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Book: Unbelievable: Investigations into ghosts, poltergeists, ESP…

May 22, 2010

This has a big long subtitle, falling squarely into the ranks of “Book Titled With One Word Followed By Colon Followed By A Really Long Subtitle.”

However, start talking about investigations into the paranormal, throw in a respected NPR journalist, and Duke University… and you’ve got me hooked.

So, did you know that Duke University had a paranormal lab from 1930 to 1980? Yep, a fully (mostly) funded university lab dedicated to paranormal research. I thought that was pretty interesting.

I think that what I really wanted, after reading this book, was to actually walk the steps of the woman who wrote this, and go through all the Duke files, instead of actually reading this book. The files — full of stories from all over America and the world, sound pretty amazing. The book The Exorcist was based on one of the cases brought to Duke. There were a number of other cases which I wanted more details about, but alas.

Turns out the head of the lab was very very interested in getting scientific, testable, repeatable proof of ESP. Proof of the afterlife was not as high a priority, although many of his financial backers wanted it to be. Instead, the lab focused mainly on testing for ESP. What they found was that ESP did certainly exist in some people, and some cases. But it depended a lot on many things: how tired the subject was, emotional states, emotional connection to the person doing the test, etc. Also they could not actually prove what was happening — was the person being tested “seeing” the ESP cards, or was the person holding the cards “sending” the images?

Anyway, it was rather fascinating, but really I just wanted more of the true stories from the case files. Rarely were these followed up on, but they did investigate poltergeist cases with some frequency, because they believed that usually a “poltergeist” was actually telekinesis in some form.

Definitely a good read although I was left wanting more!

(I finished this about a week ago but have been so distracted I’m just getting to writing this now…)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2010 7:15 am

    Interesting. I think Duke wasn’t the only university working on this kind of thing. I seem to recall there was at least one, maybe two others. Evidence but no proof. It’s a hard thing to pin down. I wonder if the studies were being done today with more sensitive equipment and MRI scans and all that, what the researchers would turn up. The is an interesting place 🙂

  2. May 23, 2010 12:30 pm

    It was interesting. I really want to see those files. You’re right – I wonder what modern technology would turn up? or if this is being studied now secretly?

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