A 1926 visit to the famous medium Margery introduced the world to J. B. and Louisa Rhine. I tried to imagine what it was like for the very serious and relatively conservative J. B. Rhine to walk into a scene like the one depicted below, although Mina didn’t get naked this time (Mina Crandon was her real name). The Rhines thought they were there to conduct a scientific investigation and were instead offered glasses of champagne. This picture shows Mina with the ectoplasmic hand of her dead brother Walter laying on her stomach.
The Rhines wrote a scathing report of their visit which was first published in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology and then picked up by newspapers everywhere. Margery been denounced before, but not like this. The outcry from people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a champion of Margery’s, brought the Rhines overnight fame and eventually led them to Duke University.
Even more difficult to imagine is what is must have been like for Dr. William McDougall, the man who approved the Rhines coming to Duke and later the creation of the Parapsychology Laboratory. McDougall had investigated Margery before the Rhines, while he was still at Harvard, and he was an older British gentleman who was even more conservative and serious than J. B. Rhine. I read this great description of McDougall, about how unnerved he was at first teaching classes at Duke because there were almost as many female faces staring up at him as male (go Duke!!). About Mina and the ectoplasmic hand, McDougall said, “The more interesting question is—How did it come to be within the anatomy?” Mina never permitted the kind of inspection required to try to answer that question.
I actually felt a lot of sympathy for Mina, and I go into that in the book.
[The picture came from the catalogue for the 2005 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled, “The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult.”]