Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory
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Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  243 ratings  ·  48 reviews
From The Sixth Sense to Medium, Ghost Whisperer to Ghost Hunters, the paranormal stirs heated debate, spawning millions of believers and skeptics alike. Nearly half of us say we believe in ghosts, and two-thirds of us believe in life after death.

What would you make of rain barrels that refill themselves? Psychic horses? Mind-reading Cold War spies? For a group of scientist...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published March 10th 2009)
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Turds on toast, the title was misleading. I mean, the story was all very interesting and all, but really, I was hoping for ghost-story-on-ghost-story.

I'll never really think of Duke the same way. It used to have a fabulous parapsychology department, and now it's just "all business." This book was really an impersonal biography on Rhine and his sane and dry lab work with ESP. I could have told him all about ESP, I DO win a crazy amount of "Bones" and Yahtzee against my family. It's all emotion r...more
Will Byrnes
Horn looks into parapsychology with a journalistic bent. What is there to it, really? Her focus is the work done at Duke University from the 1930 to 1980, with a particular look at Dr. J. B. Rhine, who headed that program. So, are there ghosts, poltergeists, ESP, telepathy? There is certainly a lot of skepticism and a lot of fakery, but it would appear that there are enough unexplainable events to suggest that there really is a there there.

The subject matter is intriguing, and the history of sc...more
Ms. Horn included extraneous information and stories in this book, I presume in an effort to punch up the book's entertainment value, but the book lost something with those additions. If this was to be a book specifically about the Duke Parapsychology lab I think the inclusion of this information didn't add to the book.

My thoughts mid-read:
This book is turning out to be painful. Alternately boring and dark and disturbing. The last chapter I read had nothing to do with the Duke Parapsychology la...more
This jumped into my arms from the shelf at the Trails End Bookstore in Winthrop WA (small indie bookstore with a great selection, highly recommended.) It's a quick read and a fun one. The Duke Parapsychology Laboratory got going in the 1930s and persisted despite continuous opposition from the established scientific community until the 1980s, when its founder, J.B. Rhine died and the lab transmorgrified into what is now called The Rhine Center: An Institute for Consciousness Research and Educati...more
I wish I had an ability to understand science and all of its mysteries. Unfortunately, as much as I try, and I try often, i just...don't.

Also, I really thought the book would be more about the supernatural and less about Dr. Rhine and all of his titillating correspondences.

Considering I did get more than halfway through, I felt it was fair to rate it. If you dont like it, well...who cares? What are you, my teacher?!!
This book tells the true story of Doctor J. B. Rhine and his attempts to prove that paranormal phenomenon such as ESP were not only real, but scientifically provable. Rhine used cold hard science at the Duke Parapsychology lab in an attempt to gain recognition and acceptance of his work. In order to do this, he kept his experiments very dry and simple. Unfortunately, when put in book form, this gets a little old. Reading about the newest group of test subjects looking at the same set of cards fo...more
With a book title like that, I figured I was in for some pretty fascinating stuff! Unfortunately, the author seemed to take a cue from the central figure in her book, J.B. Rhine, a very smart fellow who studied the paranormal at Duke, but kept it all pretty dry. Even the most vivid descriptions of hauntings were somehow rendered boring. And the descriptions of the studies that J.B. Rhine conducted were really, really boring.

Unbelievable was a bit of a literary muddle to me. Was it a scholarly a...more
I wanted to love this book about The Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, but it's mostly about the esp cards. It talks about all the intersting cases (the original exorcist case) that weren't investigated. Skip it.
Sean Farrell
Ghosts and the paranormal have always fascinated me. I keep hoping to discover that such things are real even though I can't help but doubt that they are. It is fascinating then that a major university like Duke at one time had a department focused solely on investigating the validity of these beliefs. The program and its founders have an interesting history, and it makes for a really fascinating read. I won't go into any details about what they do or don't discover, but it will certainly leave...more
This was a well-researched book about the Duke Parapsychology Lab and the major players in parapsychology research at the time. Since I love good ghost stories--but don't believe in ghosts, I was intrigued by the topic of this book and wondered if it would help me believe in ghosts and such. That didn't happen, but it wasn't Stacy Horn's purpose in writing this book. I was surprised by the number of well-known people who consulted J.B. Rhine and the Duke Parapsycholoy Lab staff. I think I enjoye...more
Bernie Gourley
For 50 years a laboratory operated at Duke University that studied extra-sensory perception (ESP), ghosts, and other paranormal activity. Today one would be hard pressed to explain how an academic laboratory could survive being devoted to paranormal activity, especially at such a prestigious university. Horn's book takes one through the life of this lab. It describes phenomena debunked as either fraud or poor methodology, but it also discusses events and outcomes that have remained unexplained....more
This book uses the career of Dr. J.B. Rhine and his Parapsychology Lab at Duke University to provide an interesting insight into the history of attempts at scientific investigation of things like mind-reading and mind control, as well as poltergeists and other paranormal activity. The subject matter itself is interesting, and the book was entertaining enough to read. Horn’s writing is generally quite engaging, but she had a particular habit of continuously switching between calling someone by la...more
Vincent O'Neil
As a pre-teen, I had heard about the Rhine Institute housed at Duke University, and its study of the paranormal. I wanted to sneak off and hone my ESP and telekenesis skills! Years later, I would dangle a telephone receiver and move it in an ever-increasing arc. Skeptics would say my fingers were moving, but I didn't think so.

Eileen Garrett was a keen supporter of Rhine, and by coincidence also came to know my family. She offered to pay my expenses at Duke, but I was to attend for a totally dif...more
John Wiswell
I started Unbelievable on a miserably busy week, when I was sure I wouldn't have time to read much. That I finished it so quickly is a testament to how well Stacy Horn wrote and researched her book.

The bibliography is my favorite part. It goes on for dozens of pages, a properly and academically supported narrative of all these cases investigated by or in some way related to the Duke University paranormal investigation program. The cases are weird, especially the dancing tables, begging skepticis...more
This was a great follow-up to the "Thoughts through Space" book (Sir Hubert Wilkins and Harold Sherman), which simply "is what it is" -- an account told through the lens of the cultural/historical timeframe (1940's) of one experiment on ESP/telepathy conducted independently by an author/journalist and arctic explorer....
This book is the story of the Parapsychology Lab at Duke University that flourished from the '30's to the '80's under the leadership of Dr.J.B.Rhine and associates. Horn's journa...more
Unbelievable is the book that everyone who read Alexandra Sokoloff's terrible The Unseen was actually hoping for, an insider's guide to the goings-on of the Rhine Lab, Duke's famed parapsychology program. Horn lovingly traces the work of founder J.B. Rhine from the lab's inception until after his death, focusing on his determination to take parapsychology out of the realm of science fiction and into plausible, demonstrable scientific reality.

Whether or not you happen to believe Unbelievable is b...more
Owen Spencer
This book chronicles the history of the scientific study of the paranormal (ESP and other psychic phenomena)and poltergeist events in the United States. The main focus is empirical investigations of parapsychologists at Duke University between 1930 and 1980. This is a fun and insightful read that should appeal to anyone interested in US history/culture, the paranormal, or the occult. The most interesting scientific data related to parapsychology is that electromagnetic radiation fluctuations are...more
I stumbled across this book a few weeks ago and knew I *had* to read this. I've been a longtime believer that the paranormal exists...ghosts, ESP, telepathy, you name it. This book is essentially a history book about the scientists who first decided to study the paranormal, operating out of a laboratory at Duke University. The author explains how the early scientists first got involved, some of the experiments that they undertook, and tells a few ghost stories or at least stories that can't yet...more
Call me crazy, but when a book includes 'from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory' in its subtitle, then I expect to read about the durn Duke Parapsychology Laboratory.

Instead, this seemed more focused on Rhine and a bunch of tangents that only-sort-of related to the Lab.

Chapter Five has possession/exorcism.
Chapter Six starts out with Louie sorting through letters sent to the Lab for research purposes, but is more about people hearing voices of the dead/auditory hallucinations.
And Chapter Eight,...more
Megan Taylor
While I am a skeptic, this did make for an interesting read. The biggest drawback was that Horn was clearly biased in favor of Rhine's research. She practically just accused those who rejected his research and theories as being bullies. And as other reviewers have pointed out, the title was rather misleading. Horn focused more on Rhine himself than even presenting his research or research methods.

Ugh. This is a terribly-written collection of credulous craposity. Ostensibly a history of the Duke Paraspychology Lab, it uses the lab only as a springboard to promote bullshit like poltergeists, ghosts, and psychics. The work of the lab itself was interesting but accounts for only about a quarter of the book, the rest being a handful of sloppily strung-together anecdotes of well-trod territory such as the Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. It is also full of typographical errors, but that's p...more
B.R. Gonzales
In this book Horn documents the efforts of Joseph B. Rhine in establishing a parapsychology lab at Duke University beginning in the late 1920s. Horn focuses largely on Rhine's struggles in making parapsychology a respected and legitimate science in the eyes of more skeptical academic colleagues. However, Horn seems to run out of compelling material since she completely abandons the Rhine/Duke thread late in the book to write about ghosts; it's interesting stuff, but it doesn't make for a very co...more
I would’ve liked this book a lot better if it delved into the work that JB Rhine was doing inside the lab at Duke University. Essentially, I felt as though this read as an almost biography of Rhine and the evolution of the lab, but not much was said about their tests other than they used Zener cards and read letters. When the author described actual outside cases involving the paranormal world during the pre and post WWII era I was interested and the reading went really quickly, but during the p...more
A fascinating history of Duke's lab, renowned for the Rhines' work in psi studies. You really get insight into the cast of characters at Duke from the 30s to the 70s. Parapsychology pioneers J B and Louisa Rhine rubbed elbows with many of the great minds of the 20th century, including Jung, Einstein, Huxley, Skinner and Upton Sinclair. Horn does a wonderful job of setting the events of the lab within the greater context of American life. Even those who know a lot about parapsychology will learn...more
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A majority of people believe in the paranormal and in life after death, in some form or another. From 1930 into the 80’s, scientists at the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory attempted to test these phenomena with rigorous scientific investigations. Under the leadership of Dr. J. B. Rhine the scientists did find that the human mind can have telepathic powers. This put them at odds with most other scientists and with the community of believers as well. Read here about the experiments and...more
This book follows a group of scientists as they attempt to apply rigorous scientific methods and experiments to paranormal events and abilities. The data for telepathy is quite convincing, and for poltergeists is better than I would have expected. The data for ghosts remain anecdotal. Not as engaging a book as I had hoped. it largely follows one group of researchers that worked at Duke. To be perfectly frank they didn't really seem to know how to go about gathering data (with the exception of te...more
I really wanted to like this one, but. . . .
Barrett  Dylan Brown
Hm. A great Reference book for information about the academic institutions Ivory Towers longstanding illogical disbelief in Parapsycholog. Scientific Proof of weak ESP and TK proved, though, Totally proved in Dr Rhine's studies, as well as other double-blind experiments in Russia...

How come I never heard about this stuff in school? Ever? I've been studying the "paranormal" all my life and I STILL come across books like this with _obvious_ info I should have learned years ago, but just isn't wide...more
J. Ewbank
This book by Horn was an interesting one for me. As a major in psychology in college was familiar with J.B. Rhine and his studies at Duke University. Of course I was not as familiar with them as this book brings out. I did enjoy reading the book and getting up to date with the information that the work at Duke.

J. Robert Ewbank author "Wesley's Wars" and "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms"

It was good, but a bit misleading. I thought it would be about the study of the paranormal, but the bulk of the book is mostly a history of the parapsychology lab itself. I also didn't care for the subtle (and not-so-subtle) digs on skeptics. It could have been better by being unbiased. Overall a well written book, but don't expect too many actual investigations or spooky stories.
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I've just finished up my fifth non-fiction book. It's called "Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others" (Algonquin Books, 2013). It's about the history and science of singing, and finding happiness in a song.

More about Stacy Horn...
The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad Imperfect Harmony: Singing Through Life's Sharps and Flats Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Memoir Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town

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