I learned of the oldest paranormal research and investigation club in the world, The Ghost Club, through my research on the Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats, who joined the organization in 1911. Other well-known members have included Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Peter Cushing.
The association began at Trinity College in London in the year 1855. A few young man got together regularly to talk about spooky subjects such as ghosts and haunting. Charles Dickens was one of the founding members when The Ghost Club was officially started in 1862.
The group investigated “spiritualist phenomena,” which included mediums who were able to provide gateways to the spirits of the dead and make possible the communication between entities and their loved ones remaining here.
There is no evidence that The Ghost Club was in operation after the death of Dickens in the 1870s, but the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was launched in 1882 and included former members of The Ghost Club. That same year, Alfred Alaric Watts, son of the journalist and poet Alaric Alexander Watts, and the medium, Reverend Stainton Moses, reformed The Ghost Club.
The members of the club were not at all skeptical, and in fact were very sincere in their beliefs of the existence of the supernatural. The club was a rather discerning one and there were only 82 members over a period of 54 years. The members were also very secretive in their activities and monthly meetings.
One member, Sir William Crookes, investigated the teenage medium Florence Cook in the early 1870s. Crookes claimed to believe in her ability to materialize the spirit of Katie King, but there were those who did not believe that Crookes conducted a proper investigation.
The club went through many changes over the years, and at one point became a “society dining event where psychic researchers and mediums delivered after dinner talks.”
The club began allowing women to join, and expanded their topics of study to include “UFOs, dowsing, cryptozoology and other subjects.
The Ghost Club is still alive and well as a non-profit organization ran by members in their free time. They meet each month in London, and conduct approximately ten investigations per year. The members work with “historic houses, heritage sites and unusual locations to host overnight investigations into paranormal activity throughout the year, with the aim of conducting serious research, observing and recording phenomena for posterity.”
Some of the investigations that they have conducted include The Oatlands Park Hotel in Weybridge, Surrey, The White Hart Inn in Edinburgh, Balgonie Castle in Scotland, the Museum of Transport in Glasgow, and the Village of New Lanark. For more information about these past investigations, you may visit their archives at www.ghostclub.org.uk.
Their website notes that they “do not perform spirit clearances or exorcisms.”
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