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Rhine/PRF Reunion held at the Rhine Research Center - May 2007

There has always been a long historical connection between the Psychical Research Foundation (PRF) and the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. The PRF owes its origins in part to Dr. J. B. Rhine, who helped establish the survival research fund that would later become the basis for the PRF, and he gave the PRF its first home within academia at Duke University. On May 26, 2007, a special reunion was held at the Rhine Research Center for the current and previous staff members of both organizations to recognize their long joint history. For the sake of posterity, we are pleased to make available here the texts of two speeches given at the reunion by PRF president Jerry Conser, and the PRF’s long-time research director, the late Dr. William Roll. A brief video clip from the Rhine/PRF reunion is also available on our Media page.

PRF President Jerry Conser giving the opening remarks at the Rhine/PRF Reunion, May 2007

Opening Remarks at the Rhine/PRF Reunion, May 2007

by Jerry Conser

I was asked by Dr. Sally Rhine Feather (J. B. Rhine's daughter) to make some opening remarks at the Rhine/PRF Reunion held May 26th 2007 and to introduce Dr. William Roll at this event. For those not familiar with Dr. J. B. Rhine, he is considered the grandfather of psychic research in the United States. As director of the famous Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, Dr. Rhine established rigorous guidelines for testing extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK).  He believed that ESP and PK are not reserved for psychics, but that everyone has these abilities. Rhine’s colleague at the Psychology Department, Dr. Karl Zener, designed the five card symbols (cross, star, square, circle, and wavy lines) which are still being used to test ESP.

I was asked to join the PRF board in 1981 as a result of providing funding to the parapsychological research community at large. In 1986, I was asked to become its president and later chairman of the board. With support of the late Dr. Mike Arons, chair of the Psychology Laboratory at the State University of West Georgia, I orchestrated moving our facilities to this university in 1986. Dr. Roll, in addition to continuing as our director of research, was appointed Professor of Psychology and Psychical Research and taught parapsychology at West Georgia for several years. He has now retired from teaching, but continues his writing and research within the university.

Long-time PRF research director Dr. William Roll giving his address to the Rhine/PRF Reunion, May 2007

Address to the Rhine/PRF Reunion

by William G. Roll

My sincere thanks to Sally Feather and to the folks at the Rhine Research Center for bringing the PRF together for this party and my thanks to the many PRF workers for being here today.

Historical Overview:

A Psychical Research Fund was created by Dr. J.B. Rhine in 1960 with financial backing by Mr. Charles E. Ozanne to explore the issue of survival after death. The fund continued as the Psychical Research Foundation the following year. Dr. J. G. Pratt was appointed President, Prof. H. H. Price, my teacher at Oxford, was made Vice-President, and I became Project Director.

Mr. Ozanne was convinced about survival after death but recognized that the evidence was not strong. The PRF would hopefully fill in the gap. Dr. Rhine seemed doubtful that this would happen because the evidence from mediumship and similar efforts could be explained in terms of ESP without the aid of the departed but he was open-minded, and organized a conference on the topic that included Price, Pratt, Dr. Louisa Rhine, and me.

I had made my first poltergeist investigation in 1958, well before the PRF, again through Rhine’s initiative. The senior investigator was Dr. Pratt. Dr. Pratt and I came up with the term recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis, or RSPK, to replace poltergeist because we thought that the phenomena were due to PK by the 12-year-old son in the family.

Other cases followed as well as hauntings, but in haunts there was also no evidence that the minds of the departed were involved. The apparitions, the strange sense of presences, the odd smells, and the drops in temperature seemed to be due to anomalous magnetic fields and their effect on the brains of the occupants. It seemed that the sites were not haunted by the spirits of the dead but by energetic fields. These fields can be dangerous to the health of occupants, humans as well as their animal pets.

In 1964 Dr. Rhine retired from Duke and moved the laboratory, library and offices just outside the walls of the Duke East Campus, the erstwhile home of the Parapsychology Laboratory. At the same time I moved the PRF to my home in Durham. Then about 1969 the PRF returned to Duke now as a sponsored program at the Duke School of Electrical Engineering.

This event was due to the Dean of Electrical Engineering, Dr. Aleksander Vesic, and resulted from our close collaboration with members of the School, particularly with Dr. Bill Joines, which has continued to this day. We rented two small houses from Duke, one for our library and offices, the other for our laboratory. A little later we acquired a third house as a center for meditation and meditation research. The focus of our work was experiments, most notably with Sean Harribance and Keith Harary. Ingo Swann visited briefly out-of-body, achieving spectacular success in a test by Jerry Solfvin and Keith Harary.

We had a wonderful research team. Aside from Jerry, there was Bob Morris, Judy Klein, John Stump, and Joan Krieger. After the PRF, Bob became Koestler Professor at the University of Edinburgh. It takes special skill to work with psychics like Sean and Keith. If it were not for Judy and John, I don’t think the work with Sean would have succeeded.

Fritz Klein was essential to this work, as well. It was he who resuscitated a comatose EEG machine from Monte Ullman that he had used for his dream-telepathy work in New York. It was with the aid of this machine that we discovered that the alpha brain wave was essential for Sean’s ESP. Bill Joines played a central role in understanding RSPK energy and Steve Baumann discovered brain processes in Tina Resch that were related to her RSPK. Ann Poole and her daughter aided the work with Tina.

Linda Fleishman, my administrative assistant – or superior – made everything happen in an orderly fashion. Frank Auman, PRF Board member, supplemented the Ozanne fund together with others. Aum is the same as the Sanskrit word om and signifies the spiritual essence of the universe. Julia Hardy was editor of our journal THETA, and Tomiko Smith, a skilled psychic inspired us, and there were others. It’s a joy for me to see so many of you here.

Former PRF members referred to in Dr. Roll's address. From left: Julia Hardy, Linda Fleishman, and Joan Krieger

Then Dean Vesic, our guardian angel, died and Duke discovered that the PRF was sitting on a valuable resource -- parking spaces. Our three houses were bulldozed and the land paved over. But sometimes, when the moon is full, you may see three little houses rise from the macadam.

The PRF moved to an office in the Methodist Center in Chapel Hill. It was there that we investigated the RSPK of Tina Resch.

Aside from RSPK, I have been fascinated by psychometry, the ability of some psychics to inspect past lives of the living and the dead. The famed psychometrist Noreen Renier, who is here today, worked at the PRF in the early days. Noreen has now written a remarkable book, A Mind for Murder, about her work for the police and the FBI. I haven’t had much success myself in getting experimental evidence for this ability, but I’ve done the next best thing by writing reviews of the major work, including Noreen’s book.

What about survival after death? It seems clears that humans persist after death together with their houses, lands, etc. in what’s called space-time. But do these strands represent the consciousness that animate the bodies of the individuals before death? That’s more doubtful. It seems to me that that the evidence for apparitions of the departed, mediumistic communications and what’s known as rebirth memories can be better understood in terms of the persistence of our past in space-time.

There’s an American Indian saying, “By our tracks you shall know us.” We have left bloody tracks not only on our own soil but in places we have no business being. We must take care that our tracks are beneficial, because they will always be there.

Where should parapsychology go? I think we should go hand-in-hand with the other sciences, especially with biology and neurophysiology. I think our field can best be characterized as the study of the biology of Psi or a bio-Psi. That’s where the facts point, as far as I know, and I’m farsighted as you can see.

Sally has spoken to me about whether the University of West Georgia might be interested in setting up a Website to support parapsychology and the teaching of parapsychology. Such a website should support the work of Steve Baumann, Bill Joines, William Braud, and Dick Bierman who seek to align psi with the other branches of science.

Transcendental Postscript:

Last night, Steve Baumann, Bill Joines, Jane Katra, and I spent a happy evening as the guests of Jerry Conser, the current PRF president, and his wife Delly. I have difficulty remembering names, but I recall hers by simply adding Catessen after Delly, for Delly Catessen Conser. As you can see, her name is truly fitting. She is also highly intelligent; even before meeting Jerry; she had read one of my books.

The six of us spent a highly spiritual evening together. I had two gin martinis, and everyone else also had two stiff drinks, Jerry as always finishing with Coke, of course the wet kind.

Well folks, that's the news from the Psychical Research Foundation, where all the women are psychic, all the men are good-looking, and all the children and grandchildren are above average.

Our research director, circa 1978

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