Obituary: Mr. Harry Price  Journal of the Society for Psychical Research Vol. 34 (1947-48)

To the general public no one engaged in psychical research was better known than Mr Harry Price, whose death was recorded in the press on March 30th.  Mr Price, who had since his boyhood kept up a keen interest in psychical matters, joined the Society in 1920, and shortly afterwards became prominent in the Society by his exposure of Mr William Hope, the "spirit" photographer, reported in the Journal for May 1922. Conan Doyle took up the cudgels on behalf of Hope, and for a time the controversy over "The Crew Circle" tended to obscure more important developments in psychical research.

Mr Price was by temperament essentially a free-lance, and acting as such he was able to pursue methods of. investigation and publicity which would have been incompatible with work conducted under the auspices of an old-established Society. One need only mention the entertaining episode of the Brocken related in Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter.

It would, however, be unfair to Mr Price to suggest that all his investigations were of this nature. He had a very genuine interest in the physical phenomena of the séance room and in poltergeists, and his knowledge of conjuring and his skill in devising and working various systems of mechanical control made him formidable to the fraudulent medium. The results of his investigations were presented to the public in a series of articles in the Bulletins of the National Laboratory for Psychical Investigation (later the London University Council for Psychical Investigation) and in various books, all of which were admirably produced and illustrated by photographs of a very high order. By these publications, by his lectures, and by his close contact with officials of the B.B.C., he succeeded in interesting in the particular aspects of psychical research with which he was most conversant a very large public to whom a more philosophic approach to the central problems of our subject would have made no appeal.  His handling of the Borley Rectory affair is a good example both of his qualities and his defects as a free-lance investigator.  To one side of the account must be set his enterprise in obtaining for a time exclusive control of the site, and his diligence both in enquiring into the long and curious history of the haunt and in paying numerous visits to Borley during the later periods of its occurrence.   On the other side must be set his unwillingness to invite other experts in psychical research to participate in the investigation.  It is possible that an approach to the problem more in accordance with the methods of our Society might have produced results not less interesting and far more conclusive.

He rendered an important service to psychical research in putting other investigators in touch with prominent mediums and sensitives, and by inviting them to séances he gave many of them their first practical experience of that side of our subject.  He was a great book-lover and collected a valuable library of books on psychical research and some other subjects, which was for a time housed on the Society's premises.

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In the Obituary Notice which appeared in The Times of March 30th, it was stated that Mr Harry Price was "indirectly instrumental in the founding of a studentship in psychical research at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Blennerhasset Trust for the same object at New College, Oxford".  As is well known to those who were members of the Society in 1940, when the Perrott Studentship and the Blennerhassett Trust were founded, Mr Price was not directly or indirectly connected with either.


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