“Animal Magnetism — The Operator putting his Patient into a Crisis,” original page from “A Key to Physic, and the Occult Sciences” by Ebenezer Sibly, 1792. This edition 1794.

Parapsychology: Evidence & Resources for the ‘Elusive Science’

Is there replicable lab evidence for ESP and related phenomena? The answer may surprise you

Mitch Horowitz
12 min readMar 24, 2023

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Few areas of modern science are as controversial — and misrepresented — as parapsychology.

On Wikipedia and in much of mainstream letters, the rap on parapsychology — scholarly study of extra-physical phenomena such as ESP and precognition — is as recitative as an airline safety video: ESP has never been proven in a lab setting; the data is non-replicable; there’s “not a shred of evidence;” we know you have a choice when you fly…

In his sumptuously illustrated 2019 book The Spectacle of Illusion, stage magician and psychologist Matthew Tompkins offers the typically opaque — and standard — skeptic’s dismissal of pioneering parapsychologist J.B. Rhine (1895–1980), whose card-test experiments at Duke University documented the occurrence of ESP:

Rhine’s research methods and lack of scientific rigour were called into question while attempts by other scientists to replicate his studies failed to produce similar results…the more controls he introduced, the less impressive his results became, and attempts to replicate his results in other laboratories consistently met with failure.

Psi-Busters: 1 Scooby Kids: 0

But look again.

In 2020, parapsychologist Rick Berger, Ph.D., broke down Rhine’s ESP data for the Parapsychological Association, a professional society for parapsychologists, which since 1969 has been affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): “In the five years following Rhine’s first publication of his results, 33 independent replication experiments were conducted at different laboratories. Twenty (20) of these (or 61%) were statistically significant (where 5% would be expected by chance alone).” The Parapsychological Association’s president Charles Honorton noted, “This is 60 times the proportion of significant studies we would expect if the significant results were due to chance or error.”[1]

I intend this piece as both a historical introduction to parapsychology and a clearinghouse for several of my recent articles and talks that summarize and document…

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Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China