American Society for Psychical Research
Founded in 1885 in Boston, Massachusetts, on the initiative
of Prof. W. F. Barrett. Its initial officers included president
Prof. Simon Newcomb; secretary N. D. C. Hodges; and, four
vice-presidents, Profs. Stanley Hall, George S. Fullerton, Edward
C. Pickering, and Dr. Charles S. Minot. Those involved
in the controversial field found it difficult to maintain support,
even with renowned advocates such as Harvard Psychologist
and Professor of Philosophy, William James, a member of the
illustrious Boston family that included his brother, novelist
Henry James. In 1889, for financial considerations, thenpresident
S. P. Langley affiliated the ASPR to the English Society
for Psychical Research. The research work of the American
Society for Psychical Research was conducted by Dr. Richard
Hodgson from 1887 until his death in 1905. The society,
never strong, was dissolved the following year. It continued as
a branch of James Hervey Hyslop’s American Institute for
Scientific Research, and was the only active part of Hyslop’s
institute to develop a program.
When Hyslop died in 1920, the ASPR regained its independent
status. Dr. Walter Franklin Prince became the society’s
director of research and editor of its publications. He carried
on a variety of investigations prior to his observations of Mina
S. Crandon, better known as ‘‘Margery.’’ The ASPR board was
strongly behind Margery; but Prince believed her to be a fraud.
When J. Malcolm Bird, former assistant editor of the Scientific
American and author of several items favorable to Margery, was
appointed co-research officer with Prince in 1925, Prince was
infuriated. He resigned along with other disaffected members,
including Gardner Murphy, William McDougall, Elwood
Worcester, and Lydia Allison. Together this group founded
the rival Boston Society for Psychic Research.
Bird served as research officer for the ASPR, but suddenly
resigned from his position in 1930. Later it came to light that
he had second thoughts on Margery. Bird had submitted a confidential
report to the board suggesting that Margery had approached
him to become a confidant in producing some phenomena
for magician Harry Houdini. Subsequently, Bird
disappeared along with his last manuscript on Margery. He was
succeeded by B. K. Thorogood (1930–39).
Following the merger of the Boston SPR back into the ASPR
in 1941, George Hyslop, the son of J. H. Hyslop, became president.
Since 1925 he had been a lone voice decrying the slippage
of research standards. Hyslop demanded the full exposure
of Margery’s fraudulent activity. He reestablished the
standards demanded during his father’s years of leadership He
was succeeded by Gardner Murphy, who served as president of
American Meditation Institute . . . Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
the ASPR for 20 years. Murphy, a distinguished psychologist,
was a dominating figure, who brought new prestige to the organization
and recruited talented researchers to carry out its program.
During this period, laboratory parapsychology as developed
by J. B. Rhine at Duke University emerged as the cutting
edge of psychic investigations. The Parapsychology Association
was established (1957) as the major professional association
for scholars engaged in psychic research.
By the end of the twentieth century the ASPR remained one
of the most stable organizations in American psychic research
and the organizational home of many leading people in the
field, including Gertrude Schmeidler, Rhea White, and Karlis
Osis. Publication of the society’s Journal and Proceedings commenced
in 1907 and have remained in publication without interruption.
The nonprofit society located in New York City exists ‘‘to
advance the understanding of phenomena alleged to be paranormal
telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis,
and related occurrences that are not at present thought to be
explicable in terms of physical, psychological and biological
theories.’’ In the years following World War II, the society’s
concern stayed focused on the need to integrate subjects such
as paranormal phenomena with a wide range of behavioral and
physical sciences. This has demanded major revisions of theoretical
constructs. In addition to laboratories and offices, the
ASPR is home to a unique library and archives. The resources
include over 10,000 volumes, over 300 periodicals, and publications
in over 14 languages. Rare books, case reports, letters
and manuscripts, with some material dating back to the 18th
century enhances the collection.
The ASPR has an active research department and houses a
large library for the members use. Membership includes the
ASPR Newsletter and The Journal of the American Society for Psychical
Research, which are issued quarterly; information services
and access to the research library and archives. In addition, the
society provides special events including lectures, symposia and
meetings held at the headquarters around the country. There
are no special requirements for membership. The society welcomes
members of the general public, as well as professionals,
active researchers, and students. Membership does not imply
acceptance of any particular phenomena. Address 5 W. 73rd
St., New York, New York 10023. Website http
American Society for Psychical Research, Inc. http April 11, 2000.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Moore, R. Laurence. In Search of White Crows. New York Oxford
University Press, 1977.
Rogo, D. Scott. Parapsychology A Century of Inquiry. New
York Dell, 1975.

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