Rhea A. White’s Bibliographical Work
Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D.
In an article published in 1976, Rhea wrote the following words that I believed guided her career as the premiere librarian and bibliographer of modern parapsychological literature: “An element essential to progress in any given field is that of bibliographic control of the key works of a subject. That is, means must be available to make it possible to find out what has been done or thought by whom, and where this information may be obtained” (White, 1976, p. 21).
Rhea’s interest in parapsychological publications come from the 1960s, as seen in her paper “The Library and Psychical Research” (White, 1965). While many of her contributions are listed in her bibliography, I would like to mention some of her main work. Her first major book on the subject, and one that I treasured as a beginning student of parapsychology, was her Parapsychology: Sources of Information (White & Dale, 1973). This included 282 books classified under such varied topics as altered states of consciousness, experimental psychical research, hauntings and poltergeists, out-of-body experiences, psychiatry and psi phenomena, and unorthodox healing. In addition to summaries of the books and basic bibliographical data such as place and date of publication, each entry included information about: (1) who wrote the preface or introduction; (2) the price of the book; (3) in or out of print status; (4) presence of illustrations; and (5) book reviews. In addition, the books were rated on a three point scale to indicate if they were non-technical, semi-technical, or technical. Parapsychology: Sources of Information, as all of Rhea’s bibliographical contributions, was held in high regard.
Well-known parapsychologist J. Gaither Pratt wrote about it: “We can all rest easier when those seeking information can be told: ‘All your questions are answered in the White and Dale book
’ ” (Pratt, 1973, p. 182). The book was followed by another major work, Parapsychology: New Sources of Information, 19731989, that listed over 400 additional books (White, 1990b). Both works, however, were not limited to a list of books. They included many other sources of information. For example, the second book had lists of: parapsychological organizations, journals and newsletters, government grants given to conduct research on psychic phenomena, and parapsychology-related theses and dissertations. In addition, there was a glossary of terms and essays by Rhea and others discussing a variety of topics. Rhea’s work included many other bibliographies among which were the important reference works such as the bibliographies she contributed to Handbook of Parapsychology (White, 1977), and the Advances in Parapsychological Research series (e.g., White, 1990c). In addition, she prepared numerous bibliographies on such topics as applications of psychic phenomena, evidential literature, Kirlian photography, spontaneous psychic experiences, religion and psychic phenomena, and the work of parapsychologists such as Haakon Forwald, Charles Honorton and Karlis Osis (for a list of her bibliographies click here.)
In 1983 she started Parapsychology Abstracts International (PAI), a unique project in the history of parapsychological bibliography, the purpose of which was to present abstracts of the international parapsychological literature appearing mainly in journals and magazines, but also in books, dissertations and theses, and pamphlets. I participated in this project in a small way by writing abstracts of articles published in Spanish. In 1990 PAI changed into Exceptional Human Experience (EHE), 19902004), which continued publishing abstracts, but expanded its coverage to a wider net of phenomena than those studied by parapsychologists, and also became a journal that published articles. Rhea published some of the most important papers of her later career in EHE (e.g., White, 1990a).
The same year that PAI appeared, Rhea started her PsiLine database. She described this project as a database “which abstracts and indexes all the major journals from 1940 on and some for earlier years. It also includes many books from the early twentieth century to date, dissertations, chapters, and conference proceedings. About one third of the content of PsiLine is published and indexed in great detail in Parapsychology Abstracts International
” (White, 1990b, p. 220).
J. B. Rhine wrote about Rhea’s bibliographical work, “there ought to be some way to recognize this quiet, back-in-the-corner and largely volunteer work that she’s been doing, which has been so basic for the field in a broader educational way. There ought indeed to be some kind of a special sainthood for people like that
a suitable award perhaps” (Rhine, 1976, p. 312).
Pratt, J. G. (1973). ESP Research Today: A Study of Developments in Parapsychology Since 1960. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
Rhine, J. B. (1976). [Discussion remarks]. In B. Shapin & L. Coly (Eds.), Education in Parapsychology (p. 312). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.
White, R. A. (1965). The Library and Psychical Research: I. Making the Most of the Library. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 59, 266308.
White, R. A. (1976). Published catalogs of psychical research libraries. Parapsychology Review, 7(4), 2122.
White, R. A. (1977). Suggested Readings in Parapsychology. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
White, R. A. (1990a). An Experience-Centered Approach to Parapsychology. Exceptional Human Experience, 8, 736.
White, R. A. (Comp.). (1990b). Parapsychology: New Sources of Information, 19731989. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
White, R. A. (1990c). A Select Bibliography of Books on Parapsychology, 19851988. In S. Krippner (Eds.), Advances in Parapsychological Research 6 (pp. 268300). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
White, R. A., & Dale, L. A. (Comps.). (1973). Parapsychology: Sources of Information. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.