American Society for Psychical Research

American Society for Psychical Research

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The oldest psychical research organization in the United States, the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was founded in Boston in 1885, by Sir William Fletcher Barrett of the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR). The initial directors included astronomer Professor Simon Newcombe, President; N.D.C. Hodges, Secretary; and Vice Presidents Professors Stanley Hall, George S. Fullerton, Edward C. Pickering, and Charles S. Minot. Renowned Harvard psychologist and philosophy Professor William James was a founding member. The society aimed to investigate apparitions, hypnosis, mediumship, telepathy, and all other fields of parapsychology.

In 1887 Dr. Richard Hodgson, the British SPR’s chief investigator, came to America to act as Secretary to the ASPR. He continued in this position until he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing handball at the Boat Club in Boston, Massachusetts on December 20, 1905.

In 1889, under Professor S. P. Langley’s presidency, the American society affiliated with its British counterpart due to financial problems. After Hodgson’s death in 1905, the society dissolved but reemerged the following year, as a separate entity from the British SPR. Dr. James Hervey Hyslop became President and took over where Hodgson had left off as Chief Investigator for the society.

On Hyslop’s death in 1920, Dr. Walter Franklin Prince assumed the presidency and served until he resigned five years later. The society has enjoyed active participation from a number of outstanding scientists and philosophers, among them the physicists Sir William Barrett and Sir Oliver Lodge. By 1940 Gardner Murphy had become a Vice President and he assumed the presidency in 1962. He initiated the first wireless electronic voice phenomena telepathic experiments in Chicago and New Jersey. He also focused the research of the society on scientific experiments, especially in extrasensory perception, working with Dr. J. B. Rhine, and on altered states of consciousness and survival after death.

American Society for Psychical Research

Today the American Society for Psychical Research is headquartered in New York and maintains one of the world’s largest libraries of books on parapsychology.


Buckland, Raymond: The Fortune–Telling Book: The Encyclopedia of Divination and Soothsaying. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2004 Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
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