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Archive for October, 2016

– contributed by Arianna Iliff

With the seemingly endless list of paranormal reality TV shows, you’d think we’d proven the existence of the paranormal.So in the spirit (no pun intended) of Halloween, today we’ll be looking into the Duke Parapsychology Lab, a group of enterprising psychologists at Duke University in Durham, NC who attempted to do just that. In the 1930s, their research, led up by  J.B. Rhine, caused a firestorm of media hype. Rhine believed that his experiments had proven the existence of extrasensory perception, or ESP.

The basic experiment was simple: in a comfortable and informal environment, an experimenter would pull from a deck of cards with one of five shapes: circle, square, star, cross, and wavy lines. He would then ask his subject to name the shape on the card without looking, and track how many matches the subject would make in a “run” of cards–that is, within a deck of 25. The cards–named for Rhine’s graduate student, Karl Zener–eventually became available publicly, so that you could test yourself for psychic powers at home!

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In 1937, when this pamphlet was published, ten cents was equivalent to $1.69 in today’s money. What a bargain!
Knight Dunlap papers, box M567, folder “ESP by Rhine”

According to Rhine, the frequency with which certain subjects could match the cards was higher than mere chance. Some of the original findings of the experiment were published in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1938; however, his methods were notoriously specious, and not all psychologists were on board with this purported phenomenon. In the Knight Dunlap papers, housed here at the CCHP, there is a wealth of information about this period. Dunlap and some of his colleagues fact-checked Rhine’s flawed statistical and experimental methods, and appear to have attempted to ruin his credibility. In fact, we have a draft of one of Dunlap’s papers entitled “Occult Phenomena,” in which he bores a giant hole straight through Rhine:

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“A friend of mine who has known Rhine long and intimately assures me that Rhine is honest, but not very smart.”   BURN, 1938-style! 
Knight Dunlap papers, box M569, folder “Occult Phenomenon”

Here’s a fun fact: one of the CCHP’s board members, Don Freedheim, attended Duke and had Karl Zener as a faculty advisor. Dr. Freedheim describes Zener as a “lovely person” who was “very supportive [and] generous with his time.” However, by this time, it wasn’t just Knight Dunlap that was critical of J.B. Rhine: according to Freedheim, by the mid-1950’s, the whole psychology department “had disavowed Rhine.” (Personal communication, 2016)

Rhine was not dissuaded easily. Over time, thousands of cycles of the card experiments were run, in varying forms with varying methods. And while the lab explored a variety of phenomena beyond just telepathy, eventually, decreasing interest and lack of funding caused the dissolution of the Duke Parapsychology Lab.

Nonetheless, Rhine insisted that one in forty people have the gift. Do you?

To read more about the Duke Parapsychology Lab, check out Unbelieveable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory by Stacy Horn–or visit us at the CCHP to see a set of Zener cards yourself!

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Zener cards & ESP Record Sheet
CCHP Test Collection

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Contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

Every day researchers gather materials from the archives to tell all kinds of different stories. The stories don’t all make it into academic publications and in fact many are not destined for publication anyways – some research is just for funsies!

As the reference archivist here at the Cummings Center I get to hear these stories and some are so great I share them with the rest of the staff. This got us thinking that maybe all of you would like to hear some of these great stories, so we’re starting a new series to highlight the Stories from the Stacks.

Stories from the Stacks Vol. I: Searching for Molly. 

Michael F. Vogel, M.S.Ed. – CAGS is a self-employed financial trader and former mentee of psychologist Molly Harrower.

CCHP: What led you to us?

MFV: Trying to locate Molly Harrower’s  home/office in New York city.

CCHP: What were you looking for and why?

MFV: Molly’s street address on New York’s upper east side. I like to visit the sites where great psychology happened.

CCHP: What did you find?

MFV: I found it and discovered that Woody Allen is currently living there!

[Reference Archivist note: I located a piece of Molly Harrower’s letterhead, scanned it, and sent it to Michael as proof of her address.]

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Molly Harrower papers, box M842, folder “Misc. 1”

CCHP: Were there any fun, interesting, or unexpected surprises?

MFV: Yes!  Woody Allen could have known Molly and possibly was her patient!

CCHP: Any let downs?

MFV: None.

CCHP: What’s next?

MFV: A return to Orgonon –  Wilhelm Reich’s  home/office/observatory in Rangeley Maine.  I have been there many times.

CCHP: Any other thoughts?

MFV: Pilgrimages to the locations where the master practitioners of psychology  practiced keeps them alive within oneself.  I was once the Director of Psychology Services in the Pediatric rehabilitation hospital where Dr. Jonas Salk developed the Polio Vaccine.  Three (3) Months into this position I learned from the Hospital Administrator that my office was Dr. Salk’s Office !!!  I met him several times when he would return.  He lives within me (as does his original vaccine).   This is probably why I enjoy my pilgrimages.

[Reference Archivist note: CCHP houses the  Lee Salk papers – brother to Jonas Salk!]

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Michael paying tribute to his mentor Molly Harrower and keeping her alive in his heart at 118 East 70th St.

 

 

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