NEW YORK — If you’re doing intensive research on clairvoyant dreams or a house being spooked by a poltergeist, and you need financial support or academic resources, who ya gonna call?
For the past 50 years, parapsychologists have looked to the Parapsychology Foundation.
Now those scientists are giving back. Nearly 200 members of the Parapsychological Association, a group of active researchers, honored the foundation’s 50th anniversary this week at an annual convention that wraps up today.
Parapsychology is the study of unexplained or paranormal phenomenon. It mostly focuses on dream research, but also includes the study of hauntings, clairvoyance and the occult.
Founded in 1951 by Eileen Garrett, an Irishwoman who believed she had some clairvoyant ability, and Frances Payne Bolton, a wealthy congresswoman from Ohio, the Parapsychology Foundation was created to help further the study of a field, which, at the time, had not been heavily researched.
"They envisioned it as a clearing house for information and as an academic center," said Lisette Coly, the foundation’s current director and Garrett’s granddaughter.
In the past fifty years, the foundation has doled out research grants, and provided a resource for researchers with a library numbering over 10,000 volumes — some dating back as far as 450 years.
The field of parapsychology has changed dramatically throughout the years. What began with the use of mediums and seances in the early part of the 20th century has evolved in a highly refined scientific pursuit.
"The way of doing research today has really gone into the laboratory," said Carlos Alvarado, the foundation’s chairman of domestic and international programs.
The improvements in science may be having an impact on the general public’s perception of a field that has always been viewed with some skepticism. A Gallup poll released in May indicated that Americans’ belief in psychic and paranormal phenomenon had gone up significantly over the past decade.
"This is a time of tremendous interest in parapsychological phenomenon," said Lawrence LeShan, a clinical psychiatrist who spoke Thursday at the convention.
"There are numerous journals, television programs and magazines dedicated to this."
But he was keenly aware of the way they are viewed by mainstream science.
"We parapsychologists find ourselves in a strange position," LeShan said. "We love science. We do damn good science. But we are rejected by most mainstream science."
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