J. Malcolm Bird

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
J. Malcolm Bird
Malcolm Bird psychical researcher.png
James Malcolm Bird

(1886-09-02)September 2, 1886
Brooklyn, New York
DiedOctober 30, 1964(1964-10-30) (aged 78)
Brooklyn, New York
OccupationMathematician, editor, parapsychologist
Academic work
InstitutionsColumbia University

James Malcolm Bird (September 2, 1886 – October 30, 1964) was an American mathematician and parapsychologist.


Bird was born in Brooklyn to James Gedney Bird and Eliza (Baltz) Bird on September 2, 1886.[1] He trained in mathematics and taught as a Professor at Columbia University, he later became an associate editor for the Scientific American, upon quitting in 1925 he became the research officer of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) from 1925-1931.[2][3][4]

Bird investigated spiritualist mediums such as Mina Crandon, John C. Sloan, Gladys Osborne Leonard, William Hope and Maria Vollhardt.[5] His experiences are mentioned in his book My Psychic Adventures (1924). Bird has drawn criticism from magician Harry Houdini and the psychical researcher Walter Franklin Prince for his conduct in the investigation of Mina Crandon. Houdini and Prince strongly suspected that Crandon was fraudulent, but Bird had endorsed some of her phenomena as genuine.[6][7][8][9] In December, 1930 Bird was compelled to resign from the ASPR after he admitted he had known of fraudulent activity regarding Crandon from the start.[10]

Walter Franklin Prince considered Bird "totally unreliable".[11] The Society for Psychical Research's Honorary Research Officer V. J. Woolley noted that Bird was an inaccurate reporter, he had made factual errors about a séance sitting in 1923.[12] Historian Ruth Brandon has described Bird as a biased and unreliable witness.[13] More recently, authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman have suggested that Bird had conspired with Crandon in "stage managing the séances and achieving a positive vote from the majority of the committee."[14] Bird died October 30, 1964.[15]



  • Einstein's Theories of Relativity and Gravitation (1922) New York: Scientific American Pub. Co. OCLC 877921
  • My Psychic Adventures (1924) New York: Scientific American Pub. Co. OCLC 594157
  • Margery the Medium (1925) Boston: Small, Maynard & Company OCLC 549546


  1. ^ "New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909," database, FamilySearch (accessed 15 May 2016), James Malcolm Bird, 02 Sep 1886; citing Birth, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,324,391.
  2. ^ Mauskopf, Seymour H; McVaugh, Michael Rogers. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0801823312
  3. ^ Polidoro, Massimo. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-1591020868
  4. ^ Samuel, Lawrence. (2011). Supernatural America: A Cultural History. Praeger. p. 16. ISBN 978-0313398995
  5. ^ Bird, J(ames) Malcolm (1886-1964). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gale Group, 2001.
  6. ^ Prince, Walter Franklin. (1926). A Review of the Margery Case. American Journal of Psychology 37: 431-441.
  7. ^ Prince, Walter Franklin. (1933). The Case Against Margery. Scientific American 148 (5): 261-263.
  8. ^ Christopher, Milbourne. (1969). Houdini: The Untold Story. Thomas Y. Crowell Company. pp. 187-199. ISBN 978-0891909811
  9. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited. Prometheus Books. p. 245. ISBN 978-0879755331
  10. ^ Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. (1994). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Guinness Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 978-0851127484
  11. ^ Berger, Arthur S. (1988). Lives and Letters in American Parapsychology: A Biographical History, 1850-1987. McFarland. p. 92. ISBN 0-89950-345-4
  12. ^ Polidoro, Massimo. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 135. ISBN 978-1591020868
  13. ^ Brandon, Ruth. (1993). The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini. Secker & Warburg. p. 265. ISBN 0-436-20060-0
  14. ^ Kalush, William; Sloman, Larry. (2006). The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero. Atria Books. p. 420. ISBN 978-0743272087
  15. ^ "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (accessed 15 May 2016), Malcolm Bird, Oct 1964; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).

Further reading[edit]