Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

13 University-Sanctioned Paranormal Research Projects

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

By Jill Hanson, JFK University 

The existence of paranormal phenomena is one of those things you’re usually either heartily for or against. In case you’re on the fence about the subject, here’s a list of 13 of the most prominent university sanctioned (and unsanctioned) odysseys into paranormal research, and what they found.

1. Stanford University (1972 - 1980s)

Stanford University has many claims to fame when it comes to paranormal research: For starters, the esteemed university can rightfully assert itself as the first academic institution in the United States to study extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) on an official basis. In 1911, John Edgar Coover began conducting experiments into ESP. Other claims to fame include a rigorous scientific exploration of the purported psychic abilities of the famous “spoon bender” Uri Geller (there is no spoon!), which were studied intensively at the affiliated Stanford Research Institute (SRI) over a five week period during the 1970s.

Maybe even more exciting and curious than the possibility of bending metal with one’s mind was the CIA-sponsored Stargate Project, which took place at SRI in the 1970s. This secretive project was an effort by the CIA to explore the practical applications of Remote Viewing. Unfortunately, during the mid-90s, Stargate Project research officially ceased due to claims that the project failed to yield useful applications and intended objectives—but word on the street is that claims of failure were overexaggerated, and that research merely continued unofficially under the popular radar.

2. Duke University: Parapsychology Laboratory (1935 - 1965)

In 1935, Duke researchers J.B. Rhine and William McDougall made that university the second in the nation to officially enter into paranormal research when, after an exceptionally fascinating lecture by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the possibility of communication with the dead, the men formed the Parapsychology Laboratory as part of the university’s main psychology department. Laboratory research focused mainly on the critical study of extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK). 

To this day, Rhine is commonly accepted to be the father of parapsychology, not only for having coined the term with the help of his trailblazing partner McDougall, but also for having almost singlehandedly established parapsychology itself as a field of scientific and academic inquiry. While the Rhine name is no longer associated with Duke University directly, J.B. Rhine’s purported success in the vein of paranormal inquiry lives on at the Rhine Research Center.

3. Princeton University: Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (1979 - 2007)

From 1979 to 2007, the tiny basement of Princeton University’s engineering building was home to the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) project, which aimed to determine whether there was factual basis for theories in mind/matter interaction—or in layman’s terms, extrasensory perception (ESP) and telekinesis (TK). While officially expressed by university administration to be an embarrassment, the program claimed success when it was all said and done: Over the project’s 28-year run it was determined by PEAR researchers that compounded data from the many trials did in fact reflect highly significant statistical deviation from what one could expect from chance alone. In other words, minds intelligent enough to teach at Princeton believe that ESP and PK exist.

4. Harvard University (1990s - 2008)

Not everyone conducts paranormal research with the hope of finally harnessing proof of its existence. Recently, a team of Harvard scientists set out to disprove the existence of ESP, and even introduced a new method of research into the mix in order to do it.

To conduct their research, the Harvard duo included use of brain scanning with the aim of deciphering whether individuals have knowledge which cannot be explained through “normal” means (AKA the five senses). While researchers admit that technically the project’s results do not disprove the existence of ESP, they assert that findings from their experiment provide the most persuasive evidence to date against the existence of ESP. Professional skeptic James Randi is beaming with pride, I’m sure.

5. University of Virginia: Division of Perceptual Studies (1967 - Present)

With six years of research in the area of past lives (reincarnation) already under its belt, UVA’s Division of Perceptual Studies (DPS), a research unit within the Department of Psychiatric Medicine, was established by Dr. Ian Stevenson in 1967. The division is still kicking today, holding the field of Parapsychology afloat in North America as one of the only university-sanctioned paranormal research programs remaining in the U.S.

DPS research has explored such phenomena as reincarnation (most specifically through its focus on children who claim to remember past lives), near death experiences (NDEs), apparitions and after-death communications, altered states of consciousness, as well as many other psychic (psi) experiences. The Division credits its persistence over time with the great success it has had in substantiating claims within its reincarnation research.

6. The University of Arizona: The VERITAS (2006 - 2008) and SOPHIA (2008 - present) Research Programs

The Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona is parent to an interesting and ever-evolving body of paranormal research. The VERITAS and SOPHIA research projects at UA were created with the primary aim of exploring the possibility that human consciousness might survive the experience of physical death. From 2006 to 2008, VERITAS explored survival (existence of the personality beyond death) and mediumship, until the decision was made to create a more comprehensive body of research including broader claims of after-death communication, such as communion with discarnate entities (spirit guides, angels, divine higher power) under the program name SOPHIA.

7. The University of California, Los Angeles (1968 - 1978)

Barry Taff

Remember that “based on actual events” movie from 1982 called The Entity? Well, here you go: Over a ten year period, UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI) was home to a “non-sanctioned entity” of paranormal research which studied clairvoyance, telepathy, haunted houses, Kirlian photography and even boasted a psi development group (1971 to 1980) which sought to help "normal people" develop latent psychic abilities. The lab operated on the fifth floor of what is now the Semel Institute, and existed by effort of a small group of passionate volunteer researchers—including Dr. Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor, the very team who conducted the real-life poltergeist investigation on which The Entity was based.

After a little over ten years of research, the toll of political tension and pressure from unapproving university administration over ongoing media attention got the best of the project, and research was forced to conclude abruptly. Today, the lab itself is a ghost of sorts: UCLA and Semel Institute officials deny that the lab ever existed—other than a few flyers advertising the parapsychology classes which were taught on campus by the researchers, no evidence of the lab or its research even exist.

8. Cornell University (2002 - 2010)

In 2010, Cornell University's Daryl Bem concluded a rigorous eight year study on the subject of precognition, which involved 1000 Cornell undergrads over nine experimental runs and resulted in unprecedented, almost incomprehensibly positive results. Through a unique “backwards” approach to psychological phenomena, Bem’s experiment affirms the likelihood of "retroactive" psi effects—or in this case, the ability of a person’s physiology to “predict” an upcoming event regardless of the individual’s conscious awareness of its impending occurrence.

As if that wasn’t wild and exciting enough, Bem’s findings seems to be re-affirming theories within quantum physics. In total, an overwhelming eight of Bem’s nine experiments confirmed his hypothesis that psi is a real phenomena—and, according to Bem, the odds of getting such a combined result due to chance or statistical flukes are about 1 in 74 billion.

9. University of Edinburgh (1985 - Present)

A Chair of Parapsychology was established within the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh in 1985. This entity of research is the esteemed Koestler Parapsychology Unit (KPU), which prides itself on its interdisciplinary approach to parapsychology. Scientific research at KPU examines such phenomenal claims as extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK), as well as the nature and consequences of belief in the paranormal itself.

In 2010, KPU brought research into the 21st century when it used Twitter as the platform for conducting a mass-participation research project in the area of remote viewing and ESP. While the study itself did not conclusively show evidence for remote viewing per se, it was determined that Twitter was an excellent tool for future studies conducted by the Unit.

10. Goldsmiths, University of London

Among one of the more hip experiments taking place in current paranormal research is the Mobile Telepathy Test being carried out by The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU) of the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. This Mobile Telepathy Test seeks to explore instances of possible telepathy involving individuals receiving a phone call from someone they have just thought about. Through its research and experimentation, APRU hopes to determine whether this apparent phenomena is simply a coincidence, or possibly indicative of psi phenomena such as telepathy or precognition.

Also on the menu at APRU are studies in altered states of consciousness and hypnosis, as well as a series of recently concluded projects including the Joint Telepathy Test, which aimed to determine the possibility of sensing, for instance, when individuals are looking at the same photo simultaneously.

11. University of Adelaide: Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (2003 - Present)

In 2003, a division of dedicated research was established at the University of Adelaide in South Australia in order to further the scientific and academic study of psi phenomena. This division of the university’s Department of Psychology, named the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU), was the brainchild of respected parapsychologist Lance Storm and his colleague, Dr. Michael A. Thalbou. One of APRU’s interesting ventures into the paranormal seeks to scientifically test the hypothesis that the blind are able to compensate for deficits in sight by naturally developing psi abilities that are statistically superior to those of individuals with normal abilities in ocular vision.

12. Lund University

The ever-progressive Lund University of Sweden is currently involved in a long-term research project, investigating states of consciousness and parapsychology. The program aims to find a correlation between hypnotic suggestibility and incidence of psi phenomena during experiments. This inquiry follows previous experiments which found that highly suggestible individuals are found to experience a high rate of anomalous experiences such as telepathy and clairvoyance.

13. Utrecht University (1953 and 2008)

The Netherlands is definitely known for its proclivity to produce open-minded thinkers. In 1953, Ultrecht University in The Netherlands definitely lived up to this reputation when it was host to the “First International Utrecht Conference on Parapsychology”—the first ever conference of its kindfrom July 30 to August 5. The event, considered to be one of the most critical moments in the history of modern scientific parapsychology, brought together 78 scientists and parapsychologists from 13 countries, who lectured and held exciting roundtable discussions about current research and to plan for the future of the field. In 2008, the followup “Utrecht II” conference was held, where lectures were once again offered by a who’s who of the field on subjects such as the reality of psi phenomena, ESP in dreams, field investigations of hauntings and poltergeist activity, self-organized reality, clinical parapsychology, and even physics as it applied to the field.

And the Honorable Mention goes to…

University of Amsterdam: Anomalous Cognition Section (1990s - Present)

During the 1990s, The University of Amsterdam took on an interesting project in order to hone its students’ and faculty’s empirical research skills: it created the Anomalous Cognition Section (ACS), which in addition to making rockstar researchers out of its pupils, sought to explore the possibility of anomalous cognitive effects (which is simply parapsychology-speak for telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition). This section was created under the oversight of the university’s Psychology Department, where as early as 1982 and 1986, student-run experiments had been conducted under university sanction in order to study the possible existence of psi phenomena. 

Primary image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group
Big Questions
Where Does the Word 'Meme' Come From?
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

By Jenna Scarbrough

Certain fads, catchphrases, dances, and songs bombard our society—nowadays, almost all of these are either born on or popularized through the Internet. Grumpy Cat, Rickrolling, Left Shark, the optical illusion dress—all of these ubiquitous cultural sensations have this in common. Some of these stick for a while, some don’t. Those that stick are branded as memes. But what exactly is a meme?

In 1976, Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist, proposed an idea in his book, The Selfish Gene: What if ideas were like organisms, where they could breed and mutate? These ideas, he claimed, are actually the basis for human culture, and they are born in the brain.

Dawkins’s research is primarily in genetics. He has argued that all life relies on replication. But unlike cells, ideas do not rely on a chemical basis for survival. They begin from a single location—the brain—and spread outward, jumping from one vessel to another, battling for attention. Some ideas are more successful, which may be due to an element of truth they carry, while others slowly die out. Some may not be accurate, but society has accepted these ideas for so long that they are just accepted (think about pictures of Jesus or George Washington; while these may not be what they actually looked like, almost all art now portrays these men in the same way).

Dawkins needed a name for this concept. He proposed calling it mimeme, from the Greek word meaning “that which is replicated.” He wrote in his book, “I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.” He felt the monosyllabic word would be more fitting because it sounds similar to "gene." “If it is any consolation,” he continued, “it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory,’ or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream.’”

Although he probably couldn’t imagine the possibility of Internet memes during his initial research in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Dawkins has now accepted the appropriation. Because it’s still viral, he said in an interview with WIRED, this popularity increase goes right along with his theory that ideas are similar to living things.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

25 Awesome Australian Slang Terms

by Helena Hedegaard Holmgren 

Australian English is more than just an accent, and the Aussie vernacular can easily leave both English speakers and foreigners perplexed. Australian English is similar to British English, but many common words differ from American English—and there are many unique Aussie idiosyncrasies, slang terms, and expressions.

The term for Aussie slang and pronunciation is strine, and it is often characterized by making words as short as possible; the story goes it developed by speaking through clenched teeth to avoid blowies (blow flies) from getting into the mouth. So if you plan to visit the world’s smallest continent, this list of some of the most commonly used slang expressions is for you.

1. Arvo: afternoon

2. Barbie: barbeque

3. Bogan: redneck, an uncultured person. According to the Australian show Bogan Hunters, a real bogan sports a flanno (flannel shirt), a mullet, missing teeth, homemade tattoos (preferably of the Australian Flag or the Southern Cross), and has an excess of Australia paraphernalia. This "species of local wildlife" can be found by following their easily distinguishable tracks from burnouts or the smell of marijuana.

4. Bottle-O: bottle shop, liquor store

5. Chockers: very full

6. Esky: cooler, insulated food and drink container

7. Fair Dinkum: true, real, genuine

8. Grommet: young surfer

9. Mozzie: mosquito

10. Pash: a long passionate kiss. A pash rash is red irritated skin as the result of a heavy make-out session with someone with a beard.

11. Ripper: really great

12. Roo: kangaroo. A baby roo, still in the pouch, is known as a Joey

13. Root: sexual intercourse. This one can get really get foreigners in trouble. There are numerous stories about Americans coming to Australia telling people how they love to "root for their team." If you come to Australia, you would want to use the word "barrack" instead. On the same note, a "wombat" is someone who eats roots and leaves.

14. Servo: gas station. In Australia, a gas station is called a petrol station. If you ask for gas, don’t be surprised if someone farts.

15. She’ll be right: everything will be all right

16. Sickie: sick day. If you take a day off work when you are not actually sick it’s called chucking a sickie.

17. Slab: 24-pack of beer

18. Sook: to sulk. If someone calls you a sook, it is because they think you are whinging

19. Stubbie holder: koozie or cooler. A stubbie holder is a polystyrene insulated holder for a stubbie, which is a 375ml bottle of beer.

20. Sweet as: sweet, awesome. Aussies will often put ‘as’ at the end of adjectives to give it emphasis. Other examples include lazy as, lovely as, fast as and common as.

21. Ta: thank you

22. Togs: swim suit

23. Tradie: a tradesman. Most of the tradies have nicknames too, including brickie (bricklayer), truckie (truckdriver), sparky (electrician), garbo (garbage collector) and chippie (carpenter).

24. Ute: Utility vehicle, pickup truck

25. Whinge: whine

Good onya, mate! Understanding the Aussies should be easy as now.

Additional Sources: Urban Attitude; All Down Under - Slang Dictionary; Australian Words - Meanings and Origins; Australian Dictionary; Koala Net; Australian Explorer; Up from Australia; YouTube, 2; McDonalds.


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