Where are the polls about belief in the paranormal?

Why are there no new polls about people’s beliefs in the paranormal? I was looking at this 2009 Pew Research Poll titled Ghosts, Fortunetellers, and Communicating With the Dead, and I realized this was the last year I know of for polls of this kind. There was also a Harris Poll that year—in it 42% of the respondents said that they believed in ghosts.  71% said they believed the soul survived death.

Actually, Pew has one which looks at the spiritual beliefs of Hispanics, which include some topics that might be considered paranormal. For instance, 42% believe it is possible to communicate with spiritual beings or saints. There’s a similar chapter about the beliefs of Asians. 41% believe in ancestral spirits.

In any case, it’s certainly time for an updated poll of people’s beliefs and attitudes towards subjects like ghosts, ESP, and reincarnation.

A 1956 picture J. B. Rhine, the original director of the former Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University.
J. B. Rhine, Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University

Heaven and Hell Unveiled by Stafford Betty

Heaven and Hell Unveiled by Stafford Betty
I interviewed Stafford Betty, professor of religious studies at California State University, for a piece I wrote about reincarnation for Reader’s Digest (it will be in the October issue). He provided one of my favorite quotes for the piece, and I would have loved to use every word he gave me but I had to stay under a strict word count, alas.

But I just learned he recently came out with a new book, Heaven and Hell Unveiled: Updates from the World of Spirit. It will be wonderful to have access to all his thoughts! From his email to me:

“Heaven and hell—are they real places, or are they fantasies invented to inspire good behavior and overcome our fear of dying? In this book I share what thirty years of research have taught me.  I allow deceased human beings, our “spirit friends,” speaking through reputable mediums to describe their actual worlds.  And what they tell us would revolutionize the world’s religions if they would listen.

“They tell us our brothers and sisters in the afterlife are not “resting,” as Christian theology often asserts.  Those we call “the dead” live in a world of infinite possibility, and their wills are as free over there as here.  They are busy beings, and some are climbing toward higher realms while others languish.  Suffering in the afterworld, not just joy, can be intense; it exists to awaken souls to their mistakes so they will long for the happiness of those higher spheres, where corruption doesn’t exist …

“The religions we’ve fashioned here on earth could all use an upgrade. They are moons that derive their light from the central sun. This book is about that sun.”

Missed Opportunity: Alexander Imich

I was immediately filled with regret when I read in the Times about the passing of Alexander Imich:

“Alexander Imich, a Polish-born psychic researcher who was certified the oldest man on earth, died Sunday morning at a senior residence in Manhattan. He had turned 111 on Feb. 4.” (He’d actually died the previous Wednesday, June 4th. To read the rest of the article click here.)

I remember coming across Alexander Imich’s name while I was down at Duke University researching my book about the Parapsychology Laboratory. He’d corresponded occasionally with J. B. Rhine, the head of the lab. Since then, over the years several people have encouraged me to interview him. The first time this was suggested I said, “He can’t possibly still be alive!” But he was. He was amazingly still alive, sharp, and in living NYC. I could have so easily hopped onto the subway and talked to the man. And I just didn’t. I’m a jerk.

Rest in peace, Alexander Imich.

The picture below is actually of J. B. Rhine and Robert Van de Castle who died on January 29th. While looking for a picture to include in this post I found this one, which I had scanned on one of my trips to the Rhine Research Center (formerly the Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University). It’s not dated, but I’m guessing it was taken some time in the 1950s. Both men are smiling, but the relationship did not end on such a happy note, alas.


A New Online Course: Signs of Reincarnation

From the course description:

“Signs of Reincarnation is a 15-week online seminar course offered through The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education. The course is an interdisciplinary offering that draws on anthropology, consciousness studies, and psychical research, among other fields. It is designed as a graduate-level course to introduce enrollees to academic research on reincarnation (chiefly by Ian Stevenson and his colleagues) and presupposes some acquaintance with academic argument and the scientific method.”

The course is being taught by James G. Matlock, M.L.S., Ph.D. Matlock is an historical researcher associated with the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. He wrote the reincarnation chapter for Advances in Parapsychological Research and recently finished a textbook on reincarnation which will be used for this course.

Matlock is one of the most thorough and meticulous researchers I’ve met, and this course is a wonderful opportunity to learn from him and benefit from his years of exploration, and all without leaving your house! For more information, including a link to the complete syllabus, click here. Students at Saybrook University can take this class for credit. Members of the Rhine Research Center, Society for Psychical Research and Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness get 10% off registration!

The Congress for Curious People and Other Things

I wish I had posted about the Congress for Curious People sooner because some great people are involved, like Shannon Taggart from the Observatory in Brooklyn and researcher and writer George Hansen. It’s co-produced by Morbid Anatomy and Coney Island USA.

The full schedule is here, but for the paranormally inclined, there’s a panel tomorrow at 1:30 (which is part of an all day symposium of interesting panels) called Pop, The Paranormal and Other Myths We Live: Contemplating the Liminal.

And Couple of Cool Videos to Watch!

The Haunted Bay-SF Barbary Coast: Walk with a Medium.
The Haunted Bay: The Paranormal Side of San Francisco (Ep. 4)- Interview with a Medium (an earlier walk with the same medium, June Ahern).

Looking for Stories about the ASPR

I am in touch with someone who is working on a piece about the ASPR, and this person is seeking personal accounts from people who have conducted research, or attempted to conduct research at the ASPR. This person reached out to me because I wrote a frank account of my own attempts to visit the ASPR archives. My post began:

“While I was researching my book about the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory I repeatedly tried to explore the ASPR archives (American Society for Psychical Research) but I was never granted access. For a year and a half they put me off and I finally accepted that they just didn’t want me to see anything. They wouldn’t even tell me what they had. I’ve since learned I’m just one in a long line of people who had similar experiences with the ASPR.”

If you are willing to share your experiences, please let me know and I will forward your email to the person working on the story. Thank you.

I found this picture in the digital archives of the New York Public Library. According to the caption, it’s a wood engraving by Whitney, A. titled The apparition. It was in the December 1883 issue of Harper’s magazine.


Controlled Remote Viewing Classes at the The Parapsychology Foundation

From the email I received:

“The Parapsychology Foundation will proudly host Controlled Remote Viewing Classes at the Eileen J. Garrett Library, 308 Front Street, Greenport, New York, on May 2-4, 2014. This three day course from 9 – 5 will be taught by Lori Williams, Executive Director of Intuitive Specialists. Trained for 14 years under the tutelage of Lyn Buchanan (a longtime military CRV instructor and author of The Seventh Sense) Lori has worked professionally as a remote viewer in her own right and trained over 600 students from around the world. This comprehensive class ensures a high level of one-on-one instruction.”

For more information call Lori Williams at 806 678-8582, or simply register here.