Trevor Henry Hall (1910–1991) was a British author, surveyor, and sceptic of paranormal phenomena.[1] Hall made controversial claims regarding early members of the Society for Psychical Research. His books caused a heated controversy within the parapsychology community.[2]

Trevor. H. Hall

Career edit

Hall was born in Wakefield, England. He served as a major in the British army during World War II (1939–45) and became a senior partner of V. Walker and Son (chartered surveyors) (1945–80). He was the vice president of the Huddersfield Building Society (1958–80).[3]

He had a deep interest in magic and mystery. Hall was a student in psychical research at Trinity College, Cambridge (1954–56). His knowledge of conjuring and magic helped him discover the tricks of mediums, many of whom had been caught in fraud. Hall was an ex-member and critic of the Society for Psychical Research and published a series of sceptical books on the paranormal and psychical research.[4] He was a collector of magic books and was a member of The Magic Circle. He also wrote three books on the higher criticism of Sherlock Holmes.

Research edit

Florence Cook edit

In his controversial book The Spiritualists (1962), Hall stated that the famous medium Florence Cook was a fraud who had an affair with the chemist and psychical researcher William Crookes.[5][6]

Hall drew upon Francis G. H. Anderson's statements to the Society for Psychical Research in 1922 and 1941. Anderson claimed to have had an affair with Cook himself; he also stated that she was a sexual maniac who confessed to having an affair with Crookes.[7] In 1964, psychical researchers R. G. Medhurst and K. M. Goldney cast considerable doubt on the reliability of Anderson's testimony and dismissed Hall's allegations. Biographer William Hodson Brock who has praised Hall's book also doubted the claims of an affair.[8]

Regarding Hall's research that Cook had an affair with Crookes, historian Asa Briggs in a review commented that "the verdict does not seem to be fully proven, although the evidence is striking".[9]

Psychologist Ray Hyman has noted that despite how one may consider the allegations, "there is no question that Hall has unearthed much material that throws strong suspicions on Crookes's handling of this investigation."[10] Researchers such as Ruth Brandon and Eric Dingwall have supported Hall's arguments against Cook and Crookes.[11][12][13]

Edmund Gurney edit

In his book The Strange Case of Edmund Gurney (1964), Hall made the claim that Edmund Gurney committed suicide after discovering the frauds of Douglas Blackburn and George Albert Smith. This has been strongly contested by biographer Trevor Hamilton and the psychical researcher Alan Gauld.[14][15]

Parapsychologist Fraser Nicol published an extremely negative review of Hall's book on Gurney. This caused a threat of a libel action from Hall.[16][17]

Daniel Dunglas Home edit

In his book The Enigma of Daniel Home: Medium or Fraud? (1984), Hall asserted that the medium Daniel Dunglas Home had invented his aristocratic background.[18]

Hall's research led him to conclude that the alleged levitation of Home at Ashley House never happened as the eyewitness reports contradicted each other and all Home did was step across a gap of four feet between two iron balconies.[19]

Reception edit

Researcher Georgess McHargue noted that Hall was "one of the most astute of modern investigators, combining twentieth-century scientific techniques with a cheerful and readable writing style in his many books."[20] However, Roger Luckhurst has written that Hall's "books proceed with a combination of careful archival work and abusive character assassinations."[21]

In the book A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology (1985), authors Gerd H. Hövelmann, Marcello Truzzi and Piet Hein Hoebens noted that "[al]though Hall's historical detective work is often impressive, his conclusions sometimes go beyond his data. Despite the flaws in some of Hall's efforts, his writings should be required reading for everyone interested in early psychical research."[2]

Publications edit

  • The Haunting of Borley Rectory: A Critical Survey of the Evidence [with Eric Dingwall, K. M. Goldney] (1956)
  • Four Modern Ghosts [with Eric Dingwall] (1958)
  • The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes (1962), published in America in 1963.
  • Florence Cook and William Crookes: A Footnote to an Enquiry (1963)
  • The Strange Case of Edmund Gurney (1964)
  • New Light on Old Ghosts (1965)
  • Strange Things [with John Lorne Campbell] (1968)[22]
  • Sherlock Holmes: Ten Literary Studies (1969)
  • The Late Mr Sherlock Holmes: and Other Literary Studies (1971)
  • Old Conjuring Books (1973)
  • The Early Years of the Huddersfield Building Society (1974)
  • Sherlock Holmes and His Creator (1977)
  • Search for Harry Price (1980)
  • The Enigma of Daniel Home: Medium or Fraud? (1984)
  • The Medium and the Scientist: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes (1985)

References edit

  1. ^ Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology
  2. ^ a b Hövelmann. Gerd H; Truzzi, Marcello; Hoebens, Piet Hein. (1985). Skeptical Literature on Parapsychology: An Annotated Bibliography. In Paul Kurtz. A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. Prometheus Books. pp. 449-490. ISBN 0-87975-300-5
  3. ^ The Estates Gazette. (1971). Volume 220. p. 505
  4. ^ Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-19-924962-8
  5. ^ Cohen, Daniel. (1971). Masters of the Occult. Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 111. ISBN 978-0396064077 "In 1962 Trevor H. Hall, a British jurist and psychical researcher, re-examined the Crooke's-Cook case and came to the sensational conclusion not that Crookes had been fooled (as many had believed) but that he was an active participant in the hoax, and that he had a sexual involvement with the attractive medium. Though all the figures in this case were long dead the charge stirred up furor in the very tradition-minded psychical research circles in England. The controversy reverberates to this day."
  6. ^ Williams, William F. (2000). Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Routledge. p. 67. ISBN 1-57958-207-9
  7. ^ Tromp, Marlene. (2006). Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism. State University of New York Press. pp. 43-44. ISBN 978-0-7914-6739-8
  8. ^ Brock, William Hodson. (2008). William Crookes (1832-1919) and the Commercialization of Science. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 184-185. ISBN 978-0-7546-6322-5
  9. ^ Briggs, Asa. (1965). Reviewed Works: The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes by Trevor H. Hall; The First Five Lives of Annie Besant by Arthur H. Nethercot; The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant by Arthur H. Nethercot. Victorian Studies. Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 361-363.
  10. ^ Hyman, Ray. (1989). The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research. Prometheus Books. p. 209. ISBN 0-87975-504-0
  11. ^ Brandon, Ruth. (1983). The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 122-124. ISBN 978-0297782490
  12. ^ Brandon, Ruth. (1985). Unsavoury Spirits. New Scientist 18 July. p. 52.
  13. ^ Hansel, C. E. M. (1989). The Search for Psychic Power: ESP and Parapsychology Revisited. Prometheus Books. p. 287. ISBN 0-87975-516-4 "In his Critics Dilemma (1966) he revealed that in 1922 he had himself met the man to whom Florence Cook had given details of her affair with Crookes, her trips to Paris, and the assistance that Crookes had provided in order to fake the spirit Katie King. Dingwall supported Hall's conclusions and after considering attempts to explain away the evidence writes "If we are being asked to think that Crookes really believed in all of this, it appears his modern defenders are reducing him almost to the level of an imbecile and denigrating him to a far greater degree than Mr. Hall has done."
  14. ^ Hayward, Rhodri. (2007). Resisting History: Religious Transcendence and the Invention of the Unconscious. Manchester University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7190-7414-1
  15. ^ Hamilton, Trevor. (2009). Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers and the Victorian Search for Life After Death. Imprint Academic. pp. 164-169. ISBN 978-1-8454-0248-8
  16. ^ Wiley, Barry H. (2012). The Thought Reader Craze: Victorian Science at the Enchanted Boundary. McFarland. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7864-6470-8
  17. ^ Hamilton, Trevor. (2013). F. W. H. Myers, William James, and Spiritualism. In Christopher M. Moreman. The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World. Volume 1: American Origins and Global Proliferation. Praeger. pp. 97-114. ISBN 978-0-313-39947-3
  18. ^ Stein, Gordon. (1993). The Sorcerer of Kings: The Case of Daniel Dunglas Home and William Crookes. Prometheus Books. p. 71. ISBN 0-87975-863-5 "It remained for Trevor Hall to show that Home's middle name, "Dunglas," which represents one of the noble Scottish families, was really just an affectation. In other words, although he often claimed the descent of his father as a natural [i.e., illegitimate] son of Alexander, tenth Earl of Home," was actually not related to that family, and therefore not a Dunglas. In addition, his birth certificate does not have "Dunglas" on it; it's simply Daniel Home."
  19. ^ Smith, F. B. (1986). Reviewed Works: The Enigma of Daniel Home: Medium or Fraud? by Trevor H. Hall; The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Ruth Brandon; The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914 by Janet Oppenheim. Victorian Studies. Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 613-614.
  20. ^ McHargue, Georgess. (1972). Facts, Frauds, and Phantasms: A Survey of the Spiritualist Movement. Doubleday. p. 100. ISBN 978-0385053051
  21. ^ Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. pp. 74-75. ISBN 0-19-924962-8
  22. ^ Brown, Theo. (1969). Reviewed Work: Strange Things by John L. Campbell, Trevor H. Hall. Folklore. Vol. 80, No. 3. pp. 224-227.

Further reading edit

  • Simeon Edmunds. (1962). Cooking the Evidence? Tomorrow 10: 35-44.
  • Alan Gauld. (1965). Mr Hall and the S.P.R. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 43: 53-62.
  • Trevor H. Hall. (1963) Florence Cook and William Crookes: A Footnote to an Enquiry. Tomorrow 11: 341-359.
  • Trevor H. Hall. (1963). The Spiritualists in Retrospect. Tomorrow 11: 54-56.
  • Trevor H. Hall. (1968). Some Comments on Mr. Fraser Nicol's Review. International Journal of Parapsychology 10: 149-164.
  • Fraser Nicol. (1966). The Silences of Mr Trevor Hall. International Journal of Parapsychology 8: 5-59.

External links edit

  Media related to Trevor H. Hall at Wikimedia Commons