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Louisa E. Rhine

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J.B. Rhine was the best-known parapsychologist of the 20th Century; he focused on lab experiments, not dreams, so he merits only this brief mention. But his wife Louisa studied ESP "in the wild"--dreams, visions, intuitions and their effects on real life, both philosophical (how do people cope with the raw experience of ESP, and how do they construe it later?) and practical (if we can foresee the future, can it be changed? If we can, what are the outcomes of acting on apparent ESP?)

She had a massive database to study: over decades the Rhine Institute had collected some 14,000 accounts of ESP experiences. Her 1961 book Hidden Channels of the Mind is a broad study of the types of ESP, and a serious attempt at a taxonomy of the paranormal. Here's a chart of her main categories. This is just my view, and it has holes: psychokinesis, for example. But it shows her core schema of the common types of ESP--half of them dreams.

3 main focuses of ESP, right
4 displays for this ESP data, below
Sensing remote or hidden things
Sensing the future
Sensing thoughts or feelings
Dreams depicting
waking events directly
Clairvoyant Dreams: Literal
Dreams literally depicting remote or hidden events, like Geode
Precognitive Dreams: Literal
Dreams literally depicting future events, like Bedbugs
Telepathic Dreams: Literal
Dreams revealing others' thoughts, like Jack in the Ditch, or shared/identical dreams, like Clarence
Dreams echoing waking events
symbolically or emotionally
Clairvoyant Dreams
Dreams echoing remote events indirectly or symbolically, like Billie
Precognitive Dreams
Dreams predicting the future indirectly, like Avenue of Trees (#3)
Telepathic Dreams
Dreams indirectly or symbolically revealing others' thoughts, like Bigamist
Waking visions, voices, or other sensations.
Clairvoyant Hallucinations
Sensory images of remote events, like Clairagony
Precognitive Hallucinations
Sensory images predicting the future, like His Visit Home
Telepathic Hallucinations
Sensing what others sense or communication with a remote person, like Pat's Warning
Knowledge without imagery:
a hunch, urge, or abrupt certainty
Clairvoyant Intuitions
Imageless knowledge of remote events, like He Remarried, Ice-Tray
Precognitive Intuitions
Imageless predictions, like Rosemary and Frances
Telepathic Intuitions
Imageless knowledge of thoughts, like Just Knowing

On Taxonomy

"Once the nature of this variation is recognized, the initial confused and baffling aspect of ESP experiences fades away and one can see that they come in quite natural and even familiar ways. For after all, everyone has dreams and intuitions, whether or not the burden of any of them is supplied by ESP. And everyone has at least heard of hallucinatory experience, whether or not he has known it personally, or realized that it, too, could be a vehicle of expression for information coming in by hidden channels. These are normal, ordinary and familar forms of mental life. Once this fact is accepted, another quickly emerges, name: ESP has no distinctive form of its own."
-------Louisa Rhine, Hidden Channels of the Mind, 1961, p. 68
In sum: since ESP has no dedicated sensory channel of its own, information we glean percolates into consciousness in diverse ways; but under this confusing surface lies relative simplicity.

Fate, Failure, and Free Will

"All these people failed to prevent the foreseen event from occurring. But in some of the situations preventive action was less possible than in others: the woman had less chance of averting the plane crash than the man of avoiding his own injury on the scaffolding; the cyclone could not be prevented; all the man in Georgia could do was take out insurance. Though some dangers can be avoided, one glimpses a limit of preventability in the background.

The old question of free will, however, never involved the will to affect such rock-ribbed elements of the universe as death or the weather, the climate, earthquakes, floods or the celestial bodies. Man has not aspired to change the stars in their courses. But he has wanted to feel that he was free to say yes or no about his own course of conduct. In these previously mentioned reactions to precognized events, we see him doing so--within limits."
------Hidden Channels of the Mind, p. 182

Louisa's daughter, Sally Feather Rhine, studied this question in detail in her 2005 book The Gift. She analyzed a sample of 400-odd premonitions and concluded it's unlikely the future is fixed (unchangeable despite warnings) or Samarran (brought about by attempts to change it); outcomes supported some form of the many-world hypothesis (premonitions can foresee the time-landscape ahead and allow us to change course, within limits). This confirms Louisa's view: on average, acting on hunches pays off.

Skeptics will always find fault with lab experiments like J.B. Rhine's (especially if the results threaten the skeptics' worldviews, or budgets). But ESP isn't restricted to labs--it's rooted in daily life. So why not experiment for yourself?


When I score Louisa Rhine's published ESP accounts for their focus, not sensory mode or content, nearly all fit in just two classes:

  1. TIPS: calls for action, ranging from trivial (finding lost glasses) to vital (saving lives), from selfish (winning bets) to altruistic (rescuing strangers).
  2. BONDS: keeping track of and affirming bonds with loved ones, even if no action is practical.
Only the how of ESP is mysterious! ESP warns, navigates, strengthens bonds, aids individual and group survival--precisely like every other sense we've evolved. I find this one of the most convincing arguments for ESP: most of the time, it's so damn mundane! Despite sniping from spiritualists and materialists alike, Rhine championed this pragmatic view of ESP an (almost) ordinary sense. Give her credit!


Below are several dozen sample accounts; mostly dreams (of course) but peppered with nondream visions, intuitions and odd cases. Still, they're just 0.6% of the Rhine archives; they can't show the full range! Nearly all are from Louisa's Hidden Channels of the Mind. In it, accounts are untitled and authors' names witheld; I've added short titles and bylines to aid searching and comparisons.

RELATED TOPICS: British ESP accounts collected by J.B. Priestley and Dame Edith Lyttelton - Rhine Checkers, on home experiments a la J.B. Rhine - ESP in dreams - dream telepathy - predictive dreams - hunches and intuitions - ESP in society - dreamwork and research in general -- See also the full INDEX OF SUBJECTS.

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ANNE GOT LOST: by Anne's friend; 1936, a warning dream wisely acted on
She was headed for a rock wall. The brakes faded; she smelled burning.
Then she woke. Her friends laughed, but she asked a neighbor what to do if...
ARE YOU READY?: by a Minnesota woman; pre-1961, two predictive dreamlets, one useful
The elevator man in funereal black said in a sepuchral voice "Are you ready?" I decided I'd wait...
AVENUE OF TREES: by Anonymous #34; July 1911?, early 1924?, 1934/3/30, & Jan. 1947;
four death-omen dreamlets, one predictive
Every decade or so, I dream a loved one says farewell and walks
down an avenue of trees. I wake to find that person's dying...
BAYONNE: by a precognitive Floridian; 1945/8/6, a predictive dream
"There is going to be an explosion of two or three million gallons of oil or gasoline..."
BAYSHORE AND CHARTER: by a Redwood City man; July 1951, a lifesaving predictive urge
I burst into tears for no reason and for 15 minutes begged my brother-in-law not to go, then said...
BEDBUGS: by Anonymous #29; pre-1961, a long-term predictive dream
I dreamt my mother visited, which she never does. The house was full of bedbugs! Three months later...
BETTY STOPS BY: by a Kentucky woman pre-1961, a farewell visitation dream?
I was moved that Betty came to see my two babies despite her illness, but shocked when her father told me...
BIGAMIST: by a Carolina waitress; 1945, a telepathic dream
A sad, frail, very pregnant woman with dark brown hair told me she was my boyfriend's wife. The next day...
BILL: by Anonymous #32; c. 1950, a predictive warning dream
My mother begged me to stay in. I went out with Bill--who raped me. Mom later told me she'd dreamed...
BILLIE: by Billie's Mom; 1945/1/20, a psychic warning dream
My son Billie, his Navy uniform soaking wet, cried "Oh, Mom--it's so terrible!"
and shrank into a baby again as I held him...
BOOK OF GOLD: by a four-year-old; pre-1961, an apparent telepathic flash
A woman urged her friend to give her daughter a musical education. Without hearing this, the child went hunting for...
BOY SCOUTS: by a Maryland woman; pre-1961, a predictive warning dream
I dreamed my toddler son followed two Boy Scouts down to the creek, and drowned. That morning, on my curb, two...
BREAD CHESS: by Helen's fiancé; 1930-33, a detailed psychic dream
Stalin's police held my fiancée incommunicado. But I dreamt of her prison, cellmate, and the odd game they played...
BUTLER'S CROSSING: by David's father; 1941/8/24, a (heeded or unheeded?) warning dream
He saw a vehicle coming toward him at great speed. The light was so bright it blinded him. He screamed...
CART WITH HUSBAND: by Mrs. T, pre-1961, a predictive nightmare
A cart came by, drawn by a white horse, on its way to the hospital. In that cart was my husband....
CHANDELIER: by a Washington mom, pre-1961, an absurd, lifesaving dream
I dreamt that at 4:35 AM the chandelier over our baby's bed fell, crushing the baby to death. I woke and...
CHESTERFIELD MOVER: by an Oregon woman, 1943, a "meaningless yet profound" predictive dream
I helped my aunt and uncle move upstairs from their rented downstairs flat. Absurd! They own a one-story house they love...
CLAIRAGONY: by a Philadelphia woman, Aug 1951, a sympathetic heart attack her mind misattributes
I had a heart attack--but it faded in minutes! The phone rang. I knew at once my dying mother was gone...
CLARENCE, GO THIS WAY: by a Michigan mom and son, pre-1961, a shared dream
I dreamed I sat high in a pine tree when my son stumbled through the woods, clearly lost. So I called...
Meanwhile my son, off at college, dreamed he was lost in a forest when he heard a voice above him call...
CLOCKS STOP, CLOCKS START: 1953/10/3 and pre-1961; two family reports of psychokinesis
Indiana: Father's favorite clock, a cuckoo clock, stopped at exactly the time he died...
Florida: an old clock silent for years started up at 10:20, the time of my husband's death the day before...
COMMUTE: by a Massachusetts woman, pre-1961, a recurrent telepathic prompt
I pick up my husband at the train station daily, but he never calls--I just know when he arrives...
CRANE CRASH: by Anonymous #33; pre-1961, a predictive dream with a crucial hole
The crane toppled and fell onto the riverbank. I saw the number, but not if the operator got free...
CRAZY EGG: by a Colorado convalescent; pre-1961, a small predictive dream dismissed as absurd or symbolic
My grandma came in from gathering eggs and showed me one was triple-sized and very long...
THE CREEK: by Louisa E. Rhine; c. 1925? a lifesaving predictive dream
I was camping by a creek. I went to get soap and returned to find my baby son face-down in the water...
CYCLONE REPAIR: by Anonymous #36; pre-1961, a forgotten warning dream
Months ago, I dreamed of that exact wall--I fell and was hurt. So today I told my foreman
I'd rather work on the ground. But by 11, I forgot. I climbed up to nail in some blocks...
DEAD, ALIVE, DEAD: by a Minnesota teacher; well before 1960, a predictive... something.
Mrs Brown was dead; I recalled helping at her bedside. My mother swore she was alive and I'd never met her! Then...
DICK, HOW WONDERFUL: by Dick and his mother; 1951-54, shared telepathic hallucinations
As a man on shore patrol in Manila is attacked, he and his mother simultaneously see and hear each other...
DIPHTHERIA SPECK: by an Outback man; pre-1961, a diagnostic dream with a tight deadline
I dreamed our physician said our son had diphtheria. When I woke, we found only a tiny
white spot in his throat. But by the time the doctor arrived...
DIPSOMANIA: by Dick in L.A.; pre-1961, a suicide-preventing ghost/voice
I couldn't find Mrs. B and feared she was suicidal. But I heard my late mother say "She's in that hotel..."
DON'T CRY, IT'S ONLY A DREAM: by a Massachusetts mom; pre-1961, a dream not predictive but telepathic!
As soon as I gave birth I had a nightmare my brother would be in a serious auto crash. When I warned my mom...
DON'T DO THAT, MARION: by Marion; 1947, a two-way telepathic intervention?
I planned suicide. Then my friend 1000 miles away said in my ear "Don't do that, Marion." Next day an airmail...
DUCK HUNT: by Craig, age 4; 1950/11/18, an ignored predictive nightmare
"I dreamed you were in the water, Daddy. You kept trying to come out of the water to me..."
THE DYE-HOUSE RECORDS: by a Christian secretary, pre-1961, a prayer-induced intuition
Our archivist had had a stroke. When an engine failed, my boss said
"Find its records if it takes two weeks!" Five minutes later...
EDDY DROPPED: by Frances's sister; pre-1961, a laughed-at warning nightmare
My brother-in-law Eddy was out hunting with a boy whose shotgun had its safety off. Suddenly Eddy...
FRANKLIN'S NECK: by a dying Kansas grandmother; 1953/7/5, an unheeded warning nightmare
"Oh no" she moaned. "I don't want Frankie to go to that camp. He must not go there." She began to cry...
GEODE: by Anonymous #30; pre-1961, a clairvoyant dream
I dreamed of a valuable geode on a gravel bar in a nearby river, a place I'd never been. The next day I went...
GUARDIAN GHOST: by an Oklahoma girl; 1919, a dream (?) of ghostly advice
I dreamed my late stepdad warned me to stand by my mom--she'd be in trouble soon--gossip & blame...
HE REMARRIED: by an Iowa divorcee; 1907, an unlikely oracular flash
My mother's face took on a sudden expression of astonishment--possibly agony. She said "Your father
is remarrying." I laughed. 'Impossible. He'd have told me. I had a letter from him only a few days ago..."
HIS VISIT HOME: by Anonymous #26 as told to Louisa Rhine; 1924/5/15, a predictive hypnogogic dream
I saw my husband come to my bedside, smile, visit our little son in his crib.
Then he vanished. But at dawn, my husband, dressed exactly as in my...
HOWARD ANY TIME NOW: by Alice; pre-1961, a predictive dream of a ghost calling.
My dead father said "We're looking for Howard any time now. We'll be glad to see him..."
I SEE'D THEY DID: by a Wisconsin 4-year-old; pre-1961, a waking vision (clairvoyant? telepathic?)
He asked abruptly "Did Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Charles have a wreck with a train? I see'd they did..."
ICE-TRAY: by Anonymous #28; pre-1961, a waking intuition so unlikely it suggests ESP
I lost two rings. Searched hours; nothing. I hadn't touched the freezer all day, yet I peered into the icecubes...
INSURANCE: by a young widow; 1947, a dream of lucrative ghost advice
After my husband's death, I dreamed he pointed at a small black bag I hadn't opened. It held insurance policies...
JACK IN THE DITCH: by Jack's mom; 1944/6/6, 6/7 & 6/8, three apparently telepathic dreams
Jack was a parachutist on D-Day. His mom dreamt of the strafings, the ditch he hid in, the deaths of his comrades...
JAPANESE RAIL CRASH: by an Air Force wife; 1927, a clairvoyant or telepathic dream
The track gave way and many cars fell into the bay. People crawled out of the windows as waves broke on the wreckage...
JIM'S POWDER: by Helen; pre-1961, a telepathic warning dream
I dreamt I was begging Jim not to kill himself, but when I woke, I couldn't bring myself to call. I hardly knew him...
JUST KNOWING: by a St Louis woman; summer 1934 and 1941/11/20, two very pure ESP experiences
I suddenly knew I had to get off the bus and wait for the next. We passed the first bus, on fire...
I was at Thanksgiving dinner when I felt my mother dying two thousand miles away...
KELLY FIELD: by an air cadet, 1941; an almost-lifesaving dream.
I dreamed a plane took off northeast, and flipped by the main hangar, killing two men. I forgot the dream until...
LOIS THE FLIRT: by a Florida woman; pre-1961, a psychic dream of jealousy
My husband was standing against a wall with both arms around this woman's waist, and they were laughing...
LOST OPAL: by Anonymous #27; pre-1961, a clairvoyant or subliminal dream
The opal fell out of my ring somewhere around town. I was heartbroken at the loss. But that night my husband dreamed...
MOM ON THE WING: by a tail gunner; 1942-45, a lifesaving warning dream
I saw my mother standing on the tip of one wing of our plane. She was
dressed in white flowing robes and calling my name, warning me of danger...
NAPPING IN PATERSON: by a Paterson mom; pre-1961, a lifesaving intuitive flash
I was downtown when I knew I had to hurry home. I found it full of gas.
As my husband napped, our two-year-old had turned on all the stove jets...
NED'S KISS by Ned's mom and sister Ethel; pre-1961, cledonic dreams of a playful revenant
I wished I could kiss my son farewell. That week, Ethel called. "I dreamed Ned kissed you, not me!
I was hurt. He laughed like anything and kissed me too..."
NEWS AT ELEVEN: by a widow-in-process; 1948/10/27, a somatized empathic waking nightmare
My heart began beating like a sledge hammer. I couldn't imagine what was happening, and got frightened...
NINA'S RING: by Nina's clown, 1955/4/20, a lifesaving intuition
While rehearsing our circus act I mentally saw Nina's ladder breaking loose.
Next day, a supporting ring snapped. Being forewarned, I pulled hard...
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS by Anonymous #35; summer 1934, a psychic dream
The engine pinned a young man under it. A crowd gathered, but no one saw the girl on the far side of the tracks...
PARLOR GAME: by a bridge builder's wife; pre-1961, a party game interrupted by a real premonition
I had fun playing fortuneteller, until David. My hands turned icy. I asked "Where are you going?"
PAST PARTY, FUTURE HUSBAND: by a Georgia woman; before 1959, a psychic dream fusing past & future
I dream a stranger's observing a lawn party at a house I've never seen.
My beau recognizes the party from three years ago, but not the man. Two years later...
PAT'S WARNING: by Pat, Allen and Gerry; 1947, a ghostlike warning from a living person's unconscious
In occupied Germany, Pat flags down two friends just before a truck crash. Except...
Pat was in England at the time. She sensed they were in danger, but...
PETE: by Norman, a soldier on Guam; 1944, either a ghost or hallucination with a lifesaving warning.
Pete told me to skip the shortcut. Only after I'd turned the truck around did I realize Pete had died weeks ago...
PIANOS IN THE SKY: by an Illinois woman; before 1948, a happy recurrent dream come true
My heart's desire was a new piano, as hopeless as owning a yacht. The dream: a huge space in the air, full of wonderful...
POLYGAPO: by a Washington woman, fall 1951, a detailed unlikely predictive dream
I sat thinking "Now that boy will jump the fence"--and he did; "that boy will chase the dog"--and he did...
PREEMIE; 1951/10/30 by an Oklahoma woman; a predictive dream
We were looking at our three-pound premature baby girl. Though tiny she was bright-eyed, active, perfect...
ROSEMARY AND FRANCES: by Rosemary; 1936/6/5, a predictive mood & flash saves one of two sisters
Gloom clung to me & I skipped the dance. I begged Frances to ride in a safe car, but coming home...
RUTHIE'S CALL: by Ruthie; pre-1961, a lifesaving intuitive compulsion
It was way too late to call, but an irrational urge made me wake my friend up and pester her until...
SCORCH: by a California woman; 1944, a lifesaving olfactory hallucination (clairsniffance?)
I smelled scorching paint; my heater was about to burn the house. But I'd moved--my old house was six blocks away...
SEPTIC: by Steve (age 6), pre-1961, a recurring predictive nightmare
For three weeks he wakened screaming in fright; he said he "fell in a hole." Then, one snowy day...
A SHARP CLICK: by Herbert W., 1932/5/30, apparent spirit-rapping
My friend Mr D. studied psychic research but was skeptical of telekinesis. But 24 hours after his own death...
(by a California model, pre-1961, and by a Texas maid, 1945; two predictive dreams compared)
Predictive dreams rarely hint how far they've peered ahead; they just place you in their foreseen future...
STAY ON THE SIDEWALK: by a Utah boy, pre-1961, a flawed warning nightmare
He said "Oh, Mom, I had a terrible dream. A car ran me down."
I said we could not live by dreams or we live a life of horror...
A STIRRING FAILURE: by Robert's wife, pre-1961, a precise predictive nightmare
I dreamed a small plane crashed and burned, but also how the pilot
might be saved. I asked my husband to direct the firetruck...
TEN YEARS AFTER: by Anonymous #31; before 1951, a predictive dream.
I dreamed I drove through snow to my parents' home where my mother lay dead. Ten years later...
TIN FISH: by a ship engineer's wife; 1914-1918, a precise lifesaving dream
I dreamed my husband's ship headed for India, but a 'tin fish'
sank it with just one casualty--him. I rushed down to the dock...
TORNADO INSURANCE: by a car salesman's wife; pre-1961, a useful predictive dreamlet
I dreamed a tornado loosened our showroom sign; it swung down to smash the window. I told my husband, and...
TRANSFUSION by a New York woman; 1950s? 3 predictive dreams over a 5-year span
I dreamt of the Du Pont lab where I'd work, and my neighbor's future coffin,
and the hospital where my sister-in-law would get a transfusion...
TRANSPERSONAL PUPPIES by a dog breeder; pre-1961, a cledonic dream of a ghost
The stranger seemed to know me. He said "Tell her about the little dogs, it will comfort her." Two weeks later...
WALTER'S DIVE: by Walter's father; pre-1961, a predictive dream disastrously forgotten
I dreamt my son Walter drowned in the creek by a certain tree. I woke in tears, and resolved...
WE GO IN PEACE: by Florence; pre-1961, a telepathic dream-report of another's death experience
My father-in-law looked me in the eye and said, 'Florence, the Lord is my shepherd and we go in peace'...
A WHITE-FACED MARE, 29 YEARS LATER: by an Iowa grandma; 1918, a predictive dream
My grandmother dreamt a white-faced black mare trampled me in our orchard.
We had no such mare. But 29 years later, I boarded a man's two mares...
WOUND-BARGAIN: by a Marine from New York; 1918/9/12-14, a prediction and possible alteration of the future
I was sure I'd be wounded, but dreaded being crippled. So I tried on injuries! I settled on a flesh wound in my left shoulder...
YES, EMMA, ONE POUND ONIONS: by a Canadian girl; pre-1961, a distracting dream prediction
I was in a small room with a single bare lightbulb and an old man at a desk writing. The phone rang.
He answered--said, 'Yes, Emma, one pound onions, a dozen oranges." Two days later...

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