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This will be the first of two study days celebrating the 140th anniversary of the founding of the SPR. It will focus on the link with physics, the early work on apparitions, the studies of mental mediums, and the importance of the archives. The emphasis will be on the future as well as the past and the day will end with a general discussion, including audience participation.

From 09:45




10:00 – 10:15


Chairman’s introduction: The Founding of the SPR

Prof. Bernard Carr


10:15 – 11:00


The convergence of physical and psychical research in the late nineteenth century.

This talk will review the contributions of physical scientists who joined the SPR in its early decades.  One reason to mark the 140th anniversary of the SPR is that early members, such as Oliver Lodge and William Crookes, helped develop understanding of 19th and 20th-century scientific attitudes towards a wide range of research problems, including those in the psychical domain. Physicists’ interpretation of theories, concepts and experiments were far more flexible than some historians have claimed and their attitudes provide salutary lessons for current and future scientists.


Prof. Richard Noakes



11.00 – 11:30



   11:30 – 12:15

Phantasms of the Victorians:

Apparitional experiences and the early SPR

From the work of the Committee on Haunted Houses and Phantasms of the Living to the Census of Hallucinations, the investigation of spontaneously occurring cases of a potentially paranormal nature was an integral part of the early SPR. Many of the Society's most lasting contributions were made in the Victorian heyday of psychical research. This talk will explore the theme of paranormal investigation in a historical context and then consider how it compares with the Society of today. What did the SPR achieve and what lessons can we learn now?

Dr Leo Ruickbie


   12:15 – 13:00

The heyday of mental mediumship 1880s-1930s:

Alan Gauld's new book

Alan Gauld’s works on mediumship, psychical research and psychic phenomena have become classics in the genre. In this talk Dr Weaver will explain how his new book offers important insights into aspects of the early days of mediumship research that over the years have largely gone off the radar. It reveals the great names of psychical research as real people in personal relationships, describes the informal beginnings of serious investigations and explores their cultural context.

Dr Zofia Weaver


13:00 – 14:30



14:30 – 15:15

You can learn a lot from the archives:

Mrs Bulford’s spirit donkey!

The SPR archive is extensive, covering many areas and stretching back to the beginning of the Society. This talk will draw attention to some of the contents and mention the past, present and possibly future situations, covering both positive and negative aspects. The main part will consist of several video clips of fairly obscure footage from the archive, including an early black & white silent film of the SPR conducting a Zener card-guessing test, Sai Baba producing copious amounts of vibhuti, and Maurice Grosse’s exploding cup experience at Charlton House.  

Dr Melvyn Willin


15:15 – 16:00

Looking to the future: The next 140 years

After 140 years of psychical research, the debate over the existence of psi has shifted to an attempt to understand its nature, so what does the future hold? The influential media historian and futurologist, Yuval Harari, has made dire forecasts of transhumanism in the form of hybrid and genetically manipulated beings that are controlled by totalitarian states. With the current changes in society, these forebodings are not just science fiction. Yet Harari admits there is one aspect that is still mysterious: consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Zombies do not have psychic or mystical experiences and some leading physicists see consciousness as a challenge to the materialistic worldview. This talk will discuss the view of consciousness to which we are being led by the findings of psychical research.

Prof. Adrian Parker


16:00 – 16:30



16:30 – 17:00

General discussion




7th May, 2022 9:30 AM through  5:30 PM
Office Phone: 02079378984
Zoom Study Day Fee
Non Members Full Price £25.00
Non members Concession £20.00
Members Full Price £20.00
Members Concession £15.00
Additional £5 donation £5.00
Additional £10 donation £10.00
Additional £20 donation £20.00