Sokoloff steps into the world of paranormal psychological phenomenon in this quirky thriller as scientific methodology is applied to ESP, if such an ambitious task can be accomplished. It is the barriers between the known and the unknown that carry such fascination, the scientist’s insatiable need to quantify, to understand that which perhaps is not measurable.
The tale begins with the extraordinary: a young woman wakes from a dream of her fiancé’s infidelity. Listening to her instincts, she drives two hours home from a scientific convention in another city only to find her worst fears borne out. Her fiancé is indeed with another woman. An explosively shattering mirror seals the deal.
Suddenly the young woman having the nightmare, Dr. Laurel MacDonald, has moved across the country, from California to Duke University in North Carolina, where she has accepted a teaching position. Deeply disturbed by the breakup and her eerie precognition, Laurel is struggling with this undefined new life and particularly susceptible to the overtures of another faculty member, Dr. Brendan Cody.
When newly released documents from Duke’s former Rhine parapsychology lab are made available to the public, it doesn’t take long for Laurel to discover the untoward events of an experiment in ESP that all but closed down the department in the 1960s. With Brendan’s support, the two educators locate the site of the former ESP experiment, Folger House, and determine to recreate the scene for themselves, hopefully with different results: “They didn’t get out. No one did.”
Little information is available about the former experiment or the tragic circumstances that caused the department to close, but between the natural hubris of youth and cutting-edge technology, Laurel and Brendan believe they can monitor the old estate and conduct their own carefully controlled experiment.
The idea is to resurrect and contact the Folger House poltergeist; barring that, they will document the activities of the participants replicating the previous experiment, using the two professors and two high-scoring students, Tyler Mountford and Katrina deVore as subjects. Of course, any problems will come from the human element, the inherent unpredictability of those involved.
Although she supports the plan given certain reasonable scientific foundations, this is the murky territory of the in-between. The author has salted both place and participants in this carefully constructed arena with flaws and doubts, with pride and suppositions, with a hefty dose of the unknown, the otherworldly, eerie creaks and walls that sigh, night visitors and disturbing, sexual dreams.
The singular voice of reason, Laurel fights to maintain control in this increasingly unpredictable and dangerous environment. While some behaviors are distressingly human, other forces are awakened that are inexplicable and menacing. The question is whether this author makes the critical leap into that terrifying netherworld. Sometimes, but not often enough to make me a believer.