Rice to host international conference on paranormal scholarship March 3-6 | Rice News | News and Media Relations
In 2021, the US government released a preliminary report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), more commonly known as UFOs, after decades of denial and misinformation regarding the existence and investigation of these unexplained experiences. This year, Rice will host a major international conference on the academic study of these UFO phenomena, extrasensory perception and other paranormal phenomena.
“Open the archives of the impossible, scheduled for March 3 to 6 on campus and online, will be free and open to the public. The conference will feature eight keynote addresses by the world’s leading scholars, researchers and writers on the paranormal.
The conference was organized by Jeffrey Kripal, associate dean of the School of the Humanities and holder of the J. Newton Rayzor Professorship of Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice. Kripal is also Associate Director of the Center for Theory and Research at the famed Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.
“I understand that the word ‘paranormal’ usually makes academics uncomfortable, but what we’re going to show is that the original French word – which meant something like ‘super natural’ – and its categories associates were all created by scientists and scholars at places like Cambridge, Duke and Harvard,” Kripal said. The response to the event is a clear sign of the same.
Prior to the conference, Kripal will also host a series of live webinars with leading scholars in the field: Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English at Duke University, will speak on February 15 at 4 p.m.and Hussein Ali Agrama, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, will speak February 24 at 5 p.m.
Among the four days of the conference, a spotlight on the “Archives of the impossible» themselves: a wealth of research and important documentary holdings related to the study of paranormal experiences housed at the Woodson Research Center of the Fondren Library.
This extensive archive includes articles from the Edwin C. May Laboratories for Fundamental Research, Richard F. Haines ufology articles – which cover the years 1970 to 2010 and contain UFO photos with notes and photo analysis and audio interviews with UFO witnesses – and the articles on UFOs and paranormal phenomena by Jacques Vallée, under embargo for 10 years.
Due to limited capacity for in-person attendance, online registration will include live streams of plenary speakers. Other conference events will not be broadcast live, but will be recorded and shared online at a later date.
Valley: Founder of Documatica Research and information scientist with a background in astrophysics and artificial intelligence, Vallée was one of the architects of social networks on the Internet and one of the founders of international venture capital funds in Silicon Valley, including NASA’s Red Planet Capital. . His early interest in the UFO phenomenon and psychic research led to a series of technical books and articles in many languages, and he recently developed the largest UAP “data warehouse” in existence for a classified project.
Leslie Kean: An investigative journalist, Kean co-wrote a pivotal New York Times story in 2017 that revealed the existence of a secret Pentagon UFO program. Kean has covered the paranormal in mainstream publications for over 20 years and is currently working on a UFO documentary series for CNN. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record” and “Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife”, which became the basis of a 2021 documentary series on Netflix. .
Edwin May: The president and founder of the Laboratories for Fundamental Research in Palo Alto, California, May was a scientist in the US government’s secret ESP program known as Star Gate from 1976 to 1995, and served as the program’s director from 1985 to 1995. He has authored several articles in the nuclear physics literature, numerous articles in parapsychology technical journals, and over 300 final technical reports on ESP to government. May earned her doctorate in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968.
Whitley Strieber: Author of “Communion”, the best-selling book on close encounters, Strieber has since written numerous follow-up books and has hosted the weekly radio/podcast show “Dreamland” since 1998. His latest works include “The Afterlife Revolution ,” on the possibility of extraphysical consciousness, and “Jesus: A New Vision,” a reconstruction of the life and teachings of Jesus.
Diana Pasulka: A professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Pasulka’s research ranges from Catholic history to new religious movements. She is a principal investigator in an ongoing study of Catholic manuscripts and saints at the Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Space Observatory. Pasulka’s recent books include “American Cosmic: UFO’s, Religion, Technology” and the upcoming “Contact 21: Encounters with Non-Human Intelligence”.
John Philippe Santos: A Rhodes Scholar, writer, journalist, and documentarian, Santos has created television documentaries about religion and culture for CBS News and PBS. He teaches Métis writing and cultural studies at the Honors College at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is currently working on the final installment of his memoir trilogy and is collaborating with Chicano musician Alejandro Escovedo on a memoir of his life in punk rock and beyond.
Sebastian DeFilippi: Italian-Argentinian musician, author and academic, De Filippi is musical director of the Chamber Orchestra of the National Congress and artistic director of the Latin American Academy of Orchestral Conducting. He is also a researcher on fringe phenomena, publishing hundreds of papers and articles over the past 25 years.
The “Opening the Archives of the Impossible” lecture will begin March 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hudspeth Auditorium of the Anderson-Clarke Center at Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Kripal will deliver a keynote address and welcome participants before the first plenary session at 5:30 p.m., which will feature Vallée.
The conference continues March 4 with a 9 a.m. digital tour of the “Archives of the Impossible” held at the Woodson Research Center, followed by a 10 a.m. panel of archivists including Amanda Focke, Woodson’s Special Collections Manager.
“So many people here at the university — from faculty and students to administrators, artists and alumni — have given so much of themselves and their talents,” Kripal said. “People are very excited and I’m deeply grateful.”