Soviet Psychic: Nina Kulagina

There’s plenty of myths regarding the strange research carried out in the former Soviet Union. Space weaponry, psychotronics, the Ayaks aircraft, all are examples of rumors of strange super technology that was being hidden in ultra-secrecy behind the Iron Curtain. Of course, the lack of solid information only helps to drive people’s imaginations wild, but one woman is an example of paranormal research that was taken very seriously by the Soviets, and her name is Nina Kulagina.

Nina Kulagina in her Red Army uniform

Born on July 30th, 1926 in Leningrad, Nina Kulagina, also known as Ninel Sergeyevna Kulagina, joined the Red Army when she was 14 and served in a tank regiment during World War II. As the radio operator in a T-34, Kulagina eventually became a senior sergeant but had to leave military service when she was injured by artillery fire. After the war, Kulagina married, had a son and became a housewife. However, Kulagina would become widely known throughout the Soviet Union and even in the West for her psychokinetic abilities, with psycho- or telekinesis being the ability to move something with one’s mind.

Strangely, Kulagina thought that she may have inherited her psychokinetic abilities from her mother, and that she had known what she was capable of all her life. Sometimes her psychokinetic abilities manifested themselves as poltergeist activity, in which moments of anger caused objects to fall out of cupboards or other things to move. Lights would turn on and off, and objects would seem to become attracted to Kulagina.

Kulagina claimed that in order to move things, she had to have hours of concentration and that she must clear all other thoughts from her mind. When she was able to successfully move something, Kulagina claimed that there would be a sharp pain in her spine, and then her vision would become blurred. However, she was able to move nonmagnetic objects like matchsticks

Kulagina levitating a ping pong ball

A series of silent black-and-white films were produced which helped showcase Kulagina’s talent, and exposed her abilities to the West at the First Moscow International Conference of Parapsychology in 1968. Of course, while the videos themselves are seemingly amazing, the international scientific community took such proof with a grain of salt, especially since none of the videos had experts present or took place in laboratories. That’s not to say the footage is automatically debunked, such as one video of Kulagina separating a matchstick from a pile of matches while they are all contained underneath a glass dome.

Kulagina also claimed to have an ability known as dermo-optical perception, in which people are able to see through skin contact instead of using their eyes. Supposedly, when recovering from a nervous breakdown in a hospital in 1964, doctors claimed that Kulagina (who spent much of her time sewing) was able to reach into her sewing basket and withdraw any color of thread she wanted without looking at it. This ability has never been scientifically proven, but has supposedly been shared by a number of individuals, including fellow Soviet psychic Rosa Kuleshova.

Issue of “Fate” magazine with Rosa Kuleshova

Another, more spectacular ability that Kulagina supposedly possessed was the ability to create fire out of nothing. Some researchers claimed that occasionally burn marks would appear on Kulagina’s hands, and other scientists had claimed they’d witnessed her catch her own clothes on fire. Of course, there’s little to no proof of this ability.

Then there were some claims that Kulagina was able to sense sickness, being able to picture in her head whatever illness was afflicting someone. Not only that, but it was claimed that Kulagina could heal wounds merely by holding her hand over the wound.

Prominent Czech scientist Dr. Zdenek Rejdak once described a session in which a group of experts went to investigate Kulagina:

“I visited the Kulagina family the evening of 26 February, 1968. Mr. Blazek, an editor friend was with me, also a physician, Dr. J.S. Zverev, and Dr. Sergeyev. Her husband, an engineer, was also present. Dr. Zverev gave Mrs. Kulagina a very thorough physical examination. Tests with special instruments failed to show any indication whatever of magnets or any other concealed object.

“We checked the table thoroughly and also asked Mrs. Kulagina frequently to change position at the table. We passed a compass around her body and the chair and table with negative results. I asked her to wash her hands. After concentrating, she turned the compass needle more than ten times, then the entire compass and its case, a matchbox and some twenty matches at once. I placed a cigarette in front of her. She moved that too, at a glance. I shredded it afterwards and there was nothing inside it. In between each set of tests, she was again physically examined by the doctor.”

One of Kulagina’s many tests

If there is anything to be determined from Dr.Rejdak’s testimony, it is that scientific authorities did indeed take Kulagina’s apparent abilities very seriously, and that testing was done not just to record her actions to but to root out possible ways that she or her husband may try and fool experts. In fact, Kulagina’s most famous use of her abilities took place on March 10th, 1970 in a Soviet laboratory in Leningrad. During the experiment, scientists had a frog’s beating heart floating in solution and asked Kulagina to stop it. After a period of total concentration, Kulagina was able to accelerate the heart, slow it, then stop it completely.

Poor health plagued Kulagina near the end of her life, and put such a strain on her that she resigned from expositions with only a few experiments carried out in her later years until her death in 1990 at the age of 63. Oddly, some of the ailments Kulagina endured near the end included blood sugar irregularities, dizziness, blurred vision, and failing eyesight, the last two symptoms being regular occurrences whenever she moved objects with her mind.

Map showing St. Petersburg, formerly known as Leningrad and home to Kulagina

Supposedly, Soviet scientists thought that the test results of Kulagina’s experiments were so remarkable that she was forced to go under a different name, Nelya Mikhailova. The results of these experiments have never been revealed. Of course, numerous skeptics and even fellow psychics in the West claimed that Kulagina was a fraud, using magnets or strings to move objects. Others suggest that the Soviets intentionally exaggerated or helped produce “proof” to suggest that the USSR was more advanced than the U.S. in terms of psychokinetic research (the U.S. itself was engaged in such research including Project STARGATE to produce psychic spies).

If Nina Kulagina was a fraud, than it seems like the Soviets spent a lot of time and effort researching her abilities from the 60’s until her death in 1990, including scientists from across the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. In a Communist country, failures and embarrassments are often censored out of existence, like the myths of the Lost Cosmonauts. Yet she was shown off and made visible, even to people in the West. And if Kulagina was fake, then why have the Soviets and now the Russians continued to keep the results of her psychokinetic experiments classified?


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