Ingo Swann, 1981
I spent many hours last weekend listening to some fascinating recordings provided by The Monroe Institute (TMI) of "Out-of-body Experience" (OBE) sessions with some of the people they worked with in isolation using their Hemi-Sync technology (the "Explorer Series"). As the subjects reached various "levels", described by Monroe, they often encountered spirits that have lived as humans on earth. In more than one case, the spirits offered details about who they were on earth -- details such as names, city, date of death, where they went to school, where they worked, how they died, etc. Apparently, these were never able to be verified.
I've worked through the entire "Gateway Voyage" series of recordings from TMI that are the basis of a 1-week residential course offered both at the campus in Virgina and at IONS in Petaluma, CA. They utilize the Hemi-Sync binaural beat technology for brainwave entrainment. As the binaural beats slow to the what I presume is the Theta level (it's "patented technology", so we don't really know what they're doing), the mind enters a deep meditative state, from which the moderator, Robert Monroe in most cases, coaches you to experience higher and higher levels of OB awareness. There's definitely some degree of suggestive hypnosis going on. I reached very deep states of meditation, but I don't think I experienced OB -- certainly, not to the extent that subjects recorded in the "Explorer Series" did. It's very eerie, though -- one feels very close to drifting off to another realm. However, what often happens is that you drift off to sleep -- termed "clicking out" in TMI terms. So, one must practice becoming VERY relaxed while staying fully awake. The 1-week course is only intended to be an introduction to the experience.
The hard science approach was done decades ago at SRI and SAIC. Much of the research was funded by the CIA and some of it was "declassified" in 1995. Much has been written by people close to the projects (see: Superpowers of the Human Biomind).
The default scientific position is skepticism. I suspect that most reported OBE's are actually lucid dreams or other illusions of the mind caused by loss of sensory awareness. Yet, I tend to think that this is possible -- perhaps, not in the way we usually think about it.