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Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality

by Edward Kelly, Adam Crabtree and Paul Marshall (eds.)

From the publisher’s website: The rise of modern science has brought with it increasing acceptance among intellectual elites of a worldview that conflicts sharply both with everyday human experience and with beliefs widely shared among the world’s great cultural traditions. Most contemporary scientists and philosophers believe that reality is at bottom purely physical, and that human beings are nothing more than extremely complicated biological machines. On such views our everyday experiences of conscious decision-making, free will, and the self are illusory by-products of the grinding of our neural machinery. It follows that mind and personality are necessarily extinguished at death, and that there exists no deeper transpersonal or spiritual reality of any sort.

A review by Prof. John Poynton will appear im The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

Beyond Physicalism. Rowman & Littlefield, February 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1442232389

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Free PDF of Book on Clinical Parapsychology

A PDF of the book Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology: An Introductory Reader (Bunnik, 2012) is now freely available on the Parapsychological Association website, thanks to the generosity of the Dutch Foundation 'Het Johan Borgman Fonds' who waived all copyrights of the book in order to make it available free to anyone interested in the topic of clinical parapsychology.

A PDF of the book Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology: An Introductory Reader (Bunnik, 2012) is now freely available on the Parapsychological Association website, thanks to the generosity of the Dutch Foundation 'Het Johan Borgman Fonds' who waived all copyrights of the book in order to make it available free to anyone interested in the topic of clinical parapsychology. 

A PDF of the book is available here:


Mrs Guppy Takes A Flight: A Scandal of Victorian Spiritualism

Molly Whittington-Egan

From the publisher’s website: Many moons ago, in the high Victorian era, Mrs. Guppy, the famous medium, was enjoying a sparkling success. Over the rooftops of Bloomsbury she sailed, was infused through lathe and plaster, and clambered on to tables in the darkness, magicking down showers of apports. Night after night, once the lights were extinguished, and the damped fires had died in the grates, the séance could begin in plush and mahogany drawing-rooms. The O of her mouth in speaking trances was a portal to the spirit world. Her lidded eyes were flickering sensors. The floating paper trumpets were channels to catch the direct voices of the departed. Curtained cabinets were entrances to the unknown land. There, in the thrilling, breathing gloom, decked out in merging black gown, portly, not ethereal, Mrs Guppy, silently, deftly, tripped her own fantastic dance in little, pointy, soft, boots. Definitely invisible, for none ever spotted her, and very nearly noiseless – once, she set a chandelier a-tinkling – she glided behind the bowed heads of her awestruck sitters, and dispensed upon the table a cornucopia of gifts and symbols, apports, from the spirits; animal, vegetable and mineral. Wings swooped and birds burbled; doves were released. Lights darted and twinkled. Auditory effects, tactile feelings, stroking, prickling, oriental smells, made temporary schizophrenics of solid citizens.

Tom Ruffles

Even those who have researched the nineteenth century Spiritualist scene will probably know little about the mediumship of Mrs Guppy other than she was noted for her apports (objects which appeared mysteriously in the séance room), and most famously her three mile spirit-powered ‘aerial transit’ on 23 June 1871 over the roofs of London from her home in Highbury, landing unceremoniously in the middle of a séance in progress in Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, her account book in one hand and a wet pen in the other.  That journey is alluded to in Molly Whittington-Egan’s title and on the cover, but as she amply demonstrates, there was more to Mrs Guppy than that.

Determining what that ‘more’ was is not an easy task.  Mrs Guppy’s life has hitherto been obfuscated by the mythologised version of her origins she promoted, one which has too often been taken at face value by later commentators.  What has helped to disentangle the fabrications she disseminated, and makes this portrait so valuable, is the power of the electronic search which facilitated a comparison of Mrs Guppy’s version against the facts.  The result is a straight no-frills biography aiding enormously in tracing her life.  What Whittington-Egan has discovered is that Mrs Guppy wove a ‘bogus family history’ to improve her social standing.

So Elizabeth White (not Agnes Nichols or Nichol or Nicholl) came from a humble background; she was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire and the family moved to Hull when she was a small child. Later she portrayed herself as having more genteel origins.  Whittington-Egan describes her as ‘upwardly mobile’, ‘an opportunist of the actress type with natural dramatic ability’.  The reference to actresses carried a wider set of connotations at the time than merely having the ability to play a role, but otherwise it is probably a fair assessment.

Like many in her position, she reinvented herself in order to break through rigid class constraints.  Mediumship was one way in which working-class women could better themselves socially, and Mrs Guppy did this with aplomb, moving in circles far removed from her modest origins.  Her talents can be gauged by her avoidance of the outright exposures that plagued her confreres, and by the significant influence she wielded on Alfred Russel Wallace, for whom, in Whittington-Egan’s words, ‘she was the enchantress’, but who was ‘blind to her legerdemain and gross conjury’.

Her apports were extremely varied, including feathers, live starfish, eels and lobsters, butterflies, doves, ducks prepared for the oven, and enough fruit and flowers to keep Covent Garden in business by herself.  The volume later puzzled Frank Podmore, who wondered at the economics.  Remarkable as her productions were, what mainly marks her out from her fellow physical mediums is the contrast between what we think of as a rather ethereal pursuit, contacting spirits, and her undoubted bulk.  Reference by contemporary commentators to her aerial journey as a ‘transit of Venus’ was a clever but cruel pun, likening her to an astronomical object.  She stands out among the general mass of mediums operating at this time because of her size; to move around the séance room in the dark undetected required a great deal of skill, and the image of the portly Mrs Guppy tip-toeing in the dark strikes the reader as ridiculous.

As well as tracing the trajectory of Mrs Guppy’s career, Whittington-Egan is good on the social aspects of being a regular attendee at séances and becoming part of the community of believers.  Mediumship was not just about wanting to make contact with the departed, it was also about a social network that gave its members a particular identity and offered mutual support, as well as the chance for a chat over tea and cakes.  Mrs Guppy had good connections in the movement and Whittington-Egan follows many of the threads that connected Mrs Guppy to her fellow workers for Spirit which could express themselves in both close friendships and hostile rivalries.  Her mediumship enabled her to marry twice, Samuel Guppy and William Volckman, both Spiritualists and prosperous in business. But times changed, she outlived her husbands, and a son, and when she died in Brighton of ‘senile decay’ in December 1917 her occupation as a medium had long been over, her fame evaporated.

Whittington-Egan’s view is that Mrs Guppy was (putting it loosely) a humbug, and it difficult to demur.  Despite this dispassionate verdict it is a warm and affectionate portrait, even clearing Mrs Guppy of the most egregious charge made against her, that she had arranged in a fit of jealousy to have vitriol thrown in the face of ‘Katie King’ at a Florence Cook séance, thereby ruining Miss Cook’s looks (this plot rests on the assumption that Cook and Katie were the same).  Whittington-Egan reasonably characterises Mrs Guppy’s accuser as a ‘man of bad character’, and concludes that there is no necessity to believe his accusation.

Mrs Guppy Takes a Flight is an important study for anyone with an interest in Victorian Spiritualism as it clears away much misinformation while avoiding the excesses of cultural theory, and presents Mrs Guppy in, as it were, the round.  More, it helps to bring alive the sense of adventure as well as solemn pursuit after truth that characterised the early days of Spiritualism, before psychical researchers came along and in their determination to control the mediums made it, in Whittington-Egan’s words, ‘deadly serious and dull’.  Just one puzzle remains: why the publisher has chosen to categorise this as ‘true crime’ rather than biography.  Whittington-Egan has written about crime previously, but the only crimes that Mrs Guppy can reasonably be charged with, on the evidence presented here, are against the credulity of her sitters.

Mrs Guppy Takes A Flight. Neil Wilson Publishing, April 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1906000875

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If the Spirit Moves You: Life and Love After Death

Justine Picardie

From the publisher’s website: When I think about her now, which is most of the time, it's like rewinding a silent film in my head: I see the crucial scenes in our lives together. But what I can't hear is her voice in my head, and that silence is driving me crazy.

After her sister Ruth's death from breast cancer in September 1997, Justine Picardie was desperate to speak to her again, to hear her voice, to find something – anything – that might fill the space she had left behind. Over the course of the next year, Justine's search for Ruth lead her into the underworld of spiritualism, through a series of encounters with mediums and psychics who believe that we can communicate with those we have lost.

If the Spirit Moves You is Justine's remarkable story about her search for the afterlife in an age of reason, scepticism and science. Powerfully moving, both heart-breaking and funny, it is an extraordinary book about the exhausting journey of grief and the enduring power of love.

Tom Ruffles

Justine Picardie’s memoir of her search for post-mortem contact following her sister Ruth’s death from cancer was first published in 2002.  It has been republished by Picador with the addition of an introduction by Andrew O’Hagan and an afterword by Justine Picardie.  As well as a heartfelt exploration of sisterly love and the grief of bereavement, it provides an interesting outsider’s perspective on the state of psychical research and mediumship research at the time, as Picardie tries various methods of contact and meets individuals who may have answers for her.

The book is written in the form of a diary covering a year, from Good Friday 2000 to Easter Monday 2001.  Ruth, her best friend as well as only sibling, had died in 1997 at the age of 33, but three years later Justine still felt the rawness, and thought and dreamt about her constantly.  The usual methods used to control the worst symptoms – therapy, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, Valium, homeopathic remedies – having proved useless, she decided to follow up a suggestion given to her some time earlier that she visit the medium Arthur Molnary at the College of Psychic Studies.  This was the start of an investigation into the possibility of communication with Ruth, or exploring ‘the underworld of spiritualism’ as the Picador description puts it.

Unfortunately Molnary, being extremely popular, was not available for a couple of months, so in the meantime she had a session with a ‘junior sensitive’ at the College which was less than illuminating.  She was then contacted by Judith Chisholm, an Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) researcher, who sent her book Voices from Paradise after reading an article Justine had written about Ruth.  Picardie visited Chisholm to listen to samples of EVP, but was unpersuaded, Chisholm’s interpretations of the recordings seeming to be an example of something Picardie was to encounter many times during the course of the year, finding what you want to find.  Her sitting with Molinary went better than the one with the junior sensitive, but while he was able to tell her things about Ruth that were true, much else was banal, and she felt it unlikely that he was communicating with Ruth.  Her attempts at EVP and automatic writing were failures.

On a visit to New York she met Dale Palmer, another EVP researcher whose grand plans for comupterised communication with the dead have gone the way of many grand plans in psychical research, and a medium who charged her $120 for a sitting and gave her a book by Sylvia Browne.  The indications are that Picardie did not find the sitting a good investment of time and money.  A visit to the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain was similarly fruitless.  Attending a mediumship training weekend at the Arthur Findlay College (the most notable aspect of which was the bizarre presenting style of course leader Glyn Edwards) showed mainly to demonstrate that Picardie has some talent for cold reading.

She even flew to Tucson, Arizona, USA, to a conference run by Gary Schwartz and Linda Russek at a grim venue in an industrial area, where she learned about Schwartz’s emphasis on love, which irritated her, and his fondness for singing James Taylor songs at the drop of a hat.  She met a woman who claimed to be a transfiguration medium, but despite squinting hard and getting a headache, Picardie could not see it.  On the other hand Ray Hyman, Executive member of what was then the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, did a cold reading on her to show how easy it is for mediums to get what appears to be information from those in the afterlife, and was woefully inadequate.  Despite the presence of supposedly top-notch mediums, the quality of the evidence at the conference seemed no better than that in England.

Of particular interest to SPR members will be those sections dealing with aspects of the Society.  Picardie attended a Gwen Tate lecture given by David Fontana where she met Montague Keen and purchased a copy of The Scole Report, written by Fontana, Keen and Arthur Ellison, which discusses séances held by a group in Norfolk.  Having read the Report, she had lunch with Keen, where he told her about the ‘Spellchecker’ case at Westwood Hall school, Leek; a discarnate spirit, ‘Prudentia’, was said to be communicating through a computer via corrections to misspellings in documents (the case was reported in the October 2005 SPR Journal).  Monty also attended the Schwartz conference and later he and Picardie visited Westwood Hall for a demonstration of the mysterious computer, but when Picardie attempted to communicate with hers she failed to obtain meaningful results, perhaps because her Mac did not have the requisite software bug that allowed Lady Prudentia to manifest.

Picardie’s approach to those who are sure of communication with the afterlife is one of sympathetic objectivity, being willing to examine the evidence yet not allowing her judgement to be clouded by her wish to believe that Ruth survived death.  Sceptical friends she talks to about her researches express surprise that she should engage in what they consider an irrational activity, but she is always prepared to try if there is a chance of success.  As she proceeds though her initial excitement and sense of anticipation fade as one failure follows another, until the sense is that by the end of the book nothing has convinced her that the various techniques have indicated Ruth’s survival of bodily death.   True a briefly reported telephone reading by medium Rita Rogers contained a significant proportion of hits, but even they do not prove that Ruth continues to exist and was the source of the information.

The book is not just about Picardie’s venture into afterlife research.  It also recounts everyday life with her family and friends, including her children and her divorced parents, who grieve for their lost daughter in their own ways, her therapist mother unostentatiously, suggesting various ideas in Freud’s writings to help Justine, her father floridly emphasising his Jewishness as his means to find consolation.  What comes through the account of family life is the sense that bereavement can result in self-absorption, an unwillingness to let go of the dead that can affect relationships with the living.  The true hero of this book is Justine’s then-husband Neill MacColl, endlessly patient throughout Justine’s search for answers despite his own tragedy – the death of his half-sister Kirsty MacColl in Mexico in December 2000, hit by a speedboat as she pushed her son to safety.  Despite his own grief he still has to listen to his wife’s obsession with her sister while trying to come to terms with the loss of his own.  Picardie refers to Kirsty MacColl as ‘a semi-famous pop star’, which seems an unnecessarily grudging verdict on someone who was very well known, as if Kirsty’s death is a distraction from Picardie’s preoccupation with Ruth.

There are no easy answers about the loss of a loved one, for Picardie as for any of us, but perhaps the main, hesitant, conclusion she reaches is one she comes to near the beginning of her search, not at the end:

‘But still I love my sister.  And my sister loved me … And now I know, at least I think I know, that after all, after all of this, in the end there is a beginning.  And there is life after death, because I am still living.’

If the Spirit Moves You. Picador, June 2015. ISBN: 9781447289289

No Better Place: Arthur Conan Doyle, Windlesham and Communication with the Other Side (1907-1930)

Alistair Duncan

From the publisher’s website: Following his second marriage in 1907 Arthur Conan Doyle was looking to the future. The years ahead would see the birth of three children, fresh literary success and the discovery of his new faith. Those same years would also see the First World War, the final adventures of Sherlock Holmes and ridicule from the religious and scientific communities for his beliefs.

Tom Ruffles

Alistair Duncan has established himself as an active author and blogger about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as a champion of the Undershaw Preservation Trust which is fighting to preserve one of Conan Doyle’s houses as it stands empty and decaying.  No Better Place completes a trilogy tracing the last forty years of Conan Doyle’s life and career using the houses he owned as a peg., following The Norwood Author: Arthur Conan Doyle and the Norwood Years (1891-1894) and An Entirely New Country: Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw and the Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes (1897-1907).  The third volume examines the years when he lived at Windlesham, near Crowborough, East Sussex, starting rather abruptly in November 1907 with Conan Doyle and his second wife Jean in France, about to reach England at the conclusion of their honeymoon and move into their new house.  The ‘No better place’ of the title is Conan Doyle’s verdict on Windlesham, given in a letter to his mother.

No Better Place draws primarily on contemporary newspapers, particularly the Daily Express and Daily Mirror, plus a scattering of foreign papers, mainly the New York Times.   Duncan also had assistance from Georgina Doyle, the third wife of John Doyle, the son of Conan Doyle’s younger brother Innes, and has used her book Out of the Shadows: The Untold Story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s First Family.  Of other published sources, Brian W Pugh’s A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a mainstay, but biographies are used sparingly.  The result is a straightforward year-by-year account of the final third of Conan Doyle’s life.

As the book’s cover image and subtitle indicate, the main activity during this period was the promotion of Spiritualism, but Conan Doyle was still writing Sherlock Holmes stories as well as plays and other fiction, notably the Professor Challenger stories.  At the same time he was campaigning against miscarriages of justice and on social issue such as euthanasia and divorce law reform.  He agitated for a channel tunnel, worked to expose Belgian cruelties in the Congo, and visited the front in the First World War.  He broke into film, with both Holmes and Challenger depicted on screen.

As well as these varied activities he campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Spiritualism, defending it against all comers and touring the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Africa.  He threw his weight behind the Cottingley fairies and spirit photography.  The book covers as well the friendship and falling out with Harry Houdini, the births of his three children with Jean, the loss of loved ones in war and peace, but also his leisure interests – boxing, cricket, billiards and motoring.  He had a huge amount of energy and packed an enormous amount in, and Duncan traces the winding down as overexertion and ill health tell, the pages devoted to each year becoming fewer as 1930 approaches.

Duncan treats Conan Doyle’s first family sympathetically, and acknowledges that Conan Doyle did not always treat Mary and Kingsley well after their mother’s death, influenced by Jean’s determination to be the centre of his world.  On the other hand he is more generous to Jean than some commentators have been, arguing that she was not a gold-digger as she sincerely loved Conan Doyle and was prepared to wait for him to be free to marry her without knowing when that might be.  The children though remain shadowy, especially the three youngest.

The strongest aspect of the book is the use of newspaper articles charting Conan Doyle’s activities, particularly the overseas ones that tracked and commented on his extensive tours.  The weakest unfortunately is the coverage of Spiritualism, a real problem in a book in which it is so prominent.  Duncan’s introduction acknowledges that he is not familiar with the subject and that his lack of knowledge was initially an inhibiting factor in deciding whether to follow his Undershaw book with a further volume on the Windlesham period.  It is therefore surprising to find that Kelvin I. Jones’s Conan Doyle and the Spirits: The Spiritualistic Career of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not used at all as it would have provided valuable background.

There are a number of points at which this lack of familiarity shows, some more significant than others.  For example the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas is called Brayton Thomas (Pugh’s book has the correct spelling of Thomas’s name but Duncan cites the Daily Mirror).  In covering Conan Doyle’s resignation from the Society for Psychical Research, Duncan prints an extract from the ‘Reply by the President and Hon. Secretaries’, attributing this to the President. Lawrence J Jones (whom he calls the chairman) alone, whereas it was signed by Jones along with Eleanor Sidgwick and W H Salter, the two Hon. Secretaries.  He adds ‘[sic]’ in a reference to physical mediumship in quoting their reply as if the word physical is incorrect, whereas it is being used to distinguish physical from mental mediumship (the same sentence refers to ‘physical phenomena’).

The well-known psychical researcher and SPR Research Officer Eric J Dingwall makes a brief appearance as just an SPR representative ‘named Dingwall’, no first name supplied, in connection with a poltergeist case near Wisbech.  The Scientific American competition to find genuine mediumistic phenomena is mentioned but not Mina Crandon (‘Margery’), whom Conan Doyle recommended to the committee.  The description of the court case involving psychical researcher Frederick Bligh Bond, medium Geraldine Cummins, and the Cleophas scripts is misleading because Duncan relies for his information about Cummins v. Bond on a single article in the Daily Mirror, and does not tell us how it was resolved (Cummins won, costs were awarded against Bond), instead simply saying ‘the case was adjourned’.  And so on.  Some slips and omissions can be rectified in a subsequent printing, but other topics are too vaguely presented to be particularly informative.  The problem with newspapers is that as a first rough draft of history they can be very rough indeed, and often fail to tell us a story’s ending.

No Better Place. MX Publishing, August 2015. ISBN: 9781780927978

Stanley Krippner: A Life of Dreams, Myths, and Visions - Essays on His Contributions and Influence

Jeannine A Davies and Daniel B Pitchford (eds.)

From Prof. Krippner: Stanley Krippner: A Life of Dreams, Myths and Visions explores the intellectual contributions and personal influence of a pioneering psychologist and prolific writer whose work has yielded a major impact on illuminating frontiers of original knowledge, generating innovative research and scholarship, and guiding a new generation of cutting-edge thinkers. Contributors explore Krippner's early life and development, key areas of his groundbreaking research and collaborations in consciousness, shamanism, parapsychology, dreams, hypnosis, mythology, and trauma. This edited volume also offers personal reflections that further reveal the breadth of Krippner's inspired professional influence.

Stanley Kripper’s website can be found here: http://stanleykrippner.weebly.com/

Stanley Krippner. University Professors Press, January 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1939686022

Details of 2016 Bial Foundation Symposium

The Koestler Parapsychology Unit blog carries details of the 2016 Bial Foundation Symposium. The 11th, it is on the theme of placebo, healing and meditation.

The Koestler Parapsychology Unit blog carries details of the 2016 Bial Foundation Symposium.  The 11th, it is on the theme of placebo, healing and meditation.

Furtehr details about the Foundation, the 2016 Symposium, and Proceedings from previous symposia, can be found here:


God’s Magic: An Aspect of Spiritualism

Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding

From the publisher’s website: In God’s Magic, Lord Dowding, whose name will be forever synonymous with the Battle Of Britain, puts forward a strong case for life after death.  No one can question the deep sincerity with which his research has been carried out. Having in mind the many instances of survival after death on the battlefield recorded through various channels, Lord Dowding has satisfied himself that these records should be made available as widely as possible, believing that they carry with them the hall-mark of truth.

This is his fourth and final book on the subject and because of the record of Lord Dowding’s career, lies the assurance that he is a practical man not likely to be led astray by specious theories or to harbour delusions when confronted by hard facts.

About the author

Tom Ruffles

God’s Magic, first published in 1960, is the final volume in a series of four short books written by Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, on the subject of Spiritualism, all of which have been brought back into print by White Crow Books.  Lord Dowding is best known for his distinguished military career, particularly his role in the Battle of Britain, but he was also a committed Spiritualist and Theosophist, and his books are collectively a trenchant defence of the idea of survival of death.

In God’s Magic he urges caution in examining testimonies from those who have passed beyond as even honest mediums can make mistakes, and he readily concedes that mediumship is not an exact science.  He argues that the messages are a vital source of information about life after death, and an accumulation of these will encourage conviction in those studying them.  At the same time he warns that those who have died do not necessarily immediately change personalities to become honest and truthful if they were not before, necessitating a degree of caution.

Faced with such problems he addresses the suggestion that we might as well wait for the future to reveal itself in its own time.  He gives a number of reasons why it is worth making the effort, even if information on what is to come is fragmentary and unreliable.  One is the possibility of communicating with those it was never expected to be able to reach in this lifetime, which brings comfort.  Also, knowing that there is an existence beyond death removes the fear of it, and will assist in the process of integration following the transition.  Communication is a two-way street because we can assist the departed, such as those who had been traumatised by war or who had harboured emotions of hatred while alive.  This is accomplished using the power of thought, which is all that prayer is.  Dowding describes cooperating with helpers who have themselves passed over (including Dowding’s own wife who died in 1920) in rescue work for those who died in the war but did not realise it, to encourage them to move on.

Obtaining ‘proof of survival’ is only the beginning, not the end, of the process of contact with the other side.  The accumulation of data gives an inkling of ‘the Scheme of the Universe and of the Progress of Humanity’, insofar as we are able to comprehend it.  That the evidence may be contradictory Dowding considers a reason to be more energetic, not less, in disentangling the truth.  Widespread acknowledgement of survival would, he believes, provide a broader perspective and undermine the materialism which flows from an assumption that death is the end.  He emphasises the continuum between this world and the next, that ‘eternity is here and now’.  The way we treat our fellow beings has consequences for our True Personality, something that is far more than the traits we develop during a course of a single lifetime.  It is not essential to attend services or séances in his view, it is the way we live our lives that counts.

In that sense our behaviour can be said to be ‘enlightened self-interest’, which is what he understands by religion.  However, he is interested in the essence of religion, not its outward trappings; those he sees as a distraction because their formulaic nature dulls meaning.  While Dowding is operating within a Christian framework, he is adamant that the established Church has been found wanting in the effort to make sense of these matters, particularly its reluctance to delve into conditions in the afterlife, about which it is ‘woolly’.  If the Church’s teachings on the subject are vague, he argues, the public is simply going to ignore them.  There is a need for intellectual honesty in assessing the phenomena.

He includes some brief talks by ‘Z’, a discarnate Egyptian, received though Dowding’s circle in July 1945.  ‘Z’ supplies general Spiritualistic advice on issues such as the state of the world and what Spiritualists should do, the problem of pain and the proper attitude to death – to approach it without fear.  The volume concludes with a broad outline of the different levels that the individual ascends, each with finer vibrations than the one below as earthly preoccupations are progressively shed.  Dowding’s style is bluff and straightforward, and his practical experience as a military man lends his Spiritualist writings credibility, though the reader may wish for more testing of the evidence that he finds so convincing.

God’s Magic. White Crow Books, September 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1910121672

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Australian Poltergeist: The Stone-Throwing Spook of Humpty Doo and Many Other Cases

Tony Healey and Paul Cropper

From the authors’ website: Objects thrown by invisible hands, showers of stones that pass through solid walls and ceilings, sudden, inexplicable fires, wall-shaking raps and thumps, creepy voices from nowhere…. welcome to the wonderful, weird world of the poltergeist!

Mind-boggling poltergeist events have occurred all over the world for hundreds of years. While many books have been written about notable foreign cases and about the phenomenon in general, this is the first book to focus entirely on the Australian experience, with cases from every state in the nation.

Some of the most famous Australian ghost stories are investigated, with some surprising new information revealed. These stories are incredible... but true.  The book also contains a comprehensive catalogue of other true-life cases.

About the Authors

PAUL CROPPER and TONY HEALY have investigated all manner of strange phenomena, both in Australia and overseas, since the mid-1970s and have collaborated on many projects, notably in co-authoring Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia (1994) and The Yowie (2006).

Since witnessing the amazing Humpty Doo, Northern Territory, episode of 1998, they have visited other polt-infested sites and interviewed many people who have lived through similar weird and wonderful experiences.

Australian Poltergeist. Xou Pty Ltd, September 2014. ISBN-13: 978-1921134340

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SPR visits Bisbee - in 1905

In November 1905 the Rev. C. Hall Cook of the SPR visited Bisbee, Arizona, USA. His visit is the subject of a report on the Examiner.com website: 'The Society for Psychical Research visited Bisbee'.

In November 1905 the Rev. C. Hall Cook of the SPR visited Bisbee, Arizona, USA.  His visit is the subject of a report on the Examiner.com website: 'The Society for Psychical Research visited Bisbee'.  His lectures on the subject of psychical research were well received.

The article can be found here:


Adventures in Psychical Research: A medical doctor's exploration of the nature of consciousness and its survival to bodily death

Piero Calvi-Parisetti

From the publisher’s website: The 57 articles that form this book are individual, stand-alone pieces that can be read in isolation. However, they also belong to a greater, coherent and consistent scheme and logical framework. Psychical research provides compelling evidence for the facts that mind is related to but independent from the physical brain and significant aspects of human personality survive the death of the body. These subjects - the mind/brain relationship and the survival hypothesis - provide the substance for most of these writings, but they are not dealt with as a matter of simple intellectual curiosity. The underlying angle, the common thread linking all of this work, is that these subjects are crucially important for the bereaved and the dying. When it is understood - rationally understood - that death does not equate with disappearance/annihilation, a considerable part of the fear of death and some of the pain of bereavement can be avoided.

A review by Christian Romer appears in the October 2015 issue of The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

Article in The Public Domain Review

An article in The Public Domain Review, 'Worlds Without End', discusses the early work of the SPR

An article in The Public Domain Review, 'Worlds Without End', discusses the early work of the SPR:  The introduction states:

'At the end of the 19th century, inspired by radical advances in technology, physicists asserted the reality of invisible worlds — an idea through which they sought to address not only psychic phenomena such as telepathy, but also spiritual questions around the soul and immortality. Philip Ball explores this fascinating history, and how in this turn to the unseen in the face of mystery there exists a parallel to quantum physics today.'

The article can be found here:



(Posted 11 December 2015)

Ken Batcheldor's notebooks donated to the SPR

The SPR recently received an important donation of Ken Batcheldor‘s notebooks describing his numerous table-turning experiments.

The SPR recently received an important donation of Ken Batcheldor‘s notebooks describing his numerous table-turning experiments.  These will be catalogued and deposited in the SPR's archives at Cambridge University Library.

More information about Batcheldor can be found on Barrie Colvin's Paraphysics Research Group website:



The SPR is always pleased to receive donations of significant collections relating to psychical research.


(Posted 12 December 2015)

Council member John Fraser on KTPF Talk Show

SPR Council member and member of the Spontaneous Cases Committee John Fraser will be a guest on KTPF Paranormal Community & Talk Show radio on Sunday 20th December at 8.30 pm.

SPR Council member and member of the Spontaneous Cases Committee John Fraser will be a guest on  KTPF Paranormal Community & Talk Show radio on Sunday 20th December at 8.30PM . He will be talking about his recent report on The Cage, the SPR, the Ghost Club, and paranormal research generally.

The radio programme can be found here:



(Posted 14 December 2015)

New research study on voice & communication experiences

Researchers at Durham University and University College, London are conducting a new study on what happens in the brain when we recognise unusual sounds.

Researchers at Durham University and University College, London are conducting a new study on what happens in the brain when we recognise unusual sounds. The ‘Hearing the Voice’ project at Durham is an interdisciplinary investigation of voice-hearing in the absence of a speaker (sometimes referred to as auditory verbal hallucination). For this  new study, the team at Durham are working with people who regularly hear voices but do not have any psychiatric history, with the aim of understanding how they recognise and respond to new and ambiguous sounds. Taking part in the study involves an interview with a researcher and attending a scanning session in central London.  If you have had experience of hearing voices and would like to take part, or if you are interested in being a control participant for the study, please get in touch with Dr Ben Alderson-Day via email (hearing.thevoice@durham.ac.uk) or telephone on (0191 3348163). Further information on the project is available at http://hearingthevoice.org/.


(Posted 15 December 2015)

Music From Beyond the Veil - BBC Radio 4 Extra

'Music From Beyond the Veil' - a Radio 4 Extra programme about musical mediumship. It features interviews with Prof Peter Fenwick and SPR Councill member Dr Melvyn Willin.

'Music From Beyond the Veil' - a Radio 4 Extra programme about musical mediumship.  It features interviews with Prof Peter Fenwick and SPR Councill member Dr Melvyn Willin.

'Prof Paul Robertson examines the claims and counter-claims for musical mediumship and asks whether musical inspiration comes from within ourselves or if it could come from somewhere beyond.

'He recounts the story of how, 40 years ago, a Balham housewife and medium with little musical training created a sensation when she claimed to have received new works from beyond the grave from Liszt, Brahms, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and other great composers. Rosemary Brown's abilities divided the musical world, with her supporters convinced that the works were genuine while her critics dismissed them as pastiche.'

The programme can be heard here:



(Posted 15 December 2015)

The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death

Michael Martin and Keith Augustine

From the publisher’s website: Because every single one of us will die, most of us would like to know what—if anything—awaits us afterward, not to mention the fate of lost loved ones. Given the nearly universal vested interest in deciding this question in favour of an afterlife, it is no surprise that the vast majority of books on the topic affirm the reality of life after death without a backward glance. But the evidence of our senses and the ever-gaining strength of scientific evidence strongly suggest otherwise.

A review by Robert McLuhan appears in the October 2015 issue of.The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

The Myth of an Afterlife. Rowman & Littlefield, March 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0810886773

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SPR Presidents listed with their Photographs

Celebrating the archives of the College of Psychic Studies

SPR member Leslie Price is also archivist at the College of Psychic Studies, and he will be giving a talk about the College in London on Friday 22 January.

SPR member Leslie Price is also archivist at the College of Psychic Studies, and he will be giving a talk about the College in London on Friday 22 January titled 'Celebtrating the College Archives'.  It will be illustrated with items from the CPS's extensive archives that are rarely seen.

On the following two afternoons there will be an exhibition to celebrate 90 years at Queensbury Place.  Admission to the exhibition is free.

Details of Leslie's talk can be found here:


and details of the exhibition are here:



(Posted 6 January 2016)

Memoir of a Trance Therapist: Hypnosis and the Evocation of Human Potentials

Adam Crabtree

From the publisher’s website: As individuals bring their raw potentials into existence, the human race evolves.

Trance states are the means through which these transformations take place. Trances are concentrated states of engagement with the world. They occur frequently in the ordinary course of living. Hypnosis is merely one variety of trance, but its study has led to a profound understanding of trance states in general. The idea that trance constitutes the technology for human advance has developed for Dr. Crabtree over a period of some thirty years. Memoir of a Trance Therapist is the story of that development, along with an explanation of the central elements of Dr. Crabtree's vision.

Adam Crabtree, PhD, is the author of books on hypnosis, the history of psychotherapy, and dissociative disorders such as multiple personality disorder. He is on the faculty of the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy, Toronto.

Memoir of a Trance Therapist. Friesen Press, November 2014. ISBN-13: 978-1460255155

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