Research: History



History of Parapsychology

The history of parapsychology and its predecessors (mesmerism, spiritualism and psychical research) is a rich and complex topic. At the KPU, we have examined historical case studies of unexplained phenomena, such as the legendary Indian rope trick (Lamont, 2004a) and the most celebrated medium in history, Daniel Dunglas Home (Lamont, 2005). The history of belief in psychic phenomena shows that one cannot simply dismiss such beliefs on the basis of gullibility and wishful thinking (Lamont, 2006). Rather, they were shaped not only by cultural stereotypes (Lamont & Bates, 2007) but also by an absence of alternative explanations (Lamont, 2004b). Similarly, the experimental investigation of such phenomena cannot simply be dismissed as ‘pseudo-scientific’. Not only has psychical research contributed to psychology in several respects (e.g. Alvarado, 2002; Watt, 2005), but the dispute over its scientific status was based upon a dispute over what counted as science (Lamont, 2007).


Alvarado, C. (2002). Dissociation in Britain during the late nineteenth century: the Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 9-33.
Lamont, P. (2004a) The rise of the Indian rope trick: biography of a legend (London: Little, Brown)
Lamont, P. (2004b). Spiritualism and a mid-Victorian crisis of evidence. Historical Journal, 47, 897-920.
Lamont, P. (2005). The first psychic: the peculiar mystery of a Victorian wizard (London: Little, Brown)
Lamont, P. (2006a). Magician as conjuror: a frame analysis of Victorian mediums. Early Popular Visual Culture, 4, 131-142.
Lamont, P. (2006b). Critically thinking about paranormal belief. In S. Della Sala (ed.), Tall tales about the mind and brain (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 23-35.
Lamont, P. & Bates, C. (2007). Conjuring images of India in nineteenth century Britain. Social History, 32, 3, 309-325.
Lamont, P. (2007). Discourse analysis as method in the history of psychology. History and Philosophy of Psychology, 9(2), 34-44.
Watt, C. (2005). 2005 Presidential Address: Parapsychology’s contribution to psychology: A view from the front line. Journal of Parapsychology, 69, 215-232. Download pdf (110KB).
Lamont, P. (2010, in press). Debunking and the psychology of error: a historical analysis of psychological matters. Qualitative Research in Psychology.

Back to main Research page