Harribance was invited to Durham, where he met Roll, whose foundation provided
an opportunity for testing. You can read some of the results in
statistics-studded papers bearing such titles as Free Verbal Response
Experiments with Lalsingh Harribance, or Further Forced-Choice Experiments with
Lalsingh Harribance, or ESP with Unbalanced Decks: A Study of the Process in an
Exceptional Subject. In some of the experiments, volunteers were brought one by
one (unseen by Harribance) into an adjoining room. He recorded his thoughts
about their physical appearance, family background, love life and other private
matters that he claimed his extrasensory perceptions, or ESP, communicated to
him. These notations were then compared to the biographies of the volunteers.
The testers say that Harribance's impressions coincided with fact far more
often than they would have by mere chance.
"It was a
matter of personal satisfaction to Sean that he could produce high scores under
tight experimental conditions," says Roll. "From our point of view, it
was important not only to obtain evidence for ESP, but also to bring some
understanding to the nature of the ESP process. We may all have some psychic
field around us, all sorts of thoughts, which we may try to keep to ourselves.
Sean would not exactly create a disturbance, but, well, he might go up to
people coming out of a movie theater and tell them about themselves. Apparently
he received an onrush of psychic information about them and had to get it
"Apparently" is the key word here. While Harribance worked with the
people at Durham for six years and had test results that seem remarkable, the
findings were nonetheless scientifically inconclusive.
As a contribution
to science, the Jefferson Downs experiment also had mixed results. The third
race was a disaster. Harribance selected the No. 8 horse, Diamond Belle, and
backed it heavily out of his winnings. Diamond Belle ran fifth all the way. The
fourth race posed a more puzzling problem, possibly psychic in nature. Here
Harribance picked My Friend Luba, a 35-to-1 shot, to show, and while that is
exactly what Luba did, it developed that Harribance had not bet that way,
buying instead a fistful of exacta tickets when he got to the windows. Two
losing bets in a row.
The fifth race
was a different sort of disaster. Harribance picked Fanny Jane, a recent winner
at the Fair Grounds, to show. This time he didn't change his mind at the
window. I know that he didn't, because I went with him. A friend of mine had
asked me to put a bet for him on the strongest choice the psychic had, and
Fanny Jane to show appeared to be the one. At Jefferson Downs there are no
separate windows for place and show bets. Just before the windows closed
Harribance put down $60 on Fanny Jane to show. I did also, though I bet only
$30, and we hurried back.
It was almost a
three-horse dead heat, a nose, a head and a neck, with Fanny Jane the show
horse, just where Harribance had said he visualized her finishing. But he had
not looked at his ticket, and the seller had inadvertently given him Fanny Jane
to win. Harribance had lost again. He announced that he was almost broke, and
Chris gave him the money he had given her. In the next race he put $60 on Royal
Sten to show, and the horse did finish third, although it paid only $3.
Nonetheless, by this time Harribance seemed markedly less confident. After the
seventh race, in which he had Yes I Did to show—and Yes I Did finished fourth
by 3� lengths—he concluded that this must be one of his bad days.
best under relaxed conditions," he said. "A racetrack has too much
noise going on. And it is such a small time between races to get the
information. You see, the public do not understand what ESP is. ESP is a hunch.
It is a feeling. We all have ESP. Some people have more than some, like a
talent for music. Everybody has a potential for music, but only a few are
naturally gifted. All persons have ESP, but it doesn't mean they can go to the
races and predict horses. ESP is a confident feeling, like, yes, yes. Guessing
is like, I'm not sure. What I am doing is trying to realize when I am using ESP
and when I am guessing."
The feature race
was a seven-furlong, $5,000 event for 4-year-olds and up. The favorite was
American Balcony, which had won an earlier race at Jefferson Downs after doing
moderately well at the Fair Grounds against stronger competition. But
Harribance was taken by Seaside Flirt, a dark bay gelding making a first start
at Jefferson Downs this year. His thoughts ran like this (he said after the
race): "I am sure. The horse wants to run. But I am weaker for this race. I
lost my money. If I play the horse to win it won't win, it will come
But he said
nothing before the race except that he was going to bet on Seaside Flirt. He
came back with a single $2 ticket on Seaside Flirt to win, which he gave to
Chris, gesturing that this was the last of his money. Then he disappeared again
moments before the windows closed.
By major track
standards the Jefferson Downs feature that day might not have been much—the
time was 1:24[4/5] against a world record of 1:19[4/5]—but I never saw a more
exciting race. Seaside Flirt took a long lead in the backstretch and held off
American Balcony down the home stretch to win by a head. It was Harribance's
big moment. He looked at the board, which showed Seaside Flirt paying $6 to
win, $3 to place, $3 to show, and displayed his last-minute purchase: four $50
win tickets on Seaside Flirt.