Imagine a place where scientists and ghost hunters can co-exist. A place where students can study the psychosomatic effects of a ouija board or the power of suggestion during a tarot card reading. This is the vision of Brian Laythe, adjunct lecturer in psychology at IU Southeast.
“The goal of the institute is to study all the things that no one else wants to study,” said Laythe. “The skeptics won’t touch it because they say it’s all bunk. Believers say it’s sacred so you can’t look into it. But we want to study all types of religious and anomalous experiences.”
Hence the name Institute for the Study of Religious and Anomalous Experience (ISRAE). Laythe said it’s been difficult to gain funding for the institute because there are no grants available for parapsychology, and because many people have misconceptions about what they are trying to accomplish.
“We don’t say it’s literally anomalous and we don’t make claims that it’s dead people. We just say we can’t explain it,” said Laythe. “We’re saying data hasn’t been delivered, thus it’s open to study. And until the data comes in, until we actually bother to study it, were not gonna make a claim.”
So far ISRAE has been able to fund their research through crowd-funding by holding events such as the historic ghost tours in downtown .
And in the summer the group plans to hold summer classes on topics ranging from tarot card readings to a history of occultism.
Fund raising events like this will allow the group to accomplish their goals of acquiring an actual brick and mortar institute, as well as other things like creating a national map of paranormal sites.
“Were doing science, people may or may not like what were studying, but were doing science,” said Laythe. “And were not just doing this to conduct research, were doing this so the community can get good information, scientific information.”
Laythe hopes to open the institue up so that anyone can join by the fall of next year. This would allow people in the community to get involved and find information on the paranormal that doesn’t come from a television show.
To learn more about ISRAE or some of the research they have conducted, visit asafp.org.