Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Panel Discussion Between Stacy Horn and Dr. Sy Mauskopf

March has been a time of celebration at the Rhine as Stacy Horn's new book, Unbelievable, was published on March 10th by Harper Collins. The Rhine gathering on March 20th was a great success, as audience members were granted the dual presence of Stacy Horn and Dr. Sy Mauskopf, whose book on Parapsychology and the Rhine Center, The Elusive Science, was published in 1980. Together, the two books give a comprehensive account of Parapsychology throughout the 1800's, 1900's, and during the last decade. What a treat to see Mauskopf and Horn together comparing notes about their research and demonstrating such complete understanding and respect for the Rhine Center!

Dr. Mauskopf gave us an overview of the field as it came into being and morphed through the decades, noting that while Parapsychology had times of flourishing it also had times of strong opposition by mainstream science. However, even in the times of opposition, he said, there were always "one or two major scientists who defended it." Its "heyday," he said, was the period between 1882-1920, with a flowering of studies and interest in psychical research. 1920-1930, however, was a time of "winding down" as there was a split in the national societies, but 1930-1945 he noted, was a time of renewal in the field, so influenced by J.B. and Louisa Rhine that he called it the "Rhinean Revival." By 1950, Mauskopf said, success had become mixed with the field not "succeeding" as some had hoped yet never fading completely.

Horn picked up where he left off with her book Unbelievable, and during the panel she regaled the audience with stories from her years of research in the Duke archives. Her research, she says, was focused mostly on correspondence among scientists, and she noted that the Rhines were so famous in their time period that whenever anything "paranormal" happened, they were likely to be the first to receive correspondence about it. Horn included many intriguing stories, for example, the famous movie The Exorcist was based on a real-life situation in New Jersey. J.B. Rhine corresponded with the boy's priest, but the family wanted an exorcist, not science. Another notable moment was when Gaither Pratt, a researcher at the Rhine Center, went to Long Island to study a poltergeist case that was stumping the local police. Of 67 events, Pratt found that 17 could not be explained by normal means (things were falling off tables, off walls, etc.). Horn took great pains to interview family members and others who were associated with these stories (members of the police force, for example) to follow up on these stories and give the whole account in her book, rending numerous fascinating accounts of these psi experiences and their aftermath.

The Rhines, with their insistence on research and practicality, became mainstays in a field based on inexplicable yet seemingly undeniable events. Horn mentioned correspondence from such notables as Albert Einstein, Margaret Mead, Alan Gregg, Alfred P. Sloan, Aldous Huxley, Richard Nixon, Carl Jung, and Chester Carlson, each with his/her own interesting story. Not only were there numerous letters about famous events and people, Louisa Rhine, Horn said, collected an enormous amount of letters from the general public. These letters (and those that are still coming) are a strong source of anecdotal information for the Rhine Center, giving the Rhine one of the largest collections of spontaneous psi occurrences in the United States -- dealing with issues such as clairvoyance, telepathy, clairsentience, animal psi experiences, extraordinary healings, psychokinesis, and dream psi experiences. Horn says that the overriding question that keeps the study and discussion of psi going is, "Is there life after death or not?" As both Horn and Mauskopf's analysis of the history shows, no matter what happens in the field, these types of questions and events will keep us hanging on.

See photos from the reception below.

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