Saturday, 1 October 2011

Genesis of the British Occult Society

The Ghost Club Society is the world's oldest and most prestigious society devoted to the serious and impartial investigation, study and discussion of subjects not yet fully understood or accepted by science. The current president is Peter Underwood, pictured below, who was also a Life-Member of the British Occult Society until its dissolution.

1851 The Ghost Club Society founded in Cambridge. Members include E W Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury and Arthur Balfour, later Prime Minister.

1862 The London Ghost Club. Members include the Hon A Gordon, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick: a Canon of Westminster and the Registrar of Cambridge University.

1882-1936 First revival. Members include Sir William Crookes, Sir William Barratt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, W B Yeats and Harry Price.

1938-1947 Second revival with Harry Price as Chairman. Members include Lord Amwell, Algernon Blackwood, Mrs K M (Mollie Goldney, Sir Ernest Jelf, K E Shelley QC, Sir Osbert Sitwell, Dr Paul Tabori and Peter Underwood FRSA.

1954-1993 Third revival with Peter Underwood as President. Members include K E Shelley QC, Dr Christabel Nicholson, Dr Paul Tabori, Donald Campbell MBE, Peter Sellers, Dennis Wheatley, Dr George Owen, Lord Dowding, Ena Twigg and Sir Julian Huxley. Honorary Life Members include Dennis Bardens, Mrs Michael Bentine, Colonel John Blashord-Snell, Miss Sarah Miles, Miss Jilly Cooper, Dr A R G Owen, Miss Dulcie Gray, Sir Patrick Moore, Mr Uri Geller, and the Right Reverend Seán Manchester OSG. Peter Underwood is Life President and Colin Wilson is vice-President of the Ghost Club Society.

At times there was membership cross-fertilisation between the British Occult Society and the Ghost Club Society. In 1988 the British Occult Society was formally dissolved under the leadership of its final president, Bishop Seán Manchester, who had been elected on 21 June 1967.


The British Occult Society was originally formed as an umbrella organisation circa 1860. Much of its activity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is shrouded in mystery. The BOS came out of the closet, however, in the mid-twentieth century before finally disappearing in 1988. During that period it was presided over by Seán Manchester who placed emphasis on investigating the claims of the occult and the study and research of paranormal phenomena. Out of this history sprang the Vampire Research Society (formerly a specialist unit within the BOS), that was founded by the president of the British Occult Society who first appeared on British television on 13 March 1970. He is seen in the above photograph (reconstructing an exorcism he had performed in August 1970) from a transmission on the BBC in the autumn of 1970, seven months after his television debut.


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