What Is Psychometry?

A Phenomenon Where a Person Can Sense the Past With Touch

A woman pressing her hands against a book.
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Psychometry is a psychic ability in which a person can sense or "read" the history of an object by touching it. Such a person can receive impressions from an object by holding it in his/her hands or, alternatively, touching it to the forehead. Such impressions can be perceived as images, sounds, smells, tastes and even emotions.

What Is Psychometry?

Psychometry is a form of scrying--a psychic way of "seeing" something that is not ordinarily seeable. Some scry using a crystal ball, black glass or even the surface of water. With psychometry, this extraordinary vision is available through touch.

A person who has psychometric abilities--a psychometrist--can hold an antique glove and tell something about the history of that glove, the person who owned it, or about the experiences that person had while in the possession of that glove. The psychic may be able to sense what the person was like, what they did, or how they died. Perhaps most important, the psychic can sense how the person felt at a particular time. Emotions in particular, are most strongly "recorded" in the object.

The psychic may not be able to do this with all objects at all times and, as with all psychic abilities, accuracy can vary.

A Brief History

"Psychometry" as a term was coined by Joseph R. Buchanan in 1842 (from the Greek words psyche, meaning "soul," and metron, meaning "measure.") Buchanan, an American professor of physiology, was one of the first people to experiment with psychometry. Using his students as subjects, he placed various drugs in glass vials and then asked the students to identify the drugs merely by holding the vials. Their success rate was more than chance, and he published the results in his book, Journal of Man. To explain the phenomenon, Buchanan theorized that all objects have "souls" that retain a memory.

Intrigued and inspired by Buchanan's work, American professor of geology William F. Denton conducted experiments to see if psychometry would work with his geological specimens. In 1854, he enlisted the help of his sister, Ann Denton Cridge. The professor wrapped his specimens in cloth so Ann could not see even what they were. She then placed the package to her forehead and was able to accurately describe the specimens through vivid mental images she was receiving.

From 1919 to 1922, Gustav Pagenstecher, a German doctor and psychical researcher, discovered psychometric abilities in one of his patients, Maria Reyes de Zierold. While holding an object, Maria could place herself in a trance and state facts about the object's past and present, describing sights, sounds, smells and other feelings about the object's "experience" in the world. Pagenstecher's theory was that a psychometrist could tune into the experiential "vibrations" condensed in the object.

How Does Psychometry Work?

Pagenstecher's vibration theory is getting the most serious attention from researchers. "Psychics say the information is conveyed to them," writes Rosemary Ellen Guiley in Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience, "through vibrations imbued into the objects by emotions and actions in the past."

These vibrations are not just a New Age concept, they have a scientific basis as well. In his book The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot says that psychometric abilities "suggest that the past is not lost, but still exists in some form accessible to human perception." With the scientific knowledge that all matter on a subatomic level exists essentially as vibrations, Talbot asserts that consciousness and reality exist in a kind of hologram that contains a record of the past, present, and future; psychometrics may be able to tap into that record.

All actions, Talbot says, "instead of fading into oblivion, [remain] recorded in the cosmic hologram and can always be accessed once again." Yet other psychical researchers think the information about an object's past is recorded in its aura - the field of energy surrounding every object. According to an article at The Mystica:

"The connection between psychometry and auras is based on the theory that the human mind radiates an aura in all directions, and around the entire body which impresses everything within its orbit.
All objects, no matter how solid they appear, are porous, containing small or even minute holes. These minute crevices in the object's surface collect minute fragments of the mental aura of the person possessing the object. Since the brain generates the aura then something worn near the head would transmit better vibrations."

"Psychometry - Psychic Gifts Explained" likens the ability to a tape recorder, since our bodies give off magnetic energy fields. "If an object has been passed on down the family, it will contain information about its previous owners. The psychic can then be thought of as a tape player, playing back the information stored on the object."

Mario Varvoglis, Ph.D. at "PSI Explorer" believes that psychometry is a special form of clairvoyance. "The individual performing the psychometry," he writes, "may gain psychic impressions directly from the person to whom the object belongs (through telepathy) or may clairvoyantly learn about past or present events in the life of the person. The object may simply serve as a kind of focusing device which keeps the mind from wandering off in irrelevant directions."

How to Do Psychometry

Although some believe that psychometry is controlled by spiritual beings, most researchers suspect that it is a natural ability of the human mind. Michael Talbot agrees, saying that "the holographic idea suggests that the talent is latent in all of us."

Here's how you can try it yourself:

  1. Choose a location that is quiet and as free of noises and distractions as possible.
  2. Sit in a relaxed position with your eyes closed. Rest your hands in your lap with your palms facing up.
  3. With your eyes remaining closed, ask someone to place an object in your hands. The person should not say anything; in fact, it's best if there are several people in the room and you don't know who the person is giving you the object. The object should be something the person has had in his/her possession for a long time. Many researchers believe that objects made of metal are best, theorizing that they have a better "memory."
  4. Be still... as images and feelings come into your mind, speak them aloud. Don't try to process the impressions you get. Say whatever you see, hear, feel or otherwise sense as you hold the object.
  5. Don't judge your impressions. These impressions may be strange and meaningless to you, but they might be of significance to the owner of the object. Also, some impressions will be vague and others might be quite detailed. Don't edit--speak them all.

"The more you try, the better you will become," says Psychometry - Psychic Gifts Explained. "You should start to see better results as your mind becomes used to 'seeing' the information. But you can progress; at first, you will be pleased to pick up on things correctly, but the next stage is to follow the pictures or feelings. There may a lot more information that you can obtain."

Don't worry too much about your rate of accuracy, especially at first. Keep in mind that even the most renowned psychometrists have an accuracy rate of 80 to 90 percent; that is, they are inaccurate 10 to 20 percent of the time.

"The important thing is to be confident that you will gain accurate psychic impressions when you handle the object," says Mario Varvoglis at PSI Explorer. "It's also important not to try to figure out likely histories of the object, not to analyze and interpret your impressions to find if they make sense. It's better to simply observe all the impressions that come into your mind and describe them without clinging to them and without trying to control them. Often the most unexpected images are likely to be most correct."