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A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-f A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP really exists. Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers troubling cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. Unaware that the entire original team ended up insane or dead, the two professors and two exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the abandoned mansion to replicate the investigation, with horrifying results. The Unseen is Alexandra Sokoloff's most thrilling novel to date: a story of deception, attraction, and the unknown.


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A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-f A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP really exists. Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers troubling cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. Unaware that the entire original team ended up insane or dead, the two professors and two exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the abandoned mansion to replicate the investigation, with horrifying results. The Unseen is Alexandra Sokoloff's most thrilling novel to date: a story of deception, attraction, and the unknown.

30 review for The Unseen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    Well this was a weird one. I really enjoyed this but found the last quarter of the book kind of predictable. I wish it had ended a bit different and better. My opinion, of course.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Trilby

    This was a very disappointing book. After developing a really scary situation in an abandoned mansion, the author comes up with the cheesiest of denouements. I really felt cheated and was sorry to have been so badly suckered. I should have known that with characters repeatedly "tingling,""shivering,""sagging," or having "stony expressions," that the novel would end badly--for me, at least. I was irritated by the gratuitous sex scenes that turned out to have nothing to do with plot or character d This was a very disappointing book. After developing a really scary situation in an abandoned mansion, the author comes up with the cheesiest of denouements. I really felt cheated and was sorry to have been so badly suckered. I should have known that with characters repeatedly "tingling,""shivering,""sagging," or having "stony expressions," that the novel would end badly--for me, at least. I was irritated by the gratuitous sex scenes that turned out to have nothing to do with plot or character development. Or how about the college undergraduate who is driving around in a Maserati? I don't know anybody who has one of those, let alone a 19-year-old. A female student is drawn as a laughable caricature of a Southern Belle. Also, the portrayal of university life was totally unrealistic. College professors do not have the option of suddenly taking students out of all their classes for three weeks for an experiment; such an experiment would require months, even years, of planning. Finally, most college professors are not so ignorant(as is one in this novel) to declare that Martin Luther in the nineteenth century coined the term 'poltergeist.' Well, the prof was off by only three centuries. Where are you, Henry James, when we really need you?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Krisi Keley

    Although I don't like to and rarely give negative reviews, I can't help but feel I need to mention the main issue I had with this novel, for those who might be similarly sensitive to it. While I enjoyed the author's "The Space Between" and was looking forward to this novel on parapsychology, anything interesting or enjoyable about the story was ruined for me by how offensive I found it towards those who suffer from mental illness. However unintentional it may have been (and though perhaps not em Although I don't like to and rarely give negative reviews, I can't help but feel I need to mention the main issue I had with this novel, for those who might be similarly sensitive to it. While I enjoyed the author's "The Space Between" and was looking forward to this novel on parapsychology, anything interesting or enjoyable about the story was ruined for me by how offensive I found it towards those who suffer from mental illness. However unintentional it may have been (and though perhaps not employed as a fully definitive explanation), even to make the concluding suggestion that schizophrenia is a type of contagious entity of living evil which could imprint a location and infect others is detrimental in that it can only serve to further misunderstanding of the disease and add to the stigma and the fear-induced prejudice schizophrenics suffer along with their illness. Multiple references to schizophrenia and schizophrenics smelling like sulphurous "goat" simply struck me as insulting, even if it wasn't meant to be. As a side note, and maybe not as important to some readers: I don't know about the hardcover edition, but the Kindle edition had a notable number of editing and formatting problems.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    Well, Alexandra, you did scare me. The story of a group of people - two professors, two college students - all from Duke University, who set out to replicate a test of possible poltergeists in an old, North Carolina mansion. Background: Said mansion was the site of a similar experiment in 1965 which left its participants insane, dead or wishing they were dead. These original experimental documents were left sealed in 400+ boxes in a library on the Duke campus, but have been recently 'unsealed' for Well, Alexandra, you did scare me. The story of a group of people - two professors, two college students - all from Duke University, who set out to replicate a test of possible poltergeists in an old, North Carolina mansion. Background: Said mansion was the site of a similar experiment in 1965 which left its participants insane, dead or wishing they were dead. These original experimental documents were left sealed in 400+ boxes in a library on the Duke campus, but have been recently 'unsealed' for public view. Laurel McDonald, a young psychology professor recently moved from CA to NC, decides to research these old documents. (She needs a topic for experimental review and publication in order to keep her new job.) Doing some further digging around, she discovers one of her relatives was involved in the original experiments. Even more background: Duke University did conduct parapsychology experiments from the 1920's to 60's, at which time they were all dropped. Hence, one often finds - in horror literature - references to this school, this time period, these experiments. So this part ain't made up! Back to story: In the course of recreating and researching this earlier work, McDonald, another professor, and two eager and willing college kids move into the mansion (which has been deserted for decades) and eschewing all modern electronica, such as laptops, cell phones, etc., set out to see what's up when it comes to poltergeists, paranormal phenomena, and so on. There's a lot of creepiness here, and underhandedness, and things which go more than just bump! in the night. However, I was a little disappointed when a lot of threads were left hanging near the end. It gave me the feeling of - is this gonna be a series? Or at least, will there be a sequel? However, and coming from a family in which we had an ancestress claiming to be a medium - my mother called her a 'kook' - I read it with great interest. One of those books, which when I set it aside late at night after reading, I didn't want in my bedroom. I'm funny that way. Four stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kasia

    I read a lot of horror and supernatural fiction so naturally I have read all of Sokoloff's books and I liked this one the most. One warm April afternoon I spotted "The Unseen" with the corner of my eye at my local library while waiting for some complaint resolution ( someone took me Patterson book that I had on hold) and ended up walking home with it instead, after finishing it I still want to get my own copy to read again, the paper back coming out has a fantastic cover and this is something th I read a lot of horror and supernatural fiction so naturally I have read all of Sokoloff's books and I liked this one the most. One warm April afternoon I spotted "The Unseen" with the corner of my eye at my local library while waiting for some complaint resolution ( someone took me Patterson book that I had on hold) and ended up walking home with it instead, after finishing it I still want to get my own copy to read again, the paper back coming out has a fantastic cover and this is something that I admired and I definitely want to read again in the future. The book started off slowly but somehow I kept coming back to the story, time constraints made it a slow read but I kept crawling back to it, I just had to know what happened. The novel has an air of sophistication to it, there is a certain amount of succulence in the paragraphs and after reading Alex's "The Price" and "The Harrowing" I can definitely say that this book shows the growth and tightness that the author managed to establish rather well. This might not please everyone but after finishing I smiled, I liked this book, I liked it a lot! Parapsychology and poltergeists are the meat of the story, or rather finding out if any of it actually occurred, the failed eerie Rhine ESP experiments at the Duke University parapsychology department have been buried and almost forgotten for forty years, that is until the dusty files ( 700 boxes of them) somehow call to Lauren, the new teacher who has seeked refuge and solace at the infamous Duke library under the stern eye of librarian Warden. Young and sensitive Lauren has moved away from a painful memory she left behind along with her beloved San Francisco; her cheating fiancée and that awful unexplained accident with mirrors are all in the past, that is until she runs across the old files that spark her interest in a new scholarly project. ESP has been a popular talent in her family and Lauren's interest and quest for closure has driven her to solve the riddle of the Rhine experiment that have shut an expensive house and put students in mental institution. Lauren has no idea what really awaits at the house, she thinks it's a hoax but she fears that it could be something real, something that will not only satisfy but perhaps even kill her curiosity. Equipped with plenty of food, score sheets and a fellow teacher and two bright students, she sets out to find the house and for once solve it's solemn mystery. Full of scares, enticing build up and even sexual tension, The Unseen guarantees a satisfying read, one perhaps best spend with someone else close by, just in case it gets too intense. I especially loved the shocking ending and the final pages, this proves that the author has what it takes, I can't wait for her next novel. This is a brightly woven tapestry full of wondrous words, the book only gets better the more I think about it and that's definitely what reading is all about. - Kasia S.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Dark, moody, and utterly compelling, The Unseen sucked me in and I could not put the thing down. I went to bed hours after I'd planned to because "just one more chapter" meant "MUST FINISH BOOK." I was sucked into the mystery every bit as hard as the protagonist and had to find out what happened next, and if sleep had to suffer, so be it. Since Dr Joseph Banks Rhine was a real person, and really conducted the Rhine experiments at Duke, I loved the afterword separating fact from fiction. Sokoloff Dark, moody, and utterly compelling, The Unseen sucked me in and I could not put the thing down. I went to bed hours after I'd planned to because "just one more chapter" meant "MUST FINISH BOOK." I was sucked into the mystery every bit as hard as the protagonist and had to find out what happened next, and if sleep had to suffer, so be it. Since Dr Joseph Banks Rhine was a real person, and really conducted the Rhine experiments at Duke, I loved the afterword separating fact from fiction. Sokoloff has done plenty of research, which I always appreciate, and as a result the setup had a very real feel to it. I did occasionally want to bash Lauren in the head for her blatant disregard for her own safety, since although she believed she was putting herself in dangerous situations, she didn't often seem to stop and consider that the smartest alternative might have been to stick with the books and interviews rather than trying to recreate an experiment that clearly went horribly wrong the first time. She does at one point (perhaps too late) make a decision to leave, but gives up the idea far too easily when Brendan says "please." I can appreciate her driving need to solve the mystery, but considering most of the information came from more traditional sources, mostly research and talking to people who were around at the time, that she'd keep herself and the students she was responsible for in what she knows is a potentially dangerous place seemed awfully foolhardy for a character who knew better. Some readers may be frustrated by Lauren's resistance to believe, attempting to explain everything in a rational way time after time after time in a manner reminiscent of The X Files's Scully. Considering where she came from, though, and what it would mean for her and her life if she had to accept the existence of the paranormal, I found her reluctance understandable and believable. And someone had to balance out the enthusiasm of the others. In the end, the mood and the increasingly complex story sucked me in so hard that by the time I'd finished, I was ready to re-read. And really, doesn't that say it all?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Oh, would that The Unseen had remained The Unread. Sokoloff's premise is admittedly killer: What if the Rhine Lab, Duke's fabled parapsychology program, had stumbled across something so disturbing it caused the entire department to suddenly shut down, and the people involved to either retire or disappear? That, my friends, is the stuff excellent fiction is made of - and to be fair, the author buttresses this basic outline with some fairly excellent research into the actual history of J.B. Rhine Oh, would that The Unseen had remained The Unread. Sokoloff's premise is admittedly killer: What if the Rhine Lab, Duke's fabled parapsychology program, had stumbled across something so disturbing it caused the entire department to suddenly shut down, and the people involved to either retire or disappear? That, my friends, is the stuff excellent fiction is made of - and to be fair, the author buttresses this basic outline with some fairly excellent research into the actual history of J.B. Rhine and his experiments. However, an outline and some historical notes do not a narrative make, and that's where the potential for awesome swings toward Oh, God no! Please! My EYES!. The best that can be said for Sokoloff's characters is that they show up for work at the top of every page. Our heroine Laurel is nominally a psychologist - and I do mean nominally, as the author couldn't be bothered to stretch her research to what psychologists actually do - and has a career apparently entirely based on Myers-Briggs, the astrological arm of psychometric testing. I could maybe let that pass, were she to occasionally ponder the MBTI's Jungian basis or anything else that might hint at having even a passing familiarity with psychology, but she's too busy throwing the word "manic" around in a clinically inaccurate sense to bother. Aside from these professional failings, once darling Laurel makes it to her haunted house (which, by the way, seems to have been cribbed directly from the descriptions in The Haunting of Hill House) the author has her vacillate so much over whether she should stay or go that she begins to resemble nothing so much as the chorus to a Clash song. Even were you to discount the utter flimsiness of the author's characterizations, her tin ear for dialogue (one character un-ironically addresses the heroine as "home girl"...in a novel set post-2000), or her repeated failed attempts to make cinematic jump scare tactics work in a novel, there's still an extremely disturbing and problematically oh-so-rapey sex scene which quite literally never gets addressed. I guess what happens in a haunted house stays in a haunted house, right? Spare yourself the unfortunate Unseen, and hie on over to Stacy Horn's Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory. It's all the parapsychological rush with none of Sokoloff's terrible narrative side effects.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donnelle

    Sokoloff is most definitely gifted when it comes to creating an atmosphere rich with foreboding and dread, and she begins building those elements, and ratcheting up the tension from the very first page. Moreover, the subject matter of this book is incredibly interesting, as she explores the intersection of psychology and the supernatural, and any and all possible cause and effect relationships therein. As always, her characters seem real - intensely so - in that each and every one of them is fla Sokoloff is most definitely gifted when it comes to creating an atmosphere rich with foreboding and dread, and she begins building those elements, and ratcheting up the tension from the very first page. Moreover, the subject matter of this book is incredibly interesting, as she explores the intersection of psychology and the supernatural, and any and all possible cause and effect relationships therein. As always, her characters seem real - intensely so - in that each and every one of them is flawed is some way. They deal with varying degrees of jealousy and insecurity, paranoia and arrogance, desire and confusion, and of course, no small amount of terror. The book held my interest from the beginning - it certainly falls into the couldn't-put-it-down territory. The only reason that I did not give the book the full 5 stars was because Sokoloff did such an excellent job of building up the tension and scariness, that the ending didn't quite live up my expectations. There are certainly twists and plenty of creepiness, but I just kept waiting for (and expecting) *more.* That said, this is still a very good book (as are her other novels), and will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in scary stories, poltergeists, ESP, and the like.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

    I like Alexandra Sokoloff's books, but she really needs to give them less generic names. "Oh, it's a book about paranormal investigators trying to manifest a poltergeist. I think 'The Unseen' pretty much summarizes that concept as well as 'The Harrowing' describes a group of college students who unleash a supernatural boogeyman over a school holiday. 'Harrowing' is a noun, right? Well, whatever." But I digress. The Unseen has at its heart a really cool concept. A new professor at Duke University I like Alexandra Sokoloff's books, but she really needs to give them less generic names. "Oh, it's a book about paranormal investigators trying to manifest a poltergeist. I think 'The Unseen' pretty much summarizes that concept as well as 'The Harrowing' describes a group of college students who unleash a supernatural boogeyman over a school holiday. 'Harrowing' is a noun, right? Well, whatever." But I digress. The Unseen has at its heart a really cool concept. A new professor at Duke University digs into the old Parapsychology Lab files and is set off on a paranormal adventure involving extra-sensory human powers and poltergeists in a scary old house. All of this is interesting enough to carry the book through its occasional forays into trashy romance territory (SPOILER ALERT! There's a thrilling but completely unnecessary ghost(?) rape in there somewhere). If you're into paranormal thrillers with a bit of naughty naughty, this one's for you. I enjoyed it, and can't wait to check out Sokoloff's other books, including "The Price," "The Fear," "The Shadow," and "The Terrify."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tony Y

    The only thing "Unseen" about this book is its appeal. It has extreme potential which is squandered on a floozy, bickering, damsel-in-distress protagonist masquerading as an "academic" whose two emotions are either being startled or weak in the knees with lust. The dialogue is atrocious. The younger characters in the book talk the way old people think young people talk. The plot is plodding, slow, and repetitive. The only thing "Unseen" about this book is its appeal. It has extreme potential which is squandered on a floozy, bickering, damsel-in-distress protagonist masquerading as an "academic" whose two emotions are either being startled or weak in the knees with lust. The dialogue is atrocious. The younger characters in the book talk the way old people think young people talk. The plot is plodding, slow, and repetitive.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    Wavered back and forth on this book so many times and honestly if I could I would rate it a 3.5 as it wasnt bad at all--just not what I normally read or even enjoy..The premise is poltergists, and seriously let me preface this by saying I am not a big believer in paranormal activity, sorry but until it happens to me I guess I take the stories and "sightings" with a grain of salt and it is with this semi jaded point of view I found myself reading the cover flap of this book and then seriously dou Wavered back and forth on this book so many times and honestly if I could I would rate it a 3.5 as it wasnt bad at all--just not what I normally read or even enjoy..The premise is poltergists, and seriously let me preface this by saying I am not a big believer in paranormal activity, sorry but until it happens to me I guess I take the stories and "sightings" with a grain of salt and it is with this semi jaded point of view I found myself reading the cover flap of this book and then seriously doubting if I would like this book, but read another book by Sokoloff and decided to give it a chance..Okay so the book tells of Laurel, a doctor of psychology starting a new life after a failed engagement in California..Her new life path takes her to North Carolina where she is teaching at Duke and kinda stumbles upon the findings of a shut down paranormal department and an experiment that is being covered up and buried pretty suspiciously. Laurel, fueled with a weird premonition dream she herself had on her fiance's infidelity and her lonliness at being in a new environment decides to investigate and after meeting a colleague as intrigued as she is they begin to gather the participants and test data needed to recreate the experiment that shut down a department, killed a man and had three others exhibit signs of mental illness....thats right four people move in a haunted house to see and record if there is a presence...Okay so it really wasnt that bad I just dont think that I can relate to people sitting around waiting for danger, so plates fall off the wall, rocks shower from the ceiling..go home..What do you think is going to happen, you make a ghost best friend and "understand" why they are haunting a place, no you will end up dead just like them..Cant understand it but read on and found the hauntings a little silly not scary, slow moving not suspenseful and overall just not logical or smart..the characters were kinda one dimensional and asked alot of questions and never really got any concrete answers to anything...didnt hate it but didnt love it either...

  12. 5 out of 5

    R

    Well this book started out okay, but I have to say that I became extremely frustrated with the main protagonist Laurel. The author has a background in writing horror scripts and to my great disappointment it's like she followed every bad horror script on the planet when writing this book. You know the ones- where you yell at the screen and say "Tell someone about this! Don't go in there alone! Get out of the house!" That's exactly what I started to do every time she did something in this book. T Well this book started out okay, but I have to say that I became extremely frustrated with the main protagonist Laurel. The author has a background in writing horror scripts and to my great disappointment it's like she followed every bad horror script on the planet when writing this book. You know the ones- where you yell at the screen and say "Tell someone about this! Don't go in there alone! Get out of the house!" That's exactly what I started to do every time she did something in this book. The book certainly has atmosphere, and it's decent writing but man was the lead character an idiot. It bothered me so much I started to skip sections where she wandered around- not telling people things she should have and the ending was a let down. Apparently Sokoloff's book the Harrowing won a few horror awards, so I might check that out but it's going to be a hard sell after this one. There are far better books out there than this one on ESP and Psi excitement. But hey, if you are into reading about annoying, ineffectual lead characters then be my guest!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Hartigan

    This story has been told (and told better) many times. If you enjoy "scientists" investigating a haunted house with hapless psychics in tow I recommend either Shirley Jackson's iconic "The Haunting of Hill House". Or Richard Matheson's "Hell House." I also agree with another reader's comments regarding the author's derogatory portrayal of individuals with mental illness; the protagonist, who is supposed to have a PhD in psychology, at one point describes the inmates at the local psychiatric hospi This story has been told (and told better) many times. If you enjoy "scientists" investigating a haunted house with hapless psychics in tow I recommend either Shirley Jackson's iconic "The Haunting of Hill House". Or Richard Matheson's "Hell House." I also agree with another reader's comments regarding the author's derogatory portrayal of individuals with mental illness; the protagonist, who is supposed to have a PhD in psychology, at one point describes the inmates at the local psychiatric hospital as a "parade of lunatics." Nothing good here folks, move on!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Riayl

    Wow, that bio is off-putting, glad I didn't read it first. :) I enjoyed the parts that focused on researching the history of the paranormal studies at the university, and you could feel the tension/tingling building bit by bit...right up until they went to the haunted house. Then things got sort of "ugh" and then they got weird, but not really ghostly creepy weird. Wow, that bio is off-putting, glad I didn't read it first. :) I enjoyed the parts that focused on researching the history of the paranormal studies at the university, and you could feel the tension/tingling building bit by bit...right up until they went to the haunted house. Then things got sort of "ugh" and then they got weird, but not really ghostly creepy weird.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    i got her signature on this book! a greenish nite-writering one, holy mackerel! just can't believe it, whenvever i take a smell of the tome, the vanilla hint of the paper and ink... :目 i got her signature on this book! a greenish nite-writering one, holy mackerel! just can't believe it, whenvever i take a smell of the tome, the vanilla hint of the paper and ink... :目

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin Moore

    Really glad I got past the cover on this book (shown)- it looks like true-crime or horror - something gruesome or bloody. But in reality, the book is just super creepalicious. In fact, I woke up this morning dreaming that a poltergeist had unspooled all of my dental floss. Alas, when I went into the bathroom, it was all still there. Still had to floss today. The story centers on Laurel McDonald, a psychology professor who moves from California to Duke University after the break-up of her marriag Really glad I got past the cover on this book (shown)- it looks like true-crime or horror - something gruesome or bloody. But in reality, the book is just super creepalicious. In fact, I woke up this morning dreaming that a poltergeist had unspooled all of my dental floss. Alas, when I went into the bathroom, it was all still there. Still had to floss today. The story centers on Laurel McDonald, a psychology professor who moves from California to Duke University after the break-up of her marriage. Laurel, who may or may not have some psychic ability herself, starts to learn about her own family's history in the area, including an uncle who went through a harrowing experience and now suffers from some sort of unnamed mental instability. It is when she and another professor find boxes of old material from an old lab - closed in the 60's for undisclosed reasons - that Laurel starts to think there was more than just simple experiments happening at the now closed parapsychology lab. They decide to re-enact the experiment, of course, like any good professor would, taking two gifted students to the same house where s*$% blew up last time. Taut, tense, filled with well-researched parapsychology experiments, quotes, and practices, we really get the sense of how two otherwise normal people could go mad in such a place. The tension between all of the characters is very well defined. I did find the female college student a little hard to believe - we're never given a real explanation as to her hatred of Laurel, and even rich college students have a backstory. Spoiler alert: In the end, this one left me with some questions. For instance, why, if A. felt the need to film them all, did he also then come into the girls' rooms with his notepad? Why risk that? And if Laurel clearly saw him, how come she didn't recognize him? Also, how is it possible that everyone from the last experiment went wiggedy-whack, yet her entire group came out unscathed? And, what was up with Rafe? Why introduce creepy dude and then he just sort of disappears off into the sunset? Other than that, though, this is one of the best books on the subject that I've read in a long time - superb writing, great characters, some romantic suspense (always a fave), and great plotting. We really get the sense that we are in North Carolina, just trying to do our jobs. We just happen to be abnormally gifted parapsychologists...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bookaholics

    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff May 26th, 2009 4 stars The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff is a mystery/paranormal. After finding her fiancée with another woman, Laurel MacDonald breaks off her engagement. Humiliated, Laurel decides to look for a fresh start. She accepts an appointment at Duke University in North Carolina. As in any institution she knows the key to retaining her job is based on any articles, grants, or published books she can produce and therefore raise the regard of the school. For The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff May 26th, 2009 4 stars The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff is a mystery/paranormal. After finding her fiancée with another woman, Laurel MacDonald breaks off her engagement. Humiliated, Laurel decides to look for a fresh start. She accepts an appointment at Duke University in North Carolina. As in any institution she knows the key to retaining her job is based on any articles, grants, or published books she can produce and therefore raise the regard of the school. Fortunately, she stumbles into a major find. She discovers 700 mysterious storage boxes of Dr. Rhine’s work on parapsychology. Dr Rhine did curious work on poltergeist activity. Her interest peaked; she finds no organization to their sudden filing nor reasons for the abrupt closing of the lab. Was it negligence that caused them to be packed in a mess or is there another secret the university doesn’t want anybody finding? During her research she finds a suspicious and sudden death at the same time and reference to a place called Folger House. She decides to join resources with Professor Brendon Cody, a cognitive behavior therapy. Searching for students with more than the average ESP scores, to help them find any potential poltergeist. They find two candidates. Tyler Mountford, the young man who conned her into thinking the auditorium was haunted and Katrina DeVore, a young woman infatuated with Cody and quite jealous of Laurel. Planning to replicate the Dr. Rhine’s experiments they move into the Folger House and for a while it is more like an amusement park’s haunted house. Everything seems normal, but when unexplained things happen, they have to wonder, is it their test subjects and practical jokes, or is the house playing with them? The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff will appeal to both the current generation of ghost hunters and to my generation with its references to this novel are made. It is rich in details. The end blew me away! I was NOT expecting it. I would rank this a solid four. Reviewed by Jackie from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    2.5 Stars Here is the book summary: After experiencing a bad breakup and some disturbing dreams, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove if ESP really exists. Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers disturbing cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by a 2.5 Stars Here is the book summary: After experiencing a bad breakup and some disturbing dreams, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove if ESP really exists. Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers disturbing cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. Unaware that the entire original team ended up insane or dead, the two professors and two exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the grand, abandoned haunted house to replicate the investigation, with horrifying results. The Unseen is Sokoloff’s most thrilling novel to date: a story of deception, attraction, and the unknown. Although it takes a lot for a book to scare me, ghost stories usually spook me out just a bit, no matter what. I really wanted to be spooked by The Unseen. I just wasn't. I felt the first 80% of the story toyed with the idea of being a ghost story. It was filled with tidbits of the history of Paranormal Research, the various scientific methods of recording Psi, ESP and Psychokinetic phenomena, although interesting, left little room for character development and a the all important building of eeriness and fear you see in books like Haunting of Hell House by Shirley Jackson. I am not saying there was no character development, just not enough for me to invest myself in them. The paranormal activity near the end was well written but just didn't pack a punch. I felt no creepiness at any 'unseen' entity and even though the main character constantly reminded me she felt she was being watched, I saw no evidence of it. That may not make sense to some but a well written book can use atmosphere to build tension, fear or any strong emotion. I will say that, for those of you that prefer to 'toy' with light ghost stories. You will probably enjoy this. I realize that I am somewhat jaded when it comes to scary stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Magpie

    While not as good as 'The Harrowing', 'The Unseen' is a well-written psychological thriller with supernatural elements. The premise is intriguing - the legacy of a parapsychology experiment gone wrong - and the few characters are well made, though since we see the entire story through the eyes of the main character, Laurel McDonald, some such as Katrina are viewed only with animosity and little suggestion that she is a character in her own right. The beginning is very slow, but still engaging, b While not as good as 'The Harrowing', 'The Unseen' is a well-written psychological thriller with supernatural elements. The premise is intriguing - the legacy of a parapsychology experiment gone wrong - and the few characters are well made, though since we see the entire story through the eyes of the main character, Laurel McDonald, some such as Katrina are viewed only with animosity and little suggestion that she is a character in her own right. The beginning is very slow, but still engaging, building Laurel up to be a neurotic and obsessive character, her tendencies to assess people in line with her psychology studies being turned gradually inward. She is frightened of who and what she might be, and the arc of the novel provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to this, enjoyably different from the 'neurotic woman goes into a haunted house and goes mad' template of 'The Haunting of Hill House', 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'Hell House'. On the other hand, the first half of the novel is repetitive and goes on rather too long, which lessens the tension a bit and ends up rushing through the haunting itself (surely what a lot of readers are waiting for!). However, Sokoloff has displayed a tendency with both 'The Unseen' and 'The Harrowing' to give unexpected answers to classic genre questions (what force are they dealing with?) and I didn't guess this one. However, there was one twist that severely disappointed me. Obviously I won't spoiler it now, and on reflection it was rather good, but it also broke the tone a little and lessened the fear of the force inhabiting the house. Definitely worth a look. I ummed and aahd about giving it three or four stars, but while it's a good novel, I picked it up as a part of the haunted house subgenre, and it just lacks the sophistication and firm grip on pace displayed by the best examples of the genre.

  20. 4 out of 5

    MayberryAfterMidnight

    The scariest book I've read in a long time. Well, scary enough to make me jump a foot in the air when the phone rang as I was reading it (home. alone). And scary enough to make me limit bathroom breaks while I was flying through the last 100 pages. Yes, there were a few things left a bit unresolved - who was the midnight lover? Or was that actually a dream? I certainly hope so, because otherwise that's even creepier than when all of the paintings turn upside down on the walls. And what were thos The scariest book I've read in a long time. Well, scary enough to make me jump a foot in the air when the phone rang as I was reading it (home. alone). And scary enough to make me limit bathroom breaks while I was flying through the last 100 pages. Yes, there were a few things left a bit unresolved - who was the midnight lover? Or was that actually a dream? I certainly hope so, because otherwise that's even creepier than when all of the paintings turn upside down on the walls. And what were those footprints Laurel saw as they were first touring the house with the realtor? The "bad" feeling in the dining room was never explained, nor the reason why a certain stair on the back staircase caused an overwhelming sense of lust and sexual excitement to people who passed over it. Now that I start thinking about it, there were quite a few things that weren't actually explained or, rather, there seemed such potential to do something with them, but then nothing ever happened with them. But maybe the lack of clear-cut answers is the whole point of hauntings or poltergeists, and a book that can make your heart race has got to be worth 5 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Really enjoyed this and it literally scared the crap out of me, although it didn't help that i read it home alone with the baby, husband working night shift while living out in the country with no close neighbors. But I was unable to put it down! Excellent writing and a very interesting, different topic. I felt emotionally engaged with the lead character, Laurel, from the very beginning. The book opens with her having a recurring and extremely vivid dream of when she caught her fiancé cheating o Really enjoyed this and it literally scared the crap out of me, although it didn't help that i read it home alone with the baby, husband working night shift while living out in the country with no close neighbors. But I was unable to put it down! Excellent writing and a very interesting, different topic. I felt emotionally engaged with the lead character, Laurel, from the very beginning. The book opens with her having a recurring and extremely vivid dream of when she caught her fiancé cheating on her, which is how she ended up teaching psych at Duke in North Carolina. Because of this cheating situation, broken engagement and fleeing to escape or start over in a new place, I was rooting for Laurel from the first chapter! Lots of spooky things happen when Laurel and her charismatic colleague Dr. Cody decide to recreate an experiment centered around psychic phenomena and poltergeists. I won't spoil anything, but it is a great read and the ending is satisfying. So often the ending ruins a paranormal story, but not this one. Cant wait to check out Sokoloff's other work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Excellent thriller! This is the first of her novels that I have read, and it was a great one to start with. It definitely wasn't scary, but it was a good psychological thriller that reeled me in pretty quickly and held my interest up until the end. I definitely look forward to reading more of her work. Excellent thriller! This is the first of her novels that I have read, and it was a great one to start with. It definitely wasn't scary, but it was a good psychological thriller that reeled me in pretty quickly and held my interest up until the end. I definitely look forward to reading more of her work.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    This was my first Sokoloff book and it didn't disappoint! I probably would of never of picked this book up to read if it wasn't for "Jessica's" book review. This book had me right from page one and I couldn't put it down. There were some scary scenes ( goosebumps) that I really enjoyed! I'm looking forward to reading another Sokoloff book. This was my first Sokoloff book and it didn't disappoint! I probably would of never of picked this book up to read if it wasn't for "Jessica's" book review. This book had me right from page one and I couldn't put it down. There were some scary scenes ( goosebumps) that I really enjoyed! I'm looking forward to reading another Sokoloff book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Strickland

    The Unseen is an excellent thriller that is based on the Parapsychology Lab that operated at Duke University until 1965. I loved that the book was totally fictional, yet based on real events. I was fascinated from beginning to end.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ☆ Rebecca ☆

    3.5 ☆ the first half of this book was so enthralling! once they got to the house though, the pacing sputtered and died leaving me craving some sort of action! the few things that did happen just weren't good enough. and the lack of clarity at what was summoned at the Folger House is disappointing. also, okay, Laurel seriously never recognized ANYONE and it got really fucking annoying. like? you're telling me that on page 306 of 322, she STILL didn't recognize Leish even though she had at least 30 3.5 ☆ the first half of this book was so enthralling! once they got to the house though, the pacing sputtered and died leaving me craving some sort of action! the few things that did happen just weren't good enough. and the lack of clarity at what was summoned at the Folger House is disappointing. also, okay, Laurel seriously never recognized ANYONE and it got really fucking annoying. like? you're telling me that on page 306 of 322, she STILL didn't recognize Leish even though she had at least 30 "who is that? oh! it's Leish!" or "oh! its Uncle Morgan!" moments? over and over again that happened. for someone with such intense psi ability she sure is an idiot. either way, 3.5 ☆ for being the only decent book i've read recently.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I actually disagree with some of the reviews i read before starting the book about the ending. Most said they could see the ending before well i didn't and its not because of lack of insight. Overall i enjoyed the read. I like the haunted house principle and I do recommend as a read. I actually disagree with some of the reviews i read before starting the book about the ending. Most said they could see the ending before well i didn't and its not because of lack of insight. Overall i enjoyed the read. I like the haunted house principle and I do recommend as a read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Sometimes I get such a strong urge for the paranormal stories of my childhood in the 1970s. Remember those early 1970s movies that often featured a haunted house and a cast of jaded and abrasive rich people who were challenged to stay in the house over night? This was the era of "The Unexplained!" I watched In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy every weekend and soaked in the conspiracy theories and mysterious phenomena. Movies like the Exorcist, and the Amityville Horror and the Damien/Omen series ru Sometimes I get such a strong urge for the paranormal stories of my childhood in the 1970s. Remember those early 1970s movies that often featured a haunted house and a cast of jaded and abrasive rich people who were challenged to stay in the house over night? This was the era of "The Unexplained!" I watched In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy every weekend and soaked in the conspiracy theories and mysterious phenomena. Movies like the Exorcist, and the Amityville Horror and the Damien/Omen series ruled the cinema. You hear about the Twilight phenomena today with teen oriented fiction. But, long before Edward and Bella headed a gazillion dollar franchise, we read 1970s paperbacks teeming with ghosts and hauntings (not to mention Erich von Danikan's Chariots of the Gods.) It is hard for me to find that kind of story these days when I have my annual over powering desire to read one --generally sometime between October and March. But this winter I have struck a bit of gold in Alexandra Sokoloff's "The Unseen." Laurel McDonald is a newly arrived professor in the psychology department at Duke University. She has basically fled her native Los Angeles in the wake of a disconcerting bit of ESP. (While asleep in a hotel during a conference, she experienced a vividly life like dream detailing her fiance's sexual encounter with a grad student. Awakening with an urgent feeling that she must go home to verify this vision, Laurel does, indeed, catch her philandering man in the act exactly as the dream illustrated.) Mortified and in emotional upheaval, Laurel accepts a tenure track position at Duke without much reflection and finds herself alone in the unfamiliar North Carolina setting...so different from southern California. Laurel upends her life so rapidly that she does not even consider the fact that her mother's family is from North Carolina until she has moved into her new home. Shortly after her arrival at Duke, Laurel pays a visit to her mother's siblings, Aunt Margaret and Uncle Morgan. The visit to her acerbic aunt and her vague but kindly uncle triggers a memory in Laurel of herself as a toddler, seated at the kitchen table with Uncle Morgan watching a clattering of spoons and knives dancing on the table's surface. Once at Duke, Laurel is pressured immediately to develop a research proposal for publication. She stumbles onto a recently opened collection from the Rhine Paranormal Lab in the university library and archives. This collection is 700 boxes of jumbled material; all hastily boxed and hidden away after the very sudden closure of the once famous laboratory in the Duke psychology department. In the middle of the 20th century, Dr. Rhine and his associates had studied the phenomena of ghosts, poltergeists, ESP and other supernatural/paranormal phenomena from a scientific standpoint. Their work had been well known with both the public and the academic world and also regarded with respect. However, the lab was closed without explanation in 1965 amidst a cloak of secrecy and potential tragedy. Laurel becomes fascinated with the story of the Rhine lab, a mysterious former faculty member named Alastair Leish and the fragments of clues she picks up from her research and also from her Uncle Morgan. Morgan was once a healthy and athletic young man. But, sometime around 1965 he underwent a profound change and has lived a reclusive and fearful life ever since. In an unguarded moment, Morgan mentions to Laurel that he had been part of the experiments in the Rhine lab and that he was involved in a special study known as "The Folger House" project. As Laurel begins to piece together the puzzle, she is swept into a collaboration with a handsome colleague, Brendan Cody, who has also developed an interest in the Rhine Lab. Together, they decide to replicate the original 1965 experiment, locate the Folger House, and find out what happened in 1965. This is how we find ourselves, as readers, locked down in a haunted house with two spoiled Duke students (who have achieved high scores on ESP tests), Laurel and Brendan. From here, the adventure takes off. The Unseen was a thoroughly enjoyable escapist read. The fact that it held my interest while I sat in a hospital waiting room for 12 hours as my dad underwent major surgery speaks volumes. Any reader who enjoys a decent ghost story should start here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lashawna Covey

    I liked the first 8/10 of this book, and then I thought it pretty much fell apart at the end. The ending seemed really rushed, unsatisfying, and it's almost like the author just got bored with writing this story and wanted it to end as quickly as possible. The first part was pretty good, and I do like these sort of paranormal thrillers. The first half of the book is more academic in nature in the sense that it is building up to entering the house and replicating the experiment. I liked the blendi I liked the first 8/10 of this book, and then I thought it pretty much fell apart at the end. The ending seemed really rushed, unsatisfying, and it's almost like the author just got bored with writing this story and wanted it to end as quickly as possible. The first part was pretty good, and I do like these sort of paranormal thrillers. The first half of the book is more academic in nature in the sense that it is building up to entering the house and replicating the experiment. I liked the blending of real world history of the Rhine Lab at Duke University with an alternate reality of what really happened and why the lab shut down (i.e. one last experiment gone horribly wrong.)I was very curious to know the history behind the Folger House and the Folger Experiment. There were plenty of hints that something went awry and damaged the participants. The main characters, Dr. Laurel MacDonald and Dr. Ian Brady seek to replicate all parts of the Folger Experiment (that they know of, since many of the records were destroyed) and that leads them to conduct psi ability tests among the student population and find two students, Katrina and Tyler, who score off the charts in psi ability. Those two students are distinctly unpleasant, so I cringed most of the time they were featured, but I guess that was the author's point for some reason. After Laurel and Ian discover their high scorers, they move them into the Folger House in the hope of replicating what happened during the Folger Experiment in 1965. I personally thought the story built a lot of tension well at first, because the house kept responding more and more to the participants. The theories behind the creation of poltergeists were interesting, though I personally would have loved more information about them. More and more poltergeist phenomena manifest and it presents a struggle between Laurel, who wants to end the experiment, because she fears something bad will happen like in 1965 and they will be irrevocably damaged, and the rest of the group who want to make the poltergeists manifest even more. The book seems to settle on one theory of what is behind these poltergeists, though I personally would have preferred more backstory on what happened in the house to create the energy. The poltergeist is apparently tied to the damaged psyche of one of the previous occupants, Paul Folger, who suffered from schizophrenia for 15 years before dying in a possible murder/suicide. All these details were tantalizing, along with the hints of what really happened in that house, but the details were never fully realized, and the reader is left to wonder. That could be explainable as people just not knowing what really happened in history, but in a third act twist, the author certainly makes use of many supernatural experiences that could have also shed more light on the history of the poltergeist. My big issue with this book is the third act "twist" and the abrupt ending. After building up all the tension so well, the author seems to betray her entire book with this twist. Even though in reality the twist didn't add anything to the book. It was a supremely pointless twist that doesn't change the way readers interpret what is happening in that house. And the twist doesn't even add any character insight, because the ending is so rushed. I turned the page after the resolution chapter, thinking it was going to go on, because the author might has well have put a "to be continued" tag on it, because it just ENDS. I wanted more character insight into what was driving them to do what they did (again tied to that pointless "twist), but none was forthcoming. I would give this book four stars before the third act, but the complete collapse at the end warrants only three stars. The author set up the story well and incorporated real world history with made up history, and that history was dark, disturbing and intriguing at what it hinted at. Ultimately though it failed to deliver. I personally would have liked more insight into what really happened in that house, and I would have liked more insight into the main characters set in present day. I certainly think the "twist" was completely unnecessary and didn't change the tenor of the book at all.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I'm a ghost story junkie with high expectations, so I was a little surprised not only to discover how much I adored this book, but how I had gone for so long without hearing about Alexandra Sokoloff in the first place. My immediate impression was that this book updated Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House for a modern audience. Laurel, the protagonist, is still reeling from a sudden break-up with her fiance and is struggling to fit in as a psychology professor at Duke University. After a I'm a ghost story junkie with high expectations, so I was a little surprised not only to discover how much I adored this book, but how I had gone for so long without hearing about Alexandra Sokoloff in the first place. My immediate impression was that this book updated Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House for a modern audience. Laurel, the protagonist, is still reeling from a sudden break-up with her fiance and is struggling to fit in as a psychology professor at Duke University. After a short time, she stumbles across hundreds of research materials from the now-defunct Rhine Parapsychology Lab, which operated out of Duke University in the 1960's and was suddenly dismantled in 1965. The more Laurel investigates the events around the lab's final experiment in 1965, the more she realizes that something very unsettling happened, with everything centered around the mysterious Folger House - a sprawling, off-kilter mansion that seems as though it was spawned by Jackson's Hill House. With the assistance of her colleague, Brandon, and two psychically gifted college students, the four of them rent out the Folger House and investigate the supposed poltergeist phenomenon in the house. The reigning theory is that poltergeist infestations are a direct result of human psychic energy, but the more time Laurel spends in the house, the more she believes that something more supernatural and ominous is at work here. I don't usually spend this much time on plot summary, but this really illustrates why I loved the book so much. The scientific study of ghosts and paranormal phenomenon is a fairly common theme in horror culture, but it doesn't always ring true. I loved that this book and the experiment described inside were actually based on historical events - the Rhine Parapsychology Lab was an actual organization operating out of Duke University, and they attempted to scientifically quantify psychic abilities in participants. This made the story seem much more realistic. But inside the Folger House, there is something much more insidious roaming the halls, and the house itself actually becomes the antagonist. I love, love, love stories that can personify a house and turn it into a malevolent force, and this book hit all the right notes. If I compared this book to a horror movie, I'd say it's a good blend between The Haunting and Poltergeist. This was a slower, more measured kind of horror, since the investigative team doesn't even reach the Folger House until two-thirds into the book. But by the time the house starts manifesting, you'll be hard pressed to put this book down. This is a great option for readers who like unease and suspense more than outright terror, or who prefer bloodless horror stories. Recommended for fans of: ghost stories, horror with a more measured pace, suspenseful but not terrifying stories. Readalikes: I've already mentioned The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson as a good readalike, but here are a few others with a slower and more subtle build-up of horror. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. This short novel has all the touches of a classic English ghost story - misty moors, an abandoned mansion, a superstitious small town, and a vengeful ghost. The slow, atmospheric buildup makes this a good reading suggestion for people who don't consider themselves horror fans! The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters. A doctor has been summoned to Hundreds Hall to care for a patient, but when he arrives, he finds himself tangled up in the lives of the Ayres family members, as well as the supernatural presence in the home. This story straddles the line between horror and literary suspense, but fans of The Unseen will likely appreciate the slow build-up of suspense and the subtle supernatural elements. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James. A governess has been hired to care for two orphans living with their uncle in a remote country estate. The governess is soon disturbed by what she thinks are the ghosts of two evil servants who used to work in the house, but are they really ghosts, or just a figment of her imagination?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lilly

    When I was in junior high, I read a book about the ESP experiments that form the factual underpinning for this supernatural thriller. As a pre-teenager, the six cards with their unusual symbols fascinated me, and I made my own versions of the deck and tried with friends to see if we could match one another. (We couldn’t, in case you were wondering.) So I was predisposed to love this story where professor Laurel MacDonald, new to Duke University, resurrects the card tests, then tries to recreate When I was in junior high, I read a book about the ESP experiments that form the factual underpinning for this supernatural thriller. As a pre-teenager, the six cards with their unusual symbols fascinated me, and I made my own versions of the deck and tried with friends to see if we could match one another. (We couldn’t, in case you were wondering.) So I was predisposed to love this story where professor Laurel MacDonald, new to Duke University, resurrects the card tests, then tries to recreate a more elaborate ESP experiment in a deserted mansion, the supposedly haunted Folger House. The Folger experiment had disastrous consequences the first time around, but Laurel has personal and professional reasons for wanting to try it herself. Having moved across the country and taken a new academic position after finding her fiancé cheating on her, Laurel is vulnerable, distraught, and adrift professionally. She also has an uncle who was involved in the Folger House experiment. So I believed her at times questionable choices and poor judgment in pursuing her obsession with the long-dead ESP research. I loved the setting and mood of the book, particularly the way Sokoloff makes what is no doubt a beautiful area of the country seem foreboding through Laurel’s eyes. Even academic research and hunting through dusty boxes becomes suspenseful and disturbing. For me, the resolution and accompanying explanations weren’t as exciting or satisfying as the build up, which is why I rated it 4 rather than 5 stars, but I still loved the book overall. For writers, this supernatural thriller provides a wonderful example of weaving actual people and events into a fictional story. Sokoloff expands on the mysterious elements of the real history of the ESP experiments and adds fictional events and characters to springboard her story. It’s also helpful to see how the isolation and mood of a gothic novel can be created with a character at a thriving university. That perhaps was my favorite aspect of the The Unseen, and I’ve been thinking ever since about the building blocks Sokoloff used to do that. Mostly, though, it was just so much fun to read that I can’t wait to read all Alexandra Sokoloff’s other books.

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