Who were they?

This is Gaither Pratt and Hubert Pearce. Gaither was a scientist, and pretty much the second-in-command at the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory. Hubert Pearce was the best ESP subject they ever found. Look at them. They are 22 and 27 in this photo. So serious. They’re just starting out in their lives. Both wanted to become ministers at one point. Gaither changed his mind, but Hubert did go on to become a Methodist minister in Arkansas.

And both are now dead. I can never meet them. But I’ve been writing about what they were like for the past month or so. It’s insane when you think about it. I’ve been searching through various archives to find film footage of them, but so far I haven’t turned anything up. But I am in touch with their children, who have been helping. I was just emailing with Gaither’s daughter Ellen last night. And I have talked to a bunch of people who knew them. But still. It’s weird. Luckily, there are a lot of records, tons of letters. I can immerse myself in the correspondence and get a feel for what they were like, and their relationships with other people.

I rescheduled my library visit yesterday. It was just too hot. It would have made an enjoyable thing not fun. I want to go when I can enjoy myself. But this weather is getting to me. I’m doing another fun thing tonight, I’m being interviewed on a BBC show about the cold case book, but right now I’m dreading getting on the subway and going uptown. I’m going to get there early to give myself a chance to cool down before the interview.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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