Dr. Louisa Rhine’s Letters Revisited: The Children
By Athena A. Drewes, PsyD
Published in The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 66, December 2002 (pp. 343-370).
Among Dr. Louisa E. Rhine’s collection of over 30,000 letters of spontaneous adult psi experiences were separate files containing 216 acceptable cases received between 1961 and 1977 from school-age children ages 10-18 years (mean age = 14 years). Of the 216 letters, 148 specifically recounted 157 spontaneous psi experiences; these cases are compared with Schouten’s (1982) analysis of 1,620 randomly selected adult-only psi experience letters from the “Rhine collection.” The school-age children’s experiences were analyzed according to Schouten’s categories, resulting in Precognitive Dreams (52.2%) and Intuitive Experiences (25.1%). Chi-square analyses yielded a significant different between the two samples for Precognitive Dreams, Intuitive Experiences, and Waking Sensory Experiences. Two thirds of the children’s letters were from females, with the highest connection for the percipient with acquaintances (friends, teachers, neighbors) and very low reporting of the experience with parents (the opposite is true and in marked contrast in Schouten’s adult data). Same-sex target person prevailed in precognitive dreams and intuitions for male and female percipients. Another striking feature was that 14.8% of reported precognitive dreams were about the children themselves, and 8.9% about their pets. The highest percentage of precognitive content was around trivial events (54.1%) compared with death (18.5%) or serious injury (19.3%), also in marked contrast to Schouten’s adult data. Several case examples help elaborate the various categories.
Dr. Louisa Rhine (1891-1983) along with her husband, J.B. Rhine, noted founder of the field of experimental parapsychology, helped bring credibility to the study of psychic phenomena. Having earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees in botany while at the University of Chicago, she and her husband moved to Durham at the invitation of John Thomas, a student of Dr. William McDougall, to study psychic phenomena at Duke University. Dr. Louisa E. Rhine (LER) was actively involved in the daily functioning of the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory and carried out experiments of her own. Her major contribution and recognition, however, is as the foremost researcher of spontaneous psychic experiences, leaving a legacy of over 30,000 letters sent to her by “everyday individuals” from across the world. The focus of her study of spontaneous cases was not to prove the existence of psi but to see whether these cases would throw any light on the psi process and provide ideas that might form the basis for research under controlled conditions (Rao, 1986b, p. 2). Her first book, “Hidden Channels of the Mind” (1961), incorporated summaries of her study of spontaneous cases. Her book “The Invisible Picture” (1981) allows the reader an even richer overview of her life’s work. Dr. Rhine’s final book, “Something Hidden” (1983), offers a poignant view of her life with J.B. Rhine.
Over her lifetime, Dr. Rhine not only published six books on parapsychology for the layperson but also wrote numerous scholarly journal articles, with 18 separate articles on her cases between 1951 and 1967. These became the landmark work for understanding spontaneous psychic experiences. She observed that such real-world psi experiences fell into intuitions, hallucinations, unrealistic dreams, and realistic dreams. Dr. Rhine’s accumulation of over 30,0000 cases, as well as the categorization and analyses of more than 15,000 usable spontaneous cases, remains the most extensive collection in existence (Rao, 1986b).
The letters received were written mainly by adults about their spontaneous psi experiences and were mailed to her at the Parapsychology Laboratory (now Rhine Research Center). Once research results were publicized, unsolicited letters poured in from individuals wanting to report personal experiences that puzzled and concerned them. “The letters came, it appeared, from the ‘high’ and the lowly, the rich and the poor, the obviously well educated and those who, often by their own account, had little schooling” (Rhine, 1961, p. 20). As LER wrote,
[M]any individuals seemed hesitant and even a bit apologetic to be writing about a personal matter and admitting that such an inexplicable thing should have happened to them… The most frequently expressed motive for writing, in literally thousands of letters, was “I hope this will help in your research.” (Rhine, 1961, p. 20)
Advice and information was sent out personally by LER to each of the writers.
By 1948, LER had accumulated an “entirely amorphous and unorganized collection” of letters (Rhine, 1961, p. 20). Over time, articles written by herself or by her husband in popular magazines of the time would include requests for the readers to share any experiences and stimulated many submissions, mainly from adults and some school-age children. By the 1970s the collection had grown substantially, to over 15,000 usable letters. The “Rhine collection” (Schouten, 1982), as it is often referred to, is considered “the largest collection of spontaneous paranormal experiences existing today” (Schouten, 1982, p. 116). In responding to each letter, Rhine devised over time a personal strategy for attempting to classify and categorize the variety of experiences reported. Some critics (Stevens, 1970; Stokes, 1997) contend that because these letters and experiences were not independently verified or validated, they cannot count as proof of ESP phenomena. Rhine, however, accepted these letters assuming they were written “in good faith and by apparently sane individuals” (Rhine, 1951, p. 166). The letters were seen as being useful in suggesting how researchers should proceed and were never meant to be used to establish the existence of psychic phenomena, deferring instead to the laboratory research being conducted by J.B. Rhine and others. However, she was clear in her view that spontaneous phenomena had a place in the scientific literature as well.
It is also true that raw experimental data need to be observed against the richer background of the natural situations in which they occur. Although in parapsychology, as in any science, nothing final can be proven by case studies without controlled experiments, still something can be gained by noting the way the established law or fact fits into the processes of the natural world (Rhine, 1961, p. 20).
She also felt that an even more important reason to study spontaneous experiences was that “the people who have experienced ESP need to understand what has gone on” (Rhine, 1961, p. 20).
LER separated those letters that “had experiences that could have involved ESP from those that could not” (Rhine, 1961, p. 20). She required that the experience written about explicitly stated what the experience was like, and just as clearly supplied the real event and surrounding circumstances. In response to critics who commented on the lack of validation of material, LER wrote:
[O]ne could proceed here on the assumption that if ESP occurs in nature, it does so more than once. If it is a human ability, even an uncommon one, then by observing carefully the times when with some likelihood it is operating, the true aspects should add up, and the mistakes of individual memory, observation, etc. should, in effect, cancel out. By this method of treatment, a validity based on numbers could be given the material (Rhine, 1961, p. 21).
She further added:
[M]any similarities show up among these experiences even though they come from people so widely different and unconnected. More than that, through the patterns of similarities one can glimpse in the background a rationale that could hardly be the result of only a series of mistakes of testimony, over-interpretation, imagination, coincidence and all that. Instead it could be the visible sign of a reality (Rhine, 161, p. 22).
LER categorized the letters, based on content, into four forms. The first two were intuitions and hallucinations, which occurred when the percipient was awake (Weiner & Haight, 1986). “Intuitions are imageless impressions that seem to ‘come out of the blue’. They provide relatively few details… Hallucinations mimic genuine sensory experiences” (Weiner & Haight, 1986, p. 17), with the percipient not aware the experience was a hallucination until sometime later. Rhine (1953) reported visual hallucination cases as the most common but later on found an abundance of auditory experiences. The next two categories were realistic and unrealistic dreams, which usually occurred while the percipient was asleep. Realistic dreams appeared like everyday life and were the most commonly reported, making up more than half of the collection. Realistic dreams appeared to be about the future rather than current events. An unrealistic dream was one that contained symbolism or an element that was fanciful (Weiner & Haight, 1986).
Various analyses were performed on blocks of usable letters by LER from 1951 through 1978, as well as by Schouten (1982). The collection was also written about by Stokes (1997), who summarized various studies and comparisons conducted by Schouten and others (Rao, 1986a, 1986b; Schouten, 1986; Weiner & Haight, 1986). Weiner and Haight (1986) summarized LER’s written analyses from 18 reports on the spontaneous experiences. They reported that LER’s work could be divided into four major categories, with some published articles falling into more than one category. The majority of articles, 15 of the 18, dealt with “characteristics of the experience, primarily from the percipient’s point of view… She addressed such questions as the way psi information was expressed, how complete and accurate it was, and whether the percipient believed at the time of the experience that the information was true” (Weiner & Haight, 1986, p. 16). The second category dealt with precognitive, the third category with whether the agent or percipient was the “cause” of the ESP experience, and the fourth category with psi hallucinations or spontaneous PK events with regard to “post-mortem survival” (p. 16).
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The Children’s Letters
Hidden among the extensive Rhine collection was a whole separate section marked as “children’s letters,” which consisted of 216 letters received from children, ages 10 to 18 years, written between 1961 and 1977. They were received from across the United States, from New York to California, including Hawaii and Alaska, a few from Canada, and even one from Australia. All of the letters appear to have been written in good faith, by children or teens, in their own handwriting or typewritten words, and who appeared “sane” and sincere in their intent.
Many letters were submitted in response to articles written in 1961 and 1964 by Drs. Louisa and J.B. Rhine for “Good Housekeeping” and “Reader’s Digest Condensed” magazines. Several letter writers made reference to articles titled “The Sixth Sense Called ESP” and the “The Mysterious World Beyond the Five Senses.” Drs. Louisa and J.B. Rhine encouraged readers (regardless of age) to submit personal accounts of ESP experiences to the magazine and the then Parapsychology Laboratory. Additional articles on parapsychological research and results appearing in school news sheets and leaflets, as well as the popular TV show “The Sixth Sense” in 1972, prompted many more children and teens to write to LER. Many were interested in obtaining general information, others were looking for science project ideas, and many others felt the need to share their experiences, which they thought might be psychic in nature. Most had hoped to receive some validation and support for their, at times, frightening experiences, whereas others hoped their letters might help further the Rhine’s research on ESP. In reading LER’s correspondence, one is struck by the painstaking and sensitive effort she put into each reply to every letter. At times she offered the writer “motherly” advice to help soothe worry and fears, but the majority of times she offered a way for the children to understand their experience, normalize it, and help them not feel alone. A handful of children even maintained an ongoing correspondence with her lasting over 2 years.
“When occasionally the report of a case came from a younger person, I treated it just the same as the others. I replied to it and filed it with the rest, but I gave no special thought to such experiences as a group” (Rhine, 1974). However, when two of LER’s grandchildren asked her to talk to their eighth-grade class about children’s ESP experiences, she decided to hunt out the letters from grade school and high school students and “see what kind of experiences they did report” (Rhine, 1974). In reviewing the growing file of letters received, she “was quite impressed by them, not only because of the simple directness of expression but also because these kids had raised practically all of the important questions of parapsychology” (Rhine, 1974). But, she did not feel that her replies to these letters were sufficient nor the suggested reading list particularly geared to younger readers. These concerns culminated when her then 11-year-old grandson confronted her with, “Grandma why did you use all those big words in that book (Hidden Channels of the Mind, 1961), so I can’t understand it?” She stated that it had not occurred to her “that any eleven year old would want to read it. At that time I expected few readers below the college level of this or any book on parapsychology” (Rhine, 1974). Consequently, she wrote Psi: What Is It? (1975) using a selection of the school-age letters throughout the book, with the ultimate goal of creating a book that an 11-year-old could read and understand.
However, since the publication of Psi: What Is It?, the rich file of letters from children and teenagers remained dormant. They had not been analyzed for any patterns or trends, unlike the adult letters. I am, therefore, indebted to Dr. Sally Feather and Dr. John Palmer at the Rhine Research Center for their support and willingness in making the entire Rhine collection available to me, which fortuitously allowed for the rediscovery of the children’s letters. It was my intention in analyzing the children’s spontaneous experiences to see if similar patterns occurred as had been reported by Schouten and LER with the adult spontaneous cases. Little focus has generally been given to children’s spontaneously reported precognitive, telepathic, and clairvoyant experiences, and they are an underutilized population for study. These letters allow for a rich insight into their personal psychic experiences and, it is hoped, will help further the work of Dr. Louisa E. Rhine.
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Types Of Letters Submitted
Age Ranges and Topics
A total of 216 acceptable letters were received from 1961 to 1977, with the majority received in the 1960s. The writers’ ages ranged from 10 to 18 years, with the mean age at 14 years. Female writers accounted for 65% of the letters, with male writers accounting for 35%. As mentioned previously, letters were received from across the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and one from Australia. Out of the 216 letters, 68, or 31% of the total, dealt specifically with general questions about ESP, ghosts, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), poltergeists, use of Ouija boards, parapsychology research, as well as career information questions about becoming a parapsychologist and wanting book lists and research experiments for high school science projects. The remaining 148 letters contained enough information of 157 recounted experiences that could be categorized and analyzed. Females accounted for 57% of the general information letters, with 61% of those females in the 14-16-year-old range. Males accounted for 43% of the letters, with 48% of the males in the 14-16-year-old range.
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General Information Letters
Types of questions asked (e.g., general information vs. research/career specific) were evenly distributed across ages and gender. The following are typical examples. Randy, 10, from New Jersey wrote:
I am very interesting in the field of Parapsychology. I know a bit about it but not to [sic] much, so I was wondering if you would be so kind enough to send me some information on supernatural phenomenon. I am in the sixth grade and am ten years old. I have been interested in Parapsychology only for a little while, but I know more about it than most kids my age.
Howard, from Georgia, wrote:
I am an eighth-grade junior high student and I am doing a science project on Extra-Sensory Perception. My Science teacher showed me the article in Science Digest of November 1965, and suggested I write to get more information. I would appreciate any information regarding the history of ESP, past studies, simple ESP tests, the different forms of ESP, and the pros and cons on whether it is fact or fiction, in either pamphlet or paperbound book form.
Greg, age 12, from Pennsylvania, wrote:
I recently read your article in the Reader’s Digest on ESP. I decided to write to you. Every now and then, during the day or night, I suddenly see a “picture” in my mind. Then a few days later, no more than a week, that same “picture” happens to me in real life. The event I see has never been of very much importance. I sometimes see a picture of what I am going to see on a television program within a week. Before, I never knew what it was. After I ready your article, I decided I probably have ESP.
Nancy, from New York, wrote:
I read your story in McCall’s magazine, “The Sixth Sense Called ESP.” My mother and I both believe about the sixth sense. I am only eleven years, but I have a problem. It is not quite the same as you wrote about, but I dream I do something or said something and then do it and not in a dream but really. Sometimes I say something and think I said it before.
Or some of the children wrote career questions, such as Bill, 12 years old, from Indiana:
I have always been interested in strange happenings. Then I read your article in the June Reader’s Digest about Parapsychology, I didn’t know such a course was offered in our colleges, but since it is would there be a future in it as a career? I am 12 years old and thought if there were any courses I could take in the next 5 years to prepare myself, you might give me a few suggestions.
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Psychic Experience Letters
The 157 psychic experiences reported were categorized into Precognitive Dreams, Precognitive Intuitions and Impressions, Clairvoyance, and Telepathy. These categories appeared comparable with several categories used by Schouten (1982) and might allow for ease of comparison between these data and Schouten’s (1982). The Precognitive Dreams category is comparable with Rhine’s Realistic and Unrealistic Dreams, and the Precognitive Intuitions and Impressions category would be comparable with Rhine’s Intuitive Experiences. Stokes (1997) clarified Rhine’s classification system by defining “realistic dreams, which correspond closely in detail to the confirming event” (p.8), and unrealistic dreams which Rhine (1977) defined as containing “a bit of imagination, fantasy and even symbolism” (p.61).
Types of Frequency of Experiences
The data collected from the children’s letters are compared below with results of a study conducted by Schouten (1982) of the larger Rhine collection. Schouten nonsystematically took 15% of the cases from each folder containing only adult letters of experiences from a total of 10,772 letters that were made available to him and analyzed the results. The 15% of the 10,772 adults letters yielded a total of 1,620 cases, which he analyzed. Consequently, he hoped for an equal representation of all the types of cases classified by LER.
To compare the children’s letters with those selected and analyzed in Schouten’s data, I felt it made the most sense to compare the children’s letters using Schouten’s classification as well as tables in his 1982 article. In the present article, data collected from the children’s letters are listed under “Drewes,” with “Schouten” referring to the 1,620 Rhine collection cases that were analyzed and published. Schouten did not report the sample sizes for his subcategories, but these could be deduced by multiplying the total N by the subcategory percentages. The percentages for the two samples were found to differ significantly for Precognitive Dreams, x squared (1, N=1777) = 6.43, p < .02, Precognitive Intuitions and Impressions, x squared (1, N=1,777) = 6.45, p < .02, and Waking Sensory Images, x squred (1, N=1,777) = 10.35, p < .005.
As noted in Table 1, the percentages for the various types of experiences in Schouten’s (1982) analysis of a proportion of LER’s collection and the Drewes date of school-age children’s letter have some comparable categories. Precognitive Dreams, Waking Sensory (Telepathy), and Precognitive Images and Intuitions. No information is available in the Schouten analyses on whether his Indeterminate findings were analyzed or even perhaps should be included in the Miscellaneous category.
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Frequency Of Experience Types
Table 1 (coming soon)
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Precognitive Dreams and Intuitive Experiences
Of the 157 experiences reported by school-age children, the largest category reported was (Precognitive) Dreams, with 52.2% of the experiences, followed by (Precognitive) Intuitive Experiences, accounting for 25.1% of the experiences (which also included strong hunches and impressions that were “contemporaneous” in occurrence), with Telepathy experiences falling at 10.1%. No experiences from this small sample were reported that would have been included under “hallucinatory” experiences for precognitive events. However, the Telepathy category might fall under hallucinatory experiences if one loosely defines the “voices” heard telepathically. There were 22 experiences (14.0%) that fell under the Clairvoyant category. Five additional experiences (not included in the 157 total) fell under Miscellaneous. One was of a purported OBE experience, and 4 were reportedly of having seen ghost images of previously deceased, unknown individuals.
The school-age data show twice as many Dream experiences than Intuitive Experiences reported. The Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping articles, which prompted the majority of the child and adolescent letters, “featured experiences that seemed to involve ESP or PK as reported to the Laboratory” (Rhine, 1974). In a criticism of the LER collection and analyses, Stevenson (1970) noted that by virtue of having published articles in the popular press, and because of the association of a person with interest in certain types of experiences, the researcher consequently would receive inflated numbers of certain kinds of cases in the total collection. In addition, because the letters were submitted voluntarily, certain types of people may be more likely than others to send in such experiences and thereby bias the trends analyzed.
Although the proportionately high number of precognitive experiences reported in the school-age letters may have been due to the articles pulling for these types of experiences from the public, the proportion follows trends noted by Schouten (1982) and Stokes (1997). In comparison, in his sampling of the Rhine collection, Schouten (1982) found that 41.7% were Dreams, 33.6% were Intuitions, and 20.9% were Waking Experiences (corresponding to Rhine’s hallucinatory experiences), with 3.8% of the cases not being assigned to any of the three categories. Schouten’s data and the analysis of the school-age children’s experiences similarly show Precognitive Dreams to be the most frequently reported experiences, with Precognitive Intuitions the second most frequently reported experiences. Precognitive dreams were significantly more prevalent in the Drewes data, whereas Precognitive Intuitions and Waking Sensory Images were significantly more prevalent in the Schouten data. Stokes (1997), in reviewing cross-comparisons of four case collections (Rhine, 1962; Green, 1960; Sannwald, 1959; Prasad & Stevenson, 1968), found that, with the exception of Green (1960), all the other researchers had Dreams as the highest percentage of frequency of experience and Waking Sensory Images as the lowest frequency. Green’s results found the reverse. Stokes (1997) stated, “the overall picture one obtains form these surveys is that the predominant mode of ostensible psi expression in spontaneous cases is dreams, followed by hallucinations, with intuitive experiences coming in third” (p. 30). Stokes (1997) also reported how Rhine (1981), in analyzing “1,777 experiences involving dreams, found 75% to be precognitive, with only 60% of the 1,513 waking experiences to be precognitive” (p.30). Stokes (1997) further reported that “one finding that is fairly consistent among the case studies is that dreams tend more often to be precognitive (that is to involve the apparent paranormal perception of future events), whereas waking experiences seem more often to refer to contemporaneous events” (p.30).
In looking at relationship, importance of event, and type of psi, LER found that “ESP about one’s own life tended to deal with unimportant events, whereas ESP about friends and family members pertained to serious events” (Weiner & Haight, 1986, p. 20). In addition, “ESP about the death of family member or friend tended to be precognitive, whereas ESP about the accidents and illnesses of these persons tended to be contemporaneous” (Weiner & Haight, 1986, p. 20).
It appears from the school-age letters that the precognitive dream material was highly emotionally laden, which certainly allows for easy remembrance upon awakening, and often becomes readily embedded in long-term memory. Because of the unusual nature of the material and the emotions felt, it is very likely that the precognitive dreams were qualitatively different for the letter writer, and therefore more readily attended to. Often such dreams feel “unshakeable,” resulting in unsettling feelings because there is no certain time frame with which one could know when the events would occur, whereas there is often a feeling of immediacy in precognitive waking experiences and telepathic events, when events seem to occur closer in time to the experience. Unfortunately, the letters from school-age children did not report when the dream occurred versus the lag time to the actualization of the events. Without individual follow-up to letters to obtain missing data, such analyses cannot be conducted.
It would also be interesting for future analyses of children’s experiences to look at the complete versus incomplete messages that LER had analyzed, or even the number of details per experience that Schouten had looked at. Experientially, it appeared to me, that many of the school-age letters were rich with many specific details. It would be interesting to further examine if they have more complete messages and a higher number of details than the adults’ letters. A more thorough review of the letters would need to be done to determine if they have the necessary information for comparison.
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Additional Experiences When Younger
Of notable interest was that 17% of the school-age letters specifically included having had psychic experiences when even younger, besides the most recent event being reported. Several of the children reported recalling incidents, mostly precognitive in nature, that had occurred when they were as young as 5 years of age. Others reported remembering ESP experiences when they were 8 or 10 years of age, compared with being 12 or 16 at the time they wrote.
Consequently, as seen with this small sampling, children are able to have and remember psychic experiences from quite young ages. Most adult memories for events occurring during childhood tend to go back to around age 5. For events occurring under age 5, reports are often from others (parents, caregivers, relatives) who chronicle such events, such as past-life memories (Barker, 1979) or personal journals of family members growing up (Schwarz, 1961). It appears, therefore, from this limited account that psychic experiences appear to occur and can be remembered at quite young age.
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When one looks at the gender of percipients, 64% were from females and 36% were from males. An examination of the separate categories reveals that the gender gap narrows a bit in reports of Precognitive Dreams and Precognitive Intuitions, which were reported by 62% females and 38% males in both categories. However, when looking at Telepathy experiences, one finds a 3:1 ratio with 75% of the experiences reported by females and 25% by males. In Schouten’s LER collection study, a higher percentage of females (83.3%) sent in experiences as compared with the present school-age children analysis (64% females). This may in part be due to the much lower sampling available of school-age children’s letters, but it may possibly be due to younger males being more open to reporting psychic experiences than adult males. In fact, several letters written by younger males stated that others did not believe their experiences. Perhaps they were writing to seek validation, emotional comfort, and support of their experiences from an “expert.”
For example, Joe, 15, from Pennsylvania, wrote:
Jeff is a close friend of mine and I don’t want to see him hurt, but in view of the fact that he had laughed at my ability in the past I have never told him of this vision, in fact I haven’t told anyone because I’m afraid I’d be laughed at.
However, several females also wrote LER seeking a sympathetic ear about their experience, such as Kathi, 15, from Illinois, who wrote:
I had an experience with ESP and I have wanted to tell someone about it but I’m afraid they’d only laugh. Even though it is a fairly common sort of ESP, I feel it most important – to me.
Or Sarah from Pennsylvania:
I have dreams of the future that happen and finally, when I’m in school pictures flood my eyes and mind and block the rest of the world out. These pictures are usually about accident that do happen later on. I don’t know what to do and my teacher won’t believe me and thinks I’m daydreaming.
Nonetheless, Like Schouten’s data with adults, female school-age children appear to be more likely to send in reports of the purported psychic experiences than males in general. The influence of societal norms and gender stereotyping that females are more “intuitive” or “emotional” may likely influence the risks females take in sharing such experiences with others, as well as the likelihood of being believed and listened to when reporting such experiences.
Relationship Between Target Person and Percipient
Focus on Friends
There is striking difference in Table 2 between the Drewes and Schouten data regarding the relationship between the target person and the percipient. Schouten’s analyses indicate that the majority, 65.4% of target persons are in the percipient’s immediate family. The Rhine collection “includes relatively more cases between near relatives and fewer cases between friends and acquaintances” (Schouten, 1982, p. 125).
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Relationship Between Target Person and Percipient (Precognitive Dreams, Precognitive Intuitions, Telepathy)
Table 2 (coming soon)
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However, in the Drewes analysis, it is striking that a much lower percentage was found, with only 13.3% of the target persons being in the percipient’s immediate family. In fact, this category ranks fourth, compared with first in Schouten’s analyses. Notably, the highest connection for the percipient in the Drewes data is with acquaintances (25.99%) and with boyfriends and girlfriends (31.5%), for a total of 47.4%.
Schouten’s analyses ranked acquaintances as second (20.4%) to immediate family (65.4%). The low connection to parents may, in part, be due to teens (mean age = 14, and largest clustering between 14 and 16 years) being developmentally more appropriately connected to peers, spending the greatest amounts of time with them, while experiencing age-appropriate separation and individuation from parents. The effect of friends and impact of school grow from early adolescence, peaking in mid-adolescence and then slowly decline. It is at the entrance into the teen years that many adolescents are trying to detach themselves from their parents and become more independent. It is during this period when peers suddenly have a very significant role for adolescents. “At adolescence, peer relations expand to occupy a particularly central role in young people’s socializing and leisure activities” (Lingren, 2000). According to Hartup and Stevens (1999),
The amount of time spent with friends is greatest during middle childhood and adolescence. Teenagers spend almost a third of their waking time in the company of friends. Most adolescents move away from relying on family and parents and develop close ties with friends. While young children’s friendships are based largely on companionship, older children report higher levels of self disclosure or sharing personal thoughts and feelings in their relationships. (p. 78)
The Drewes analysis is in contrast to Schouten’s, which showed more connectedness between spouses and children form the adult percipient. A letter from Frank, 16, from New York, can perhaps best summarize this interesting trend in the Drewes data.
I am currently a junior… and am keenly interested in dreams. For the last eight months I’ve been keeping a “dream chart” in which I record the names of all the people I dream of. I find the results very interesting (i.e. – my family ranks far below my friends in the amount of dreams they have been in).
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Contrary to the adult population sampled by Schouten, the school-age population reported more precognitive dream and intuitive experiences about friends of the same sex. This is particularly noticeable with the female percipients with female targets 53% of the time as compared with 47% male targets, whereas male percipients had male targets 78% of the time as compared with 22% female targets. This same trend of female adolescents reporting a majority of female targets followed in Precognitive Intuitions, with female targets 52% of the time as compared with male targets 48%. Male adolescents also displayed a large percentage of male target persons, reporting 71% male targets as compared with 29% female targets. In contrast, however, Telepathic events show almost a reverse trend with percipient and target person gender. Female percipients reported 91% of the experiences occurring with females, mostly girlfriends, whereas male percipients reported 50% of the experiences as occurring with males and females.
One can speculate that as children and teens are more closely connected to friendships of the same sex, it would naturally follow that precognitive dreams and experiences would be about these friends. As is developmentally normal for this age, children and peers will seek out same-sex friends to form close friendships and to discuss major areas of concern. Although older teens may show more interest in forming dating relationships with the opposite sex, the intensity of the same-sex friendships usually prevails at this age, both in time spent together and in emotional bonds. Girls have more intimate relationships than boys and rate their relationships more highly. Friends are usually similar in terms of age, sex, race, and attitudes, aspirations and interests.
During the elementary school years children generally choose friends who are similar to themselves and who share their interests. At this age children become increasingly group oriented. They also reflect sex differences. Groups become more single-gender; girls usually have more intimate and supportive relationships with their friends than boys do. Boys tend to associate with peers in large groups centered on sports while girls are more likely to be involved in small groups and spend more time in personal conversation. Girls’ friendship groups are usually smaller and more exclusive than boys’ during childhood, and then in adolescence the situation reverses (Rose & Asher, 2000, p. 50).
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Self as Target Person
Another striking feature regarding target person is that 14.8% of reported precognitive dream experiences involved the percipient dreaming solely about themselves. For example, events of the person taking an exam and seeing the test questions or playing in a school sport team with no other individual considered the target person in the dream were frequently reported in this section. Because teens, especially, are very egocentric at this stage of development, as well as preoccupied about grades, looks, and how others view them, it would follow that a proportion of the precognitive dream content would focus on the individual dreamer.
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Pets as Targets
Another interesting inclusion is the category of pets as target “person” with 8.9% of reported precognitive experiences. Females reported the most precognitive dreams and precognitive intuition experiences involving pets. One could speculate that the reason for his is the very close attachment that children and teens have with pets, which have often been around since early childhood years or may be their first animal attachment. Pets are often the first losses children and teens experience, having to face the issue of death and its finality for the first time. Consequently, any possible harm to the pet or impending death would hold high emotional content and likely be attended to psychically.
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Types Of Events
As can be seen in Table 3, there are some interesting differences and similarities of event types. The largest category for school-age children falls under trivial events, 54.1% which includes such things as clothing, exam grades, receiving gifts, romantic involvement and breakups, songs about to be played, visiting locations on trips, and so on. This is in contrast to Schouten’s analyses in which only 10.8% of the adults in the Rhine collection sampled reported trivial events. In part this may be due to significant age differences that could account for differences in life experiences and exposure. Teens and children would certainly not have had all the myriad of experiences of adults, and their priority would focus, understandably, more on seemingly trivial matters for their age group. As noted previously, LER found that ”ESP about one’s own life tended to deal with unimportant events” (Weiner & Haight, 1986, p.20), although what may seem trivial to adults would still be of major concern, developmentally, for the school-age group. Clothing, pressures of fitting in with peers and family, grades, and upcoming college decisions would be higher in emotional importance for school-age children than adults. Consequently, one would expect that these issues would typically intrude into thoughts and dreams of many teens.
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Distribution Of Type Of Event
Table 3 (coming soon)
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The adolescent uses the peer group to evaluate the perspectives of others, while developing his or her own values and attitudes. Style of dress, hairstyles, musical interests, speech and language use, leisure activities, and values are among the characteristics that teenagers appear to learn, in part, by watching and comparing themselves to others in their group (Shucksmith, Hendry, Love, & Glendinning, 1993, p. 2).
For example, Patsy, 14, from Tennessee, wrote:
I dreamed one night this girl would wear a red and black checkered shirt, navy blue shoes, which she never wears, and a white blouse. So the next day she wore those very same things.
Or L.Q, 13, from Illinois, wrote:
The night before we left on our vacation at Grand Beach, Michigan, I dreamt of seeing a large maroon discount house and also a concrete bridge near an old railroad crossing. So the next day, I saw both of those exactly as the night before. And, I dreamt one night that our reading nun would call on a certain boy and he would give an odd answer. Same answer; etc. as the night before.
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Death and Serious Injury
The types of experiences and content for material damage and positive events of the school-age children are strikingly similar in frequency to Schouten’s analyses. However, regarding experiences of death (18.5%) and serious injury or illness (19.3%), the frequencies for school-age children are substantially lower than those reported by adults. Not surprisingly, issues around death (37.7%) and serious injury (27.5%) would be greater for the adult population. The variability in proportions of reported experiences regarding death, injury, and illness is also seen in the literature of other surveys of spontaneous psi phenomena. Palmer (1979) found only 20% of his mail survey results reporting waking experiences involving accidents or deaths. Virtanen (1990) found, in her case collection obtained through an appeal in the popular media, that 62% of the experiences involved a death and 20% involved an accident or illness.
Interestingly, in several letters, teens expressed their distress about having dreams of a Death occurring and then having it occur in reality at a later time. For example, Jane, 15, in Florida, wrote:
There is one question I would like to ask you though. In the experiences you mentioned, I noticed that they all forebode evil. I would like to know if it is always evil. Has there ever been an experience where there is a “good warning?”
Belinda, 13, wrote:
I had a dream that my mom was lifting a water dish to my dog who was sitting on the couch. (She was going to have puppies.) Well, I can’t remember how my dream ended, but my dog went into labor (a few weeks later) and my dog was on the couch and then I saw my mother give my dog her dish of water just like in my dream. I told my mom that I didn’t remember how the dream ended. Well, later that day my dog died. I think I didn’t want to remember the end of my dream because I knew the end was going to be tragic.
Tucked in among the writings in the file of school-age letters was a letter from Jane, an adult, who poignantly commented on her own struggle with what felt like a burden in knowing about death or harm happening to loved ones.
Your work in this field will someday give us all a new dimension. But for myself, I have tried to close the door. I see nothing but heartache and fear in opening my mind to it. I cannot close out the “flashes” of intuition or perception, but with three growing children, I refuse to allow myself to make them and my husband victim of “hunches.”
There may well be protective psychological components to receiving precognitive information of impending tragedy that help mediate in having to deal with disturbing and unchangeable upcoming events. Through the protection of an “early warning system,” individuals may be able to brace for the loss and sadness they are about to deal with. Although such news would be frightening and unwelcome regardless of how or when received, having some ability to begin thinking about and processing it would help in the needed psychological adjustment and may help speed recovery. It would be interesting to see research on whether individuals with a higher need for control over their environment, who tend to handle stress or crises by cognitively anticipating events and processing options, might not be more likely to have precognitive experiences, as compared with those who are more reactive to events in general. Nonetheless, it appears that while the percentage of reported experiences regarding death and serious injury are lower than adult cases, and ranks second to trivial events, precognitive experiences around death and serious injury appear to hold the same emotional impact for children and teens as they do for adults.
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In Table 4, we see how nonserious events predominate for all forms of experience. This trend fits with Louisa Rhine’s (1981) hypothesis that during sleep trivial ESP information may be able to become conscious because the repressive barrier becomes relaxed. In a study conducted by Virtanen (1990), 29% of collected experiences happened during sleep. She collected data through a questionnaire, which was filled out and returned by magazine readers.
However, her study looked specifically at experiences that occurred simultaneously with the confirming event. Consequently, fewer dreams would have been reported, because dreams tend to be predominantly precognitive in nature. Interestingly, Stokes (1997) commented about Virtanen’s study “that very few of the experiences reported as occurring in childhood happened when the percipient was asleep” (p. 40). He was surprised by this result because, in adults, there is a large proportion of psi experiences that occurs in dreams. Stokes further commented that “this might be even more surprising in view of the fact that children typically spend more of their time in the sleeping state than do adults” (p. 40). He speculated that perhaps because Virtanen’s data were based on retrospective reports, childhood dreams were either forgotten over time or possibly confused with waking experiences. In a survey of high school students, Haight, Kennedy, and Kanthamani (1979) found that 90% of the reported dream experiences as well as 52% of the intuitive experiences contained complete information.
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Type Of Event Or Form
Table 4 (coming soon)
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An example of the more trivial types of precognitive dreams follows. Rae, 14, from Oregon wrote:
On July 5 I dreamed that my boyfriend stopped liking me and that one of his best friends told me. The next night at a baseball game his friend came up to me and told me he didn’t like me as a girlfriend anymore. It was sort of odd I thought because the way he told me and the words were all the same in the dream. I rarely dream. But I did that night.
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Dreams of Death
One can also see, however, below that teens are indeed fully capable of having very detailed precognitive dream experiences, occurring while fully asleep rather than during wakefulness.
For example Nancy, 17, from Virginia wrote:
I have often had experiences of ESP, such as knowing what someone is going to say before they say it, knowing a song is going to be played on the radio before it is played, and once, dreaming that my sister – who was at the time studying to be an airline hostess was burned and killed in an airplane crash. Luckily she missed her plane by five minutes, a plane which did crash and there was only one survivor… At first I was in my room sleeping and was suddenly awakened by a loud noise – this is all the dream – I looked at my back window and there was my sister in her blue airline suit banging at the window in an effort it seemed to either get in or out of something. The sky was a mixture of red and orange. The next instant I was looking out my front window and there she lay – all black and charred upon our sidewalk with bits of the airplane around her – the sky was dark and smoke was all around. I then awoke remembering all this. About two weeks later a plane chartered from Washington, DC to Lynchburg then to Roanoke via Charlottesville crashed outside of Charlottesville with one survivor. My sister had been on a late plane from New York and had just missed this “doomed” plane.
Or the experience of Alan, 13, from Arkansas who wrote:
I dreamt that all our apple picking ladders burned up. The next night the storage house (where) we kept our ladders in burned down.
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Intervention in Serious Events
LER analyzed 433 precognitive cases in which percipients had taken the ESP experience (dream) seriously and made an effort to prevent its occurrence. Weiner and Haight (1986, p. 21) wrote that “when intervention had been attempted, it had been successful about twice as often as not. Usually this intervention took the form of the target person avoiding the situation, such as changing travel plans if an accident had been predicted.” LER also found nine precognitive cases in which the percipient would have been directly involved in some tragedy had he or she not taken some action because of his or her precognitive dream. Below are two very detailed school-age precognitive experiences in which tragedy was luckily avoided because the percipient took direct action as a result of the precognitive dream “warning.”
Beth, 17, from South Carolina, reported this precognitive experience that occurred when she was 15:
This is the strangest thing ever to happen to me and I thank God that it did. It all started with a dream I had (two years before). I was detached in some way from my physical body and was walking through some sort of maze. As I got to an open spot I saw a cream-colored car drive toward the transport truck. As it traveled toward the truck, it stopped and changed very slowly to a definite 1957 dark Oldsmobile. Then it started again with a jerk and rammed into the truck, which now had “Frady’s Transport Service” written on it. When it hit the truck it went into a shapeless mass of metal. The scene faded and I walked on. As I reached the end of the maze, I found myself in a funeral home. I was looking at six caskets. Four were just alike – a beautiful silver-white metal casket with white lining. The other two were bronzed with white lining. The people in the caskets were the following: in the silvery-white ones – Martha, Ginger, Sonja and myself. In the bronzed ones Clare and Sandy. I woke up in such a state of nervous tension. Four days later I had another dream. There was a great spiral staircase, the bottom half-marble; the top half-golden, I think. Martha and Ginger were at the top and Clare was about three-fourths of the way up. They were calling to us but their words were not understandable. I woke up in a cold sweat.
At school the next day, Clare asked me to eat supper with her that night. We were all to eat at Clare’s house, but (her mother) had held a Cub Scout meeting at her house that evening and didn’t feel like cooking. She suggested that Clare take us to the Clemson House for supper. She called me and told me of the change in plans and asked me to go with her. I was to appear in a talent show at 8:00 that night and had to be there by 7:30 that night. She told me we would be back in time for the show so I told her I would go. Sandy told her she couldn’t go because she was sick. Sonja didn’t go because she had a date. Clare had also asked a seventh girl to go, Melinda. Clare came by for me in her father’s car, a dark 1957 Oldsmobile. She had already picked up Martha, Ginger and Melinda. When I saw the car she was driving, I froze. I don’t remember what I said, but I made some excuse to get out of going. I got another friend of mine (who was also going to the talent show) to take me to the show. At 4 minutes to 8, I almost fainted. I went ahead and sang anyway (at the talent show) but I had to lean on the piano for support. As I was going off the stage a burning, indescrible [sic] feeling went through my body. I had to sit down. A few minutes later the officials called Melinda’s mother and little sister, and Martha’s little sister into the teacher’s lounge where I was. They told us that there had been a wreck at 5 until 8. Clare had come to a complete stop and had started again and had driven into a transport truck from “Frady’s Transport Service.” Of the four that went, Ginger and Martha were killed instantly and Clare died the next afternoon… Ginger and Martha were buried in identical caskets – silvery-white with white lining in a double funeral. Clare had her funeral the next day and was buried in a bronze casket. Melinda was the only survivor.
Or that of JoAnn (14) from New York:
I don’t know weather [sic] this story will be of any help but I will tell you anyway although no one believes me. Especially my mother. I am a girl, but at the time I was only 11 or 12. I don’t remember exactly the day and month, but I know it was on a Thursday night. I had just gone to bed and fell fast asleep. I had a terrible dream about my mother. I dreamt that one night as my mother was checking out her groceries form where she was working…I came in to tell her that my father and sister were in the car waiting for her. But in my dream I didn’t get a chance to tell her because I just froze in the doorway just looking at her. As I saw her checking out she said to her friend “I don’t think I’ll be in tomorrow”. The Checker replied “But why?” My mother then said “You’ll find out, when you’re at my funeral.” All this time in my dream I was wondering what was so Different about my mother and then it came to me. She had an unusual glow about her. A glow that if you saw her you would think that she was a Saint. (Everytime I reach this part of the story people start laughing. So if you want to laugh please make it short and brief.)
Finally as she was coming out she became ill. I ran out to my father and told him that my mother was ill. If you saw the horrified look that was on my father’s face Your knees would be shaking…My father’s first thought was to get my mother home at once. But on the way home she died. After this dream I woke up horrified. I couldn’t sleep all night. The next night was Friday…(my mother) called my father and told him he would have to pick her up because her friend couldn’t pick her up. When I heard this right away I thought of the dream…That night we went to pick up my mother. As we got there my father told me to see if she was ready and to tell her that we were waiting for her. It was just as if I was living my dream over again. I didn’t want to go and tell her because I was horrified that something was going to happen. As much as I didn’t want to go, I had to.
As I got to the door my mother was checking out, but she didn’t say anything to the checker as in my dream. As I was trying to tell myself that nothing was going to happen, but as I was thinking about this my mother fainted. She was very ill. I told my father. Then I saw the very same horrified look on his face. Well, after a while my father put my mother in the car and started to drive home. We were almost out of Greenwich when I told my father he had better bring my mother to the hospital. My father turned the car around and brought her back to the Greenwich Hospital. She was operated on at once. I was waiting in the waiting room with my father and sister. The doctor came out and told us that my mother almost died and that if she wasn’t brought to the hospital she would have died.
As seen in the above examples, precognitive dreams can have correct identification of the event and person. LER also noted that realistic dreams contained correct identification of the target person and event 91% of the time, whereas intuitive cases were accurate only 45% of the 18 time (Rhine, 1965). LER offered the following response to one school-age letter writer worried that a dream she had about her own death might mean it will happen as dreamt, given other precognitive dreams had come true.
I have found from studying thousands of reported ESP experiences that a very small percentage of them concern the person’s own death, or even his serious illness or injury. It looks to me as if there must be a sort of “built-in” protective device in the majority of human beings that tends to keep his ESP from turning to his own tragedies. Instead, [this device] tends to inform him about those of his relatives and friends (Rhine, 1974).
However, from the examples above, it seems as though there are times when disaster, even death, can be averted. If indeed there is a “built-in” protective device preventing us from seeing our own fate, then this “device” could be overridden if the message is strong enough and loud enough, as in the above cases. Or perhaps this raises even larger questions about whether our fate, our future, is indeed set “in stone,” with no alternatives possible. Although I am not competent or qualified to discuss physics, time and space continuum, or even philosophical theories, these precognitive dream examples do raise questions as to whether our present determines future outcomes, like branches on a tree, each growing and forking into other paths and sections. If we do certain things, then the path goes one way. If we change something, knowingly or unwittingly, then perhaps the path leads us onto a different branch and set of circumstances. Perhaps this may be why some strong precognitive impressions or dreams might not occur. Not because the knowledge or impression was faulty, or there were no psychic factors involved, but rather other factors may have altered or short-circuited the outcome of the events. Perhaps the dream or impression was but one possible outcome in time?
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Event Versus Target Person-Percipient
As noted in Table 5, the majority, 71.4% of the target persons were acquaintances (notably friends) of the school-age sample; self was second, with 22.6% of experiences involving nonserious events. Close family and other family were identified as the target person in death experiences, a total of 64%, in comparison with only 12% acquaintances. In Schouten’s (1982) analysis, he found 55.2% of the death case experiences to involve close family, with 21.6% involving other family and 22.5% involving acquaintances, numbers which were comparable with the school-age children’s data.
Type Of Event Versus Target Person-percipient (P-T) Relationship
Table 5 (coming soon)
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Type Of ESP
The majority of these reported experiences dealt with trivial or nonlife threatening events.
For example, Philip, 13, from Texas, reported:
About two years ago, I was standing on my backporch, where a car pulled across the street and a cluster of children gathered around the car. Suddenly, I had the feeling that one of the children was going to get his or her fingers caught in that car door. Just as I yelled out, a boy about my age got his finger in the door. It almost knocked me down when that happened.
Or Bill, 15, from Georgia, who wrote:
One night at about 8:00 my brother and I were over at my sister’s home. When he left, (I was to stay over there that night), I thought to myself: “It sure would be strange if he were in a wreck at 8:30.” At about 8:35, my brother called, saying he had been in a wreck at about 8:30. I have had similar experiences where I could tell what was going to happen a few minutes in the future. If someone asks me to think of something to happen, or I want something to happen, or if I’m very conscience [sic] of thinking of something, it won’t happen.
Or Susan, 11, from New York, who wrote:
Right before Christmas my mother and I stopped in a friend’s to see how their sick baby was. The baby, about 16 months, was in a steam tent in his room. I was told not to go near him. When my mother came out I asked her if the baby would die. She said she didn’t know. I told her it was going to die before 1961. My mother told me not to say such things. Then, about 3:30 a.m. December 23, 1960 I awoke. I heard baby cry and then choke. Sure Enough the baby had died that night at 3:30.
Or even Linda, 14, from Wyoming, who wrote:
I have many times in the past had certain ideas and “scenes”…I would see a certain scene and certain prominent objects. Then maybe some time later, this same scene would re-occur and I would stop suddenly and realize I had done this before, exactly! As an example, one time I had a “scene.” It consisted mainly of me walking over to my neighbor’s house with a bag of bubble-gum. I met my neighbor’s sister on the stump and she said “I want some, I want some!” I remember the exact words, the stump and especially Vicky, the girl, had on a pair of pink shorts and midriff (just as it happened).
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Of the 16 telepathic experiences, 10.1% of the letters, 87% involved friends and 3% relatives. The majority, 69%, of telepathic experiences involved the writer knowing someone’s thought, of a trivial nature. Females (who made up 75% of the telepathic experience writers) had telepathic experiences 91% of the time with their girlfriend or another female friend, as opposed to the males, who were equal, 50%-50% with female and male friends.
For example, Bonney, 13, from Washington wrote:
While attending summer camp with two friends I read or appeared to have read my friend’s mind. We were sitting on our bunks talking of the way different schools were run. I had my back to this girl and I thought I heard her say “Bonney did you sign up for speech” and I answered “No, Mary I didn’t”. The other girls in the room were quite astonished I would say that to Mary because she had not said a word! She asked me what I heard her say and I told her. She said that she was going to ask that, but had not uttered a word.
Or that of Kathy, 13, from Indiana, who wrote:
While walking home from school my friend and I suddenly started to sing the same song at the same time.
Or Jean, 15, from Iowa, who wrote:
The first experience was about two years ago. My parents were gone for the weekend, and my sister and I were home with a neighbor lady. It was a Saturday evening when I got a phone call. Just as I got up to answer it, something told me that it would be my uncle calling to tell me that my grandpa had died of a heart attack that day. It was my uncle calling, and my grandpa had died unexpectedly of a heart attack that same day. The second is an experience that happens quite often to me. In my Father’s line of work, he receives up to five business calls a day and night. Every time the phone rings, I can tell if the call is going to be for me or for my dad. Even when I am not expecting a call, I can tell if the call is for me or for some other member of the family.
Interestingly, LER wrote in Hidden Channels of the Mind (1961) about telepathic experiences:
[I]t is notable that in most instances episodes like these may first be noticed when the child is very young, become frequent about the ages of three to four, then decrease again, and cease entirely when the child enters school. It was true of my own child, with whom no more instances were noted after she went to school. In later years when tested for ESP she scored no higher than her brother and sisters. As an adult she has had no recognized ESP experience. (p. 138)
Dr. Rhine attributed the decrease in telepathy (with parents) to the child starting school, and the concomitant widening of the child’s experiences and horizons, along with decreasing attachment to the parent. “At least one is safe in saying that close dependence on the mother and the number of telepathic experiences decrease at about the same time. This fact suggests the kind of psychological situation most conducive to telepathy – in adults perhaps, as well as children” (p. 138).
However, given the above letters about telepathic experiences, as well as extensive school research studies on psychic abilities (see Drewes & Drucker, 1991), I would have to disagree with Dr. Rhine’s hypothesis. Several noted school studies using telepathy and clairvoyance between teachers and students (of varying age groups) yielded significant results (Anderson, 1957; Anderson & White, 195, 1958; Shrager, 1978; Van Busschbach, 1953). There has been no conclusive longitudinal study that shows any decline over age or whether one age group has stronger telepathic connections than another. It has been hypothesized, however, that the mother-infant/child bond is stronger and more likely to produce more telepathic experiences (Ehrenwald, 1971). Schwarz (1971) recorded and documented a continuum of telepathic connection with his children for 15 years. He and his wife’s 1,520 telepathic experiences in relation to their daughter and son bring into question LER’s statement implying a developmental decline in telepathic ability in children. Consequently, it seems less likely that development or age is such a critical factor in limiting psychic abilities or experiences. Of course, additional longitudinal research with children would help to resolve this issue more conclusively.
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Clairvoyant experiences were among the lowest, with 14.0%. Of these experiences, 69% came from females and 31% from males. This letter from Robert, 15, from California, was typical of the responses of the types of experiences reported:
I am a 15 year old boy. My family was digging out our lawn. My sister Cindy had $2.00 in a coin purse and she lost it. This happened Sunday, May 6, 1973. She couldn’t find it. Finally Cindy had to take a bath. Finally I came in to do my homework and on my dresser there is a knick knack (box) and I had an impulse to go and look in it, and there was my sister’s coin purse with the $2.000. What made me look in it?
Several other letters were of school-age students using Zener card tests, resulting in above-chance scores. It is interesting that clairvoyant experiences were among the least reported. Perhaps such experiences appear less dramatic, and therefore result in less urgency in reporting or writing about them to an “expert.” Clairvoyant experiences often are not of a life-threatening nature, and tests of clairvoyance are often less exciting and glamorous, perhaps resulting in underreporting of events. Further studies might help tease out whether clairvoyance is a less “strong” ability or reported experience.
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Among Dr. Louisa Rhine’s collection of over 30,000 letters of spontaneous psi experiences, 216 letters were received from school-age children written between 1961 and 1977 and kept separately filed. The children ranged in age from 10 to 18 years, with a mean age of 14 years, and were from the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and one from Australia. Of these letters, 68, or 31%, dealt specifically with general questions, with the 22 remaining 147 letters containing 157 spontaneous psi experiences. For ease of comparison with Schouten’s analysis of adult letters in the Rhine collection, the children’s letters were categorized similarly into Precognitive Dreams (52.2%), Precognitive Intuitions (25.1%), Telepathy (10.1%), and Clairvoyance (14.0%). Females accounted for 57% of general information letters.
The school-age children’s letters were analyzed for trends and content and compared against a comparable analysis of 15% or 1,620 randomly selected Rhine collection letters by Schouten (1982). Some striking similarities and differences resulted. The school-age experiences fell into a similar pattern of Precognitive Dreams being the highest reported category of experiences, with Precognitive Intuitions next, with these experiences reported by 62% females and 38% males. However, Telepathy experiences yielded a 3:1 ratio with 75% of the experiences reported by females, compared with only 25% by males; and the Clairvoyant experiences were reported by 69% females and 31% males. In both the Drewes and Schouten analyses, results indicate that females are more likely to send in reports of their possible psychic experiences than males, perhaps because of societal norms and gender stereotyping that females are “more intuitive” than males.
A striking difference between the Drewes and Schouten data is that school-age children reported in 76.8% of the experiences that the target person was an acquaintance (25.9%), girlfriend or boyfriend (21.5%), neighbor/teacher (5.2%), and even themselves (14.8%), while only 13.3% were target persons in their immediate family. Schouten’s data of adults, on the other hand, found that 65.4% of the target persons were in the percipient’s immediate family, notably spouse and children, and 20.4% were acquaintances. This striking contrast appears perhaps connected to the developmental fact of preadolescents and adolescents feeling more connected to peers and their peer group, as they seek to separate and individuate from their family of origin.
These results are also in keeping with the striking contrast between the Drewes and Schouten data regarding content of psychic experiences. Letters by school-age children contained 54.1% trivial events, as compared with 18.5% death or 19.3% serious injury. This is in marked contrast to Schouten’s date of adult letters, which yielded 10.8% trivial events as compared with the high of 37.7% death events. It appears there may be a strong peer attachment and need for peer group acceptance by preadolescents and adolescents that may help to explain this marked contrast. Concerns over clothing, pressures of fitting in with peers and family, grades, and upcoming college decisions would, therefore, be high in priority of concern and high in emotional investment. Death and serious injury would have a lower status, given that preadolescents and teens do not think much about or even believe in the possibility of their own death as well as the death of others.
Of note was the high percentage (8.9%) of psychic experiences reported that related to pets. This would also fit in with school-age children being more attached to their pets, which may have been with them from childhood and would also probably be the children’s first experience encountered with death.
Gender differences were also noted in the Drewes data. Precognitive Dreams yielded female targets 53% of the time with female percipients, whereas male percipients had male targets 78% of the time. This trend was similar for Precognitive Intuitions, with 52% female target persons (from female percipients) and 71% male target persons (from male percipients).
The reverse trend was noted in Telepathic experiences (10.8%) which involved mainly friends (87%). Females, who made up 75% of the telepathic experience writers, had telepathic experiences 91% of the time with their girlfriend or another female friend. Males, however, were 50-50 equal with male and female targets. Clairvoyant experiences (14.0%) showed no notable gender differences.
It is hoped that more letters of children’s psychic experiences will be obtained to help assess trends and comparison across ages and developmental stages with the adult letters already received. In light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it would be interesting to try and see if children had any psychic impressions or dreams. In addition, it would be of interest to try and accumulate precognitive dream experiences whereby children successfully tried to avoid tragic events, such as the two detailed precognitive dream reports in this article. Such a body of knowledge would be of help in comparison with similar types of adult precognitive experiences to analyze trends and begin to hypothesize possible theoretical understandings.
In general, it is hoped that this article will help stimulate interest in the Rhine collection and that more analyses may result. It is also my hope that more research with children, in general, would result.
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Anderson, M. (1957). Clairvoyance and teacher-pupil attitudes in fifth and sixth grades. Journal of Parapsychology, 21,1-12.
Anderson, M., & White, R. (1956). Teacher-pupil attitudes and clairvoyance test results. Journal of Parapsychology, 20, 141-157.
Anderson, M. & White, R. (1958). ESP score level in relation to students’ attitude toward teacher-agents acting simultaneously. Journal of Parapsychology, 22, 20-28.
Drewes, A.A. & Drucker, S.A. (1991). Parapsychological research with children: An Annotated bibliography. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
Ehrenwald, J. (1971). Mother-child symbiosis: Cradle of ESP. Psychoanalytic Review, 58, 97-161.
Green, C.E. (1960). Analysis of spontaneous cases. Proceeding of the Society for Psychical Research, 53, 97-161.
Haight, J., Kennedy, J.E., & Kanthamani, H. (1979). Spontaneous psi experiences among unselected high school students. In W.G. Roll (Ed.), Research in parapsychology 1978 (pp. 46-47). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
Hartup, W.W. & Stevens, N. (1999). Friendships and adaptation across the life span. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(3), 76-79.
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