the ghost club is the oldest organisation…
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs then you have probably heard me mention the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) more than a few times and also remember me stating that the SPR is one of the oldest existing organisations still running that focusses on the paranormal field. However there is another organisation, that although a little different from the SPR is equally old – I am referring to the Ghost Club.
Founded back in 1862, the Ghost Club is the oldest organisation in the world associated with psychical research. Although its main interest is in the paranormal phenomena associated with ghosts and hauntings. Like the SPR the club also has its roots in the Trinity College of Cambridge, where it is clear there must have been some lengthy discussions of ghosts and hauntings for two of the longest standing organisations to evolve from. Those spooky discussions were said to have started around 1855 amongst the colleges fellows. Perhaps one of them had an experience of their own or just following the fashionable interest of the time.
Around the 1870s the club did appear to dissolve for a while, but was soon relaunched in 1882. As this was a similar time to the SPRs launch there was soon an overlap in membership, which is something that is very common today. In fact, I am a member of both the Ghost Club and the SPR now. However, this rebirth of the Ghost Club was spearheaded by a famous medium of the time, the Reverend Stainton Moses. At this point the Ghost Club could not be further from the SPR though, as it appeared to be a more secretive organisation built from selected group of believers.
More like a classical occult society…
These early years of the club could have seen it more like a classical occult or spiritualist society, as it celebrated the feast of All Souls and spookily the Club would recite the names of its members regardless of them being living or dead. It would seem a membership of the Ghost Club exists beyond death – I wonder if there’s an afterlife discount?
By the time we reach the 1930’s the Ghost Club’s approach was outdated, the spiritualist method was being replaced by a more laboratory based methodology – and parapsychology was being born. However, help came in the form of one Harry Price, a world famous psychic researcher at the time – and one not too unfamiliar with the media too it would seem. Unfortunately, this was short lived as the handful of remaining members agreed to wind up the club in 1936.
This probably should have been the end of the Ghost Club, but in less than two years Price relaunched the Ghost Club as a society dining event where researchers and mediums would deliver after diner talks. Which is how I first heard of the Ghost Club operating, as an invited club that held after diner talks on ghosts. It sounded like a very proper affair I was sure, but still added a certain amount of elegance to this field we are all so passionate about.
president peter underwood…
However, as quick as it had been resurrected the club once more found itself heading towards the grave following Price’s death in 1948. On this occasion it was Philip Paul and Peter Underwood that provided another relaunch. Underwood would also serve as the Clubs President from 1962 to 1993 and after him Tom Perrott. It was during this time that the club developed a more democratic approach in order to better stabilise the club for the future. This was also the time when the “invite only” clause in its membership policy was abolished. Oddly, many people still to this day believe that the Ghost Club and even the SPR hold this clause, so you cannot simply become a member. However, a little research or by visiting their websites and you will soon realise that there are some very reasonably priced memberships available to all. Although, like any organisation I do believe there is a small level of vetting involved, but to date I’ve not heard of anyone being recently rejected.
1998, saw Perrot resign from the role of Chairman, which had replaced the President role. Alan Murdie was then elected as Chairman, replaced by Kathy Gearing in 2005. Murdie is also the Chairman today and excellent at addressing the rowdy members of the Ghost Club.
These days are a little less formal and certainly more accessible than the old days. Anyone can browse their website and apply for membership. As a member there are numerous lectures organised for you, all seem to be in close proximity to a pub or bar too! The lectures are followed by a drink and good old fashioned discussion of our favourite subject – ghosts and hauntings. The club also arranges investigations and a few spooky trips too, with a recent visit to Germany in the bag.
the October lecture…
I personally attended the October Ghost Club Lecture at the Deveraux Pub in central London, which was ideal as it had a nice little room upstairs for the lecture and a great bar area downstairs for us all to catch up and chat post lecture. The lecture was delivered by author Ruth Roper Wylde, who discussed her writing about ghosts. This included many of her own experiences growing up, which by all accounts were quite dramatic at times. However, this lead Roper Wylde to begin to catalogue other accounts and stories of paranormal activity over the years. Building at first a card file system and then later a database. She then took the skills she learnt in her career to begin to research those cases further, using interview techniques and simple questions to gather all important data. This was later utilised to help her write the books she has published currently.
Listening to Roper Wylde and how she approached the various paranormal stories was fascinating, as very much like I assume the police do, she used witness testimony to help find more interesting information. For example, scenarios where different people reported the same or similar thing, but would be unlikely to have knowledge of the other persons experience. The approach greatly resonated with my own understanding of gathering witness statements for any investigation. I have to admit I will have to look up one or two of her books as they appear to have ghost stories not too far from my own front door too.
Following the lecture, we all engaged in the traditional Ghost Club drink and chat. If only I wasn’t driving that night, I may have engaged a little more. Unfortunately though I had to head off a little early leaving the hard-core members to maintain a new tradition perhaps. It’s certainly a great way to spend an afternoon and evening in London.
quite the paranormal social club…
So, just to sum up and conclude; the Ghost Club is one of our historic corner stones of the paranormal field. It has been around for many years now, even if it has had a few ups and downs, but it’s still keeping its head above water. As back in its early days, there is still a great cross-over of its membership with the SPR, but that doesn’t make the organisations exactly alike. In fact, the Ghost Club is probably quite similar to many teams that are out there now, as it too organises events, investigations and more. It’s just been around a little longer.
Most importantly, as it still seems to be a huge misconception – you no longer get invited to join the Ghost Club, you can simply apply on their website. Give it a go, they’re actually quite an interesting bunch to talk to about the paranormal and in my experience very easy to get along with.
2 thoughts on “The Ghost Club”
Thank you for this fascinating account. I was particularly interested to read that the names of members, living and dead, were recited in Ghost Club meetings. Surely, this must have been the inspiration for Arthur Gray (aka Ingulphus, Master of Jesus College, Cambridge from 1912 to 1940) when he wrote “The Everlasting Club”, a classic ghost story, published in a Cambridge periodical around 1910. You will know his superb, erudite collection of short stories called “Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Grammarye” which first saw light in 1919 and is highly collectable.