Roll, William George, Jr. (1926– )
Roll, a prominent parapsychologist, was born on July 3,
1926, in Bremen, Germany. He grew up in Denmark and studied
at the University of California, Berkeley (B.A., 1949) and
with Henry Habberley Price at Oxford University, England
(B.Litt, 1960; M.Litt., 1961). While in England, he was president
of the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research
(1952–57). His Oxford researches covered the effects of hypnosis
and the correlation of ESP with personality traits. With the
help of the Parapsychology Foundation he was able to establish
a laboratory and reading room for psi experiments at the
In 1957 he became Louis K. Anspacher Visiting Research
Fellow at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and
stayed on as a research associate at the Parapsychology Laboratory
(1958–60). While at Duke he directed a research project
on incorporeal personal agency concerned with survival (1960)
and was a member of the editorial staff of the Journal of Parapsychology
(1958–60). In 1958 he first investigated a poltergeist
and launched himself upon the area of research with which he
has become most identified.
While at Duke he also became a member of the founding
council of the Parapsychology Association (1957) and was
later the association’s treasurer (1958), secretary (1959–60),
vice president (1963), and president.
In 1960 Charles Eugene Ozanne chose Roll to become the
new project director of the Psychical Research Foundation. In
1986 the foundation moved from Durham, North Carolina, to
the campus of West Georgia College, Carrollton, Georgia.
Beginning in 1963 Roll edited Theta, a quarterly journal for
research on the problem of survival after bodily death; this
publication ceased in 1991. He also authored more than 100
scholarly papers on parapsychological topics, edited eleven
volumes of research in parapsychology for the Parapsychology
Association, and authored thirteen books.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Roll, William G. ‘‘ESP and Memory.’’ In Philosophical Dimensions
of Parapsychology, edited by J. M. O. Wheatley and H. L.
Edge. Springfield, Ill. Charles C. Thomas, 1976.
———. The Poltergeist. New York New American Library,
1972. Reprint Methuchen, N.J. Scarecrow Press, 1976.
———. Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research. n.p.
Arno Press, 1975.