In 1930, Upton Sinclair’s wife, Mary, was experiencing serious depression. The couple became dedicated to the occult during this time; Upton believed Mary to have psychic abilities. His resulting book, Mental Radio, documented the tests he administered to test her mind-reading skills.

Sinclair published many important books across multiple genres, most famously The Jungle, which changed how Americans view the meatpacking industry—today’s vegetarian movement has his investigative journalism to thank. But Mental Radio was not received well. After he initially self-published the book, critics denounced his work as not serious science (there was no control; it was not a double-blind study) and for expressing an uncritical faith in telepathy.

Clairvoyance has never done well in clinical settings, yet that has not stopped an entire contingent of mediums and psychics from claiming to possess such skills. Even Sinclair’s data expresses little more than chance, but considering the circumstances he likely wanted to believe his hypothesis to be true, perhaps as a way of helping his wife deal with her psychological disorder.