Exhibit / February 7, 2018
Object Name: Sixth Sense by Larry Kettelkamp
Maker and Year: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1970
Object Type: Book
Image Source: Exhibit author
Description: (K.E. Roberts)
Hundreds of books on various psychic phenomena—both surveys and how-to manuals, sometimes both—were released throughout the 1960s, as the paranormal, especially ESP, began to be taken seriously by academics and the American and Soviet intelligence communities. What makes Sixth Sense notable, apart from a convincing cover illustration, is that it’s essentially a kid’s book, part of the Morrow Junior Books series. By the late 1970s, as ancient astronauts, Bigfoot, and the Bermuda Triangle inundated the pop culture landscape, non-fiction kid’s books on occult subjects became commonplace. In 1970, that wasn’t the case. Sixth Sense was “singular” in that regard, a fact noted by Kirkus Reviews at the time.
Author Larry Kettelkamp romps through a number of now well-known cases involving “the power of psi”: novelist Upton Sinclair’s telepathy “experiments” with his wife, J.B. Rhine’s parapsychology laboratory at Duke University (est. 1935), alleged psychic detective Gerard Croiset, Bishop James Pike’s reported communion with his dead son during a televised séance, astral projection, spirit photographs, “retrocognition.” Kettelkamp is a believer, and he makes no attempt to disguise the fact, talking openly about his own “empathic” and psychic experiences. Of “prophet” Edgar Cayce, Kettelkamp remarks that “new discoveries” tend to “bear out” his trance readings. There is evidence (“maps,” “tablets,” “artifacts”), for example, of “an advanced civilization, in the Atlantic, whose descendants established the high cultures in Egypt…” (Cayce did much to popularize the Atlantis myth.)
Kettelkamp does tell a yarn that turns out to be true, though: a novella written in 1898 called The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility does seem to foreshadow, at the very least, the sinking of the RMS Titanic 14 years later. Both the Titan and the Titanic are described as “unsinkable,” both strike an iceberg—at almost exactly the same speed, on the starboard side, on a night in April—and sink in almost exactly the same location in the North Atlantic, and both carry the bare minimum of lifeboats: 24 for the Titan, and 20 for the Titanic. The author of the story, American Morgan Robertson, was hailed as clairvoyant after the Titanic was lost, a claim he rejected. Robertson had sailed with the merchant service in his youth, and claimed that the sinking of the Titan was simply a believable maritime event for the bigger ocean liners then being produced.
The last chapter of the book, Understanding Psi, explains to the kiddos how to get in tune with the four “levels of consciousness” (the highest is “Universal Being,” where “the consciousness of all individuals merges into a pool of awareness…”) and develop their latent psychic talents. Through daily telepathy (“Choose a good friend who lives some distance away from you…”), dreams (during which “many E.S.P. experiences occur”), hunches, and predictions, “Your own sixth sense will become an important part of your life. The final proof will be its usefulness to you and to others.”