Paranormal Book Club: Parapsychology

12th October 2022. Reading Time: 8 minutes General, Paranormal Book Club. 507 page views. 0 comments.

The theme for this paranormal book club is parapsychology.

The theme for this edition of paranormal book club is parapsychology.

What is parapsychology?

Parapsychology is a field of study that investigates what is considered to be psychic phenomenon. Mainstream science considers this to be a pseudoscience with claims from the scientific community that the research of the past has failed to prove anything. While to a lot of scientists it is a taboo area that gathers a lot of criticism, science has over the years become more and more open-minded toward this field. Psychology refers to the study of human behaviours and the mental process. Parapsychology is an extension of this and looks at the mental process and human behaviour which are inexplicable by what is considered to be orthodox science.

The term parapsychology was coined in 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir. He was a German philosopher, psychologist and theorist of aesthetics. He wrote a paper in the German periodical Sphinx where he used the German translation of the term (Parapsychologie). He went on to say: "If one ... characterizes by para- something going beyond or besides the ordinary, than one could perhaps call the phenomena that step outside the usual process of the inner life parapsychical, and the science dealing with them parapsychology. The word is not nice, yet in my opinion it has the advantage to denote a hitherto unknown fringe area between the average and the pathological states; however, more than the limited value of practical usefulness such neologisms do not demand."

In the 1930's J.B Rhine adopted the English translation of this term to replace the phrase: physical research. He was thought to have founded parapsychology as we know it today as a branch of psychology. He focused his research on experimenting with test subjects. It is thought of as almost like experimental psychology. Rhine himself is well known for establishing Parapsychology institutes. First was the Parapsychology lab at Duke University, founding the Journal of Parapsychology and the Parapsychology Institute and what is now known today as the Rhine Research Center. Rhine cards may also sound familiar to you which is related to the experimental studies Rhine carried out using Zener cards as a way of testing ESP.

Image Source: The Scientist Magazine

ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook by Loyd Auerbach

This is a 30th Anniversary reprinting of a book that has been lauded by Newsweek and cited by numerous people -- from students of parapsychology to ghost hunters to celebrity paranormal investigators -- as the book that got them first interested and started on their paranormal journeys and studies. ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists, first published in 1986, is reprinted with minor changes and minimal updates [Note that the authors subsequent books have much of the update material already]. Writing the book during the height of the (now-defunct) accredited Master's degree program at John F. Kennedy University in the San Francisco Bay Area, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach put together a true handbook for those interested in all forms of psychic phenomena and experiences, with a eye towards investigation of the paranormal (apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists). The material is presented in four sections with appendices. Section One is a "handbook" providing basic foundation knowledge of parapsychology and psychical research, psychic phenomena and experiences, and even the skeptical viewpoint. Section Two takes a look at Pop Culture -- from TV and film to science fiction and comic books -- and news and reality TV coverage of the topics. Section Three is a casebook of sorts, covering famous cases of hauntings (including an expose of the Amityville Horror case) as well as cases investigated by some of Auerbach's colleagues (and his own very first case). Section Four is the handbook for the would-be paranormal investigator / ghost hunter. It's a step by step manual that contradicts so much of what has been altered by television producers for reality TV. Coming from the 100+ years of field investigation of the paranormal by his predecessors, colleagues, and his own experience, this common sense guide will enable people to truly investigate, understand, and generally resolve ghostly issues. Honest and direct, even if you think you know how to investigate, this section alone will enlighten you in ways you may not have imagined. Finally, the Appendices provide resources for any and all interested in the topics covered by the book. There are tools for the investigator in Appendix A. Appendix B provides an updated (2016) list of organizations and resources, a "Who Ya Gonna Call?" directory, as well as the questions you should ask to make sure the ghost hunters or parapsychologists you contact actually are trained or educated and know what they're talking about (and know what they're doing). Additional suggestions for furthering your education in Parapsychology and the paranormal is included in this section. Appendix C provides a long list of suggested reading materials. There have been a few additional more recent titles added to this appendix (2016) as a starting point for the 21st century. Once you read this book, you'll have a real understanding of what the real scientific researchers and investigators have been doing since the 19th century start of the field, how the best investigations are conducted, what parapsychologists generally think of apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists, and so much more!


Originally published in 1986, this book has laid the foundations whether you know it or not for a lot of the way modern paranormal investigators do their work.  What I appreciate about Auerbach's work in general is that there is a balanced dose of rationalism or even scepticism while exploring that weird stuff really does happen and when it does, it can go far beyond the concept of a ghost being the spirit of a person who was once living.  I really do think this is a must have for anyone that wants to expand their paranormal research further.

J.B. Rhine: Letters 1923-1939: ESP and the Foundations of Parapsychology by by J.B. Rhine (Author), Barbara Ensrud (Editor), Sally Rhine Feather (Editor) 

During the 1930s a new approach to exploring human consciousness began at Duke University with Professor J. B. Rhine's experimental research on extra-sensory perception, or ESP. His findings on telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis challenged conventional disbelief. Rhine's findings and his first popular book, New Frontiers of the Mind, ignited excitement and controversy--among not only scientists but the public at large.
Rhine's letters chronicle his efforts to find reliable evidence of psychic ability, from the seance room to psychic animals and finally to a university research laboratory.
Covering the years 1923-1939, they reveal a gripping story of groundbreaking research, told in the words of the main player as he worked with his team, subjects, critics and supporters alike.


J B Rhine is one of the pioneering figures in parapsychology research.  In fact, it was he who adopted the English translation of the term and brought psychical research into the modern era.  It is really difficult to recommend just the one book by Rhine as he is such an influential figure in parapsychology.  What better way to delve into his mind by reading his correspondence and theories and thoughts from the man himself in his own words.

An Introduction to Parapsychology, 5th Ed by Harvey J. Irwin, Caroline A. Watt 

This is a thoroughly updated and revised edition of our highly acclaimed university textbook on the science of parapsychology. The objective of this book is to provide an introductory survey of parapsychologists' efforts to explore the authenticity and bases of anomalous, apparently paranormal phenomena. It outlines the origins of parapsychological research and critically reviews investigations of extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, poltergeist phenomena, near-death and out-of-body experiences, and the evaluation of parapsychology as a scientific enterprise.


This suggestion first of all comes with a warning. This is not for your casual reader.  It is exactly as described - a university textbook on the Science of parapsychology.  It can be difficult to digest if this is your first outing in this area, however it is full of valuable information for those who are looking to take their research to the next level and take things more seriously.

Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need To Know Volume 2: My brain is the key that sets me free by Sarah Chumacero

Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need To Know is back for Volume 2! In the first edition, we delved into the rational side of paranormal investigation looking at explanations for common paranormal phenomena. While a lot of things can be explained, we are still here looking for answers for the things not so easily explained. Now that we know how the human mind can trick us, we have to ask what is it really capable of when it comes to psychic phenomena? Volume 2 explores these possibilities. Is the human mind capable of telepathy? Is a near-death experience a peek into what is next? Can people really move items with their minds or predict the future? Where do psychic abilities come from and how are they tested? The paranormal field covers so much more than just communicating with what we believe are ghosts. This is not a how-to investigate guide, but it will challenge you to look at the paranormal from a different perspective by looking at psychical research and parapsychology and how they are relevant to modern-day paranormal investigating. It is time to open our minds to the many possibilities and ask the question, is it really us who are the ghosts?


Admittedly this is a shameless plug of my own book, but for what I feel is a good reason.  Following on from the above book, not everyone is super serious with their research or even able to read academic or university-level material.  A lot of what I try to do at least is to write in a way that is easy to understand yet educational.  That is what I aimed to do with the Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need to Know Series and it is honestly the book I always wanted to write, and a book I always wanted to read.  It will give you a really basic crash course in parapsychology and the possibilities of the human mind.

What are your recommendations for books about parapsychology?

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