So, have y’all heard about this game, Boomshine? I’m telling you, DO NOT play it. No seriously. Don’t click on that link. If you do, you’ll be sorry! If you’re not already completely addicted, you should run screaming. SAVE YOURSELVES!!

You clicked the link, didn’t you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you… So anyway, the thing about Boomshine is that as I play it (for hours on end), I find myself focusing on the tiny dots and trying to guide them toward the bigger dots with my mind. And I genuinely believe that this makes a difference. It’s like wearing the same outfit every time I go to a basketball game. In my mind, I know that my outfit has absolutely NO bearing on the outcome of the game. But I just can’t stop myself from believing it has some kind of magical power.

The funny thing about Boomshine is that it reminds me of sophomore year in college, which I spent working in a parapsychology lab. You know in Ghostbusters, where Venkman (played by Bill Murray) is testing the people for psychic abilities with cards that have weird symbols on them? Those were developed by Dr. Rhine, founder of the Rhine Research Center for Parapsychology. The Rhine Center used to be a part of the Duke University Psychology Department, until they got too embarrassed and kicked them off campus, where they sat, just across the street from East Campus for many years. They’ve since moved on, but while I was a student, it was a 5 minute walk, and they paid pretty well, so I did my work-study job with them.

Now, actually, I need to back up for a minute, and tell you all about how I found the Rhine Center. Freshman year, I took a research methods course in psychology, because I was convinced that I wanted to be a research psychologist (Calculus would later derail those plans). My incredibly smug professor thought it would be hilarious if our entire class participated in a study put on by the Rhine Center, and then compare (or really, contrast) it to a Duke study. So, our whole class signed up to participate in the research. We had to go in pairs, and since I was the only freshman in the class, no one wanted to be my partner, so I got stuck with the incredibly geeky loser junior boy with no friends. (That sounds really mean. And if he had been sweet but geeky, I would never have called him that. He was more smug than the professor and acted as if he was so much better than me, even though he was the most painfully socially awkward person I’ve ever met. And I’ve met a LOT of painfully socially awkward people.)

GB (Geek Boy) and I went over and did our duty, and here’s how the experiment worked. I was the “receiver” and he was the “sender”. For his part, GB had to sit in a room on the other side of the building and stare at a picture on a TV screen. He had to “send” this image to me in another room. He got the easy job. I had to go into another room and sit in a reclined position in what looked an awful lot like an old dentist’s chair. The research assistant came in and fitted me with a microphone and headphones. Then, they put ping-pong balls which had been cut in half over my eyes (to keep me from being able to look at other things in the room), then used lab goggles to hold the half-ping-pong balls in place. Next, they turned on a red light, because apparently pink light is soothing and is a conducive environment for receiving psychic messages. Next, I had to listen to a relaxation tape to cleanse my mind. After that was over, I was to concentrate on receiving my partner’s vibes from across the building. I was also supposed to talk about the images I saw, but I was silent for so long after the relaxation tape ended that the research assistant thought I fell asleep. Really, I wasn’t talking because I didn’t see anything—just white, blank space. As time went on (I was given nearly an hour to do this), I saw other things, like houses on a lake. Near the end of the time period, I had a quick flash of a very wrinkly brown face. I was convinced this was the image I was being sent. At the end of the time period, I was shown 4 pictures on my own TV screen (after I removed the ping-pong balls and goggles, of course), and asked to choose which picture I thought was transmitted to me. I only remember two of the pictures. One was a National Geographic photo of an African tribeswoman, with a bunch of metal rings around her neck. Though she was young and not wrinkly, this was the closest thing to the flash of the wrinkly brown face. I chose that picture, which was the wrong one. I remember the other picture because it was the right one. It was called “Snowy White Egret” and the title bird was standing in a lake, with little houses far in the background. See, I thought psychic visions came to you as a well-edited blockbuster movie, not like some crazy experimental student film. (If only Allison DuBois of Medium fame had been around then to teach me in the ways of psychicness.)

Now, in the words of the legendary Ron White (“You caught me! You caught the Tater!”), I told you that story to tell you this… When I worked for the Rhine Center, I was charged with transcribing the tapes of the receivers babbling, so that researchers could analyze them to see if others had experiences similar to mine. I sat in a tiny room with two computers. I wore headphones and typed what I heard on one of them. Occasionally, a “test subject” would come in and sit at the other computer. He or she was supposed to watch a tiny pixel-dot move across the screen and use their parapsychological powers to make the dot move upwards. The pixel-dot was programmed to move randomly up or down, and the concept of the study was that, probability-wise, you should get a fairly straight line. If the line went WAY up, or WAY down, then the test subject was able to control the pixel-dot with his or her mind, obvs.

Well, after a few months of this, the researchers noticed that the line was (supposedly) a lot more likely to go up if I was in the room than at other times, and that possibly I was the one making the line go up. (My smug professor was right, and their research methods were total crap.) So first, they moved me to a different room. Then, they started harassing me about being a test subject myself. This intensified when they realized that I had participated in the pink ping pong balls test, as well. That happened in the late spring, so I resisted until summer came, then I got a new work-study job for the next year. (Incidentally, that new work-study job was in the office where I now work!)

I’m really not sure how I feel about the existence of parapsychological powers. I think that our brains can do amazing things, and that it’s entirely possible that there are things we don’t yet (and maybe never will) understand. I also think that most of the people who claim to be psychic are fakes. What I do know for sure is that, if parapsychology researchers keep using crappy research methods, they won’t be able to get anyone to buy into their findings.

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