Psychometry (paranormal)

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For other uses, see Psychometry.



Coined by

Joseph Rodes Buchanan[1]


Token-object reading, Psychoscopy


A form of psychic reading in which one individual claims to obtain details about another through physical contact with their possessions[1]

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Related topics

Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, "spirit, soul" and μέτρον, metron, "measure"),[2] also known as token-object reading,[3] or psychoscopy,[4] is a form of extra-sensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object.[5] Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object's history.[6]

Psychometry is commonly offered at psychic fairs as a type of psychic reading.[7] At New Age events psychometry has claimed to help visitors "meet the dearly departed" (a form of spiritualism).[8]

Although the majority of police departments polled do not use psychics and do not consider them credible or useful on cases,[9][10][11] some authors write that psychometry and psychic detectives were used by law enforcement agencies on specific cases.[12][13]



Joseph Rodes Buchanan coined the word "psychometry" (measuring the soul) in 1842.[14] Buchanan came up with the idea that all things give off an emanation.[15]

The Past is entombed in the Present! The world is its own enduring monument; and that which is true of its physical, is likewise true of its mental career. The discoveries of Psychometry will enable us to explore the history of man, as those of geology enable us to explore the history of the earth. There are mental fossils for psychologists as well as mineral fossils for the geologists; and I believe that hereafter the psychologist and the geologist will go hand in hand — the one portraying the earth, its animals and its vegetation, while the other portrays the human beings who have roamed over its surface in the shadows, and the darkness of primeval barbarism! Aye, the mental telescope is now discovered which may pierce the depths of the past and bring us in full view of the grand and tragic passages of ancient history![16]

Buchanan asserted that his particular psychism would supersede empiric science. He wrote a comprehensive treatise, Manual of Psychometry: the Dawn of a New Civilization (1885), detailing how the direct knowledge of psychometry would be applied to and affect the many various branches of science. It also would elevate the various schools of philosophy and arts thereby affecting wide social change and ultimately an enlightenment of humanity:[17]

The thermometer measures caloric (thermo temperature). The barometer measures the weight (baro, weight) of the atmosphere; the electrometer measures electric conditions; the psychometer measures the soul (psyche). In the case of Psychometry, however, the measuring assumes a new character, as the object measured and the measuring instrument are the same psychic element, and its measuring power is not limited to the psychic as it was developed in the first experiments, but has appeared by successive investigation to manifest a wider and wider area of power, until it became apparent that this psychic capacity was really the measure of all things in the Universe.[18]

Buchanan continued to promote psychometry throughout his life and his followers believed that it would revolutionize science in a comprehensive way as "the dawn of a new civilization".[19] Others, such as Stephen Pearl Andrews who promoted Psychometry along with his own new science of Universology, built upon Buchanan's ideas. As a lecturer Andrews asserted that such inquiries, as paraphrased by an 1878 New York Times article, "demonstrated that the sympathy between the mind and body is an exact science".[20]

In the later nineteenth century demonstrations of psychometry became a popular part of stage acts and séances; with participants providing a personal object for "reading" by a medium or psychic.[21]

In fiction


  • The Goth series by Katie Maxwell features a psychometrist as the main character, Fran.

  • In the Maximum Ride book series, the character Nudge has psychometric abilities.

  • In the Matt Turner series (The Dig, 2011, The Opal, 2012) by Michael Siemsen, the protagonist is a troubled psychometrist.

  • In the touch series, Deadly Little Lies, a novel by Laurie Stolarz, Ben is a psychometrist.

  • In the novel The Witching Hour, the first of Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches trilogy, protagonist Michael Curry receives the power of psychometry.

  • In the novel The Dead Zone (1979) by Stephen King, Johnny Smith uses his newfound psychometric powers to help the police in solving many cases.

  • In the young-adult fiction Dark Visions Trilogy (1994–1995), by L. J. Smith, the character Laurie Frost has the ability of psychometry.

  • In the Fingerprints series of youth novels (2001–2002) by Melinda Metz, the character Rachel "Rae" Voight can receive the thoughts and emotions of others by touching the fingerprints left on an object handled by them.

  • The light novel series Katanagatari by Nisio Isin boasts a psychometrist by the name of Kawauso Maniwa, one of the 12 Maniwa Ninja Corps Heads.

  • In The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan the characters Nynaeve al'Meara, Aviendha, and Elayne Trakand can all handle magical artifacts and can respectively sense the object's emotional history/future, magical use, and design for recreation and imitation.

  • Autobiography "My Life Across The Table" (2013) [1] recounts actual readings by professional psychic Karen Page utilizing psychometry

  • In the "Mythos Academy" series by Jennifer Estep, the main character, Gwen Frost, has psychometric powers.

  • In the Darkover novel "Traitor's Sun," by Marion Zimmer Bradley, it is discussed by Katherine Aldaran and Marguerida Alton-Hastur as a possible laran power.

  • In the novel "Signs Point to Yes" (2014) by Christopher Church, the main character, Mason Braithwaite, uses psychometry to solve mysteries. ISBN 978-1-942267-00-3


  • In the 1988 movie Vibes, Jeff Goldblum plays a psychometrist.

  • In the 1994 film, The Crow, Brandon Lee plays a spirit of vengeance with psychometric powers.

  • In the 2009 action film Push, psychics called Sniffs can relive a person's past and their location by touching or sniffing objects.

  • In The Meteor Man, Jefferson Reed (Robert Townsend) gains various superhuman powers from a meteorite, including the ability to psychometrically and psychosomatically memorize by touch the contents of a book.

  • In the 2013 South Korean movie, The Gifted Hands, Kim Bum plays a character who withholds the ability to see the past by being in contact with objects which helps the police department solve cases of child kidnapping.


  • In the 2003 HBO television series Carnivàle, Professor Lodz can read thoughts and dreams through contact with a person or object.

  • Creating visions by touching objects is also displayed in Charmed and Medium.

  • On the superhero comedy-drama The Greatest American Hero (1981–1983), the lead character possesses psychometric powers when wearing his super-suit.

  • Bun Waverly, a witch from the TV series Eastwick has the ability to see the future and know all the past and future information of an object by touching it.

  • In the six-hour Stephen King television mini-series Rose Red, the character of Pam Asbury was a psychometrist or "touch-know;" one of a group of six psychics brought in by parapsychologist Dr. Joyce Reardon to awaken the sleeping haunted Seattle manor known as Rose Red.

  • In the Canadian pilot Movie and Television show My Babysitter's a Vampire (TV series) the main character, Ethan Morgan, is a Seer, and possess Psychometry. Through touch he has the power, to see the past, present or future of an object/person, or their uses, intentions or true form.

  • In the American science fiction television drama Heroes, Sylar gains this ability from a woman named Bridget Bailey. In the show it was called Clairsentience.

  • It was also mentioned in show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, in "The Secret of the Coins."

  • In the BBC television series Doctor Who: In the Episode "The Rings Of Akhaten" Psychometry is used to assess sentimental objects (and their value) as currency in the marketplace.

Comics and anime


  • In BIONICLE, a Toa of Water called Helryx has a Kanohi mask called Mask of Psychometry.

See also

[show]Part of a series of articles on the paranormal