Finding Inspiration from “The Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology” by Betty M. Humphrey

News of the UnWordly | August 10, 2023

Finding Inspiration from “The Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology” by Betty M. Humphrey

As a librarian, I love connecting folks with resources. And as a person interested in the paranormal and Parapsychology, I especially love connecting folks with resources on spooky topics. Often, the two mix. I never get tired of hearing someone approach the reference desk and ask, “Do you have books about ghosts?” or “I need to write a research paper and I want to write about the paranormal – can you help?”

I especially love reminding people of all the ways they can freely access all sorts of books, articles, newspapers, and journals. This is partly because I suspect people often feel pressured to buy the things they want to read. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing your reading material. It is, however, a privilege. And even if you do have the privilege of disposal income to spend on books or subscriptions, it’s not possible to buy everything that you want. And sometimes you may not even be able to find what you want in print.

tests in parapsychology

But another reason why I love showing people the different things they can access freely is because people just don’t know the breadth of what’s out there or where to go to access it. You may not know, for example, that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) allows you to freely access scholarly articles and journals on a wide variety of topics. Fun fact: you can find 190 articles in DOAJ just by typing the keyword “parapsychology.” Or maybe you didn’t know that there are entire scholarly journals dedicated to anomalous phenomena, like the Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Handbook Of Tests In Parapsychology

I love connecting people with resources, because it’s not only fun to read about the paranormal – it’s also a great way to get inspiration for your own spooky shenanigans. Take, for example, the freely accessible textbook Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology by Dr. Betty M. Humphrey. Written in 1948, this textbook offers detailed methods for conducting various psychical experiments. Organized into three parts, Humphrey’s book outlines in detail experimental designs used to test for extrasensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis, and even a combination of both.

This book also helps the reader understand the difference between the phenomena of clairvoyance, telepathy, general extrasensory perception (GESP), and precognition. For example, in the introduction, Dr. Humphrey tells us that “In a simple clairvoyance test the subject is asked to name the top card of a shuffled deck when no one knows what that card is.” This is different from a test of telepathy, which she tells us is “when the experimenter merely thinks of a symbol and asks the subject to call it.”

But the thing I love most about this book is that it offers explicit designs for those who want to conduct experiments themselves. Part 1, for example, is dedicated to experiments involving ESP. One chapter in this section is titled “Card-Calling Tests of Clairvoyance.” The first paragraph of this chapter tells us that “in the clairvoyance tests the subject tries to name the symbols on cards when no one knows in what order the symbols are arranged.” The chapter then proceeds to give detailed descriptions of various experimental designs.

One design is called the BT (broken technique) method in which one person holds a card behind a screen while another person attempts to guess the symbol on that card. The BT method is just one option, though. Dr. Humphrey goes on to describe others like the DT (down through) method in which a person attempts to guess the order of a stack of cards – called ‘down through’ since the goal is to guess the symbols down through the stack. In this method, no cards are separated as they are in the ‘broken technique’ (hence the name) and are instead kept together as an entire stack.

There are detailed photos and even sample scoring sheets, all of which you can replicate or even modify for your own experiments!

tests in parapsychology
A sample sheet for recording ESP experiment results.

You don’t have to be a literal scientist in order to replicate the designs in this book. And you don’t need to have an end goal of publishing your work in a journal. Maybe you want to test out your ESP abilities with a friend. Maybe you just want to get weird and have some fun. Maybe you want to adapt these experiments in different settings – like if you are investigating a haunted location and want to see how that environment might impact an ESP or clairvoyance test.

parapsychology tests

Whatever the reason, you should feel empowered to find inspiration in the pages of Dr. Humphrey’s textbook. Know that you deserve access to this information too. And it’s freely available! Why shouldn’t you boost your weirdness with the wide world of freely accessible weird resources?


Humphrey, Betty M. Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology. (Durham: Duke University, 1948).

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