SPR Study Day 58 : Poltergeist Outbreaks, Then and Now. London – Halloween 2009

EDIT: Tom Ruffles has posted a great review on the SPR website at

http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/news/study-day-58-poltergeist-outbreaks-then-and-now

SPR Study Day 58 : Poltergeist Outbreaks, Then and Now

Oct 31 2009, All Day

‘Noisy spirits’ were disturbing the peace long before their naming as poltergeist effects (or even more recently as RSPK), and some unfortunate person was commonly identified as what we today would term the focus; he, or more usually she, would probably have been associated with witchcraft or demonic possession, and treated accordingly. Coming up to date, it may well turn out to be true that the raps on walls associated with these outbreaks are indeed not of this world, since acoustic analysis of paranormal raps has disclosed effects that have so far defied replication by human knuckles or other rapping mechanisms. An historic advance is in the making, and this Hallowe’en seems a good day for cementing the link between things that traditionally go bump in the night on the one hand and rigorous scientific inquiry on the other.

St Philip’s Church, Earls Court Rd, London W8, 10am-5pm.
Cost: Members £30 / Non-Members £35. / Students, Over 60s or Unwaged: £2 discount.
Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served, but bring your own lunch.
Advance booking is recommended, as space is limited.

More details and booking
www.spr.ac.uk/conference/STUDY_DAY_No_58_POLTERGEISTS.pdf

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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16 Responses to SPR Study Day 58 : Poltergeist Outbreaks, Then and Now. London – Halloween 2009

  1. blissbait says:

    What an incredibly cool event. I’m far, far away, or I’d probably attend.

    Have a wonderful night/coninued research and Thank You.

    May All Beings Be Happy.

  2. Wendy C says:

    Tempting! Always nice to do something appropriately otherworldly on Halloween.

  3. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    I’m doing the PR review so I’ll definitely be there 🙂 London is a long way for me, but a lot further for ou though? 😦

    cj x

  4. Tom Ruffles says:

    Thanks for putting this back up Chris. Promises to be an instructive day.

  5. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    I attended this superb and informative event and really enjoyed it. A full review will follow in the SPR magazine ‘Paranormal Review’.

    On an unrelated note I was slightly disturbed to discover how different mine Tom and my recollections of events of certain incidents in the mid-90’s were, and no plan to hunt out our correspondence from the time later tonight to confirm my (very fallible) memory is not totally wrong! I may be many things, but I was never a willing minion of Derek and HArry’s paranormal imperialism! cj x

  6. Tom Ruffles says:

    Dear Chris

    I don’t know how you would prove the negative, do you think you have correspondence which says “I am not a willing minion of Derek and Harry’s paranormal imperialism”? As I recall, the three of you came over to Norfolk and sat down with our group to show us how investigations should be done, and to be fair you had clearly done a lot of work on compiling documentation. The only thing that might have set you apart from the other two was the lack of a cheap suit and tie, but memory is a bit hazy on this point. The Cheltenham Group was going to set up ‘branches’ round the country and even said you might be able to give us some funding as one of them (didn’t happen). I had no sense that you were there unwillingly, nor that you took a lesser role in the proceedings.

    Actually I may have misunderstood you yesterday but I got the impression you did think you had set up our group. For the record, Andy Waters and I were members of a group called the East Anglian Society for Paranormal Research and Investigation (I think this was supposed to be a pun on ‘esprit’ and evoke ‘spirit’). Andy and I left for personal reasons and set up the Anglia Paranormal Research Group (a mercifully shorter name), publisher, as you mentioned, of ‘However Improbable’. I seem to recall we were still in ESPRI when you three came over, but the group was already in existence and had a track record of investigations before you ever came on the scene.

    But this was all a long time ago. The point is that you are still associated with D&H in people’s minds, whether that is fair or not. I don’t think I am the only one who didn’t detect any difference in status between you three. But you may be right, and that is fine. At least you are still in the field and that does set you apart from them.

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Hi Tom,

      Ah, well it sees my memory is significantly at fault here. My memory was Esprit came after the APRG which is clearly wrong! I certainly remember the excellent ‘However Improbable’of hich I think I only saw two issues – Nicky Jordan (now Talbot) was editing our magazine ‘The Psipher’ about the same time. Obviously the events of the mid nineties still have some bearing on how I am received in certain circles so I am keen to try and clarify what happened. Here is my memory…

      In August of 1994 I was in Bury St Edmunds, living with my parents and at that time inspired I was interviewed by I think the Bury Free Press though it may have been a newspaper called the Mercury? Anyway I suggested a local group was formed, and was contacted by some folks from Watton and Thetford. We held a couple of meetings in The Dolphin, Thetford, and I recall a pleasant spiritualist couple as being the prime movers. I returned to Cheltenham a few weeks alter, taking up residence at Derek’s for a while until I was able to move out a month or so later. However the founding of that group was an initiative of myself and those people, and not linked in nay way with the CPRG.

      Derek and Harry certainly corresponded with ESPRI, and I was aware of some of that. We returned to run a “training day” event for a group in East Anglia, and I spoke on mediumship – I thought that occurred in an upstairs room at the White Hart, Scole, but perhaps I am wrong? Several members o the Bury group were certainly present – Mr Quigley being one. The Cheltenham contingent stayed at my parents house. At that time a plan was proposed that the East Anglian group should receive our magazine, “The Psi-Pher’ and pay subs. I strongly opposed this, believing it would lead to a quasi-national organisation, similar to ASSAP, which I was then a member of, albeit a very inactive one (I attened one ASSAP event and passed on some back issues of SPR Proceedings and Journals which we had been given to that organisation).

      After that event i had no further contact with the East Anglian groups, except a few meetings with the excellent stage magician Mike Rose (I think that is the name) who was based in Bury St Edmunds at the time. Like Mr Quigley, he was conducting a number of investigations locally. My next knowledge was receipt of a copy of ‘However Improbable’ which I seem to recall featured a cloaked skeleton, and then after i moved house I wrote to you to ask how thing were going, and learned you were with the APRG.

      I assumed (obviously incorrectly) that the APRG represented a CPRG ‘franchise’ based on nothing more than a similarity in the name and my knowledge of the dispute over the “franchise” plan. (The basis of my objection was we already had a group of some 100+ individuals of whom less than 12 ever got to attend investigations regularly – I have serious moral issues with allowing people to represent themselves as “certified” investigators, but the D&H approach was borrowed from ASSAP who ran training days for “Approved Investigators”. I assume that was the purpose of the East Anglian trip?

      Having been handcuffed to a chair to force me to remain at a CPRG committee meeting, and having noticed that things were falling apart, and having seen a “Case Paperwork Sample” published by the CPRG that I felt was completely pointless, and had a supposed psychometric test included in my name that I was nothing to do with, I had actually by this point left the organisation. (I returned at the very end – “Psipher 6” was written, edited, but never produced.)

      My only memory of the last days before D&H left was that I attended an SPR meeting, after which we convened in a Italian restaurant. Derek and Harry were plotting on another table, I was sitting chatting to a number of council members, and then it all fell apart, and I still not sure exactly what their supposed crimes were. I left with them to return to Cheltenham, and it was clear their plans had ended badly.

      I was never part of their SPR activities – they organized at least one conference, did a lot of work, and were heavily involved with many individuals. I’m hampered by the fact I did not even attend the conference, perhaps in Edinburgh, in question.

      However I do know that I corresponded with you in West Winch before that date, trying to find out what was going on, and you told me they had broken a number of promises to the East Anglian group. The only specific I can recall was that you had lent them, at some event at which I was not present, some software, and that software had not been returned. I undertook (unsuccessfully) to recover it. I did following the collapse of the CPRG recover and return some books which were on loan from the SPR to Eleanor O Keefe, the only other individual I kept in contact with.

      Now to be honest I am still puzzled as to what actually happened. I am only aware of three actual complaints against D&H, who were in many ways very efficient and dedicated people — i had a personal falling out in terms of psychical research and strategy, culminating in my support of the Gloucester wing seceding to form the GPRG and GASP, but the things i am aware of were

      i) Software not returned, and possibly other failings in some kind of agreement with the East Anglian group. I don’t know any details beyond those you told me yourself at the time.

      ii) A suggestion (by TC) that Derek & HArry called upon an address was activity was purported to have occurred in the past, causing undue distress to the current residents. I was truly horrified by this, and apologised t TC and promised to look in to it – and i did. D&H swore they had nothing to do with it – and earlier this year I finally found the solution to the mystery – Andrew MAckenzie had publlished the address in an article ion the Paranormal Review’s predecessor, The Psi Researcher. Unlike the journal the PR was freely available to non-members, and indeed was at this time sold by the CPRG as I recall, and was available from an outlet in Gloucester as well, owing to some kind of arrangement with the SPR. I still do not know who the idiots who rang someones doorbell to ask if their house was still haunted were, but I’m certain it was not myself, and pretty sure it was NOT D&H. It simply was not their style at all.

      iii) Some kind of political machiavellianship which culminated in a very uncomfortable scene in an Italian restaurant, where I was not even with the other two. I was never put forward as a prospect for SPR council (unlike D&H), and I was not ever made aware of what actually happened. The only account I have was from D who claimed one of their conversations was listened to during a trial of a shotgun microphone. I have no idea what to make of that!

      iv) Some time later i was informed that Arthur Ellison never received payment for his trip to speak to us at Cheltenham Library. I am VERY surprised at this, as to my certain knowledge well over a £100 was taken on each such meeting, and it was customary to pay the speakers honorarium and expenses immediately. If Arthur was not payed it is disgusting, but the accounts claimed he was.

      v)Our break with the Library our meeting venue occurred after a 16 year old attendee at one of the public meetings stole a reel of sellotape on the way out, and the police called us to identify him (we couldn’t). The library then barred the group out from further public meetings in premises, in what still to this day strikes me as an odd incident – but it had nothing to so with any financial irregularities.

      I would sincerely love to know what happened – and I think if you find my correspondence from the time you will see why I feel it would vindicate me completely in the eyes of any from the SPR who still feel I was somehow involved. In fact I think I could go further, and think it would completely exonerate me.

      As to branches around the country, there were none that I am aware of. The relationship with ESPRI was the only formal one i am aware of – and I certainly took possession later of all the CPRG documents for some years. We did have some membered listed in East Anglia – the name Driscoll springs to mind – and a gentleman named KArl in Yarmouth – and one other non-local member, Professor Hans Bender, who was supportive of the group. My objection to the idea of other a formal relationship local groups was strong, because I had no desire to be held accountable for the actions of individuals I did not know and trust.

      I was a member of the SPR for some time, years I think, before the CPRG, and D&H. There was some suggestion of local SPR groups, like the CUSPR, and D&H were as far as I know negotiating for Cheltenham to be recognised as such. Yetthat is as far as my knowledge of this incident goes.

      I have responded publicly, because let’s face it I may as well be forthright in my claim that I was at no time guilty of any improper conduct with regards to the SPR. I attended the Oxford Conference, two lectures and a Study Day as far as I can recall – D&H certainly attended three conferences to the best of my knowledge, and were much more actively involved. If they actually did something wrong, and i have no idea of H’s side of the story having not seen him since that time (though D seems to feel he was guilty of something, though I have never got him to say exactly what) then I am happy to accept that. For my own part, I am somewhat dismayed that people still regard me in this way, yet no one has ever so much as asked me my part of the story (not that I have much to tell!) with the single exception of Eleanor, and yourself, via the correspondence I refer to.

      If I am supposedly guilty of something, then I ask the individuals who feel this to be the case to actually just ask me outright, so I can at least defend myself, or admit wrongdoing. My email address is chrisjensenromer@hotmail.com, and I will treat any correspondence on the matter with complete confidence.

      cj x

  7. Tom Ruffles says:

    ESPRI was coordinated by John Driscoll and his wife, and they were indeed based near Watton. I joined shortly after the group started, but I don’t think I appreciated the role you and your interview had played in its formation; I suppose I assumed that it was John’s initiative. I have to say CPRG wasn’t mentioned much at our committee meetings, though your account does explain how you three came to be showing us how it should be done one Saturday in a room over a pub: John was presumably introduced to H&D through you.

    We thought the CPRG case paperwork rather cumbersome and not really suitable in the real world (including something about wipeable acetate covers to record witness interviews which H&D were very excited about), so we developed our own. I went on an ASSAP training day during that period and have to say that the Cheltenham version was rather amateur by comparison. ESPRI paying CPRG subs may have been mentioned, and would have got a dusty answer, but we were definitely promised funds as a satellite of the Cheltenham Group. H&G may well have corresponded with John subsequently, but our focus was on investigations, and we quickly decided that while we were happy to be on friendly terms with other groups, we wanted to retain our independence and didn’t feel that CPRG had any particular grounds for its assumed superiority.

    I don’t know who the spiritualists at Thetford were as we never held meetings there, though APRG members did spend a couple of nights at The Bell, one of them with Tony Cornell and a film crew (I ended up on the cutting room floor alas). ESPRI public meetings were held in Watton, where everyone seemed to be related to each other I recall. APRG didn’t hold public meetings.

    When we left to form APRG, Mike Rose, who was quite a prodigy as a stage magician being still in his teens, came with us. The investigations you say he was conducting when you met him later were probably APRG ones. We were certainly not a ‘franchise’, nor did we have any dealings with anyone from Cheltenham after we left ESPRI. The similarity in name was coincidental.

    As for ‘recognition’ of CPRG by the Society for Psychical Research, the SPR has not had affiliated local groups because of liability and the danger of adverse publicity. The Cambridge University SPR, which you mention, has always been independent, though with close links to the SPR. D&H were living a fantasy if they thought they would get more than simple recognition. But then our feeling at ESPRI was that they were somewhat fantasy-prone in their aspirations. Others elsewhere were more easily seduced.

  8. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    I recall Mike fondly. I’m still no closer to knowing what H&D did to the SPR though, or why in 1996 I was almost refused entry with the psychologist Jon Elcock to the SPR conference, which caused me considerable embarrassment, as he had never even met D&H, was never a member of the SPR and had no connection. The same applied to poor Gary Skidmore, lifetime of dedication to researching mediumship yet he felt uncomfortable in the SPR because he had the misfortune to reside in Cheltenham. Obviously I’m also very concerned for my girlfriend Becky Smith, who received an SPR grant to pursue her research is actively involved in parapsychology pursuing her doctorate and has been working on two papers for the SPR, but still has one year in which she potentially as to seek funding to complete her PHD which is a replication of the 1894 Census. Her and her supervisors had no idea I was regarded in this manner by the SPR, she lives in Derby and apart form a recent relationship with me (and being foolhardy enough to plan to marry me) has no connection with Cheltenham, a town she has visited less than ten times and when we met I had no reason to be concerned as i was unaware I was regarded in this light. She talked me in to rejoining, but now I learn I am still considered to be suspect person, based on events I know almost nothing of, and am unable to find out the particulars of.

    In my more paranoid moments I wonder if this played any role in my unsuccessful application for PW funding this year – I’m sure Bernard and the rest of the committee who administered that award, which is not after all SPR, hold nothing aginst me, but I did wonder. I even worried if my application for associate membership might be declined, though it was not. For 15 years I have not been a member of the SPR because of something I had nothing to do with, and i am quite upset by the whole thing.

    I do not even know D&H’s side of things – and almost all of those who I remember fondly – John Beloff, Manfred Cassirer, John Randall, have no died. Only Eleanor, Mary Rose, Alan Gauld and Archie Roy remain of those who I interested with much in those days as far as I can make out, and of course your good self. Serena does not seem to recall me, Richard Wiseman appears not to really recollect me and I have not seen Sue in years. I am not overly surprised. But when I mention D&H it is like an electric shock – EVERYONE seems to know, but know one has ever told me what actually happened!

    You wrote on a previous post on September 13th “I can understand your caution given past history (though you were never bracketed with H&D), but I think you are unnecessarily concerned.” I found that greatly reassuring – I assumed it was all forgotten, and that it had been accepted that I was not involved in whatever mysterious events transpired back then. Yet you then wrote on 1st November “The only thing that might have set you apart from the other two was the lack of a cheap suit and tie, but memory is a bit hazy on this point”. Fair enough – something has clearly happened to change your perspective on these events of nearly a decade and half ago. I applied to the PW fund unsuccessfully, attended conference, and rejoined the SPR. You have never said in any way it is so, but clearly ancient memories of whatever happened have been brought clearly back in to focus at the SPR, based on nothing more than this discrepancy.

    I’m NOT surprised, or offended. I was involved in teh CPRG, have never in any way denied it, I founded the organisation on April 1st 1993 and remained as chair for two years, though I lost any control by 1994 as it expanded beyond all recognition. What troubles me is the suggestion that I was somehow involved in this while mysterious D&H affair. I hope Dr Terry White, Dr Mike White, and many of the others who were members of the CPRG are not held in the same regard. If their was an institutional conflict between the SPR and CPRG, I must say I was VERY surprised – but it does not seem to have been the case. Two names come up every time – two people who organized the abstracts for the Edinburgh conference, worked closely with the SPR, and who were as far as i knew till the very end held in good regard with that organization. I was aware something happened, and D&H broke off their relations with the SPR, left the CPRG to me to run for a final year, and left completely the field of psychical researchj, and in one case (H) the country. Yet I am still unaware of what it was – and i am slightly miffed that it should still be held against veryone who resides in Cheltenham today!

    It is as if people are embarrassed by those years, and D&H bring back very painful memories – but I’m no nearer to understanding the truth, and while i will not defend them, as I have no reason to do so, I certainly don’t understand what exactly they did.

    cj x

  9. Harry says:

    Interesting discussion, it’s been a very long time since I have even thought of those days. I’d like to address some points raised. If this comes across as self-demeaning, it is not meant to be. I have few illusions about my past. I have learned a lot on that rough and rugged road to where I am now, most importantly that the ruffians who had beset me were mostly of my own making.

    First of all, “Derek and Harry’s paranormal Imperialism.” All I can do here is apologise for my behaviour a decade and a half ago. Were Derek and I guilty of that? I would have to say I was, yes. What I saw as “a vision of pioneering a renaissance in spontaneous case research” was, in reality, a product of over-inflated egos on our part, or at least on mine. The fact that Chris was vehemently opposed to it would have made us want it more – there was a lot of internal politics going on at the time, again, the product of inflated egos and I maneuvered things to try and make Chris a lame duck chairman in many ways. Immaturity, jealousy, ego; these were more an influence on our behaviour than the lofty goals we claimed.

    I do remember we were planning on the Psipher magazine going wide enough in circulation to be able to fund case investigations all over the country through the subscription money raised, creating the case articles to propel it mainstream. A complete pipe dream but we believed in it ourselves. I vaguely remember a trip to East Anglia but not much more than that, things were already falling apart in Cheltenham.

    As for “our my plans ending badly” – they ran headlong into a wall called reality. Derek and I fell out after I insulted his girlfriend and I moved out in very short order. Losing the roof over my head in such a manner unsettled me, I started doing temping work to raise money to rent a reasonable house then saved for a deposit on a purchase, so it could not happen again. It quickly turned to full-time work and my involvement in the CPRG became a litany of delays and excuses until I disappeared off the scene scant months later. I stayed on in name only for maybe the rest of the year. To be honest though, the work gave me an excuse to run away from commitments, a pattern I see in a lot of my life up until 1999 when I moved to California – only to find my worst enemy – myself – there again.

    Chris says we were “dedicated and efficient” but in reality we were not that efficient, as evidenced by the chaos and drama in our personal lives at the time, aspects Chris was sensible enough to avoid when he could – although I am sure he had his own issues. I was dedicated – but not as dedicated to promoting parapsychology as I was to my own Ego. I wrote many of the Psipher articles and it’s success was tied into my self of worth. A house built on quicksand which was rapidly sinking. We did have potential, but it was almost a decade before I grew up enough to see that potential in perspective and realize it; the road there was paved with similar stories of letting my ego obfuscate my view of reality.

    I saw in CJ similar potential not being realized, and that drove the competition I felt with him and was at the root of our disagreements. If he has been painted in a negative light for his actions in the early nineties, then that conflict was probably at the root of it. If something went well, I tried to claim the accolades, if it went badly, CJ was often blamed behind his back. In retrospect he was a lot more dedicated to parapsychology than I was and again, that put us in conflict. No one likes to see their own failings reflected in another.

    So with the above being said, I’d like to publicly extend my apologies to Tom Ruffles and Chris Romer, something I should have done a long time ago. I have been remiss in reviewing my actions in the past and addressing past grievances where they exist. The same goes to anyone else I offended or disappointed in the field. I can offer no excuses for my behaviour at the time, only apologies. I was well into my third decade of life before I started taking responsibility for my life and my actions and it took the loss of every illusion I had built about myself as to who I was to come to that crossroads in my life.

    On to more specific points.

    As to the software not being returned, Again, apologies. I do not remember what that software was but I will take Tom and Chris’s word that I failed to look after and return something put into our trust.

    I do not remember calling uninvited to a house and I’m glad Chris found the answer. I recall hearing about it in the pub one evening and being puzzled at that time.

    There was a lot of politics back then, but most of it was internal to the CPRG. As far as I know, I was never put forward “as a prospect for SPR council” although Derek claimed that once; early on, on my first visit to an SPR lecture; I and a couple of others waiting in a café at the top of the road while Derek visited the SPR offices alone. He made the claim when he came back. I vividly remember thinking that was unlikely at the time and it never materialized. Perhaps in time it would have, I know I tended to exaggerate ‘possibilities’ into ‘certainties’ back then. The ‘trial of a shotgun microphone’ sound ludicrous to me, it’s much more likely someone was offended by what I or Derek said in person.

    I don’t remember any scene in an Italian restaurant – beyond a Bill Joel song of the same name. I do remember dinner after lectures a number of times but not a specific one near the end. If it was the trip where I insulted Derek’s partner on the way home, the fallout out from that may have obscured the events from earlier.

    I’m as shocked as Chris to hear that Ellison was not paid speakers expenses. Had I known at the time I would have tried to pay him out of my own pocket – then got as much political mileage as I could out of it, such was my need for my ego to be stroked back then.

    The meetings at the library stopped a while after I had dropped of the radar and I’d never heard of this before reading this blog and comments.

    If I did something beyond disappearing without a trace and never offering an explanation of why I did so, I’d certainly like to know about it. Dropping out the way I did was yet another stupid act of my past. Knowing myself back then, had it been Derek who dropped out, I would have painted him a villain and justified it to myself as necessary to save the ‘vision’ I mentioned earlier. So it is quite possible I am linked to events that I have no knowledge.

    On to Tom’s reply. Yes, we were excited about the paperwork we developed, we saw it as revolutionary step forward. Again, Ego on our part. The reality is, I found it as ‘out of print’ on Amazon a few months ago. It was so memorable, I’d forgotten about it.

    We were living a pipe dream with regards to recognition from the SPR. While we tried to project an image of professional investigators, the reality was far from that. We were struggling youths with aspirations far beyond the practical and not enough real-world experience to realize it. When realization came, I walked away so I could blame the loss of a dream on who remained, luck, anything to avoid looking into the mirror to find my problem.

    I am in London on November 27th and would cherish the opportunity to meet and apologize in person, to Chris, Tom or any other member of the SPR or related organizations that I offended or wronged, and perhaps discuss any aspects that are not suitable for a public venue. I will only be in the UK for the weekend, then I am not back until the end of April/early May. I live in California now and do not get back as often as I would like. Until then, I can be contacted at harry (at) Lerwill (dot) net.

  10. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    Hello Harry! California treating you well? Thank you very much for the apology, though I still don’t really think it was needed. Our fight over the CPRG was 15 years ago, and we have both moved on and are different people. What I am very, very glad to see however is your acknowledgment that I was not involved with whatever happened with the SPR, though I am still none the wiser as to what that was. Perhaps we can find Derek and persuade him to tell his side of the story? I’m glad, really glad, that after 15 years this is all out in the open. I’m just still really puzzled as to what actually happened back then…

  11. Harry says:

    I am confused by the level of reaction you describe. To the best of my knowledge the biggest problem was letting people down when I dropped out of the scene. If there’s more to this then either a) I’ve forgotten something, b) I never realized the importance or impact of something I said or did or c) something happened after I dropped out that I was associated with.

    I’ve only seen Derek once in the last decade, that was in 2006 on our honeymoon, we passed though Cheltenham and stopped by with Kelvin. My understanding is that he is no long active is parapsychology and sold on ebay all the proceedings and journals we had stored in his basement. His passion then was reenactment.

  12. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    No more confused than I am Harry, no more confused than I. This has bugged me for years…I simply do not know what went on back then. And it seems neither do you. So that leaves Derek, or a comment from someone at the SPR at the time as the only way forward. 😦 Maybe future historians of psychical research will ponder the question too, and search the Council minutes to unlock the secret, but you appear to be being honest to me in your insistence you simply have no idea what led to all this…

  13. Harry says:

    Being ‘honest in my insistence’ does not mean I did not wrong someone along the way. I just wish I knew what.

    I remember the people who you describe as reacting this way to you based on your association all those years ago; they were, and probably are, are men of impeccable character and leaders in their field. I find it difficult to believe that a number of them would react this way without reason. One individual I could put down to a personality conflict, being personally disappointed, even a grudge – but not an entire group of gentlemen.

  14. Tom Ruffles says:

    Chris, I have looked out my CPRG/ESPRI files and find I owe you an apology for misleading you. It appears that when I said that ESPRI was already in existence when contacted by the Cheltenham group, that assertion was wrong. What appears to have happened is that I met Derek at the SPR conference in Glasgow in 1993, and expressed an interest in CPRG’s activities. The CPRG was brand new, as a letter from Derek dated 18 September 1993 says that it was formed in March of that year. He refers to an “East Anglian section”, run by Simon and Sonia Driscoll (for some reason I thought his name was John), set up in the August. So ESPRI was a branch of the CPRG from the start. I joined CPRG and received a standard letter from Derek, Secretary, to “Mr Ruffles” dated 20 October. I think he wanted to keep me in my place, though he does thank me “for the disk and test protocol” which featured so heavily in later correspondence.

    As for you being a minion, no no no, you were not. I have letters you wrote to me in which you unburdened yourself, and it is clear that you were going through the most appalling time with D&H, and especially D. The way the group was run was appalling, and the word ‘imperialism’ does not seem out of place. You bound me to confidentiality all those years ago regarding the things you told me and I am not going to break that now, but the actions you described ranged from the selfish, careless and disrespectful to the possibly criminal. You were clearly stuck in a difficult position because of your personal circumstances, even wondering about your personal safety, and had to make the best of it. The anguish shines through in your letters, which clearly left me gobsmacked and lost for words.

    You pointed out a contradiction in what I said about the general attitude towards you. On the one hand I said “I can understand your caution given past history (though you were never bracketed with H&D), but I think you are unnecessarily concerned” yet later I wrote: “The only thing that might have set you apart from the other two was the lack of a cheap suit and tie, but memory is a bit hazy on this point”. Perhaps that encapsulates some ambivalence on my part about the events of that period, but I was talking about two different things: the cheap suits bit was how you all presented yourselves at the training day you organised (and I have a copy of an article from that august paranormal journal Chat from February 1994 with a photograph of the deadly duo looking all professional at a pub in Gloucester to prove it; don’t laugh too much though – I also have an article featuring you from Woman’s Realm, 1996, at Owlpen Manor); at that point you all seemed to have equal authority. The other quote relates to subsequent history, where you were clearly in a different category, as your correspondence to me demonstrates. Unfortunately this positive verdict may have been optimistic. As my case demonstrates, memories do become blurred, and especially to those who did not hear your side of the story, and although unfair, I think D&H’s particularly malodorous mud may have stuck. All I can do is try to emphasise that you should not be associated with them.

    All sorts of little things popped up when reading through the files. Harry may have been correct in saying that Derek sold SPR Journals and Proceedings donated to CPRG on eBay, but I have an email from you dated 17 December 1997 saying that while some copies had been given to ASSAP and other interested parties, Derek had burned many of them in the garden. You with the ASSAP librarian had rescued some, presumably just dumped, in appalling weather. This particular insight into Derek’s psyche (a combination of ingratitude and callousness, probably mixed with the reflex people of a liberal disposition have to the idea of burning books) has circulated within the SPR for years and probably helped to colour the general attitude to the CPRG. You and I seemed to spend a lot of time discussing a psychic claimant (I was the SPR’s Hon. Testing Officer at the time) I had referred to CPRG for face-to-face experiments, an experience which showed me at first hand how dealing with Derek was like trying to catch a greased pig. I was clearly exasperated that every time I tried to set something up, the claimant moved to another part of the country. The wretched software disk is also prominent, though I think in the end I simply mentioned it regularly to make a point, with no expectation of its return. I was more annoyed at the debacle over the SPR study day held in April 1994. Derek was supposed to record this event, but the tapes didn’t turn up despite badgering, which clearly annoyed a lot of people, including Bernard Carr, who had organised the day. There is a reference to a CPRG offer to organise a conference. They did not do so thank goodness (you refer to this in a comment above and think they did, but no), as it would have been a disaster. I remember hearing this near-miss referred to in later years with a sigh of relief.

    I’ve found the agenda for the training day, which was held on 16 October 1993. Unfortunately the venue hasn’t been put down but my diary for that day shows that it was indeed held at Watton. I noted there that although it was an enjoyable day, “the Chelt. People came across badly.” You, Harry, Derek and Kelvin Walker are listed as lecturers on the agenda, the ESPRI people are delegates. The whole thing seems pretentious.

    On the funding issue, a letter from Simon Driscoll to me dated 6 January 1994 complains that even after repeated requests, promised funding had still not materialised, despite a letter, phone calls and speaking to you personally, by which date CPRG owed ESPRI £40. Simon had spent over £8 on various phone calls to Cheltenham so he was pretty hacked off. Andy Waters had also written complaining that we had not had the promised support, but had not received a reply. There was also a reference to an annoyed member ringing Simon to ask why he had not heard from ESPRI three months after joining, and Simon had to explain that his name had not been passed on by CPRG HQ. I could go on but this is quite enough.

    I’ve posted this on your blog rather than send it as a private email because I thought that as the initial points were raised publicly, I ought to try to make sure that anyone who reads the earlier posts will not go away with an erroneous impression. This all may seem arcane to those who were not there, but alas, as you yourself have implied, actions which should be lost in the mists of time can have far-reaching consequences, and not just for the perpetrators. I only hope that this will all fade, and people will accept that you were doing your best in a difficult situation and do not deserve to be bracketed with your erstwhile colleagues. I am very sorry if I led anyone to think that you should be.

  15. Tom Ruffles says:

    I should also say that John Randall is very much with us!

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