Psi Researchers II

This is the second section of an international list of scientists and intellectuals who contributed to the investigation of psi phenomena in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, giving brief summaries of their interests and activities. This section of the list covers the mid-twentieth century. It is not comprehensive and additions may be made from time to time. The first section, covering the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, may be found here. A third section for contemporary (mainly living) researchers, Psi Researchers III, is in preparation.

Names of researchers with biographical articles on the Psi Encyclopedia are linked to the articles not on first mention as usual, but at the heads of their entries below.

    1. Cleve Backster (1924–2013)
    2. John Beloff (1920–2006)
    3. Hans Bender (1907–1991)
    4. Theodore Besterman (1904–1976)
    5. William G Braud (1942–2012)
    6. CD Broad (1887–1971)
    7. Manfred Cassirer (1920–2003)
    8. David Christie-Murray (1913–2010)
    9. Tony Cornell (1923–2010)
    10. Eric Dingwall (1890–1986)
    11. Hans Driesch (1867–1941)
    12. CJ Ducasse (1881–1969)
    13. Jule Eisenbud (1908–1999)
    14. Arthur Ellison (1920–2000)
    15. Hilary Evans (1929–2011)
    16. Letitia Fairfield (1885–1978)
    17. David Fontana (1934–2010)           
    18. Mostyn Gilbert (1924–1992)
    19. Mollie Goldney (1895–1992)
    20. Andrew Green (1927–2004)
    21. Anita Gregory (1925–1984)
    22. Maurice Grosse (1919–2006)
    23. Alister Hardy (1896–1985)
    24. Benson Herbert (1912–1991)
    25. Rosalind Heywood (1895–1980)
    26. Charles Honorton (1946–1992)
    27. Brian Inglis (1916–1993)
    28. CEM Joad (1891–1953)
    29. Montague Keen (1926–2004)
    30. Arthur Koestler (1905–1983)
    31. Guy Lambert (1889–1984)
    32. Robert Morris (1942–2004)
    33. Andrew MacKenzie (1911–2001)
    34. Robert A McConnell (1914–2006)
    35. George Medhurst (1920–1971)
    36. Clement Mundle (1916–1989)
    37. Gardner Murphy (1895–1979)
    38. Gilbert Murray (1866–1957)
    39. John Fraser Nicol (?–1989)
    40. Ralph Noyes (1923–1998)
    41. ARG Owen (1919–2003)
    42. Karlis Osis (1917–1997)
    43. JG Pratt (1910–1979)
    44. HH Price (1899–1984)
    45. Andrija Puharich (1918–1995)
    46. JB Rhine (1895–1980)
    47. Louisa E Rhine (1891–1983)
    48. David Scott Rogo (1950–1990)
    49. William Roll (1926–2012)
    50. Archie Roy (1924–2012)
    51. Gertrude Schmeidler (1912–2009)
    52. SG Soal (1890–1975)
    53. Ian Stevenson, (1918–2007)
    54. FJM Stratton (1881–1960)
    55. WHC Tenhaeff (1894–1981)
    56. Michael A Thalbourne (1955–2010)
    57. Robert Thouless (1894–1984)
    58. GNM Tyrrell (1879–1952)
    59. Montague Ullman (1916–2008)
    60. Peter Underwood (1923–2014)
    61. Michael Whiteman (1906–2007)
    62. George Zorab (1898–1990)
  1. Literature
  2. Endnotes

Cleve Backster (1924–2013)

Grover Cleveland Backster was a psychologist who became interested in polygraph (lie detecting) technology while working at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), later making a major contribution to its development. Backster observed that polygraph equipment could seemingly record a reaction from a leaf, which motivated him to experiment in what he called ‘primary perception’, measuring plant reactivity to human intention. A description of his experiments in the 1973 bestseller The Secret Life of Plants drew strong public interest. Replication attempts have had mixed results.

Kenneth Batcheldor (1921–1988)

Kenneth Batcheldor worked as a clinical psychologist in a group of hospitals in Devon until his retirement in 1976. He spent much of his life experimenting with group macro psychokinesis (PK), known informally as ‘table-tilting’ or ‘table-turning’. Together with a group of friends and acquaintances he held around two hundred sessions at his home between 1964 and 1965 to try to produce recordable physical phenomena. Well aware of the possibility of unconscious muscular action, he took steps to limit this through the use of technical equipment such as strain gauges and motion detectors. The table seemingly levitated; raps were heard and breezes felt by the sitters.1

John Beloff (1920–2006)

John Beloff trained as an psychologist, stimulated by reading JB Rhine’s book Extra-Sensory Perception. He was appointed to the psychology department of the University of Edinburgh in 1962, where he remained until his retirement. Beloff’s first book, The Existence of Mind, made the case for dualism supported by the existence of psi phenomena, which he continued to argue in subsequent books and articles. His own psi experiments were famously unsuccessful, gaining him a reputation as a psi-inhibitory experimenter. As executor of the estate of the writer Arthur Koestler, he established a chair of parapsychology at Edinburgh University, the Koestler Unit.2 He was president of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1974 and served as editor of its Journal and Proceedings from 1982 to 1999.

Hans Bender (1907–1991)

Hans Bender was born in Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. In 1950, he founded the (Freiburg) Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene. In 1967, he was made chair of psychology and frontier areas at the University of Freiburg and in 1969 was appointed president of the Parapsychological Association. Bender was particularly interested in cases of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) of the ‘poltergeist’ type, and was the main researcher in the Rosenheim Case of 1967-68.3  He also investigated the alleged psi-detection powers of Gerard Croiset.

Theodore Besterman (1904–1976)

Theodore Besterman was born in Poland and moved to England as a child. During World War II he served in the Royal Artillery; he later worked for UNESCO and was awarded an honorary Oxford degree. Besterman joined the SPR in 1925, acting as librarian and research officer.  A prolific reporter of paranormal phenomena, he spent several months investigating European mediums, publishing reports in SPR publications.4 He wrote books on topics such as crystal-gazing, the theosophist Annie Besant, divining and mediums, also the French writer Voltaire.5

William G Braud (1942–2012)

William Braud was an American experimental psychologist who researched, wrote and taught extensively on parapsychology, consciousness studies, spirituality, exceptional human experiences, transpersonal studies and innovative modes of study and research. With Marilyn Schlitz, he created an experimental research protocol for the study of distant mental influence on living systems (DMILS), for instance monitoring a subject’s electrodermal activity to trace unconscious arousal caused by remote influence such as staring. Braud’s experiments served as a foundation for studies of distant healing and intercessory prayer, giving them scientific rigor. His major work is Distant Mental Influence: Its Contributions to Science Healing, and Human Interactions (2003).

CD Broad (1887–1971)

Charlie Dunbar Broad read science at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge from 1935 to 1953. Broad wrote extensively about different aspects of psychical research,6 which he defined as the scientific investigation of ostensibly paranormal phenomena within basic limiting principles.7 His best-known work in the field is Lectures in Psychical Research, a thorough analysis of psi phenomena and their implications, based on lectures given at Cambridge in 1959-60. Broad served twice as president of the Society for Psychical Research; in his presidential addresses he examined the implications of psi and dreams in relation to normal cognition.8

Manfred Cassirer (1920–2003)

Manfred Cassirer, a Berliner, was forced into exile in 1937 and studied oriental studies and theology at Oxford. He was a long-standing SPR council member, also research officer of Benson Herbert’s Paraphysical Laboratory in Downton, Wiltshire, UK; together they made several visits to eastern Europe to study putative instances of paranormality there, notably with Russian psychics. Cassirer investigated several cases for the SPR, including apparent poltergeist episodes in Bromley and Enfield. He published several books, some at his own expense, on topics such as UFOs, witchcraft, the Bible and the materializing medium Helen Duncan.9

David Christie-Murray (1913–2010)

David Christie-Murray was born in London, graduated from Oxford University in 1942 after studying journalism and was ordained as a priest. He joined the SPR in 1945 and acted as archives officer for the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). He later renounced the priesthood and turned to writing; a particular interest was reincarnation.10

Tony Cornell (1923–2010)

Tony Cornell was a leading member of the Cambridge Society for Psychical Research, as an investigator and its treasurer for more than two decades. He developed an electronic device for measuring potential paranormal activity (Spontaneous Psychophysical Incident Data Electronic Recorder - SPIDER). He collaborated with Alan Gauld in the investigation of poltergeist activity and with Howard Wilkinson at the ‘haunted’ Bell Hotel in Thetford, Norfolk. Cornell’s approach was one of open-minded scepticism; for instance, he argued in his 2002 book Investigating the Paranormal that reports of séance phenomena needed to be of much higher quality to warrant acceptance.11

Eric Dingwall (1890–1986)

Eric Dingwall studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge and London University. He worked as an assistant keeper at the British Museum from 1947 and was the SPR’s research officer from 1922 to 1927. Over the course of his life he grew increasingly sceptical, as be seen in his comments and investigations on mediums such as Eusapia Palladino, Eva C, Mina Crandon and the Schneider brothers. He was especially critical of the Borley Rectory investigation undertaken by Harry Price.12 An extensive collection of his psychical research work is held at the Senate House Library, University of London.13

Hans Driesch (1867–1941)

Hans Driesch studied medicine at Freiberg University and physics and chemistry in Munich. He believed a mind-like principle might exist outside time and space, a concept that brought him into contact with psychical research. He joined the SPR in 1913 and served as its president in 1926. Driesch translated JB Rhine’s New Frontiers of the Mind into German and contributed to parapsychological journals in Europe and the US.14 His book on psychical research explored his views from a scientific perspective.15

CJ Ducasse (1881–1969)

Curt John Ducasse was an influential American philosopher known for his contributions in metaphysics, epistemology and aesthetics. He was interested in parapsychology from an early age, becoming convinced that the evidence for ‘paranormal’ phenomena (a term he coined) was practically conclusive. He was more cautious about the evidence for post-mortem survival, but considered it more than sufficient to justify belief. He developed a theory of psychological time and space, distinct from physical time and space, to explain precognition and the survival of mind beyond death, and rejected psi as an explanation for apparent survival cases. His major work is A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death, published in 1961.

Jule Eisenbud (1908–1999)

Jule Eisenbud was born in New York, was educated at Columbia University, and became an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Medical School. He published extensively on psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and hypnosis. Having carried out experiments with psychokinesis, he devoted several years to an investigation of Ted Serios, whose ability to cause mental images to appear on photographic film Eisenbud described in detail in his 1967 book The World of Ted Serios.16 Eisenbud’s theoretical writings in parapsychology explored the subtle manifestations of ESP in clinical and everyday contexts.

Arthur Ellison (1920–2000)

After a career in industry Arthur Ellison taught engineering at City University London. He twice served as president of the Society for Psychical Research, also as chairman of the Theosophical Research Centre. Ellison directed a parapsychology course at Loughborough University and published widely in engineering and in psychical research.17 He was one of the three main investigators of the Scole Circle. Ellison argued that scientists who investigated psi should attempt to develop psi experiences themselves. He was convinced of the reality of survival, which he believed required a new paradigm to become accepted.

Hilary Evans (1929–2011)

Hilary Evans was born in Shrewsbury and attended university at Cambridge and Birmingham. In 1964, with his wife Mary, he co-founded the Mary Evans Picture Library. Evans wrote prolifically on paranormal and Fortean subjects such as UFOs, alien abductions and the ‘street-light effect’, promoting a ‘psycho-social hypothesis’ concerning their existence.18 He was a member of the SPR and founder-member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP).

Letitia Fairfield (1885–1978)

Born in Australia, Letitia Fairfield followed a successful career in medicine, becoming the first Chief Medical Officer in London. She also worked as a lawyer and a campaigner for women’s rights. Fairfield was a SPR Council member from 1965. Her unpublished psychical research writings, now in the SPR Archive, include detailed research on witchcraft.19

David Fontana (1934–2010)           

David Fontana was a British academic psychologist who held posts at the Universities of Minho and the Algarve in Portugal and the University of Wales, Cardiff. His paranormal investigations included a poltergeist case in Cardiff and the Scole Circle in Norfolk: he was one of the three main authors of the Scole Report.20 Fontana published books on dreams, mediation and spirituality, also a major consideration of the parapsychological evidence for survival, Is There an Afterlife? and a book on the post-mortem state, Life Beyond Death: What Should We Expect? He was president of the SPR between 1995 and 1998 and chaired its Survival Research Committee for several years. At the time of his death he was studying electronic voice phenomena (EVP) with Anabela Cardoso, publisher of the Instrumental Transcommunication Journal.

Mostyn Gilbert (1924–1992)

Mostyn Gilbert, an American-born historian resident in the UK, undertook research into mediumistic communications, table-turning and electronic voice phenomena (EVP). He was a member of the SPR from 1962. His archives are to be found in the SPR Collection under his own name at Cambridge University Library.

Mollie Goldney (1895–1992)

Kathleen ‘Mollie’ Goldney spent her early years in India, where her father was a judge. She joined the SPR in 1927 and moved to England in 1933 when her husband retired. Goldney contributed to important analyses of William Crookes’s investigations of mediums and Harry Price’s claims concerning haunting phenomena at Borley Rectory.21 She partnered with SPR researcher Samuel Soal in card-guessing experiments with Basil Shackleton that were later found to have been fraudulently manipulated by Soal, although she herself was not implicated. Goldney was awarded the MBE for her work as a regional commissioner in the Women’s Voluntary Services.

Andrew Green (1927–2004)

Andrew Green took a science degree at the London School of Economics and a MPhil at Goldsmiths College, London. His various occupations including running a publishing company. His interest in the paranormal began in 1944 during a visit to an unoccupied house where he felt an invisible presence urging him to throw himself out of an upstairs window. Further research revealed that it had been the site of many suicides and a murder. From 1949 he devoted himself to psychical research, especially the investigation of ghosts, and published several books on the subject.22

Anita Gregory (1925–1984)

Born in Germany, Anita Gregory (née Kohsen) completed a doctorate in 1983 on ‘Problems in investigating psychokinesis in special subjects’. Gregory undertook numerous investigations and research studies, including analyses of psychical research in the Soviet Union and experiments with psychic Matthew Manning.23 She wrote a history of the Rudi Schneider experiments, including a penetrating analysis of claims by Harry Price that he once caught his subject cheating, which she judged false. From 1980 she served as the SPR’s Honorary Secretary.

Maurice Grosse (1919–2006)

Maurice Grosse was a London-born inventor with many successful patents to his name. Following the death of his daughter in a motorcycle accident in 1976 he believed he had received intimations of her spirit survival, as a result of which he joined the SPR. A year later he was one of two principal investigators of the Enfield poltergeist case in north London.24 He also investigated other cases including examples of photographic anomalies and mediumship.

Alister Hardy (1896–1985)

Alister Clavering Hardy was born in Nottingham and educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He became an expert in marine biology and was the zoologist on the RRS Discovery exploratory voyage of the Antarctic between 1925 and 1927. He was a professor of zoology at Oxford and other universities. In 1949 he joined the SPR, serving as president from 1965 to 1969. Hardy became interested in religious experiences, and in 1969 set up what is now the Alister Hardy Research Centre at the University of Wales. He supported the concept of a ‘common unconscious’, and examined in his books the relationship between ESP and religious experience.25

Benson Herbert (1912–1991)

Benson Herbert studied physics at Oxford. He was the founder and director of the Paraphysical Laboratory (‘Paralab’) in Downton, Wiltshire, UK. He joined the Society for Psychical Research and worked with RG Medhurst investigating mediumship and psychokinesis; his other experiments included psychic healing and the ability to sense colour through the fingers. His association with the psychic and self-described ‘witch’ Sybil Leek, and his belief that all paranormal phenomena were an effect of electricity, distanced him from mainstream academic parapsychology. The Russian psychic Ninel Kulagina was among subjects in eastern Europe whom he tested together with Manfred Cassirer (see above) in the 1970s.

Rosalind Heywood (1895–1980)

Rosalind Heywood was born in Gibraltar and studied social sciences at the University of London, then travelled widely before settling in England. She joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1938 and later became a vice-president. Heywood corresponded frequently in the Journal and wrote informatively about the musical medium Rosemary Brown.26 She was interested in a variety of psychical phenomena including the cross-correspondences and ESP experiments. Her autobiographical book The Infinite Hive contains a personal record of her ESP experiences, including telepathic interactions with her husband.27

Charles Honorton (1946–1992)

Charles (‘Chuck’) Henry Honorton was born in Minnesota and attended university there, but dropped out to pursue parapsychology before completing his degree. He became interested in ESP during his teenage years and corresponded with JB Rhine at Duke University. He worked as a research fellow at Rhine’s Institute of Parapsychology (now called the Rhine Research Center) in 1966-1967 and later as director of other research departments, collaborating with Stanley Krippner and Montague Ullman (see below). Honorton was one of three researchers to introduce the ganzfeld technique in ESP experiments, and involved in published exchanges with sceptical psychologist Ray Hyman, defending the positive results he achieved against Hyman’s criticisms. Honorton moved to the Koestler Parapsychology Unit in Edinburgh in 1991 to study for a doctorate; he died there the following year.

Brian Inglis (1916–1993)

Brian Inglis studied at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. He served as a RAF fighter pilot during World War II. A professional journalist, he wrote and presented the television programmes What the Papers Say in 1956 and All Our Yesterdays from 1962 to 1973. Inglis joined the SPR in 1963. He wrote more than twenty books about history and social affairs, fringe medicine and the paranormal.28 His book Natural and Supernatural, a comprehensive history of psychical research up until World War II,29 was described by Arthur Koestler in the Guardian as having ‘the two basic qualities which make a book on history endure; it is both scholarly and readable’.30 Concerning his belief in the paranormal he referred to himself as an ‘unreconstructed agnostic’, someone who accepted its validity having been convinced by the quantity and quality of evidence.31

CEM Joad (1891–1953)

Cyril Joad was a British philosopher, prolific author and television personality with an interest in psychical research. He doubted the existence of spirits, and instead hypothesized a ‘psychic factor’ as the cause of psi and mediumship phenomena. This he regarded not as a purely mental phenomenon but rather as a vital force with the property of  being able to leave the physical body and merge with another person’s ‘psychic factor’. He posited that being close to death caused the ‘psychic factor’ to use powers of memory not normally used.

Montague Keen (1926–2004)

Montague Keen was plant scientist who occupied a senior position in the National Farmers Union. He was a council member of the Society for Psychical Research from 1972 and was one of three authors (with David Fontana and Arthur Ellison) of the ‘Scole Report’,32 which examined alleged contact with spirit entities through a mediumistic group. He was also closely involved with the Centre for Crop Circle Studies. Keen’s main interest was in the field of survival research and especially physical mediumship, about which he wrote frequently in the SPR Journal. It has been alleged by his widow that he is making contact from the ‘spirit world’, and that recordings have been made; they can be heard here.

Arthur Koestler (1905–1983)

Arthur Koestler was born in Budapest and educated in Austria. His interests ranged across politics, history, religion and the paranormal. His books on the latter explored such subjects as extra sensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis (PK) and synchronicity.33 Towards the end of his life he co-founded the KIB Society (Koestler, Inglis and Bloomfield) to sponsor research outside of normal scientific investigation. After his death this was renamed The Koestler Foundation and endowed with a professorial chair (first held by Robert Morris, about whom see below) at Edinburgh University in 1985.

Guy Lambert (1889–1984)

Guy William Lambert was born in London and educated at Cheltenham College, later pursuing a successful career in government administration. At Cheltenham he discovered the work of a former Cheltenham pupil Frederic WH Myers and became interested in psychical research, later joining the SPR and serving as its president from 1955 to 1958. Among the many cases he investigated were the Bligh Bond Glastonbury scripts, automatic writings by Margaret Verrall, and the Versailles ‘time-slip’. Lambert argued that many cases of the haunting and poltergeist types are actually caused by motions associated with underground streams.34

Robert Morris (1942–2004)

Robert Morris was born in Canonsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He gained a PhD at Duke University in 1969 and taught parapsychology at various American universities until 1980, when he became a senior research scientist at the School of Computer and Information Science. In 1985, he was appointed the first Koestler Professor of Parapsychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and supervised a number of PhD students both at the university and externally.35 He published extensively in the field and gave lectures in universities and conferences around the world. He was active in the SPR, receiving its prestigious Myers Memorial Medal in 2002. He was president of the Parapsychological Association in 1974 and 1985.

Andrew MacKenzie (1911–2001)

Andrew Carr MacKenzie was born in New Zealand and worked as a journalist in Wellington until 1938 when he moved to England. He fought abroad during World War II and wrote for a number of different daily papers after its cessation. He joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1962. He published books about subjects such as the Cheltenham hauntings, the Versailles and Kersey ‘time-slip’ episodes,36 and wrote about modern cases in the Journal. He frequently travelled to eastern Europe to research the folklore of the region.37

Robert A McConnell (1914–2006)

Robert McConnell was born in Pennsylvania and studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh where he was later appointed Research Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences. He became interested in JB Rhine’s work in the 1940s. He was a founding member of the Parapsychological Association and its first president in 1958 and again in 1977-1978. He wrote widely about ESP, survival issues and psychokinesis experiments and worked with Gertrude Schmeidler (see below) on various psi projects. In 2001, he published an autobiographical book which outlined his conviction of the reality of ESP.38

George Medhurst (1920–1971)

RG Medhurst studied mathematics at Queen Mary College, London and was a council member of the Society for Psychical Research from 1962. Alongside his professional mathematics work he undertook activities for the SPR, including research about Sir William Crookes39 and William Stainton Moses, and hypnosis. He attended a weekly mediumistic circle, writing up many of his findings in the SPR Journal.

Clement Mundle (1916–1989)

Clement Mundle was born in Fife, Scotland, studied at Queens College, Oxford, and held professorial posts in philosophy at UK universities. He joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1948, serving as president between 1971 and 1974, and contributing papers on ESP.

Gardner Murphy (1895–1979)

Gardner Murphy was born in Chillicothe, Ohio. He studied psychology at Yale and Harvard and held prestigious academic posts in psychology, serving as president of the American Psychological Association in 1944. He was well informed about psychical matters from an early age (the medium Leonora Piper had been a client of his grandfather, a lawyer); at Harvard he held the Hodgson Fellowship in Psychical Research. Murphy was active in the SPR and the  American Society for Psychical Research and edited the Journal of Parapsychology from 1939 to 1941. Murphy wrote some twenty-five books and over a hundred articles, including a noteworthy evaluation of the work of William James.40 Following his death, an entire issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research was devoted to his work and thought.41

Gilbert Murray (1866–1957)

George Gilbert Murray was born in Sydney, Australia; his family shortly afterwards moved to England. He attended St John’s College, Oxford and he was later its Regius Professor of Greek. He was a founding member of the League of Nations, of which he was chairman between 1923 and 1938. He twice served as president of the SPR. Murray contributed to the research literature on telepathy, writing about extensive informal experiments in which he was the subject. An analysis of these was published by the SPR.42

John Fraser Nicol (?–1989)

John Fraser Nicol was born in the US and settled in London in the 1940s, joining the SPR in 1948. He became involved in card and dice-guessing experiments and made a detailed survey of spiritualism.43 His second marriage was to psychologist Betty Humphrey, a colleague of JB Rhine; together they undertook research and helped Gertrude Schmeidler with her ‘sheep-goat’ experiment.44

Ralph Noyes (1923–1998)

Ralph Noyes spent most of his childhood in the West Indies and served in the RAF from 1940-1946. He worked in the Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence until his retirement in 1977.45 He served as honourary secretary of the SPR from 1991 to 1997 and then a vice-president. He was a founding member of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies (CCCS) and also of a project named Psychical Research Involving Selected Mediums (PRISM). Noyes was also active in researching the problems associated with sightings of UFOs.46

ARG Owen (1919–2003)

Alan Robert George Owen was born in Bristol. Following a successful career lecturing in mathematics and genetics, he was elected a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1963. He was an active member of the SPR  and an early investigator of the psychic Matthew Manning. Owen won the William McDougall Award for distinguished parapsychological work for his book Can We Explain the Poltergeist?47 In 1970, he emigrated to Canada where he was invited to direct the New Horizons Research Foundation; he founded the Toronto Society for Psychical Research at the same time. He edited New Horizons magazine between 1972 and 1977. Owen and his wife Iris May are remembered especially for their five year ‘Philip Project’ in the 1970s, an investigation of psychokinetic activity that centred on the successful creation of a fictional ‘spirit communicator’.48

Karlis Osis (1917–1997)

Karlis Osis was born in Riga, Latvia, fleeing to the West when the country was invaded by Russia in 1940. He studied psychology at the University of Munich, writing a thesis on ESP, and was invited to join JB Rhine (see below) at Duke University. He was director of research at the American Society for Psychical Research from 1962 to 1983. He was actively interested in survival research, joining Icelandic parapsychologist Erlendur Haraldsson for a four-year study into near-death experiences in the USA and India.49 Osis wrote numerous scientific articles on aspects of ESP, also a book about near death experiences.50

JG Pratt (1910–1979)

Joseph Gaither Pratt was born in North Carolina and obtained a PhD in psychology at Duke University in 1936. During this period he undertook ESP experiments under the guidance of Gardner Murphy (see above) at Columbia University. He became assistant director of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke under JB Rhine (see below) and was appointed president of the Parapsychological Association in 1960. His research projects included the ‘Pearce-Pratt’ and the ‘Pratt-Woodruff’ ESP experiments and an extended investigation of the psychic Pavel Štěpánek.

HH Price (1899–1984)

Henry Habberley Price was born in Neath, Glamorganshire and was educated at New College, Oxford. He was Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford from 1935 to 1959. He served twice as president of the SPR. Best known for his study of the philosophy of perception,51 he also promoted the idea that memories might be attached to an environment, later called the ‘stone-tape’ principle.52 He is noted for papers proposing the existence of a ‘psychic ether’ in which human thoughts might continue to exist (as a possible explanation of hauntings),53 and hypothesizing afterlife conditions.54

Andrija Puharich (1918–1995)

Andrija Puharich, an American born of Yugoslav immigrant parents, was a prolific inventor, with hearing aids among his 56 patents. He investigated psychics, notably the Dutchman Peter Hurkos, Israeli metal bender Uri Geller and the Brazilian ‘psychic surgeon’ Arigo. His book about Geller in particular brought him fame, but also scientific ridicule.

JB Rhine (1895–1980)

Joseph Banks Rhine is considered the founder of modern parapsychology. He studied biology at the University of Chicago, and joined the psychology department at Duke University in 1927 under professor William McDougall. He joined the American Society for Psychical Research in 1924. His participation in investigations of large-scale paranormal phenomena, notably the medium Mina ‘Margery’ Crandon, left him unconvinced, but he was interested in the possibility that what he called ‘extrasensory perception’ might be found in the general population, and started to carry out statistical experiments in 1930. This led to the founding of a self-contained parapsychology laboratory at Duke University (renamed the Rhine Research Center in 1995) and a quarterly journal, the Journal of Parapsychology, in 1937. He served as president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1980.55

Louisa E Rhine (1891–1983)

Louisa Rhine obtained her doctorate in botany at the University of Chicago where she met Joseph Banks Rhine (see above). After they married in 1920 their interests gradually shifted towards psychical research, in her case focusing mainly on spontaneous phenomena (telepathic and apparitional cases, and the like) in particular the study of ESP in childhood and old age.56 On his death in 1980 she served out the remainder of his term as SPR president.

David Scott Rogo (1950–1990)

David Scott Rogo was born in Los Angeles and educated at the University of Cincinnati and California State University. He played the oboe professionally and was active as a journalist, author and paranormal investigator, writing books and articles on topics such as ESP research, poltergeists and survival of death.57 He died tragically aged forty, the victim of murder in his apartment which has never been explained. In 1992, the Parapsychology Foundation established the D Scott Rogo Award for Parapsychological Literature to commemorate his work.

William Roll (1926–2012)

William G Roll was born in Bremen, Germany and attended several universities including Oxford, where he led the Oxford Society for Psychical Research, and Lund, Sweden. In 1957, he was invited by JB Rhine (see above) to work at the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University; he was appointed president of the Parapsychological Association in 1964. Together with JG Pratt (see above) he coined the expression ‘Recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis’ (RSPK) to describe poltergeist-like phenomena that had occurred in 1958 during the Seaford, Long Island poltergeist case.58 He investigated other significant cases such as those that occurred in Miami, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio, and published articles on books on this and other subjects.59

Archie Roy (1924–2012)

Archie Roy was born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow University, where he was appointed professor of astronomy in 1977. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and from 1992 to 1995 president of the Society for Psychical Research, which awarded him the Myers Memorial Medal in 2004 for his services to psychical research. He founded the Scottish Society for Psychical Research in 1987. In his presidential address he drew attention to the work of ‘Psychical Research Involving Selected Mediums’ (PRISM). Roy possessed an extensive knowledge of paranormal phenomena and published articles and books that explored his wide-ranging interests and ideas.60

Gertrude Schmeidler (1912–2009)

Gertrude Schmeidler, an experimental psychologist, studied at Harvard University. Offered funding to study ESP by Gardner Murphy (see above), she developed the theory that success depended on the subjects’ belief in the phenomena, adopting the terms ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ for believers and non-believers. In 1947, Schmeidler was appointed professor of psychology at City University, New York, where many students majored in parapsychology under her supervision. ESP experiments conducted included one with the remote viewer Ingo Swann. Her other activities were centred on the Parapsychological Association, of which she was twice president, and the American Society for Psychical Research.

SG Soal (1890–1975)

Samuel Soal studied mathematics at Queen Mary College, London and lectured there until his retirement. Impressed by Oliver Lodge’s book Raymond, he joined the SPR and carried out investigations with a direct voice medium, ‘Blanche Cooper’. Following the publication of Rhine’s ESP experiments he undertook similar research, at first without success, then with outstanding results in a series with two subjects. Suspicions that these might be faked were confirmed after his death, when a computer analysis revealed he had systematically altered the score sheets.61 The Soal affair is regarded by many as the single worst case of proven fraud in parapsychology. 

Ian Stevenson, (1918–2007)

Ian Stevenson was born in Montreal, Canada and educated at the University of St Andres, Scotland and at McGill University in Montreal. He worked at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for fifty years, chairing the psychiatry department from 1957 to 1967. He was interested in many aspects of psi research, but is remembered mainly for his thorough investigation of cases of the reincarnation type in Asia and other parts of world, funded by generous bequests and reported in numerous books and articles.62

FJM Stratton (1881–1960)

Frederick Stratton studied at Cambridge University, where he was professor of astrophysics from 1928 to 1947. His interest in psychical research led to his appointment as president of the SPR from 1953 to 1955. His interests centred on field research; he was particularly intrigued by claims of haunting phenomena in Abbey House, Cambridge.63

WHC Tenhaeff (1894–1981)

William Tenhaeff was born in Rotterdam and studied psychology at the University of Utrecht, where he also served as professor of parapsychology from 1953 to 1978. In 1928, he founded the Journal of the Dutch Society for Psychical Research. He keenly endorsed the psychic detective Gerard Croiset, against the advice of colleagues in the psi research community who believed his research to be flawed,64 although there was also some support for his work and publications.65

Michael A Thalbourne (1955–2010)

Michael Thalbourne was born in Adelaide, Australia and studied psychology at Edinburgh under John Beloff (see above). From 1980 to 1987 he undertook experimental psi research at the McDonnell Laboratory at the University of Washington. He collaborated on research projects with Erlendur Haraldsson in Iceland and India, including an examination of the sheep-goat effect.66 Thalbourne was editor of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology and president of the Australian Institute for Parapsychological Research. He published over a hundred articles and several books.67

Robert Thouless (1894–1984)

Robert Thouless studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and lectured in educational psychology. He became interested in parapsychology after reading Rhine’s ESP research and for the following fifty years he devoted himself to the subject, serving as president of the SPR. He promoted the term ‘psi’ as a more neutral alternative to ‘ESP’. Thouless was especially interested in survival issues, and created a cipher test as a potentially better – although ultimately unsuccessful – means to provide evidence of post-mortem survival.68

GNM Tyrrell (1879–1952)

George Tyrrell studied mathematics and physics at London University, and worked there under Marconi on radio communication. He served as a signals officer in World War I. In 1921, he carried out ESP experiments with Gertrude Johnson that included automatic writing, card guessing and crystal perception and produced above average scores. Tyrrell is noted for his 1943 book Apparitions, an in-depth study of the possible causes of apparitions.69

Montague Ullman (1916–2008)

Montague Ullman studied neurology and psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. As a teenager he was involved with a group of friends in a physical mediumship circle.70 In 1961, he founded the Dream Laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Centre in New York, a long-running project that produced abundant putative evidence of ESP in dreams. His publications include detailed reports of these, and other episodes such as the ‘Bindelof Story’. Ullman served as president of the Parapsychological Association and the American Society for Psychical Research.

Peter Underwood (1923–2014)

Peter Underwood became interested in parapsychology after experiencing putative haunting phenomena as a young man. He joined the Ghost Club and was elected its president in 1960. He increased the club’s investigative activity, arranging visits mainly to reputedly haunted locations. In 1993, he resigned to found a rival group. He is remembered as Britain’s best known ghost-hunter in the second half of the twentieth century, popularising the topic in some fifty books, although his achievements as an investigator are less certain.

Michael Whiteman (1906–2007)

Michael Whiteman was a British-born mathematician and mystic who lived and worked for most of his life in South Africa. In books and articles inspired by his many psychical and mystical experiences, he explored fields as various as mathematical physics, philosophy, mysticism, ancient literature, psychical research, psychology, psychopathology and music. These varied interests were integrated in the unifying idea of what he termed ‘scientific mysticism’: he rejected the materialist view of events and objects having their causation in the physical world, and hoped to establish mysticism a scientific entity. Whiteman’s work was published by the British, American and South African societies for psychical research, all of which held him in high regard. 

George Zorab (1898–1990)

George Zorab was born in Indonesia and came to Holland at an early age. He and became interested in spiritism after attending a séance and joined the Dutch Society for Psychical Research, which however he left to help establish a new society. He temporarily moved to France to organize Eileen Garrett’s research centre there. He was a prolific writer on psychical research issues such as DD Home,71 precognition72 and hauntings.73


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  • 1. Batcheldor (1966).
  • 2. E.g., Beloff (1993).
  • 3. Cited in Guiley (1992), 287.
  • 4. E.g., Besterman (1935).
  • 5. Besterman (1924); Barrett & Besterman (1926).
  • 6. E.g., Broad (1962).
  • 7. Broad (1949), 306.
  • 8. Broad (1935).
  • 9. E.g., Cassirer (2003).
  • 10. Christie-Murray (1981).
  • 11. Cornell (2002).
  • 12. Dingwall et al (1956).
  • 13. Dingwall (n.d.)
  • 14. E.g., Driesch (1935).
  • 15. Driesch (1933).
  • 16. Eisenbud (1967).
  • 17. Ellison (1988).
  • 18. Rickard (2011).
  • 19. Fairfield (n.d.)
  • 20. Keen et al (1999).
  • 21. Dingwall et al (1956).
  • 22. E.g., Green (1973).
  • 23. Grattan-Guinness (1985).
  • 24. Playfair (1981).
  • 25. Carington (1945); Hardy (1965).
  • 26. Heywood (1971).
  • 27. Heywood (1964).
  • 28. E.g., Inglis (1985).
  • 29. Inglis (1977).
  • 30. Cited in Mackenzie (1993).
  • 31. Cited in Mackenzie (1993).
  • 32. Keen et al (1999).
  • 33. E.g., Koestler (1967).
  • 34. Lambert (1956).
  • 35. Including Richard Wiseman, Chris Roe, Paul Stevens and Melvyn Willin.
  • 36. E.g., MacKenzie (1997).
  • 37. E.g., MacKenzie (1977).
  • 38. McConnell (2001).
  • 39. Medhurst & Goldney (1964).
  • 40. Murphy & Ballou (1960).
  • 41. January 1980.
  • 42. E.g., Verrall (1916); Murray (1915).
  • 43. Nicol (1948).
  • 44. Gilbert (1990).
  • 45. Stacy (1998).
  • 46. Noyes (1985).
  • 47. Owen (1964).
  • 48. Owen & Sparrow (1976).
  • 49. Osis & Haraldsson (1977).
  • 50. Osis & Haraldsson (1986).
  • 51. Price (1932).
  • 52. Popularised in a BBC ghost story of the same name in 1972.
  • 53. Price (1939).
  • 54. Price (1953).
  • 55. E.g., Rhine (1934).
  • 56. Rhine (1961).
  • 57. Rogo (1977, 1979, 1970).
  • 58. Pratt & Roll (1958).
  • 59. E.g., Roll (1972).
  • 60. E.g., Roy (2008).
  • 61. Medhurst (1971).
  • 62. E.g., Stevenson (1966).
  • 63. Cited in Haynes (1982), 218.
  • 64. Hoebens (1986).
  • 65. E.g., Kohsen (1958).
  • 66. Thalbourne & Haraldsson (1980).
  • 67. E.g., Thalbourne (2003).
  • 68. Thouless (1963).
  • 69. Tyrrell (1953, 1945).
  • 70. Ullman (1998/9).
  • 71. Zorab (1978).
  • 72. Lambert & Zorab, (1963).
  • 73. Zorab & Mackenzie (1980).