Thursday, 20 February 2020

The American Society for Psychical Research: Recent Developments

Since I wrote about asset-stripping at the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in July 2019, prompted by the headquarters building in New York being put up for sale, there have been some developments.  I thought it would be worth pulling together the latest strands in the saga though the picture is still unclear as, to my knowledge, the individuals in charge have never responded publicly to the concerns raised by those who wish to see the organisation regain its former position as a major focus for psychical research.

An article about the ASPR appeared in the London-based Society for Psychical Research’s online Psi Encyclopedia in September 2019.  While it devotes much space to the APSR’s earlier history, the final section covers the more recent period under the heading ‘ASPR in Decline (1990- )’.  As that date suggests, the rot has been going on for quite some time, and in November 2019 I referred to Robert McConnell’s valiant but fruitless efforts to address the problem in his 1995 book Far Out in the New Age.

Startlingly, in September 2019 I was told the ASPR, according to public records on the New York City Department of Finance website, had apparently received loans over the years totalling $10 million using its headquarters building as collateral.  A New York City real estate company, Bernstein Real Estate, in New York, had created ‘5 W. 73rd Street LLC’ (5 West 73rd Street is the ASPR address; LLC is a limited liability company) which now owns the entire mortgage.  The company has the power to rent or lease out the building to generate income in order to pay the debt should the ASPR default.   Where the money has gone, and how it is to be repaid, is unknown.

In November 2019, T C Goodsort started a petition on the website addressed to the New York Charities Bureau seeking the removal of the ASPR’s current officers.  At the time of writing it had reached just over half of the target number of 1,000 signatures.  Goodsort had a letter published in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (pp. 58-9) drawing attention to the petition.

A major piece of news was the tip-off on 6 December 2019 that the ASPR’s New York HQ sale listing on the Sotheby’s website, publication of which had sparked the most recent concern, had been deleted.  My informant could not find the building elsewhere on the Sotheby’s website, or another estate agent’s.  As was pointed out to me, this did not necessarily mean the building was no longer for sale, as it could instead have become an unlisted or ‘off-market’ property for a more discreet transaction.  As no notice of a sale has surfaced, it suggests the ASPR has completely withdrawn it, at least for the moment.

The latest development, of a kind, was notification this week of a sale on both the US and UK versions of the AbeBooks website of ASPR-related materials by a bookseller in New Hampshire.  Headed ‘Archive of early correspondence of the American Society for Psychical Research’, a total of 85 items dating from the 1880s to 1921 are being offered for US$ 6,250.00 + $6.50 shipping (£4,952.15 + £30.77 shipping to the UK).  The lengthy description states that ‘the majority of the collection consists of membership and dues communications,’ but it lists a wide range of writers and topics covered in the correspondence, making it more interesting than merely a batch of admin paperwork (which would hardly be worth £5k).

Their origin is not stated but it was natural to wonder if this heralded the break-up of the ASPR’s archive.  However, in this instance at least it seems the current ASPR management is not directly at fault, as an enquiry to the vendor elicited the reply that the items had been acquired from the stock of a defunct Maine bookshop.  He did not know how the shop owner had obtained them, and did not think there was anything else connected to the ASPR in his possession.

How the Maine bookseller came by them is probably now lost to history.  Perhaps they were stolen (in which case one might have expected more coherence).  Possibly they were deemed surplus to requirements by the Society and disposed of, though it is hard to believe any self-respecting archivist would discard letters of the sort described, and it would be a scandal in its own right.  Altogether it is a mystery: just one more associated with the ASPR.  Clarification from that quarter is unlikely.

Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank those informants who share my concern over the mismanagement of the ASPR.  I would be happy to hear from anyone with further information on this sorry business.

Monday, 25 November 2019

The Twelfth Annual Festival of Ukrainian Film

The first night of the 2019 Cambridge Ukrainian Film Festival was moved from its usual home in Trinity to the Old Divinity School, St John’s College.  The reason for the bigger venue was the extremely large audience for the Friday night film which we were seeing in advance of its UK national release: Mr. Jones (2019).  This was a break with the tradition of selecting low-budget Ukrainian output, in favour of a British/Polish/Ukrainian co-production directed by the Polish Agnieszka Holland and with a multi-national cast.  The event was held in conjunction with Cambridge Polish Studies, the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, and the Holodomor Research and Educational Consortium.

Before we saw the main feature we had an introduction from Dr Olenka Pevny, director of Cambridge Ukrainian Studies, and a prize-giving for the winning entry in the annual competition, now in its second year, run by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain for the best essay by a school student on the Holodomor.  We also watched a fifteen-minute video, Holodomor: Stalin’s Secret Genocide (directed by Andrea Chalupa, 2016).  Mr. Jones was followed by a reception, and a display of publications on the Holodomor drawn from the Ukrainian collection at Cambridge University Library.

As for Mr. Jones itself, James Norton does a tremendous job bringing together the professional determination, the far-sighted understanding of European politics, but the personal vulnerability too, of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who highlighted the genocide the Soviet government was inflicting on the Ukrainian people in 1932-3.  Fresh from interviewing the new German Chancellor, Hitler, and out of a job working as Lloyd George’s foreign affairs advisor because of budget cuts, Jones goes to Moscow hoping to interview Stalin.

He wonders how the country is managing to undertake a spending spree when it is apparently broke; as he notes when asking questions but finding himself stonewalled, ‘the numbers don’t add up.’  On arrival he learns that fellow journalist Paul Kleb has been murdered in a ‘robbery’ after uncovering evidence of famine in Ukraine.  Despite foreign correspondents being largely confined to Moscow and kept under tight surveillance, Jones manages to wangle a trip to Ukraine, where his mother had once taught in what is now Donetsk.

He slips his handler and, trudging through the snowy landscape, sees for himself the desperate conditions the people are having to endure.  Grain – Stalin’s gold – is being shipped to Moscow while people are literally dying in the streets.  This is no natural disaster but an engineered holocaust of enormous proportions.  In a terrible scene, himself starving and reduced to eating bark, he finds himself with a group of siblings who give him soup with pieces of meat.  When he asks how they have meat, the eldest answers ‘Kolya’.  Jones naively asks if Kolya is a hunter, and they stare at him.  He finds what is left of Kolya in the snow outside.  Walking along a road he sees a dead woman and her crying infant.  Corpse collectors callously throw both onto the sleigh carrying a pile of bodies.

Captured at a railhead, he is returned to Moscow and offered a choice.  A group of British engineers had been arrested on spying and sabotage charges (the Metropolitan-Vickers affair) and he is told their safety depends on his silence (though why the NKVD do not just assassinate him as they apparently had Kleb is unclear).  Back in Britain he agonises over whether to risk their deaths to possibly save millions.  Once the engineers have been freed, however, he is able to tell his story (adding to testimony by Malcolm Muggeridge, who is shown meeting Jones in Moscow), only to find a tide of misinformation drowns out his account.

The worst comes from the odious Walter Duranty of the New York Times (curiously, Jones and Duranty were both Cambridge graduates, Duranty of Emmanuel, Jones of Trinity).  Contrasting with Jones’s principled approach to journalism, Duranty is a cynical shill parroting the line of the Soviet authorities, denying the magnitude of what is happening in Ukraine.  To demonstrate his ghastliness, Duranty invites Jones to a party shortly after Jones’s arrival in Moscow, and the scene lingers on a decadent debauch in his comfortable apartment, more Weimar Berlin than revolutionary Russia.  Jones realises Duranty is not going to rock a very comfy boat.  The British are less bothered about Ukraine than their own parlous economic position and maintaining good relations with the Soviets, so sit on their hands.  But an encounter with William Randolph Hearst on a visit to Wales allows his account to be published internationally, finally bringing the situation in Ukraine to a wider public.

George Orwell, himself an icon of integrity, and someone else who mistrusted Duranty, makes intermittent appearances.  The film opens with shots of corn fields and feeding pigs, but this is not Ukraine, as we see Orwell composing Animal Farm, clearly linking Jones with the novel’s farmer (which one might not think much of a tribute).  Later in the film, Orwell and Jones are introduced to each other by literary agent Leonard Moore, and Orwell attends a public lecture Jones gives on Ukraine.  In a telling exchange, Orwell tries to defend Soviet methods, but Jones firmly disabuses him of the idea they are building a better life. Orwell was later to have his own negative encounter with Stalinism, in Spain.  Yet while he is quite forthright about the Soviet regime in his 1947 introduction to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, it is significant that he does not refer to the 1932-3 genocide.

The film is certainly not an accurate biopic: Jones had visited Ukraine twice before, and the chronology of the period after he leaves Russia has been manipulated.  However, it highlights how the Ukrainians were treated then, and by implication the colonialist aspirations of Russia towards its neighbour today.  In so doing it will perform a useful function in promoting the memory of the Holodomor to a wide audience.  But it has a bland title, and the one given to it in Ukraine is more informative – 'Цiна правди' (Price of Truth).  Characters wrestle with the idea of what would become known as ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, firmly deciding there is only one truth and it needs to be told, whatever the cost.

(I have a brief anecdote about the Metro-Vickers affair.  At some point in the mid-1980s, when I was employed by British Telecom, I picked up a hefty volume of translated transcripts from the trial, Wrecking Activities at Power Stations in the Soviet Union.  Later, we had some consultants working with us on a project, one of whom was named Allan Monkhouse.  I casually mentioned one day I had a book about a Moscow show trial featuring someone with the same name, to which he replied that that was his grandfather.  He did not have a copy of the book so I was happy to donate mine to him.)

The film on the second night was a contrast to Mr. Jones, and more typical of the sorts of film we tend to see at the Cambridge Ukrainian Film Festival.  Ukraïner: The Movie (2019) is a documentary charting half a dozen interwoven stories of ordinary people doing ordinary things across the country (apart from the war zone), together forming a tapestry of life as it is lived by typical Ukrainians outside the big cities.  The audience may have been smaller than the previous night, but the film had its pleasures.

Supported financially by the Ukrainian Cultural Fund, it is part of a much larger project that began in 2016, drawing large numbers of volunteers internationally to document Ukrainian life and provide translations in order to show the country both to Ukrainians and to the rest of the world.  The emphasis is firmly on traditional provincial life, and the overall atmosphere one of contentment, lingering on small gestures and conversations (do all Ukrainian children have classes in ‘Christian ethics’?), the rhythms of which pull the viewer in.

There are segments about a farmer who practises traditional tree beekeeping, once considered a lost art but making a comeback, with the bees living in slots in trees rather than artificial hives; a lighthouse keeper who has to wade salt flats to get to work; an elderly bus driver who is an enthusiast of the declining sport of motorcycle football, which he has played for half a century; a couple who keep goats and weave the most wonderful traditional blankets from their wool; an old hippy couple who are turning their village into a museum with their sculptures; and an ex-resident of Pripyat who has returned to the Chernobyl exclusion zone to document the crumbling structures and burgeoning wildlife.

Following the screening the film’s producer Bogdan Logvynenko took questions from an appreciative audience.  He was asked about the approach to choosing subjects, as the film dealt with small-scale activities rather than industry or city life, hinting at a retreat from modernity.  Bogdan answered that the focus was on what was distinctive about Ukraine, not what could be seen anywhere, showing aspects of life there which are under pressure from the modern world.

I saw the questioner’s point.  While it is understandable the filmmakers wish to show positive aspects of Ukraine, and they are fascinating, there is a sense it is an idealised image, with no attempt to provide the broader context within which the subjects live their lives; one would not know from the film that the country is engaged in a protracted hybrid war with Russia, or that there are concerns with political corruption.  The Chernobyl section is the closest one gets to controversy, and even there the stress is on regeneration.

Perhaps the producers’ answer is that for most people, going about their everyday lives, such wider considerations are irrelevant.  The pressing need is to project a positive image, and preserve traditions that are a key part of the national identity but which are under threat from modern life.  That is fair enough, but if one wishes to obtain an accurate image of what it means to be Ukrainian as a whole, those wider considerations surely need to be included.  Further documentaries exploring the urban experience might help to give some balance if the project truly wishes to live up to its name.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

The Myers Memorial Medal

The Myers Memorial Medal was introduced in 1995 by the Society for Psychical Research, both to honour the memory of SPR founder Frederic Myers (1843-1901) and to recognise significant contributions to the field by current psychical researchers.  The initiative was suggested by then-president Prof Archie Roy (himself a later recipient), and the gold-coloured medal was designed by Maurice Grosse.  The obverse shows an image of Frederic Myers, with ‘Society for Psychical Research’ along the top and ‘Myers Memorial Medal’ along the bottom in a ring which echoes the SPR’s logo.  It is awarded at irregular intervals, prospective names of individuals considered of sufficient merit being discussed and agreed by the SPR’s Council.

There was a feeling at the time of its introduction that those who had done important work in the subject were not being sufficiently recognised, and that a medal would provide some token of appreciation for ‘outstanding work’, as the announcement in the SPR’s magazine The Psi Researcher put it (curiously it was not announced until the May 1995 issue, after the first award, to Prof. Ian Stevenson, had already been made).  Initially the medal was awarded more or less annually though after several years it became increasingly intermittent.  Involvement in the SPR is not a prerequisite, but recipients tend to be individuals closely associated, in one way or another, with the Society.

Original artwork, as reproduced in The Psi Researcher, May 1995

It has been referred to by alternative names – ‘Myers Medal’, ‘Frederic Myers Medal’ and ‘Myers Memorial Gold Medal’ – but these are incorrect.

There have been eight recipients:

1995 – Ian Stevenson
1997 – John Beloff
1997 – Donald West
1998 – Alan Gauld
2002 – Robert L Morris
2003 – Archie Roy
2010 – Erlendur Haraldsson
2014 – Stephen Braude

Sunday, 25 August 2019

So is the Ghost Club really the world’s oldest psychical research organisation?

Ghost Club album on display at the College of Psychic Studies

The Ghost Club claims to be – as its website banner puts it – ‘The world’s oldest organisation associated with psychical research.  Established circa 1862.’  The 1862 date is frequently repeated in articles (not to mention in the Club’s Twitter handle); however, the ‘circa’ gives pause for thought as it suggests a lack of precise information.  The brief history on the Ghost Club website provided by its chairman, Alan Murdie, is similarly vague about the early days when it says ‘The Ghost Club seems to have dissolved in the 1870s following the death of Dickens but it was relaunched in 1882.’

The reason for the vagueness is that the 1862 incarnation of the Ghost Club left few traces, but what is clear is that there was a break of some years after its dissolution in the following decade (number unspecified).  A new Ghost Club was formed in the same year the Society for Psychical Research was founded (the SPR in February, the Ghost Club in November, 1882).  This time the Club did leave records, and when it folded again in 1936, they were deposited at the British Museum.

Some months later Harry Price launched it once more, this time as a dining club rather than an investigatory body, and thus it remained until his death in 1948, when it ceased to function.  Later, some of the members of the previous committee decided to have yet another go.  These included Peter Underwood, the dominant figure in the post-Price period until the schism caused by his autocratic manner in 1993, when he left to start the Ghost Club Society.  The Ghost Club continued in parallel and outlasted its rival.

Thus we can see that, rather than a single entity, there have been a number of separate organisations using the name of Ghost Club: from ‘circa 1862’ to some point after the death of Charles Dickens in 1870; from late 1882 to 1936; from 1938 to 1948; and from 1954 to the present day.  It is hard to argue the Ghost Club has existed since 1862 when all that binds the various organisations is the name.  As I have said elsewhere, ‘It is like me resurrecting the London Dialectical Society’s name and claiming my organisation was founded in 1867.’

Even if one is generous and argues there was some continuity of personnel linking the various incarnations (which still does not mean the organisation is continuous), one cannot reasonably push this back further than 1938, as is indicated by the new organisation not taking over the records of the one that ceased to exist in 1936.  And if one does want to argue there is still some continuity there, the gap between the ending of the first Club in the 1870s and the formation of the new one in late 1882 is just too long for it to be considered a single organisation.

Support for a 1954 date for the origin of the present Club is provided by one of those behind the post-Price revival, Philip Paul.  He devotes a chapter to his book Some Unseen Power: Diary of a Ghost-Hunter (1985) to his brief involvement before he fell out with the committee.  Tellingly, he refers to the Ghost Club as ‘a body of socially minded inquirers founded in 1862, recreated by Harry Price and made defunct by his death in 1948.’  The key words are ‘recreated’ and ‘defunct’.

One institution which does not appear to consider the Ghost Club the oldest organisation etc. is the College of Psychic Studies (founded in 1884 as the London Spiritualist Alliance, but despite the name change definitely the same entity).  On a recent visit to see the Art and Spirit: Visions of Wonder exhibition they had put on, I came across an album displayed in a bookcase captioned ‘Ghost Club Album circa 1880’.  Unfortunately there was no information about its contents or provenance, but the description begins unequivocally, ‘The Ghost Club was founded in 1882…’  I would still take issue with that, but at least it does not endorse the 1862 date.

To conclude, it is incorrect to say that the Ghost Club, venerable as it is, can claim to be ‘The world’s oldest organisation associated with psychical research.’  That distinction must belong to the SPR, which can boast an unbroken existence, with the records to prove it, back to the beginning of 1882.  The Ghost Club is a fine organisation I’m sure, but it should not arrogate to itself honours that are rightly due elsewhere.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

More Downs than Ups at the American Society for Psychical Research

A few days ago I came across an article dated 12 July by Nancy A Ruhling on the Mansion Global property website stating that the fine building occupied by the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) at 5 West 73rd Street in New York is up for sale with a hefty price tag of $17.995m.  I put the link on the (British) SPR’s Facebook page and Twitter feed (hereafter SPR refers to the London-based organisation) with the single word ‘worrying’.  I had assumed the meaning was obvious, but the Facebook post was picked up by a message board, generating discussion speculating what the ‘worrying’ signified, with one comment saying the writer assumed the ASPR was defunct; a not unreasonable assumption as it happens.  It seems worth outlining what those worries are, with some of the context.

There have been clear indications that all was not well at the ASPR for some time.  Its Journal had not been published for many years, and no visible services provided for members.  Researchers wishing to use the library – proudly displayed on the Society’s website – were not being granted access, with no reason given.  Emails were not being answered.  I first became aware there might be a problem in 2009 when I was asked – as the person looking after general enquiries to the SPR – if there had been an issue of the ASPR’s Journal published recently.  I have never been a member of the ASPR but when I consulted someone who was, I was told there had not been an issue ‘for a while’.

Having heard more rumours about problems at the ASPR, and deciding to look into the subject in more depth in 2013, I came across a 2007 blog post by George P. Hansen headed ‘A Salary in Parapsychology: Patrice Keane (ASPR).’  It noted that in 2005, payments to the ASPR’s Executive Director, Patrice Keane, totalled $177,297.  This seemed a huge amount for what on the face of it did not seem to be very much work.  Using figures in the ASPR’s own federal tax return, Hansen made some assumptions about the split between the various categories of membership and estimated that the membership in 2005 stood at 23, down from 591 in 1998.  Its flagship publication is (or was) its Journal, a quarterly, and according to Hansen, it appeared regularly until about 1997, when its schedule became erratic.  In July 2007 they posted out an issue, dated January-April 2004, which as far as I am aware was the last.*

What surprised me was the minimal response in 2013 when I put a link to Hansen’s post on the Facebook page of the SPR: two people, both Americans and who can be considered positively inclined towards psychical research, were dismissive of Hansen and implied it was poor taste to have raised the matter of the ASPR’s finances.  It seemed nobody, apart from Hansen, wanted to raise concerns about this venerable institution.  This left me puzzled, and I wondered, given the situation, why ASPR members, or whatever was left of the membership, were not shouting about it.  Clearly the ASPR’s returns were in need of more scrutiny than its members had given them thus far.

Sadly, things have gone further downhill since 2007.  In November 2011 Stacy Horn, most definitely a bona fide researcher, reported difficulties in accessing the ASPR library, having been repeatedly fobbed off over a period of a year and a half.  She could not even find out what was there.  Eventually she gave up, reporting that others had told her similar stories to her own experience.  Her blog post title: ‘What is the deal with the ASPR?’   She is probably still waiting for an answer to that question.  Then Hansen returned to the subject of the ASPR at the 2012 conference of the Academy of Spirituality And Paranormal Studies.  He noted that the ASPR’s assets according to its 1998 IRS Form 990 had stood at $927,428, with compensation to Patrice Keane at $65,600, while in 2010 assets stood at $-1,693,720 and compensation to Keane at $139,955.

The SPR’s Guy Lyon Playfair wrote a Forum piece in Fortean Times in 2014 in which he traced the ASPR’s fluctuating fortunes, its ‘ups and down,’ during its history and decided the organisation was probably now ‘down and out’.  On the other hand, in a rare bright spot Beth A Robertson’s acknowledgements in her 2016 book Science of the Séance included thanks to Jeff Twine of the ASPR (Twine was at one time billed as ‘acting editor’ of the ASPR’s Journal, not a busy role), which suggests she was successful in penetrating the inner sanctum.  I have heard of a couple of other people who have managed to gain access though, as I understand, permission required a great deal of effort to obtain and when granted was cast in the nature of a favour.  Like Horn, others report requests for access, or even information, being ignored.

While one might be forgiven for assuming the ASPR is no longer with us, its very dated-looking website, bearing a 2009 copyright, is still soliciting members, and it has a complex list of tariffs, ranging from ‘Associate’ at $70 p.a., ‘Fellow’ at £100 p.a., ‘Sponsor’ at £2,500, ‘Founder’ status (whatever that means) at $10,000 and ‘Benefactor’ at $50,000+.  Students and seniors are entitled to slight discounts on the basic.  These figures have not changed since at least March 2013, when I first noted them.  There is a PayPal facility, probably the most recent addition to the website, and much talk on the site of tax savings for donors as an incentive to give the Society money.  There are three sample articles by Rhea White from the Journal, the most recent from 1976; and I can find no mention of any ASPR-sponsored lectures or conferences, as was the case when I looked in 2013.  It is unclear what services the ASPR actually provides, and casual visitors to the website might not appreciate how little they are likely to get for their subscription.

The ASPR’s financial situation is illuminating.  The website claims to contain ‘The most comprehensive source of U.S. nonprofit tax data’.  The latest IRS return from the ASPR covers 2017, filed in December 2018, and it shows the ASPR’s ‘officers and directors’ as being: Nancy Sondow (trustee/president), Marie Cooper Janis (trustee/first vice-president), Keith Harary (who was at one time treasurer, trustee), Doris Raymond (trustee/secretary), George Kokoris (treasurer), Barbara Gallagher (trustee) and Patrice Keane (executive director).  The first six received no financial compensation and were listed as working a nominal one hour per week, while the last received $139,955 for a 60-hour week.  Four people were employed in the calendar year, who and doing what is unspecified, though they were paid $48,190 for doing it.

The statement on its activities begins: ‘The ASPR continues to meet the growing need for accurate and relevant information through its research activities, library, and archival resources, public exhibitions, and educational resources and services’, with no evidence of these activities supplied.  Yet while the organisation’s income for the year was a mere $19,900, its total expenses were $1,520,868, among which was the executive director’s generous remuneration and a whacking $898,800 in interest.  Outgoings on everything were higher than one would expect in an organisation with such a low level of activity (despite those 60 hours a week).  Assets were stated to be $1,000,844, though not for much longer, because an eye-watering deficit of -$1,379,089 was recorded.  One might be forgiven for idly pondering on what all the money was spent.

Now the story has taken another turn with the news of the building sale, which is being handled by the prestigious-sounding Sotheby’s International Realty.  The Mansion Global report states: ‘The five-story townhouse, which overlooks the iconic Dakota apartment building on the Upper West Side, has been owned by the American Society Etal since 1966, according to property records.’  The precise nature of the ownership, and who would get what from sale is (like much relating to the ASPR) unclear, but 1966 is a key date.  Chester Carlson, inventor of the Xerox process, served as an ASPR trustee from 1964 to 1968, the year of his death, and helped to fund the purchase of the building in 1966, so presumably he set up a trust.  Unsurprisingly calls by Mansion Global to the ASPR went unanswered but Mr. Sieger of Sotheby’s told it ‘the society is selling the property because “they don’t need so much space anymore.”’  The deficit might also be a factor but it doesn’t do to tell potential purchasers you are strapped for cash.

Returning to the ‘worrying’ comment, my fears about the building sale are various.  First, saying they do not need as much space as before suggests they do not intend to carry out the functions they had at some point in the past, albeit apparently not recently.  Secondly, there is a danger of the surplus from the sale somehow going to wherever income has gone in the past, with little to show for it.  Thirdly, the reference to not needing as much space sets alarm bells ringing because of the library and archives, which could be dispersed on the grounds there is no space for them.  Technically the ASPR could function from a small office to maintain its existence but delivering little in the way of services, while its assets were deployed for expenses.  If the archives and library were liquidated they would be worth a fortune.  In the absence of a specific statement from the ASPR, they should be considered at risk.

Considering how long this situation has been going on there has been an astonishing lack of curiosity expressed, let alone action taken, by those involved in psychical research.  Perhaps a more concerted effort could have prevented this point being reached, but now we have, I do not understand why we hear nothing from the current trustees, or even members: dues for 2017 brought in $2,910 so it still has some left.  I should also have thought the Parapsychological Association, as the professional body for researchers, would take an interest, but they have been quiet as well.  In fact the situation in the years since it was suggested to me that publicising Hansen’s blog post was in poor taste has not changed, indicating a degree of indifference I find strange.  It may be too late for the ASPR as a body dedicated to research and education to regain its former glories, but it seems a shame not to at least ask why its decline has been allowed to happen.

*Update 21 July 2019: I have received an email stating that JASPR dated July 2004 was published at some point.  Articles were accepted for publication after 2004, fate unknown.


American Society for Psychical Research website,

George P. Hansen, ‘A Salary in Parapsychology: Patrice Keane (ASPR)’, 13 August 2007:

Stacy Horn, ‘What is the deal with the ASPR?’, 20 November 2011:

George P Hansen, ‘Panel – Psience: What New Developments in Scientific Investigation Promote Understanding of Psi?’Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, Inc, Annual Conference, 2012 Proceedings.

Guy Lyon Playfair, ‘An American Institution in Low Spirits’, Fortean Times, Issue 320, November 2014, pp. 52-3.

Beth Robertson, Science of the Séance: Transnational networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016.

Nancy A Ruhling, ‘Paranormal Society’s Manhattan Townhouse Lists for $17.9 Million’, Mansion Global, 12 July 2019: