Dewey Decimal Challenge: Book 6: Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory by Stacy Horn (the 100s)

22 Feb

Well, I’m a week late, but we’ve finally made it to the 100s–a favorite nonfiction section of mine. The main classification is Philosophy & Psychology, which can be broken down into the following ten divisions:

  • 100 Philosophy & psychology
  • 110 Metaphysics
  • 120 Epistemology, causation, humankind
  • 130 Paranormal phenomena
  • 140 Specific philosophical schools
  • 150 Psychology
  • 160 Logic
  • 170 Ethics (moral philosophy)
  • 180 Ancient, medieval, oriental philosophy
  • 190 Modern western philosophy

Metaphysics! Humankind! Paranormal phenomena! Ethics! Yeehaw!  The 100s are for the thinkers, the dreamers, the skeptics, and the believers.

Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory by Stacy Horn (130 HOR)


The book that I have chosen this week deals in the paranormal and is written by Stacy Horn who is a frequent contributor to NPR, which I listen to regularly. I was very much looking forward to reading this book, and I was not disappointed. It has everything from data-driven extrasensory perception research to first-person accounts of poltergeists to the investigation of reincarnation through hypnosis. There is a lot to mull over here.

The story of the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory is really the story of J.B. Rhine, a man who devoted his life to the scientific study of ESP (extrasensory perception) and related phenomena. Rhine’s single-minded approach to studying the paranormal was often different from his colleagues. While other scientists were eager to take on cases of hauntings and chaos-creating poltergeists, Rhine would only study phenomenon that he felt could be most easily replicated and tested in his laboratory. Hence, the lab’s four main areas of study: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. You might balk at the idea of this phenomena being easily replicated, but you’d be surprised to learn that Rhine did have indisputable successes in his study of ESP particularly statistics that confirmed telepathy, however weak.

One of the more heartbreaking chapters in this book highlights the letters from everyday people that were received by the scientists at the Duke laboratory throughout the decades. These letters were often from people desperate to communicate with lost loved ones as well as from the mentally ill who were desperate for respite from unknown forces.

I would recommend this book though I believe that Mary Roach does this subject matter better in her book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Fortunately, you can read both without any detriment!

Happy reading!

-Written by Sharlene Edwards, Senior Children’s Librarian

Click here to read past posts about Sharlene’s Dewey Decimal Challenge!

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