723 records contain information about articles from the newspaper BILD from 7 collected annual sets (1952, 1960, 1968, 1974, 1982, 1990 and 1998). 213 records come from articles of the weekly magazine BILD am Sonntag, which are part of a total of 43 serials on parapsychology and frontier areas of psychology. On the basis of other studies on press reports and frontier areas of psychology a category system was made. This category system was optimized a step at a time because of unforeseeable new demands during data input resulting from the wide variety of the collected data. The articles have been filed in a chronolical order and recorded in a data base (ACCESS). The aim was strong differentiation in the categories affording the possibility of investigating the data under different points of views and to use the data base for other investigations after the termination of this project. In addition to the surface structure (title, author, dates of publication, size, illustration, thematic categories, journalistic style) elements of the deep structure were recorded. Such elements are the evaluation of the reported contents (attitude of the author), the functions of the reported contents (entertainement, information etc.), and the personalisation. The data of the surface structure are largely "hard" facts. They were recorded by the scientific assistant Ute Scherer. For the analysis of the deep structure we performed some ratings, which necessitated the reading of the whole texts and required a good knowledge of the relevant thematic areas. In order to achieve standardization and interrater reliability, 30 records were rated by Ute Scherer and myself separately. After comparison and discussion 30 more records were rated separately. Once, the interrater reliability was satisfactory, the ratings of the other records were done by myself. For all of the three investigated print media diachronic changes in press reports on parapsychology and frontier areas of psychology could be proved.

There are, however, strong differences in the diachronic development of particular categories (e.g. ufos, astrology, psi, alternative healing methods etc.). The press reports in BILD and BILD am Sonntag are different from those of DER SPIEGEL. In the former one finds some certain arbitrariness of attitude about the reported contents and, as well, the aspect of sensation is given priority. Regarding DER SPIEGEL, we found a critical and rationalistic attitude remained unchanged almost without exception through the whole investigated time period. This attitude seeks to prevent the reader from a differentiated examination of issues on parapsychology and frontier areas of psychology by often adopting bias along with simplifyied models of explanation from the "sceptics", and by ignoring or depreciating alternative interpretations. The three data bases, which resulted from the project, are provided on the intranet for use of the IGPP-staff. Some "instructions for use" and commentary on the categorization is attached.

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo

Staff Member:

Dr. Gerhard Mayer
+49 (0)761/20721-22


Mayer, G. (2003). Über Grenzen schreiben. Presseberichterstattung zu Themen aus dem Bereich der Anomalistik und der Grenzgebiete der Psychologie in den Printmedien SPIEGEL, BILD und BILD AM SONNTAG. In: Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 3 (1) (manuscript submitted).


Mental Healing in Germany

In a first part of the research a questionnaire was developped and applied with 214 German healers. In sum, clear-cut types of healers allowing any meaningful interpretation could not be identified. In the second part two healers were visited. 70 patients each were interviewed and given some questionnaires. Healer M., treating his clients by talking them into his picture of the world shows better results with older clients that have a poor education. The outcome of his treatments is less convincing than the results of healer E., treating her clients by just laying on her hands. She shows better results with younger clients that have a good education. Altogether healer E. shows better results than healer M. In the third part of the study a detailled report about the experiences during the observation of healer M. was written focussing on the detailled exploration of his world view and his treatment. In the fourth part detailled interviews with 20 various healers were carried on asking for their individual history, to their picture of world and human being and to their describing and reasoning how they treat their patients. With a comparing analysis of the single statements and a summarizing reflection the differences and the common grounds of the personal histories, the self-images and the concrete treatments could be detected and described.

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo
Prof. Dr. Heinz Schott

Staff Member:

Dipl.-Psych. Markus Binder
Dr. Barbara Wolf-Braun


Binder, M. & Wolf-Braun, B. (1995). Geistheilung in Deutschland - Teil I: Ergebnisse einer Umfrage zum Selbstverständnis und zur Arbeitsweise Geistiger Heiler und Heilerinnen in Deutschland. Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie, 37, 145-177.

Binder, M. & Wolf-Braun, B. Geistheilung in Deutschland - Teil II: Geistige Heilung aus der Sicht von Patienten. Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie (in preparation).

Wolf-Braun, B. (1999). Zur Geschichte der geistigen Heilung. In A. J. Obrecht (Hrsg.), Die Welt der Geistheiler: Die Renaissance magischer Weltbilder (S. 207-225). Wien/Köln/Weimar: Böhlau.

Wolf-Braun, B. & Binder, M. (1997). Geistige Heilung aus der Sicht von Patienten. Ergebnisse einer empirischen Untersuchung. Erfahrungsheilkunde, Heft 1, 13-20.



The Affinity to the Occult among Adults - An Interview Study

Following a questionnaire study on The Affinity to the Occult among Adults, interviews were conducted with about 100 non selected participants in order to assess paranormal experiences, occult practices and the resulting subjective theories and beliefs. Family socialisation, religiosity and psychological disorders were assessed in order to investigate possible correlations and interactions. Socialisation factors such as parental educational style, deficit of affection and means of punishment, correlated high with psychological disorder. Correlations with affinity to the occult were found with family stress, deficient infant care and sexual abuse.

Also found was a high correlation between important religious categories and occult belief. Institutionalized religiosity seems to be increasingly replaced by an individual, "spiritual" religiosity.

The actual social situation was supposed to clarify the impact of such experiences on the individual' s life. Divorced people scored high on the occultism scale, even and more so single mothers. Low scores were found in the cases of satisfactory social relations and partnerships.

Positive impacts resulting from occult practices served as: coping strategies with life' s problems, orientation in life, answers to existential questions and dealing with anxiety. Fewer in number were negative impacts such as: insecurity facing new world views, dependence on esoteric groups, fortune tellers and astrologers, fear of losing control over one' s life, and mental diseases.

The groups (High/Low occult scorers) did not differ in the way they differentiated their subjective theories. These can be roughly divided in two explanatory modes: a natural-philosophical one and a spirit/mind-oriented one. Both share the esoteric vocabulary and a rather individualistic way of using it.

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo

Staff Member:

Dipl.-Psych. Emil Boller
+49 (0)761/20721-40
Dipl.-Psych. Ursula O.-Kodjoe



Practitioners of the alternative health-merket

This study, finished in October 1998, investigated the services of practitioners of the alternative health-market or the new-age-scene. About 1500 practitioners in Freiburg, Frankfurt a. M. and Berlin received a questionnaire, which we ourselves developed in order to investigate demographic data, the specific characteristics and general conditions of their occupation, their methods and religious and spiritual convictions. Religious communities or so-called sects were not included. The target groups have been only individuals, who openly advertise at the alternative health-market.

423 persons completed questionnaires altogether. The outcome from the three samples is very similar: two thirds of the practitioners are female, on average they are 43 years old and have a high educational level. They combine on average eight to nine methods. Several types of practitioners were found: 23% practitioners that are particularly eclectic use and combine different methods. Seven other types of practitioners have several focal points concerning their repertoire of methods: humanistic psychotherapy (14%), esoteric interpretation (12%), functional body-work (11%), posture and therapeutic exercises (12%), spiritual body therapy and spiritual psychotherapy (15%), meditation and self experience (9%) as well as mediumism and mental healing (5%).

More than 90% of the practitioners are convinced of the existence of a higher reality which may be opened by means of specific methods. The common tendency is to believe in reincarnation and karma. The new-age-spirituality is essentially due to an individual consolidation of several sources and with extraordinary spiritual experiences, which 82% pracitioners report. A relationship to Gurus or ideological communities is rare. Two thirds of the practitioners have left Christian churches.

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo

Staff Member:

Dipl.-Psych. Wolfgang Fach
+49 (0)761/20721-81


Hellmeister, G. & Fach, W. (1998). Anbieter und Verbraucher auf dem Psychomarkt. In Deutscher Bundestag. Enquete-Kommission "Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen" (ed.), Endbericht der Enquete-Kommission "Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen". Drucksache 13/10950. (pp. 47-55). Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlagsgesellschaft.

Hellmeister, G. & Fach, W. (1998). Anbieter und Verbraucher auf dem Psychomarkt. In Deutscher Bundestag. Enquete-Kommission "Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen" (ed.), Neue religiöse und ideologische Gemeinschaften und Psychogruppen. Forschungsprojekte und Gutachten der Enquete-Kommission "Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen". (pp. 355-399). Hamm: Hoheneck..



Project "Psychic experiences". An empirical investigation into incidence, contents and structures.

The project began in 1998 and starts out from a cultural science perspective. It is dedicated to exceptional experiences, as they are reported within living memory from different cultures and social strata. They still play a part in people's lives today.

These experiences belong to the classical corpus of scientific parapsychology and represent parapsychology's undeniable basis in the diverse world of real-life experiences.

The project is empirically oriented and has two main goals: (1) to determine the frequency of exceptional experiences and (2) to reconstruct the content and structure of these experiences and people's interpretations of them in subsequent (qualitative) interviews. With these questions our study continues more than a hundred years' tradition of parapsychological research into reports on exceptional experiences. The first part of our project consists in a survey representative of the German population, conducted in conjunction with the survey institute of Academic Data in Essen, Germany. In this survey (standardised questionnaire) about 2000 persons from East and West Germany will be interviewed by telephone in order to determine the extent of exceptional experiences in the population. Whereas such figures exist for many countries, there's a lack of comparable data for Germany.

The second part of the project is dedicated to the reports and accounts of the exceptional experiences themselves; here - in contrast to the first part of the investigation - the focus of interest is the experience itself. This forms the innovative aspect of our study, for other representative investigations in the field have generally confined themselves to quantitative-statistical statements and percentages, without referring to what these experiences mean for the people themselves.

The project also includes a comprehensive and critical analysis of previous research. Against this background the current study of exceptional experiences may open new perspectives on a traditional area of parapsychology.

Project Leader

Prof. Dr. Johannes Mischo

Staff Members

Dipl.-Chem. Raffaella Deflorin, M.A.
Ina Schmied, M.A.
Dipl.-Psych. Harriet Falkenhagen





Dr. Barbara Wolf-Braun, Bonn Parapsychology in the Weimar Republic Period)
Peter Mulacz, Austria





A. Fischer & V. Loers (eds.) (1997). Im Reich der Phantome. Fotografie des Unsichtbaren. Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz.

J. Jahnke, J. Fahrenberg, R. Stegie & E. Bauer (eds.) (1998). Psychologiegeschichte - Beziehungen zur Philosophie und Grenzgebieten. München; Wien: Profil (= Passauer Schriften zur Psychologiegeschichte; Bd.12).

M. Poser (1998). Phantome der Berge. Freiburg i. Br.: Eulen.

M. Poser (1998). Halluzinationen und Grenzerfahrungen im Alpinismus. München (Wissenschaftliche Alpenvereinshefte, Heft 31).


H. Atmanspacher & E. Bauer (1999). Editorische Bemerkungen. In R. G. Jahn & B. J. Dunne: An den Rändern des Realen: Über die Rolle des Bewusstseins in der physikalischen Welt (pp. 13-16; 89-91; 155-157; 195-197; 283-285). Frankfurt/Main: Zweitausendeins.

E. Bauer (1997). Parapsychology. In W. G. Bringmann, H. E. Lück, R. Miller & C. E. Early (eds.), A Pictorial History of Psycholoy (pp. 71-76). Chicago: Quintessence.

E. Bauer (1997). Gegen den Strom schwimmen: Hundert Jahre parapsychologischer Forschung. In W. v. Lucadou, Psyche und Chaos: Theorien der Parapsychologie (pp. 15-44). Frankfurt/Main; Leipzig: Insel.

E. Bauer (1998). Vom Umgang mit "okkulten" Phänomenen. Beiträge Pädagogischer Arbeit, 41 (Heft 3), pp. 1-35.

E. Bauer (1998). Beratung und Hilfe für Menschen mit aussergewöhnlichen Erfahrungen. In F. S. Berger & C. Holler, Mythen, Spuk und gute Geister (pp. 217-222). Wien; München; Zürich: Orac.

E. Bauer (1998). Parapsychologie. In Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Band 7 (pp. 1374-1376). Freiburg i. Br.: Herder.

E. Bauer (1998). Hans Bender und die Gründung des "Instituts für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene". In J. Jahnke, J. Fahrenberg, R. Stegie & E. Bauer (eds.), Psychologiegeschichte - Beziehungen zur Philosophie und Grenzgebieten (pp. 461-476). München; Wien: Profil.

E. Bauer (1998). Kerner als Spukforscher. In H. Schott (ed.), Medizin und Romantik: Justinus Kerner als Arzt und Seelenforscher (pp. 321-333). Stadt Weinsberg und Justinus-Kerner-Verein, 2. Aufl.

E. Bauer (1999). Oesterreich, Traugott Konstantin, Philosoph, Psychologe. In Neue Deutsche Biographie, Band 19 (pp. 461-462). Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.

A. Fischer (1997). Bildteil "Okkulte Fotografie". In Im Reich der Phantome - Fotografie des Unsichtbaren (pp. 27-103). Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz.

M. Poser (1999). Dieses unabweisbare Gefühl einer Gegenwart.... Bergsteiger und ihre Phantomgefährten. Alpenvereinsjahrbuch, Bd. 123, pp. 249-257.

A.-K. Puhle (1999). Ghosts, Apparitions and Poltergeist Incidents in Germany between 1700 and 1900. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 63, pp. 292-305.

U. Schellinger (2002). Faszinosum, Filou und Forschungsobjekt: Das erstaunliche Leben des Hellsehers Ludwig Kahn (1873-ca. 1966). In Die Ortenau. Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Mittelbaden 82 (pp. 429-468).

U. Schellinger & G. Mayer (2006). Webers Hände: Wirken und Wirkungen des "Wunderheilers von Schutterwald". In Die Ortenau. Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Mittelbaden 86 (pp. 11-42).




Publications from External Projects


H. Knoblauch (1999). Berichte aus dem Jenseits. Mythos und Realität der Nahtod-Erfahrung. Freiburg i. Br.: Herder.

W. Kugel (1998). Hanussen. Die wahre Geschichte der Hermann Steinschneider. Düsseldorf: Grupello.

H.-G. Soeffner & H. Knoblauch (eds.) (1999). Todesnähe. Interdisziplinäre Zugänge zu einem aussergewöhnlichen Phänomen. Konstanz: Universitätsverlag.


P. Mulacz (1999). Eleonore Zugun: The Re-evaluation of a Historic RSPK Case. Journal of Parapsychology, 63, pp. 15-45.

B. Wolf-Braun (1998). Zur Rezeptionsgeschichte der Parapsychologie im Rahmen der akademischen Psychologie: die Stellungnahmen von Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) und Hugo Münsterberg (1863-1916). In J. Jahnke, J. Fahrenberg, R. Stegie & E. Bauer (eds.), Psychologiegeschichte - Beziehungen zur Philosophie und Grenzgebieten (pp. 405-419). München; Wien: Profil.

© 2007 IGPP  (imprint)
last revision: 29 jan 07