Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First in Flight... and Parapsychology?

Another good book has crossed my path and I've spent the past few days reading it. Written by National Public Radio contributor Stacy Horn, Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory traces psi and paranormal research over the past century. Many people may not know much about North Carolina's Duke University and its history of parapsychology, yet one name might ring a bell: J. B. Rhine.

Rhine and the famous Rhine Reseach Center (as it is now referred to as... they even have a blog) forged a path for paranormal phenomena, butting heads with psychology and other sciences since the 1930s. If you're a paranormal investigator and you haven't heard his name before, you certainly should review his work. Skeptics often argue that there is no evidence of paranormal phenomena, yet data collected by Rhine and his colleagues proves otherwise.

I did learn an interesting piece of information from the book. I purchased a deck of ESP cards (a.k.a. Zener cards) on Ebay several years ago for a few dollars, dated 1937. This was, in fact, the very year these cards began released to the public as radio programs hosted telepathy experiments to the public. In effect, I own a piece of parapsychological history. They're a little worse for ware, but after seventy years I would expect that.

The book is filled with interesting bits of history: Alfred Hitchcock's failed attempt to find a haunted house in New York City to host a party, Jackie Gleason's desire to start a paranormal television program, early EVP experiments, Ouija board origins, and so much more. Horn even mentions oen of my favorite paranormal personalities, Loyd Auerbach, on a few pages. For a good overall review of Rhine, his efforts, conflicting opinions, and the historic struggle for acceptance of parapsychology, I highly recommend this good read. Who knows; you just might learn something...

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