J.B. Rhine, who was famously called “an ass” by no less than Arthur Conan Doyle, was in fact the inventor or the term “ESP.” “Extrasensory Perception.” But ghost-hunting is more popular than ever. So is interest in paranormal experiences — what we started calling Rhine’s adventure in our minds.
Related topic — I’ve been looking at the offerings of ghost tours, for example, in the town of Staunton, VA. Three hours by car from Washington DC, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley… Actual ghost sites… And when we wrote our article on Hunter S. Thompson (see here) we thought that was the limit. I mean, of our weirdness 😉
The paranormal: it’s all around us
Professor Rhine and his wife (Louisa Rhine) went to run a program at Duke University. They wanted to look into whole area of the paranormal. Then as now, for science, it is about data. Science is about what can be tested and replicated. So there was rigor, testing, data, repeated testing… the whole thing. There was the student who guessed correctly 9.6 out of 25 cards (Ehine’s special test deck). Statistically he shouldn’t have. It got Rhine’s attention.
The rest is history. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Rhine was affiliated with the paranormal studies lab at Duke.
By the way, the reason Conan Doyle called J.B. Rhine an ass, was ironic. The opposite of deception and quackery. In fact, Rhine had, scientifically, exposed a Boston psychic as a fraud. A psychic Doyle happened to admire…
See this Museum of Durham History article… a brief summary.
A discredited science won’t die
Then as now, the paranormal is a topic of intense disagreement. Summary dismissal of the importance of ESP is the safe course by the bulk of the academic community. There are — goes the implication — certain notions one does not take seriously. “I saw this in a dream a year ago.” “Yeah, sure.”
Except today, the conversation is often not as short. Aside from ESP, there is all the revision and upheaval of our basic notions of how reality MUST work. Except it doesn’t . Part of the upheaval is the whole distinction between classical and quantum physics.
So much about quantum particle behavior that is odd, not even math can hide it. (If they are particles, and they really aren’t.) So, particles really aren’t made of particles. And of course there is new data about the paranormal, ESP. And, people knowing things they shouldn’t… Well, it is a live wire in labs again.
The Rhine organization continues…
They have discontinued the program at Duke University. It has been repurposed and moved outside of the university’s facilities and its legitimizing status. I’m not privy to the details and I don’t know if Duke is somewhat uncomfortable with all this history. I mean a whole serious set of projects involved in peering into the minds of unusual persons. They should be proud.
The Rhine Research Center, independent from the university, is focused on the attempt to determine something fundamental for science. Can the paranormal be scientifically proved or disproved?
Meanwhile, ghost hunting is becoming more popular if anything. Perhaps just driven by information. All the digital inroads into populations of interested persons. People across all levels of society, affluence and location. It’s not about affluence, education, or religious affiliation. People in all segments attest to having had so called “psychic” experiences.
See below for ghost meters, which are really EMF (electromagnetic field) sensors.