Book Review: “Unbelievable” by Stacy Horn

Have you ever heard of the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory? How about J. B. Rhine? This is the story of one man’s attempt to bring extra sensory perception into the scientific world. Stacy Horn researched the vast collection of letters and materials from the Parapsychology Laboratory Records (1893-1984) and the rare books and manuscripts collection at Duke University to write this book. It is a fascinating read while frustrating at the same time. J. B. Rhine worked tirelessly to use science to understand ESP and had great experimental success. Unfortunately, the scientific world was not interested in ESP.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you are interested in Parapsychology as a science. There are a lot of names and some technical language but overall, it was a pleasant read. I felt like I got a better understanding of the man behind the lab though this book. J. B. Rhine was often encouraged to pursue the survival question but he felt that if any great scientific progress would be made, it would be through extra sensory perception (ESP) and not ghost studies. He often received funding from donors interested in the survival question by explaining that in order to get to survival, you must first be able to demonstrate and prove ESP.

Pros: A lot of fascinating information about the development and work in the lab. There are some great stories about Rhine’s experiments including his experience of taking LSD with Timothy Leary in order to explore if drugs could induce psychic experiences.

Cons: I sometimes got lost in the names and there are some tangents in the book. While occasionally distracting, they didn’t take away from the overall appeal of the book.

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