Inspired by a lecture given by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the University of Chicago, Rhine accepted an invitation to join Dr. William McDougall, a renowned psychologist and researcher of the paranormal in his own right, at Duke.
While there, Rhine began to contemplate whether or not communication with the dead was possible using the most modern tools available at that time. While preparing for what was set to be a monumental experiment, Rhine and his wife, Louisa Heckesser (also a PhD in botany), wrote an article exposing a fraudulent Boston medium named Mina Crandon.
The article, which appeared in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, caused Arthur Conan Doyle, a noted disciple of the exposed clairvoyant, to supposedly remark, “J.B. Rhine is an ass.”For the majority of his life, Rhine’s research and work were devoted to studying extrasensory perception (ESP).
He authored several books on the subject and was one of the first people to seriously study it as an academic topic. William Seabrook shared Rhine’s interest, and the two often collaborated on experiments, using Seabrook’s upstate New York farmhouse as a laboratory. Funnily enough, Dr. Peter Venkman (played by Bill Murray) is shown performing a Rhine-inspired ESP test (albeit an unscientific one) at the beginning of Ghostbusters.