06/19/2008 04:08 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

You'll Never Guess, or Will You?

You'll never guess what Upton Sinclair was doing besides writing great American novels such as The Jungle and Oil, which was recently made into the Oscar-winning movie, There Will Be Blood. He was doing telepathic experiments with his second wife, Mary Craig Kimbrough, a psychic, whom he affectionately called "Craig." (Upton Sinclair could have used the services of a good psychic earlier in his life. Maybe a psychic could have foreseen that his first wife was going to run off with the poet, Harry Kemp, and a lot of aggravation could have been avoided.)

Apart from his extensive political and social writings, in 1930 Upton Sinclair wrote Mental Radio (Hampton Roads Publishing Co.) to express his passionate interest in telepathy and other psi phenomenon.

" [...] while it [telepathy] may be spontaneous and may depend upon a special endowment," he wrote, "it can be cultivated and used deliberately." And that's just what he and Mary set out to do. Here are some exercises that he and Mary devised to that end.

Since they believed that physical distance had no effect on telepathy, Mary asked her brother, a young businessman in Pasadena with no interest in psychic doings, to make a drawing of any random object he set his eyes on, and draw it at a specified time and date. And then he had to sit and gaze at his drawing for fifteen to twenty minutes. He chose a table fork.

At the same time and hour, Mary lay on her couch forty miles away in Long Beach. In semi-darkness, with her eyes closed, she put herself into a state of mental concentration that she'd been experimenting with, and mentally suggested to her subconscious mind to let her know what her brother was concentrating on. She didn't just guess. She was only satisfied that she knew the answer when the same image persisted, popping into her mind again and again. At that time, she wrote down the day, time, and the words, "See a table fork, nothing else."

Mary and Upton tried this with each other. He, in his study, drew an object, focused on it for ten minutes, then called out, "All right." There was always a correlation between their drawings.

Then Upton did a series of nine drawings in his study and wrapped each in green paper, then sealed each in an envelope. When he brought them to Mary, she lay down and put the envelopes, one at a time, on her solar plexus, and concentrated on the contents while Upton watched her to make sure she didn't peek. When she got what she thought was a convincing telepathic image, she sat up and drew it. "Inside a rock well with vines," she wrote for one picture that Upton had meant as a bird's nest. Her drawing, however, was an unmistakable bird's nest.

Mary had been the one who had prompted Upton's interest in telepathy. When she was a child, she had many clairvoyant experiences. At forty, her habit of intuiting other people's troubles and carrying those woes inside her caused health problems. Mental control over her ability became a matter of self-preservation and she amassed a large library of books on ESP.
Mary learned to go into a hypnotic state and concentrate on someone to find out where someone else was at a specific date and time and find out what he was doing.

"Since my wife and I have no secrets from each other," Upton wrote, "it does not trouble me that she is able to see what I'm doing." (How many of the rest of us can make that claim?)

Sometimes she had dreams that told her what he was doing. For example, she dreamed he was on a pier with boats beneath him. It turned out that Upton had been at a tennis court that she had never been to which was on top of a pier.

Sometimes, with her back to Upton's bookcase, Mary would draw out a book. (She wasn't familiar with Upton's books, only her own.) Keeping it hidden from her and Upton, she'd describe the cover.

Mary also helped him find things he'd misplaced. Upton would work out some new chapters of a book in his head, then jot them down on small pieces of paper, sticking them away anyplace handy. He'd panic the next day when he couldn't find his notes. He checked everywhere and in all his pockets. Mary lay down on the couch, closed her eyes, took his hand, and asked him to describe the paper to her as she concentrated. "It's in the pocket of your gray suit," she said. He argued with her because he'd checked all his pockets, but when he went to his gray suit, it was there.

Mary always begged Upton to watch her work so that he could add his testimony to hers. Imagine asking a novelist of his stature to stay away from his writing in order to do this. And imagine that he was eager to do it. Not only did these experiments help build their psychic abilities, it helped build their rapport. And it was a happy marriage until Mary's death, and possibly beyond.