Scientific approaches to researching psychical and other paranormal phenomena began in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, spiritualism was spreading rapidly across the US and Europe.
Seance-room phenomena such as materializations and levitations appeared to violate the laws of physics and this attracted the interest of several eminent scientists, including Michael Faraday and Sir William Crookes.
In 1882, a number of Britain's leading scientists and scholars founded the Society for Psychical Research with the aim of promoting scientific investigation of spiritualist and other seemingly paranormal phenomena.
For many years, the majority of psychical researchers continued with investigations of spiritualist mediums and spontaneous phenomena. However, in the 1930s, because of the difficulty of ensuring properly controlled studies in these areas, J.B. Rhine pioneered the use of more formal laboratory-based procedures to investigate the psychic abilities of ordinary people.
Rhine worked in the psychology department at Duke University and he chose the term 'parapsychology' for his experimental approach, to distinguish it from traditional psychical research.
While research into mediumship and spontaneous cases continues, and is especially popular among amateur groups, many of today's professional researchers have been trained in laboratory-based parapsychological methods.
With few exceptions, parapsychology and psychical research have been poorly supported by universities and funding bodies. As a result, the number of professionals researchers in the field remains small. The Parapsychological Association is the leading international professional body. It has a membership of around 300.
Carlos Alvarado PhD was a parapsychologist on the faculty of Atlantic University and the University of Virginia. His research focussed on surveys of psychic experiences and on the history of psychical research. He was a past President (1995; 2002-2003) of the Parapsychological Association.
Loyd Auerbach is a parapsychologist, mentalist, ghost hunter, and writer on paranormal topics.
Ian Baker PhD is a Lecturer in Psychology and parapsychologist at the University of Derby. His research has focussed on research into remote staring. He was formerly Editor of the European Journal of Parapsychology.
Sir William Barrett FRS was an English physicist and one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research. He carried out early research on thought transference, Mesmerism, poltergeists and dowsing.
Mary Rose Barrington was a British parapsychologist specializing in the investigation of spontaneous cases. She was a Vice-President of the Society for Psychical Research.
John Beloff was a British psychologist and pioneer parapsychologist who was instrumental in setting up the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at Edinburgh University. He was also President of the Society for Psychical Research (1974-1976).
Hans Bender was a pioneering German parapsychologist who established the parapsychological Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene (IGPP) in Freiburg, Germany. He is also known for his studies of hauntings and poltergeists, including the famous Rosenheim Poltergeist case.
Dick Bierman PhD (Universities of Utrecht and Amsterdam) is a physicist and parapsychologist who is interested in the relationship between quantum physics and consciousness. He is known for developing true random generators (RNG) and for his involvement in the Global Consciousness Project.
Susan Blackmore is a British psychologist, researcher, writer and broadcaster. Her interests include consciousness studies, altered states and parapsychology. She is a prominent sceptic who seeks psychological explanations for anomalous experiences.
William Braud PhD was a professor of psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University). His research in transpersonal psychology and parapsychology focussed on exceptional human experiences, alternative ways of knowing, and expanded research methods.
Stephen E. Braude PhD is an American philosopher and a past president of the Parapsychological Association (1991).
Richard Broughton PhD is an American psychologist and parapsychologist. He is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Northampton (UK). He was formerly Director of the Institute for Parapsychology (now the Rhine Research Center) and President of Intuition Laboratories, Inc. He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1987; 1996) and Society for Psychical Research (2011-2015).
Etzel Cardeña PhD is a Mexican psychologist and parapsychologist. He is Thorsen Professor of Psychology at Lund University, Sweden. His research focuses on the areas of hypnosis, dissociative states and anomalous experience. He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (2008-2009).
Bernard Carr PhD is Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London. He has a particular interest in theoretical relationships between science, religion and psychic phenomena. He served (2000-2004) as President of the Society for Psychical Research.
Hereward Carrington was a prominent British-American psychical researcher and author, most famous for his investigations into spiritualism and mediumship.
Christopher Chacon is an independent researcher and consultant on mysticism and the paranormal.
William Jackson Crawford was a professor of engineering at Queens University, Belfast, and psychical researcher. He investigated the Irish physical medium Kathleen Goligher and wrote a series of books about the 'Goligher Circle' seances. Based on these studies, he developed scientific hypotheses for telekinesis and ectoplasm. However, Crawford's investigations were seriously criticised for their lack of scientific controls and Kathleen Goligher's mediumship is now generally considered to be fraudulent.
Sir William Crookes OM, FRS, was a British chemist and physicist who carried out early scientific research into spiritualism and mediumship. He is particularly known for his investigations of the physical mediums Florence Cook, and Daniel Dunglas Home.
Deborah Delanoy PhD is an American psychologist and parapsychologist whose research focuses on methods of ESP testing and training, physiological aspects of psi, and direct mental interaction with living systems (DMILS). She is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1994) and the Society for Psychical Research (2007-2011).
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish physician and writer, famous as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle developed a profound interest in spiritualism and mediumship. He became convinced of the reality of fairies, reinforced by his acceptance of the Cottingley Fairies photographs.
Hoyt Edge PhD is an American philosopher and parapsychologist. His work explores the philosophical implications of parapsychological phenomena. He has also undertaken empirical research on direct mental interaction with living systems (DMILS). He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1989).
Jan Ehrenwald was a Czech-American psychiatrist, psychotherapist and parapsychologist. His work explored the relationship between extrasensory perception and depth psychology.
Jule Eisenbud MD was an American psychiatrist whose parapsychological work explored the telepathic experiences of patients and analysts. He is most well-known for his investigations of the "thoughtographs" produced by Ted Serios.
Michael Faraday FRS was a British chemist and physicist, famous for his scientific investigations into electricity and magnetism. In psychical research, he is best known for his demonstrations that table-turning is caused by unconscious muscular movements of the sitters and for his failure to attend the seances of D.D. Home.
Nandor Fodor was a British-American psychologist and parapsychologist, known for his studies of hauntings, poltergeists and mediumship.
David Fontana was a British psychologist and psychical researcher. He was a past President (1995-1998) of the Society for Psychical Research and Founding Chair of the British Psychological Society's Transpersonal Psychology Section. The author of numerous books in the areas of spirituality and psychical experience, he had a special research interest in survival, mediumship, poltergeists and electronic voice phenomena.
Chris French is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests include the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He set up the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU) at Goldsmiths in 2000. French is a leading paranormal sceptic.
Eileen Garrett was an Irish medium who was investigated by J.B. Rhine and other researchers. She founded the Parapsychology Foundation in 1951 to support scientific investigations into psychic abilities.
Alan Gauld was formerly Reader in Psychology at the University of Nottingham. He is a past President (1989-1992) of the Society for Psychical Research. He has research interests in mediumship and survival, and in the history of psychical research.
Bruce Greyson is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia. He is a leading researcher into near-death experiences.
Maurice Grosse was a British psychical researcher, famous as the chief investigator of the Enfield Poltergeist case. He was for many years the Chairman of the Spontaneous Phenomena Committee of the Society for Psychical Research.
Edmund Gurney was a British psychologist and psychical researcher. He was an early researcher into mediumship, telepathy and hypnosis.
Erlendur Haraldsson PhD was Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Iceland. He was a leading researcher into reincarnation and death-bed experiences.
Richard Hodgson LLD was an Australian psychical researcher. He is famous for his damning investigation of Madame Blavatsky and for his initially sceptical but later supportive investigations of the trance medium Mrs Leonora Piper.
Hans Holzer was an Austrian-American paranormal researcher and author. He carried out investigations into mediumship and hauntings, including the famous Amityville Horror case.
Charles Honorton was an American experimental parapsychologist. His research focussed mainly on extrasensory perception (ESP). He developed and pioneered the Ganzfeld technique for investigating ESP.
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist. Sceptical of spiritualistic phenomena, Houdini carried out investigations to debunk and expose fraudulent psychics and mediums.
D.J. Hufford PhD was Professor of Medical Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine. His research focuses on the ethnographic and phenomenological study of spiritual and folk beliefs. He is particularly known for his research on sleep paralysis and the Old Hag tradition as an experiential foundation for belief in the supernatural.
Ray Hyman is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon. A skeptic towards the paranormal, he was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
James H. Hyslop was a philosopher, psychologist, and early psychical researcher. He is known for his investigations of mediumship and several books on psychical research and the afterlife.
Harvey Irwin was formerly associate professor in psychology at the University of New England, Australia. He is the author of the highly acclaimed textbook of parapsychology An Introduction to Parapsychology.
Robert Jahn was Professor of Aerospace Science and Dean Emeritus at Princeton University. Jahn founded the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory (PEAR) in 1979 to explore psychokinetic influences on random event generators (REG). He also carried out research on remote viewing.
William James MD was a widely influential American psychologist and philosopher, and Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Harvard University. He was profoundly interested in religious and psychical experience, and in spiritualism. Within psychical research he is mainly known for his supportive investigation of the trance medium Mrs Leonora Piper. James was President of the Society for Psychical Research (1894-1895) and was one of the founders, and first President, of the American Society for Psychical Research (established 1885).
Allan Kardec was the pen-name of the French educationist Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail. He was an early researcher and codifier of spirit mediumship and the author of several books on spiritism.
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian writer whose interests extended to mysticism and paranormal phenomena. He investigated evidence for telepathy and psychokinesis. Koestler left a substantial bequest which was used to establish the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh in 1985.
Stanley Krippner PhD is an American psychologist known as a pioneer of humanistic and transpersonal psychology as well as for his research into hypnosis, dreaming, and parapsychology. He is Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University.
Lawrence LeShan PhD was a psychologist and author of books on psychic abilities, mysticism, and healing.
T.C. Lethbridge was an English archaeologist, parapsychologist and writer. He is especially known for his theories of dowsing and experiments with a pendulum.
Walter Levy was J.B. Rhine's successor as Director of the Institute for Parapsychology (now the Rhine Research Center). He was accused of falsifying data from his studies of animal psi. He subsequently confessed and resigned from his post.
Sir Oliver Lodge FRS was a British physicist famous for his work on wireless telegraphy. He conducted early studies on telepathy, became interested in spiritualism, and wrote several books on the subject. He was President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1901-1903 and again in 1932.
David Luke PhD is a British psychologist and parapsychologist. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Counselling at the University of Greenwich. His research has focussed on the psychology of belief in magic, luck and the paranormal, anomalous experiences and altered states of consciousness. He is the current President of the Parapsychological Association.
Edwin C. May PhD is a physicist and parapsychologist notable for conducting parapsychological research at the Stanford Research Institute and for his involvement with the Stargate Project on remote viewing. He was President of the Parapsychological Association in 1997 and is currently Executive Director of the Laboratories for Fundamental Research.
R.A. McConnell PhD was an American physicist and parapsychologist. He is known for his experimental studies of PK (using dice tests), and ESP. He was the first President of the Parapsychological Association (1957-1958).
William McDougall FRS was an influential British-American psychologist. He was appointed Professor of Psychology at Harvard University in 1921 and then at Duke University in 1927. At Duke he founded the world's first dedicated parapsychology laboratory (with J.B. Rhine) in 1935 (now the Rhine Research Center), and the Journal of Parapsychology in 1937. He served (1920-1921) as President of the Society for Psychical Research.
Raymond Moody PhD, M.D. is a psychologist and psychiatrist known for his pioneering research into near-death experiences.
Robert Morris was an American parapsychologist and the holder of the first Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at the University of Edinburgh (1985-2004).
Gardner Murphy was an American psychologist and pioneer of parapsychology. He served (1949-1950) as President of the Society for Psychical Research.
F.W.H. Myers was a classical scholar and philosopher with a special interest in the unconscious mind and survival. He served (1900) as President of the Society for Psychical Research.
Roger Nelson is Director of the Global Consciousness Project. A pioneer of research using Random Event Generators (REG) he was, from 1980-2002, Coordinator of Research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory (PEAR) at Princeton University.
Ciarán O'Keeffe PhD is a British psychologist and parapsychologist well known for his appearances on the TV show Most Haunted.
Karlis Osis PhD was a Latvian parapsychologist. He worked as a researcher for several parapsychological organisations, including the Duke University parapsychology laboratory (now the Rhine Research Center), the Parapsychology Foundation, and the American Society for Psychical Research. His research focussed on ESP, out-of-body experiences and apparitions. He is most well known for his research on deathbed experiences.
A.R.G Owen PhD was a British mathematician and geneticist, and lecturer at Cambridge University. He and his wife Iris emigrated to Canada in 1970 where he directed research at the New Horizons Research Foundation in Toronto. Dr & Mrs Owen's main psychical research interests were in physical manifestations and poltergeists. Their investigations included the Sauchie Poltergeist case (Virginia Campbell), and the psychic Matthew Manning. They famously attempted to reproduce spontaneous poltergeist-type phenomena through meetings of the "Philip Group".
John Palmer PhD is a psychologist and parapsychologist whose research covers ESP, PK, and theoretical and methodological issues. He has held positions at several universities and at the Rhine Research Center. He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1979; 1992) and is Editor of the Journal of Parapsychology.
Adrian Parker PhD is a British clinical psychologist and parapsychologist who pioneered the use of the Ganzfeld technique in parapsychological research. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Gothenburg.
Dr Satwant Pasricha is an Indian clinical psychologist and head of the Department of Clinical Psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore. Since the early 1970s she has investigated several hundred cases of children who claim to remember previous lives.
Michael Persinger PhD was an American cognitive neuroscientist and Director of the Consciousness Research Laboratory at Laurentian University, Ontario. He is known for his research on the effects of stimulating the brain with complex magnetic fields. This has included parapsychological investigations of telepathy and remote viewing as well as studies that have induced religious and mystical experience.
Guy Lyon Playfair was a freelance writer and author of books on parapsychology, psychical research and the paranormal. Along with Maurice Grosse, he was one of the investigators of the Enfield Poltergeist case.
Frank Podmore was a British writer and author of books on psychical phenomena, including thought-transference, apparitions, Mesmerism and spiritualism.
John Poynton is Professor Emeritus in Biology at the University of Natal. He is President of the Society for Psychical Research (2004-2007, 2016-present).
Joseph Gaither Pratt was an American psychologist and parapsychologist who was one of the leading researchers at the Duke University parapsychology laboratory (now the Rhine Research Center). He was a President of the Parapsychological Association (1960, 1970).
Andrija Puharich MD was a medical and parapsychological researcher best known for bringing the Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos, and the Israeli psychic Uri Geller to the attention of scientific investigators.
Dean Radin PhD is an American parapsychologist. He is Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). His research focusses on experimental studies of psi phenomena and their implications for our understanding of consciousness.
James Randi was a Canadian-American stage magician and paranormal sceptic. In 1996 he established the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) with the aim of promoting understanding of the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support controlled, scientific research into paranormal claims. JREF formerly offered a One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to anyone who could demonstrate paranormal abilities under test conditions. The prize was never awarded.
Koneru Ramakrishna Rao PhD, D.Litt. was an Indian philosopher, psychologist and parapsychologist. In 1967 he established the Department of Parapsychology at Andhra University. He also held posts at the University of Chicago and the Duke University parapsychology laboratory. In 1977 he was appointed Directory of the Institute for Parapsychology (now the Rhine Research Center). He was a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1965; 1978; 1990) and Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research.
Konstantins Raudive was a Latvian psychologist and parapsychologist notable for his investigation of electronic voice phenomena (EVP), often referred to as Raudive vocies.
J.B. Rhine PhD was a botanist, psychologist and experimental parapsychologist. He introduced the term "parapsychology" to the academic community and founded the World's first dedicatated parapsychology laboratory at Duke University in 1935 (now the Rhine Research Center). With William McDougall, Rhine established the Journal of Parapsychology in 1937 and also proposed the formation of the Parapsychological Association (established 1957). His research focussed on the experimental study of ESP and psychokinesis (PK).
Louisa Rhine PhD was a botanist, parapsychologist and wife of J.B. Rhine. Her research focussed on the investigation of spontaneous psi experiences. She was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1980.
Charles Richet was a French physiologist and Nobel Prize winner with a strong research interest in psychic phenomena, hypnosis and spiritualism. He was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1905.
Kenneth Ring PhD is Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut. He is a leading researcher in the area of near-death experience. He was one of the founders of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and was elected President of IANDS in 1981 and 1983.
Chris Roe PhD is British parapsychologist and Professor in Psychology at the University of Northampton. He is the current Editor of the Journal and Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. His areas of research interest focus on psychological factors in anomalous experiences, and the psychology of deception.
William Roll PhD was an American psychologist and parapsychologist. A leading authority on poltegeist phenomena, he coined the term "Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis" (RSPK) to refer to the phenomena involved in poltergeist manifestations. He worked from 1957-1964 at the Duke University parapsychology laboratory (now the Rhine Research Center) and was a past President (1964) of the Parapsychological Association
Archie E. Roy was Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow. He founded the Scottish Society for Psychical Research in 1987 and was a past President of the Society for Psychical Research (1993-1995). He had a particular research interest in mediumship and survival.
Marilyn Schlitz PhD is an anthropologist and researcher into consciousness and healing. She is President and CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). She is a past President (1999-2000) of the Parapsychological Association.
Gertrude Schmeidler PhD was an American psychologist and parapsychologist. She is most well known for her research into the influence of paranormal belief on psi ability (the Sheep-Goat effect). She was elected President of the Parapsychological Association in 1959 and in 1971.
Helmut Schmidt PhD was a German-born physicist and parapsychologist. He pioneered psi research using random event generators (REG).
Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing was a German physician, psychiatrist and psychical researcher. He is known for his early investigations into telepathy, hypnosis, spiritualism and physical mediumship. The latter included a series of remarkable photographs apparently showing ectoplasm.
Gary Schwartz PhD is psychologist and psychical researcher. He is a Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the University of Arizona. He is known for a series of heavily criticised studies which purport to demonstrate genuine mediumistic communication.
Stephan A. Schwartz is Senior Samueli Fellow for Brain, Mind and Healing at the Samueli Institute, and a Research Associate of the Laboratories for Fundamental Research. He is a pioneer of research into remote viewing, especially its applications in archaeology.
Rupert Sheldrake is a British biochemist and biologist who developed the concepts of morphic fields and morphic resonance to explain patterns of organisation in living systems. His ideas have also been applied to the areas of consciousness and psychic phenomena. Sheldrake has carried out significant independent parapsychological research on telepathy in humans and animals.
Henry Sidgwick was an eminent British philosopher and economist. He was one of the founders, and first President of the Society for Psychical Research (1882-1884, also 1888-1892).
S.G. Soal was a British mathematician and parapsychologist who carried out research into mediumship and ESP. He was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research (1950-1951). Later statistical analysis of his card-guessing ESP studies have led to accusations that Soal fraudulently manipulated some of his data.
Rex Stanford PhD is a psychologist and parapsychologist. His research examines the role of psychological factors in ESP and PK and he has developed a theory of psi ability that focuses on its need-serving function. He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (1973; 2006-2007).
Ian Stevenson MD was a Canadian biochemist, psychiatrist and parapsychologist. Prior to his retirement in 2002, he was head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. Stevenson was a pioneer of research into reincarnation. He was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research (1988-1989).
Lance Storm PhD is an Australian psychologist and parapsychologist. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. His parapsychological research focuses on approaches to explaining paranormal phenomena, and the psychology of paranormal belief. He is the Editor of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology.
Russell Targ is an American physicist and developer of early laser technology. Together with Harold Puthoff he co-founded the Stanford Research Institute and pioneered the Stargate Project research into remote viewing.
Charles Tart PhD is an American psychologist, parapsychologist and transpersonal psychologist. He is a Faculty member of Sofia University and is internationally known for his research into consciousness and parapsychology.
Michael Thalbourne was an Australian psychologist and parapsychologist. His research focussed on the psychology of paranormal belief and on the role of transliminality (sensitivity of psychological awareness) in psychic and mystical experiences. He was President of the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research and Editor of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology.
Robert Thouless was a British academic psychologist and experimental parapsychologist. He was President of the Society for Psychical Research (1942-1944).
G.N.M. Tyrrell was a British parapsychologist and President of the Society for Psychical Research (1945-1946). He is known for his research on ghosts and apparitions.
Montague Ullman MD was an American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He was a leading researcher on dreams and dreaming and established a sleep laboratory at the Maimonides Medical Center, New York which investigated telepathic experiences in dreams.
Jessica Utts PhD is Professor of Statistics at University of California, Irvine. She is known for her contributions to the statistical analysis of parapsychological experiments.
Mario Varvoglis PhD is a parapsychologist and Director of the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI) in Paris. His research includes experimental studies of ESP using the Ganzfeld procedure, and of micro-PK using random event generators (REG). He is a past President of the Parapsychological Association (2001-2002).
Prof. Caroline Watt PhD is a British parapsychologist and founder member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh. She was President of the Parapsychological Association (2004-2005). In 2016 she was appointed to the position of Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at the University of Edinburgh.
Rhea White PhD was an American librarian and parapsychologist known for her bibliographical and conceptual writings on parapsychology, and for her work on exceptional human experiences.
Richard Wiseman PhD is a British psychologist and parapsychologist. He is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is a prominent sceptic and debunker of paranormal phenomena, and is well known from his many media appearances and popular books. His research focuses on the psychology of deception, luck, humour, and self-help.
Karl Zener PhD was a behavioral and perceptual psychologist who worked for most of his career at Duke University. Together with J.B. Rhine, he devised the standard set of ESP cards (Zener cards), commonly used in parapsychological research.
Nancy Zingrone PhD is an American parapsychologist. She was President of the Parapsychologial Association (2000-2001; 2003-2004). Since 2000, she has been Director of Publications and Executive Editor of the International Journal of Parapsychology for the Parapsychology Foundation.