Walter Franklin Prince

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Walter Franklin Prince (22 April 1863 – 7 August 1934) was American psychical researcher and founder of the Boston Society for Psychical Research in Boston.[1]

Career[edit]

Born in Detroit, Maine Prince graduated from Maine Wesleyan Seminary in 1881 to became an Episcopal minister. He earned a BD in 1886 from Drew Theological Seminary and a PhD from Yale in 1899.[1] Prince authored several works on the study of human psychic abilities, among them The Psychic in the House (Boston 1926), The Case of Patience Worth (Boston 1927), The Enchanted Boundary (Boston 1930). He was fiercely critical of the claims of the physical medium Margery Mina Crandon.

In 1885, Prince married Lelia Madora Colman, they had no children.[1] Prince was a friend to Harry Houdini and Hereward Carrington and they all had exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums, however, unlike Houdini both Carrington and Prince believed some mediums were genuine.[2] According to the psychical researcher Robert Ashby "[Prince] remained highly skeptical of PK and other physical phenomena, but felt that there was no doubt at all of telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition."[3] By 1925 due to the investigation of Mina Crandon the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) had been taken over by a spiritualist faction. The ASPR championed Crandon and suppressed any reports unfavorable to her.[4] Prince was alarmed at the number of "credulous spiritualists" that joined the ASPR.[5] In response, Prince who was the Society's research officer resigned to establish the Boston Society for Psychical Research. Prince was accused by supporters of Crandon of being biased against paranormal phenomena.[4] In 1927, Prince contributed to the book The Case For And Against Psychical Belief (1927) which contains essays by both believers and skeptics of psychical phenomena.[6] In 1934, Prince described the Crandon case as "the most ingenious, persistent, and fantastic complex of fraud in the history of psychic research."[7]

Prince had exposed the medium Maria Silbert. She had developed the ability to maneuver a stiletto using only her feet and was thus able to write names on cigarette cases when they were held under the table.[8] Prince attended a series of séance sittings with Rudi Schneider and no paranormal phenomena was observed. In his notes in the Bulletin VII of the Boston SPR published under Experiments with Physical Mediums in Europe (1928) he wrote "despite my studied and unremitting complaisance, no phenomena have occurred when I had any part in the control, save curtain movement which were capable of the simplest explanation."[9] Prince also attended séances with the medium Jan Guzyk and came to the conclusion he had no paranormal ability.[10]

Prince was involved in a debate over psychical phenomena with the psychologist Joseph Jastrow. Prince criticized some psychical phenomena but defended telepathy, in response Jastrow accused Prince of being naïve and not applying the same level of skepticism he had towards other psychical phenomena.[11] In his book The Enchanted Boundary (1930) Prince criticized skeptics for dismissing mental mediumship and telepathy.[12] Prince became the President of the Society for Psychical Research in London, holding the position in 1931 and 1932.[1]

Publications[edit]

  • The Enchanted Boundary (1930)
  • Experiments with Physical Mediums in Europe (1928)
  • The Case of Patience Worth (1927)
  • A Review of the Margery Case (1926)
  • The Psychic in the House (1926)
  • The Doris Case of Multiple Personality (1916)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Raymond Buckland. (2005). The Spirit Book: The Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling, and Spirit Communication. Visible Ink Press. pp. 322-323. ISBN 978-1578592135
  2. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2003). Secrets of the Psychics: Investigating Paranormal Claims. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1591020868
  3. ^ Robert Ashby. (1987). The Ashby Guidebook for Study of the Paranormal. Red Wheel Weiser. p. 179. ISBN 978-0877286608
  4. ^ a b Clément Chéroux. (2005). The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300111361
  5. ^ Robert Laurence Moore. (1977). In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0195022599
  6. ^ Carl Murchison. (1927). The Case For And Against Psychical Belief. Clark University. pp. 179-214. ISBN 978-1436680073
  7. ^ C. E. M. Hansel. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited. Prometheus Books. p. 245. ISBN 978-0879755331
  8. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Seance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-1573928960
  9. ^ Lewis Spence. (2003). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Kessinger Reprint Edition. p. 805. ISBN 978-0766128156
  10. ^ Arthur Berger. (1988). Lives and Letters in American Parapsychology: A Biographical History, 1850-1987. McFarland & Company. p. 95. ISBN 978-0899503455
  11. ^ Lawrence Samuel. (2011). Supernatural America: A Cultural History. Praeger. p. 18. ISBN 978-0313398995
  12. ^ Walter Franklin Prince. (1930). The Enchanted Boundary. Arno Press. ISBN 978-1494094690