Monday, September 5, 2011

A Letter From Hubert E. Pearce

Here below is an excerpt from a letter to my father JB Rhine from Rev. Hubert Pearce written in 1956 on Pearce's stationery as Minister of First Methodist Church in Wynne, Arkansas. I stumbled across this letter by accident when searching in the Duke Special Collections Library for JB's correspondence with Norman Vincent Peale, a well-known religious figure of bygone days with whom JB corresponded. (In fact Peale prints a fascinating article about JB's work and it's importance for religion in his Guidepost publication in 1958).

Background: Hubert E. Pearce was the one of most outstanding high-scoring subjects of the early 1930's Duke card-calling tests, particularly important for his role as subject in the Pearce-Pratt experimental series that is generally considered the definitive experiment for ESP in those early days in terms of tight conditions conducted with two experimenters at a distance across the Duke University campus. Hubert also correctly guessed 25 cards correct in an informal test that JB conducted with him after a challenge to test his ability.

But in 9/27/56 my father receives this message from Hubert that refers back to the Pearce-Pratt work of 20 years earlier, as follows,

"Just before we moved into our new church in Bentonville, I received a letter from a Martin Gardner in New York who was evidently writing a critique of Parapsychology. My office was moved into the new building while I was out of the city and the letter was lost. When I returned from our trip (in which he visited JB in North Carolina), I had another letter in which he asked if it hadn't been long enough that my conscience was bothering me to where I was ready to confess that the work there was not well controlled etc. etc. I am enclosing my reply to him."----Hubert E. Pearce

Hubert's reply to Martin Gardner reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Gardner:

Upon my return from a trip to Durham and Washington I found your interesting letter. I will have to admit that it is a new approach and I wish that I might have had it to send to Dr. Rhine. Of course, you realize that it isn't deserving of a respectable reply. There are a lot of things that might be said to express my opinion of it--and probably of you.

May I say simply that I am as much interested in the project now as I was when I was in the University and the longer I live the more I become convinced of its reality.

Those of us who have worked with Dr. Rhine have never once doubted his ability as a scientist and research director, his devotion to the Truth, his brilliance, or his integrity.
You are simply beating again the path that was beat by Experts in the 1930's.

The day will come when Dr. Rhine's name will be among the Immortals -- and the name of his critics forgotten.

Hubert E. Pearce.

-- submitted by Sally Rhine Feather

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