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Society for Psychical Research

The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 by three dons of Trinity College, Cambridge (including Frederic William Henry Myers) because of their interest in spiritualism. The organisation is usually referred to by its initials as the SPR. Its purpose was to encourage scientific research into psychic or paranormal phenomena in order to establish their truth. Research was initially aimed at six areas: telepathy, mesmerism and similar phenomena, mediums, apparitions, physical phenomena associated with seances and, finally, the history of all these phenomena. The Society is run by a President and a Council of twenty people. The organisation is divided between London and Cambridge, the London headquarters were initially at 14 Deans Yard. An American branch of the Society was formed in 1885 as the ASPR, becoming an affiliate of the original SPR in 1890. Famous supporters of the society have included Alfred Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Carl Jung, J.B. Rhine and Arthur Conan Doyle (who was shamefully duped on at least one occasion by tricksters).

The Society was especially active in the thirty years after it was founded, gaining fame for its debunking of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society in 1884. Most initial members were spiritualists but there was a core of 'professional' investigators - the Sidgwick Group, headed by Henry Sidgwick, a formation pre-dating the SPR by eight years. The Society was wracked by internal strife, a large part of the membership (the Spiritists) leaving as early as 1887 in opposition to the approach taken by the so-called intellectuals.

The Society still exists and states its principal areas of study as "exchanges between minds, or between minds and the environment, which are not dealt with by current orthodox science." Of its initial aims, the most successful has been the gathering of data relating to the history of the paranormal - the SPR has built up an extensive library and archive.

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