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Archive for Thursday 7th February 2002 - Who are you staring at?

Everyone knows that it is rude to stare at people. It is not just a question of manners. It can be dangerous. The person you stare at soon feels your gaze and returns it, angrily. It happens even when that person has his back to you. A good place to test this out is on the bus. Suppose you are sitting at the back, and someone in front takes your attention - because they are attractive or weird or whatever. Stare at them a while, and it is likely enough they will turn round.

It has happened to me while trying to peep at another man’s newspaper on the train. The man could not see my eyes, but he felt what I was doing. He rustled the paper and frowned at me.

The ancients believed that eyes have power, and that you can affect people just by looking at them. They also believed in the ‘evil eye’. Certain people were said to have it. By gazing at someone they could make them ill or unlucky. That must be the origin of the rule against staring.

Scientist Rupert Sheldrake has tested this claim by experiments. He proved that certain people are highly aware of being stared at. Others feel it at times, but not always. The conclusion he came to was the old one - that there is power in the eye, and it can influence other people. We call this telepathy, or animal magnetism. It used to be seen as a branch of witchcraft.

John Michell

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Unexplained Phenomena, A Rough Guide Special
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