Throughout history, people have claimed to possess psychic powers. Many of them were proven to be frauds but some unexplained cases still remain. One of the most famous ones is that of Nina Kulagina, the woman who could move objects with her mind.
Born in 1926 in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) as Ninel Sergeyevna Kulagina, she joined the Red Army at age 14. Kulagina served as a tank radio sergeant until she was wounded during the final stages of World War II.
After the war she started a family and was virtually unheard of until the mid-1960s, when her powers developed enough for her to become a sensation in the Soviet Union. Until her death in 1990, Kulagina was widely acknowledged as possessing an array of psychic powers.
During interviews, Kulagina told that she realized she had abilities when she noticed that everyday objects would move by themselves whenever she was angry. Apparently, her mother had similar experiences, leading Nina to believe such abilities would pass on from mother to child.
Kulagina claimed that, in order for her psychokinetic powers to have any effect, she required a period of meditation during which her thoughts would clear. When she felt a sharp pain in her spine and her vision would blur, she knew she was ready.
During the Cold War, a number of silent black-and-white films emerged and they showed Nina moving objects on a table. The setting of the films suggested that the psychokinesis experiments were done under conditions strictly controlled by Soviet authorities. During that time, it was reported that as many as 40 scientists, including two Nobel laureates, had examined the woman and deemed her psychic powers genuine.
One such film showed researchers break open an egg in a tank full of water. Kulagina was able to separate the egg yolk from the white and then move them to opposite ends of the tank. Sensors placed on her body showed she had elevated her body temperature and her heartbeat, as well as the intensity of her brainwaves and electromagnetic field.
Her most famous test happened in the 1970s, when scientists wanted to see if Kulagina had any powers over animate matter, such as living cells, tissue and organs. A frog’s heart was placed in saline solution and kept beating with the aid of two electrodes delivering a weak electrical current. The scientists present during the experiment said Kulagina first made the heart beat faster, then slower and—through an intense thought process—stopped it altogether.
Thankfully, she was unable to perform the same feat on a human heart. Kulagina said that any attempt to control certain parts of a human being ended badly for her, usually in the form of extreme physical discomfort. Phew!
Despite these outrageous claims, Nina Kulagina was never proven a fraud and no one ever caught her cheating, despite claims that her ‘powers’ were nothing more than sleight of hand and cheap tricks.
So, did Kulagina really have telekinetic powers?
A more interesting theory states that her powers were inexistent and the movies were all part of a Soviet scam intended to put pressure on the U.S. After all, what could make you more nervous than knowing your enemy might have an army of psychics?
Kulagina’s case serves as a reminder that nothing rivals the theories emerged out of Cold War paranoia.