Early Studies in Parapsychology at Duke

November 16, 2021April 14, 2022

Location: The Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room

The Parapsychology Laboratory began at Duke in 1930 after Dr. William McDougall invited Drs. J.B. and Louisa Rhine to Durham. At this time, on the coattails of Mesmerism and a public interest in mediumship and other strange phenomena, there was a push in the scientific community to empirically study psychical and paranormal experiences. Thus, parapsychology was born.

In the thirty-five years that the Laboratory was at Duke, many words we associate with the paranormal were defined, including extrasensory perception (ESP), telepathy, psychokinesis, pre-cognition, and clairvoyance. J.B. himself was primarily concerned with ESP and many tests of ability were developed, including the famous Zener card test.

Even though the laboratory is no longer at Duke, the research continues at the Rhine Research Center in Durham. This exhibit shows a glimpse of the old laboratory: its people, its research, its progress, and its legacy.