Ladies of paranormal past: Louisa E Rhine

5th March 2020. Reading Time: 4 minutes General, Ladies of paranormal past. 2312 page views. 0 comments.

While many attribute the name Rhine to J.B Rhine the famous psychical researcher who invented Zener Cards for testing of ESP, there was another Rhine making waves in the world of parapsychology. Louisa E Rhine was a pivotal member of J.B Rhine's research while also being known for her papers and books on spontaneous cases.

When people think of parapsychology, often the name JB Rhine comes to mind.  The Rhine Research Center is a World-renowned not-for-profit organization that prides itself on taking a scientific approach to paranormal phenomena.  

Research on the Frontier of Consciousness Science
The Rhine Research Center explores the frontiers of consciousness and exceptional human experiences in the context of unusual and unexplained phenomena.  The Rhine’s mission is to advance the science of parapsychology, to provide education and resources for the public, and to foster a community for individuals with personal and professional interest in PSI.

Parapsychology research at an academic level began in 1930 at Duke University in Durham North Carolina.  This evolved in 1935 when parapsychology labs were established for the specialized field of research.  It was J B Rhine at the head of this research leading the department and creating the Journal of Parapsychology which was a peer-reviewed academic publication to discuss the findings from testing within the field of parapsychology.  Eventually, Rhine had bigger dreams and left in 1965 where he formed the Foundation for the Research into the Nature of Man which would be renamed the Rhine Research Center in 1995.  He did not do this on his own, however.  A lot of people credit Rhine's work within parapsychology, however, there is another Rhine whose work was also pivotal to the exploration of ESP and spontaneous phenomena as well as the creation of the foundation - J B Rhine's wife Louisa.  In fact, she went on to make her own name within the field of psychical research.

Born in 1891, Louisa Weckesser who was an American doctor of Botany, married a fellow graduate student in 1920 - Mr. Joseph Banks Rhine.  In 1927, they moved to Durham in North Carolina raising a family of 4 and going on to create a parapsychological dynasty.  Louisa herself would become 'The First Lady of Parapsychology'.

Dr J B & Louisa Rhine - Image Source

While her husband was famous for his parapsychology experiments, Louisa was busy documenting the results in her journals.  After having 4 Children, in 1937 with her husband's support behind her, she published her first parapsychology paper on the results of ESP trials she was conducting with children.  She went on to writing more papers detailing the results of many of her husband's experiments which worked with him closely, including his dice throwing psychokineses.  (see my article on psychokineses if you want to learn more about these trials.)

Once her children were out of school and off to study further at University, she began her extensive work of studying spontaneous cases in 1948.  It was this work that would set her apart and allow her to shine.  The Duke University lab of parapsychology she had been working out of with her husband over time received thousands of letters detailing experiences where the writer felt they were experiencing something supernatural.  Her husband encouraged her to research these further with around 15,000 of these being usable for further research.  Rhine did not take the 'modern' approach that most investigators would today.  She did not go out with gadgets or a medium to see if the claims could be validated.  Her interest was with the claims on their own.  She didn't question if it is was something else, she took the information as it was presented and looked to link a potential connection to psi ability.  Her thinking was that when people were correctly guessing or predicting results in dice testing or Zener cards, they were deliberately trying to use some sort of ESP, whereas in the reported spontaneous cases they were not.  

It is the kind of occurrence in which knowledge seems to come without the use of the. senses. People generally keep in touch with the world around them by sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. But occasionally a person says he became aware of something when none of these channels operated, and then the argument begins. How did he know or did he actually know? Such debatable occurrences could be instances of extra sensory perception, or ESP. 

Hidden channels of the mind (1961)

Louisa E Rhine

Louisa E Rhine Image Source: Golem Libri

She went on to write 6 books and 18 scholarly journal pieces on the different cases she researched.  In 1980, she became the president of the Society of Psychical Research, which would also be the same year that her paranormal partner in crime and life would pass away.  If there was ever any doubt to her status as the first lady of parapsychology, after her husband's death, she became the new director of Research into the Nature of Man and editor of its illustrious Journal of Parapsychology which she had previously been working on as a consultant.  She passed away on March 17th, 1983 from a heart attack.  Months later, her final book 'Something Hidden' which talked about J B Rhine and their life together was published as a final tribute to their life and work together.  She had spent the last 3 years of her life working on the book and it was published after her death.

If you would like to have more of an insight into her research, here is a link to a public archive of her book Hidden Channels of the mind published in 1961

When you read through this book, you will understand why I have chosen her as a significant figure to follow and one that I certainly look up to.  Her research has had a big influence on my own views and research on the paranormal.  

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