Friday, May 06, 2005

Eyeless Vision

An entry for the Faddish Enigmas Department:

They called it “dermal vision” or “paroptic vision” -- “seeing” with the skin. Blind people and claimants with faces bandaged tight to shut out the light and seal in the sight reportedly could “see” by touching. For example, they could describe details of a photograph you placed before them, or tell you the color of paper.

The phenomena came into vogue in the 1930s when a Pakistani national named Kuda Bux made arresting public presentations -- driving and riding bicycles and reading newspapers while blindfolded. Professional magicians were less than impressed, pointing out that they and their predecessors had performed like feats for years. Bux ultimately was written off as just another showman who was able to catch the public’s fancy . . . and gullibility.

Scientific studies conducted in the 1960s indicated some blind people could, in fact, glean astonishing information by feel which ordinary folk could not. For example, black objects could be identified by touch because their heat-reflective qualities can make them perceptibly warmer than objects of other colors. The notion that this constituted exceptional “vision,” however, was rejected. Eyesight and touch are two obviously different human senses. Attempting to confuse the senses in the public mind is a tactic known as . . . deception.


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