Every Monday night the Parapsychology Lab staff would get together in the library for what they called Research Meetings. Later, it turned into a daily morning gathering called the Coffee Hour. Everyone would file in, sit at attention, and wait for Rhine to appear. He “entered the room in a fashion unmistakably demanding attention and authority,” Klaus Schmidt-Koenig, a former Lab Research Associate described. They might discuss their current experiments. Or a newspaper article. Or one of the many reports they received from the field.
“The meetings were casual and excited, highly structured, but not formal, not boring,” one former attendant wrote. And interesting people were always stopping by. For instance, during the month of November, 1964, Eddie Albert, Pearl S. Buck, and Burl Ives dropped in for a visit (on different days).
“Anyone who had an idea spoke up, one way or the other,” remembers psychologist Gertrude Schmeidler, an occasional attendee who Rhine once tried to lure into joining them at the Lab. “When all had had their say, heads turned to Rhine and there was silence. Then he spoke, telling us the decision … There was no pretense of being first among equals; Dr. Rhine was first.”
“He ruled the lab almost like an old fashion German professor,” Schmidt-Koenig described. “And he didn’t like to be interrupted,” Rhea White, another former staff member, added. “It made him lose his train of thought.”
But Louisa Rhine had a sense of humor about her serious husband. She’s the one on the far right in this picture. Someone told how she’d sometimes make affectionate fun of J.B. when he was being particularly serious. The staff would do their best to smother their laughter, but J. B. would sense the change of mood in the room, stop, look out over the top of his glasses, and wonder what the fuss was about.