Prince, Dr. Walter Franklin

Prince, Dr. Walter Franklin (1863–1934)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Walter Franklin Prince was an ex-minister of the Episcopal Church. He was Research Officer for the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) from 1920 to 1924, founder and Research Officer for the Boston Society for Psychical Research, and President of the (British) Society for Psychical Research (SPR) from 1931 to 1932. Over a period of eighteen years, Prince investigated many different types of paranormal phenomena in hundreds of cases, for both the SPR and the ASPR.

Walter Franklin Prince was born on April 22, 1863, in Detroit, Maine. He graduated from Maine Wesleyan Seminary in 1881 and received a B.D. from Drew Theological Seminary in 1886. He received a Ph.D. from Yale in 1899. In 1885, at the age of twenty-two, he married Lelia Madora Colman. They had no children, but in 1908 adopted a young woman whom they named Theodosia, who had been a psychological patient of Prince’s.

The Princes moved to New York City in 1916 and he became director of therapeutics at St. Mark’s Church. Prince had been corresponding with James Hervey Hyslop of the American Society for Psychical Research on split personalities exhibited by Theodosia, and in little over a year resigned his position to join the staff of the ASPR. There he established himself as a painstaking researcher. When Hyslop died in 1920, Prince became the ASPR’s Research Officer and Editor of the Journal and Proceedings. With Harry Houdini, he assisted in the investigation of Margery (Mina Stinson Crandon).

Initially Prince had doubts about certain phenomena but eventually came to the conclusion that telepathy and clairvoyance had been “absolutely and scientifically proved.” He was also inclined to believe in survival of personality after bodily death. He wrote many articles for the ASPR Journal and publications for the SPR. He authored a number of books including The Psychic in the House (1926), The Case of Patience Worth (1928), Noted Witness for Psychic Occurrences (1928), The Enchanted Boundary (1930), and (with Mrs. Allison) Leonard and Soule Experiments. In January 1925, after some disagreements, Prince left the ASPR and went on to found the Boston Society for Psychical Research, moving to Boston at that time. That same year, Prince’s wife died, which affected him considerably.

He continued to do a lot of worthwhile psychical research, and eventually became President of the Society for Psychical Research in London, England, holding that position in 1931 and 1932. He was the first American after William James to hold that position. Prince died on August 7, 1934, at his home in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Sources:

Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992