History vs. Hollywood: The Philip Experiment vs. The Quiet Ones

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A Brief History

On April 25, 2014, The Quiet Ones will be released in American theaters.  The film purports to be inspired by actual events, but to what extent does the movie recreate these so-called “actual events”?

Digging Deeper

In the 1970s, real-life Dr. Alan Robert George Owen created the Toronto Society for Psychical Research.  According to journalists Ryan and Louise Hung, this group consisted of eight adult men and women who invented a fictional  aristocrat named Philip Aylesford.  This fake man lived centuries ago and achieved infamy for cheating on his wife with a Gypsy.  The angry wife then accused the Gypsy of witchcraft, resulting in her execution by being burned alive.  All of this background story was intended to make Philip as lifelike as possible.  Why?  Well, the group’s goal was to see if paranormal activity could be created by the group’s psychic power out of belief in something rather than by the existence of actual spirits.  The group held seances in which they called upon Philip to show signs of his presence, which the group claims this fictitious deceased person did in fact do at the group’s behest.  Fortunately, the group recorded their “evidence” of what occurred, including levitating tables and weird knocking sounds.  You can judge for yourself if what you are seeing is really something paranormal or an elaborate hoax.

Beyond the whole paranormal experiment taking place in the 1970s, the movie takes just about everything else in an entirely different direction with no real historic basis.  Instead of a group of Canadians making up a man and conducting relatively lighthearted experiments, the film’s characters conduct much more frightening experiments concerning a living young woman plagued by strange phenomenon.  The film further brings in other bizarre elements ranging from a mysterious cult that died in a fire to an ancient goddess possessing a little girl.  One need only watch the video footage of the Philip Experiment and then see the trailer for The Quite Ones to see how profoundly different the film is from its alleged historic inspiration.

These are not little minor changes in character names, for example, but rather the majority of the movie is the invention of the filmmakers.  That does not necessarily take away from the movie as an effective horror film, but what do you think?  Is it fair to claim inspiration from historical events when the movie is so much different from what actually occurred?  Also, do you think the Philip Experiment was a genuine successful display of human psychic power or a hoax?  Please let us know in the comments!

Historical Evidence

For the broader context of the Philip Experiment in paranormal history, please read…

Aykroyd, Peter H. and Angela Narth.  A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters.  Rodale Books, 2009.

For more on the paranormal, please visit the John Carroll University Paranormal Research Group.  As can be seen on Facebook, the group will be among the first Americans to see the film this week!

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.