We here at the Skeptic sometimes
wish we could have more intimate contact with the
subjects of our entries. Sometimes, it's because we think the
people in question actually have something of some scientific
use to offer. Far more often, it's because we want to make
absolutely sure that these people are being serious.
This entry falls into the
A woman named Donna
Higbee begins her article-in-question
In the summer of 1994,
I became aware of a very strange
phenomenon, human spontaneous
which was apparently
happening to people in the U.S.
That's OK, I had to read
it again just to make sure, too. What's extra frightening is that
people actually claim to have been the victim of Human Spontaneous Involuntary
(referred to as HSII from
Mrs. Higbee begins her research
with a few examples of what she is talking about,
although the name pretty much describes it:
...Vera in Ventura, California,
who tried to get assistance
in a post office, only
to be completely ignored by other
customers and the postal
clerk. I have kept in touch
with Vera and she has
had other apparent invisibility
experiences in stores
and other public places. Sheila
in Roanoke, Texas, continues
to have invisibility
experiences, some of
which have occurred in
restaurants and at the
airport. Glenda in Fort Worth,
Texas, has had these
experiences occur in a
cafeteria and a movie
We are given no description
of these women, physical or otherwise. It is an unpleasant fact
of society that some people are simply ignored in social situations.
We are not privy to the details of these cases, so a cursory examination
is all we can give it. Suffice it to say that simply because everyone
around you pretends that you don't exist does not mean you are invisible.
In most cases, according
to Mrs. Higbee, the invisibility is accompanied by an "inaudibility," as
well. People are incapable of seeing or hearing the victim. The case
of Jean, below, is a good example of most of the cases of HSII:
Jean in Tucson, Arizona,
wrote me of her experiences.
She has had them occur
in the library when she attempted
to check out books and
in clothing stores. The following
is a quote from her letter,
showing the humor with which
she deals with these
occurrences. "I've had this happen
in stores, in restaurants,
and many places. I remember
joking to a friend of
mine one time that I felt like I could
walk into a bank, help
myself to a pile of bills and no
one would ever see me
because I was invisible. There is no
physical reason why I
should be. I'm taller than average
for my sex and age group
(I'm fifty-five years old and 5'9"),
referred to as good-looking,
and I've always worn my hair red. You wouldn't think a tall woman with
red hair, high heels in a
purple dress and dangle
earrings would be invisible, would you?"
No, but depending on her
personality and/or bearing, I could definitely see myself ignoring
her. And if this happens as often as she says it does,
she might want to look into a good
...from a thirty-seven
year old man, Peter in Gloucestershire,
England, who was at a
private party in 1987. He walked
upstairs to use the bathroom
and was followed by a
woman who also wanted
to use the bathroom. The
woman motioned for him
to go first and she stood
outside the door to wait
her turn. Peter used the
bathroom, opened the
door and walked out into
the hallway, closing
the door behind him. He went
on down the stairs and
walked over to some friends
and started talking to
them. They all ignored him
completely. He though
they were playing a joke on
him, so he walked away
and found his girlfriend and
asked her for a cigarette.
She, too, acted like she didn't
see or hear him. Peter
was getting angry by this time and
thought the joke had
gone too far. He decided to walk
back upstairs and catch
the woman coming out of the
bathroom and ask her
for a cigarette. "...I walked back
up the stairs and, on
reaching the bathroom landing,
I came across the girl
again who was standing outside
the bathroom door, clearly
still waiting for me to come
out. When she saw me,
her face dropped in surprise
for clearly she thought
that I was still in the bathroom."
Peter returned to the
party downstairs and everything
was normal again and
he was able to be seen and
heard. When he questioned
his friends and girlfriend
as to why they had ignored
him, they all swore that
they had never seen or
heard him. Obviously the
woman upstairs had not
seen him come out of the
bathroom and go downstairs.
This is a very detailed story
and an excellent example. Is it not apparent to you,
faithful reader, that poor Peter was the victim of a particularly insidious practical joke, and that the woman at the
bathroom was simply distracted
when he emerged? And
if she wasn't distracted, wasn't she the slightest bit amazed, frightened
by the bathroom door opening and
closing by itself? Also, alcohol (and whatever else
was being distributed) tends to reduce one's attention
span enough so that an intoxicated woman might
not be aware of someone exiting/entering a bathroom
at a party.
An excellent treatise on the
ups and downs of being invisible is H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man,
in which a scientist manages to make the cells of his body transparent.
In it, Wells highlights some of the difficulties of being invisible.
One of the most striking and yet most obvious examples is how difficult
it is for an invisible person to walk about with visible people...since
they can't see him, they don't walk around him. One would think,
bearing this in mind, that Peter would not be able to navigate the party
without bumping into a lot of people. Since this presumably did not
happen, one must doubt the accuracy of his story.
Yesterday, we examined Donna
Higbee's reports on what's called Human Spontaneous Involuntary Invisibility.
For more information, read yesterday's entry. It will make this a
lot more interesting. Now, onto how Mrs. Higbee explains this stuff...
First, she gives us a bit
of Indian spirituality, with a lesson from an early Indian writer
"a direct contact with
the light of the eyes no longer
existing, the body disappears."
The light engendered
in the eye of the observer
no longer comes into
contact with the body
that has become invisible,
and the observer sees
nothing at all.
This is obviously not true,
since light does not come from the observer's eye.
Also, the density differences between a body and the air
would reveal the invisible man, much like an ice cube
She also visits the Old School
Another offshoot of the
fraternity, the Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn,
left manuscripts describing
the Ritual of Invisibility.
These manuscripts talk
about surrounding yourself
with a shroud, which
is described as looking like
"a cloud." It is said
that Madame Blavatsky, of
the Theosophical Society,
witnessed this invisibility
for herself and was actually
given the secret,
this for herself on several
occasions in front of
witnesses. The literature on
the Spiritualists in
the U.S. shows that there is
no doubt they, too, knew
about the cloud and
The "literature" on Spiritualists
shows overwhelming evidence that they were
nothing more than con-men looking for a buck.
There are notable, unexplained examples, but they are too
few to constitute any kind of authoritative study.
She also offers a "scientific"
When spiritual essence
gathers into very minute
focal points of electrical
charge (due to certain conditions),
we have the creation
of electrons. Science reports that
such a cloud of free
electrons will absorb all light
entering it; it will
not reflect nor refract light waves,
nor are light waves able
to pass through a human being.
Consequently the observerís
eye sees nothing there
and the person surrounded
by such a cloud is invisible.
Since light is necessary
for human sight, when there
are no reflected or refracted
light waves bouncing
off a person and hitting
the observerís retina, the
person is not able to
be seen and is not visible
under normal circumstances.
One needs only a basic knowledge
of science to know that this is bunk; light
that is absorbed completely does not make the object invisible.
Invisible is essentially transparent. True invisibility allows for the light bouncing off of the objects behind
the subject to somehow divert
around or go through the
subject and be received by the viewer's eyes.
A human-sized space where no light is reflected is seen as pitch-black...the opposite of the classic description of invisible.
The article soon degenerates
into groundless speculation, as many such articles do:
I find it interesting
that the people having these invisibility
experiences seem to be
people with higher than average
psychic abilities. Possibly
they are able to traverse
other dimensions and
command natural forces, knowingly
First of all, she cannot
have any evidence of psychic abilities, at least not
reliable evidence, because the very existence of
psychic abilities is still in doubt. The same is true for the
dimensions she refers to.
To close this rather long
entry, we'd like to put forth our Tests for Invisibility,
just in case you find those around you pretending that
you do not exist. We hope we can be of help!
TESTS FOR INVISIBILITY
1) Make certain to look
for a shadow! If you cast one, you're not invisible!
2) Try making funny faces
at a nearby child and/or innocent bystander.
In the latter case, you might want to try deeply personal attacks
against the bystander's mother. If the bystander's
fist connects with any part of your torso or head, you're
probably not invisible.
3) Try to remember whether
or not you've angered your present company in recent
weeks. If you have, there's a good chance they're ignoring
4) Are you easily angered
and/or saddened by innocent jibes from your friends?
Are you gullible to the point of idiocy? Do you
take criticism just a little too personally? If so,
you might be the victim of a practical joke.
5) Are you currently under
the influence of a
hallucinogen or other mind-altering
cause strange effects in
the mind of the user, and may explain a lot of the
weird things happening to you.
6) Do you have an especially
appearance? Do you
have a particularly angering/annoying personality? See Test