During a recent podcast I participated in, the question was asked, can you recommend an author, book, movie, or podcast to the listeners? The audiobook The Ghost Club by Kate Winkler Dawson came to mind.
Apparently, the first organized group with the purpose of investigating spiritual phenomena was the Ghost Club. This group was first formed in England in 1862.
Some of the more well-known Ghost Club’s past members include Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Buttler Yates, William Stainton Moses, and Harry Price. Now the first three names should not need an introduction, however William Stainton Moses and Harry Price may. Well, they did for me.
Although William Stainton Moses (1839-1892) and Harry Price (1881-1948), held membership in the Ghost Club. These two men appear to have had different interests as they relate to the paranormal.
William Stainton Moses was an English clergyman who at first did not support Spiritualism. After a positive encounter with a medium, he discovered his own mediumship gift. He eventually became one of the founding members of the London Spiritualist Alliance, now the College of Psychic Studies; and a past Vice President of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
In 1882, Stainton Moses helped revive the then-dissolved Ghost Club following the death of Charles Dickens around 1870.
William Stainton Moses' membership with SPR ended when a publication exposing the trickery of a fellow medium, William Eglington was published. Stainton Moses was a firm believer in Spiritualism, he even refused to allow researchers into his seances or conduct tests on him. His refusal to comply with investigators might be the basis for why some skeptics called him an imposter, or that his mediumship was a self-suggestion that included simply trickery.
Harry Price was not a medium. Instead, he was a psychic researcher. He was exactly who William Stainton Moses would not have liked. He conducted investigations exposing fraudulent spiritualist mediums.
Price joined the SPR in 1920, and although his interest was to debunk mediums, he also endorsed those he respected. One individual he exposed was William Hope, a popular spirit photographer in England at the time. This angered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and approximately eighty-four SPR members, who resigned their membership alleging the Society for Psychical Research opposed not supporting spiritualism.
Like Stainton Moses, Price left SPR in 1925 and formed an organization called the National Laboratory of Psychical Research. He created this organization to investigate in an impartial manner and through scientific means, every aspect of psychic or alleged psychic phenomena. In 1927 he joined the Ghost Club.
I found it interesting to learn about these two men. Different yet alike. Both were members of the Ghost Club and Society for Psychical Research but held different interests in the paranormal. I would enjoy the opportunity to hold a podcast with them, together. Can you imagine the conversation?
I hope you have enjoyed this post written on the eve of Halloween. My intention is not to scare you but instead, to share with the excitement of learning and sharing. Happy Halloween, belated.
Winkler Dawson, Kate, 2023, The Ghost Club, Penguin Audio