The Ghost Club is a paranormal investigation and research organization that was founded in London in 1862. It is widely believed to be the oldest such organization in the world. Since 1862 it has primarily investigated ghosts and hauntings.
The club has its roots in Cambridge in 1855 where fellows at Trinity College began to discuss ghosts and psychic phenomena. Launched officially in London in 1862, it counted Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its members. One of the club's earliest investigations was of the Davenport Brothers and their "spirit cabinet" hoax, the club challenging the Davenports' claim of contacting the dead.
The group continued to undertake practical investigations of spiritualist phenomena, a topic then in vogue, meeting to discuss ghostly subjects. The Ghost Club dissolved in the 1870s following the death of Dickens.
The club was revived on All Saints Day 1882 by the medium Stainton Moses and Alaric Alfred Watts. initially claiming to be the original founders, without acknowledging its origins. In 1882, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), with whom there was an initial overlap, was founded at a similar time.
While the SPR was a body devoted to scientific study, the Ghost Club remained a selective and secretive organization of convinced believers for whom psychic phenomena were an established fact. Stainton Moses resigned from the vice presidency of the SPR in 1886 and thereafter devoted himself to the Ghost Club. Membership was small (82 members over 54 years) and women were not allowed but during this period it attracted some of the most original and controversial minds in psychical research. These included Sir William Crookes Sir Oliver Lodge, Nandor Fodor and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The archives of the Club reveal that the names of members, both living and dead, were solemnly recited each November 2. Each individual, living or dead, was recognized a member of the Club. On more than one occasion deceased members were believed to have made their presence felt.
Involved were also the poet W. B. Yeats (joined 1911) and Frederick Bligh Bond (joined 1925), who became infamous with his investigations into spiritualism at Glastonbury. Bligh Bond later left the country and became active in the American Society for Psychical Research. He was ordained into the Old Catholic Church and rejoined the Ghost Club on his return to Britain in 1935.
The Principal of Jesus College, Cambridge, Arthur Grey fictionalized the Ghost Club in 1919 as "The Everlasting Club" in a ghost story that many still believe to be true.
The 20th century's move from séance room investigation to laboratory-based research meant the Ghost Club fell out of touch with contemporary psychic research. Harry Price, famous for his investigation into Borley Rectory, joined as a member in 1927 as did psychologist Dr. Nandor Fodor who represented the changing approach to psychical research taking place. With attendance falling, the Club closed in 1936 after 485 meetings. The Ghost Club records were deposited in the British Museum under the proviso that they would remain closed until 1962 out of respect for confidentiality.
Within 18 months, Price relaunched the Ghost Club as a society dining event where psychic researchers and mediums delivered after-dinner talks. Price decided to admit women to the club, also specifying that it was not a spiritualist church or association but a group of skeptics that gathered to discuss paranormal topics. Members in this period included Dr. C.E.M.Joad, Sir Julian Huxley, Algernon Blackwood, Sir Osbert Sitwell and Lord Amwell.
Following Price's death in 1948, the Club was again relaunched by members of the committee, Philip Paul and Peter Underwood. From 1962 Underwood served as President and many account of Club activities are found in his books.
Tom Perrott joined the club in 1967 and served as Chairman from 1971 to 1993.
In 1993, the club underwent a period of internal disruption, during which Underwood left to become Life President of another society he'd revived called "The Ghost Club Society",.
The Ghost Club later expanded its remit to include the study of UFOs, dowsing, cryptozoology and similar topics.
In 1998, Perrott resigned as Chairman (although he remained active in club affairs), and barrister Alan Murdie was elected as his successor. Alan Murdie has written a number of ghost books including Haunted Brighton and regularly writes for Fortean Times. In 2005 he was succeeded by Kathy Gearing. Gearing, the club's first female chairperson, announced in the Summer 2009 newsletter of the club her resignation from her position.
The club continues to meet monthly at the Victory Services Club near Marble Arch, in London. Several investigations are performed in England every year. In recent times, investigations have been organised in Scotland by the club's Scottish Area Investigation Coordinator.