Evidence for Twin Telepathy

Anecdotal Accounts and Research Surveys

Telepathy may not only be a thing for X-Men comic book heroes. If you are a twin, you may have felt that your twin sibling is in danger, sad, happy, or physically hurt without even being in the same city as them.

There have been many stories of such twin telepathy, and perhaps these instances could be the basis of further research. Actually, some researchers have been running experiments with twins that could yield interesting examinations on the capacity of the human brain and the potential for telepathic connection.

 

See what you make of these ideas after reading anecdotal accounts of twin telepathy and what researchers have to say about them.

The Houghton Twins

This story of the telepathic Houghton twins made news in March 2009. One day, 15-year-old Gemma Houghton was suddenly struck with the strong feeling that her twin sister Leanne was in trouble. Gemma hurried to the bathroom, where she knew Leanne was taking a bath and found her sister submerged, unconscious and turning blue. Leanna is an epileptic and had suffered a seizure in the tub. Gemma pulled her sister from the tub, administered CPR and revived her, saving her life. "I got this sudden feeling to check on her. It was like a voice telling me 'your sister needs you'," Gemma later told reporters. "She was under the water. At first I thought she was washing her hair or playing a trick, but when I lifted her head out I saw she had turned blue.

I knew she'd had a fit." Had Gemma not been compelled by that feeling to check on her sister, Leanne almost certainly would have drowned.

The Houghton twins' story is one more anecdotal account of the psychic connection that is said to exist between many twins, especially identical twins. The Houghton sisters happen to be fraternal twins, but their mother says they are "inseparable and share an uncanny bond." A survey conducted by Dr. Lynne Cherkas, a genetic analyst at the department for twin research at King's College London, showed that one in five identical twins said they had experienced some form of telepathy, and one in ten fraternal twins reported the phenomenon.

Although a telepathic connection between twins is not universal, as Dr. Cherkas' survey reveals, it is common enough to serve as some of the best evidence for the reality of telepathy among humans, and has provided researchers with a good way to study the phenomenon.

Guy Lyon Playfair has done extensive research in the field of twin telepathy and has much of his work can be found in his book Twin Telepathy: The Psychic Connection. In an article for Paranormalia, Playfair comments that the Houghton event is certainly not the first time that twin telepathy may have saved a life. "I know of at least three other examples, one of which I investigated at first-hand," he says. "This would suggest that the scientific community should take rather more interest in it than it yet has."

Telepathic Connection

In some cases, one twin will know about something that happened to the other twin when such knowledge was clearly impossible. This story comes from Twin Connections, a website that celebrates "the mysterious bond between twins" and collects stories from twins. Aiya, mother of identical twin boys, shares that when she and Ethan were going to pick up Gabriel from her grandmother's place, Ethan casually told his mother to tell Gabriel to put his clothes on.

Confused but curious, Aiya called her mother to see if she was having a hard time getting Gabriel dressed, to which her mother responded yes, Gabriel didn't want to get dressed because it was too cold and he wanted to stay in his pajamas. At the time, Ethan and Gabriel were 4-years-old.

Physical Reactions

Much of the information we have about twin telepathy comes from the spontaneous experiences reported by the twins themselves. Some reports reveal that a twin can physically respond to a change or trauma that occurred their twin. An article by Buzzle about  twin telepathy provides a few such anecdotes.

Two male twins had different areas of interest: one played soccer and the other took guitar lessons. After a few months, however, the soccer-playing twin could play the guitar nearly as well as his brother without ever having taken a lesson.

A study of the boys also said that they had had "limited interaction" with each other during the time they were pursuing these interests.

Another story is that a man in Texas was forced to sit down due to a stabbing pain in his chest. He later learned that his twin brother in New York was having a heart attack at the same time. Similarly, a young girl had an accident with her bicycle and broke her ankle. Her twin sister developed swelling in the same uninjured ankle.

Coincidence Argument

Are these cases of two people who share very similar genetics simply making similar choices? Or is there truly a psychic connection that transcends distance?

Most scientists are naturally skeptical of such anecdotes as evidence of telepathic communication. "We do hear of things like this happening between identical twins more often than fraternal, but it isn't telepathy," says Dr. Nancy Segal, professor of psychology and director of the Twin Studies Center at California State University in an article for Lawrence Journal-World. "They're merely coincidences that occur when two people are so much alike in the first place. It's nature and nurture - same heredity, same environment. [Identical twins] come from the same egg, and they tend to have the same general thought patterns, intelligence levels, likes and dislikes."

Experiments

Guy Lyon Playfair, in addition to his book research, has conducted informal experiments of his own to test the psychic connection between twins. These are some of the results.

For a television show in 2003, Playfair set up a test for twins Richard and Damien Powles. Richard was placed in a sound-proof booth with a bucket of ice water while Damien was some distance away in another studio hooked up to a polygraph machine (a "lie detector" machine that measures respiration, muscle and skin response. When Richard plunged his hand into the ice water and let out a gasp, there was an obvious blip on Damien's polygraph that measured his respiration, as if he too had let out a gasp.

In a similar experiment before a live TV audience in 1997, twin teenagers Elaine and Evelyn Dove were likewise separated. Elaine was in the sound-proof booth with a pyramid-shaped box while Evelyn was sequestered in another room with the polygraph. When Elaine was sitting relaxed, suddenly the box exploded in a harmless but shocking pop of sparks, flashes and colored smoke. Evelyn's polygraph recorded her psychic reaction at the same moment, with one of the needles running right off the edge of the paper.

Playfair is quick to admit that these were not experiments conducted with the strictest scientific protocols, yet it is difficult to explain their outcomes.

And there was a reason that Playfair used cold water and the element of surprise in his experiments rather than having the twins try to communicate the number and suit of a specific playing card or other such thing. The physical and emotional response could be the key to making it work. "Telepathy tends to work best when it is needed," he says, "and when sender and receiver are strongly bonded, as with mothers and babies, dogs and their owners, and those with the strongest bond of all - twins."