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The Ghost Club

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 6

Ghosts and Hauntings

In 1855 a small, select group of fellows at Cambridge University, began meeting in order to discuss ghosts, hauntings and psychic phenomena. The club officially began in 1862 and other than a period of dissolution during the 1870s when important member Charles Dickens died, The Ghost Club has continued to operate right up to the present day.

Searching For The Supernatural

Cambridge University, Flickr by foshie

Charles Dickens is famous for his writing, which often featured paranormal phenomena, like Marley's ghost in A Christmas Carol. Dickens also used his fame, to write about various theories of ghosts and supernatural phenomenon in a weekly periodical which had a huge reading audience .

Cambridge University(103850)

Dickens also read whatever scientific, or philosophical information was available about ghosts and the supernatural, but he wanted  more thorough research into the possibilities of  paranormal realms and to engage in debate; this is where The Ghost Club came in.

And So Began The Ghost Club

The Ghost Club generally met monthly, to discuss various reports of psychic, or ghostly phenomena; at first with Dickens, various Cambridge academics and clergy men. Later The Ghost Club attracted other famous members like, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  the creator of Sherlock Holmes and famous British chemist and physicist, Sir William Crookes; W.B.Yeats joined in 1911 and Peter Sellers was also a member.

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall ghost photograph, Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Countrylife magazine, 1936

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall ghost photograph, Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Countrylife magazine, 1936

Ireland’s Nobel Prize winning poet W.B. Yeats, had a fascination with Irish legends and mythology, which developed into an obsession with the occult and paranormal. Yeats was a member of not only The Ghost Club, but the Golden Dawn, a society concerned with esoteric philosophy, magic and astrology. During the early stages of his marriage to George Hyde-Lees, Yeats and his wife attempted to contact spirits and Yeats believed that spirits guided the hand of his wife to communicate messages (automatic writing). The couple also tried to contact the dead, by attending séances. Yeats had a life long interest in the paranormal, but also later developed an interest in Indian philosophy and Tantric sex.

Magic and Mystery


A séance, Wikipedia.

During the 1940s, the English short story writer and novelist Algernon  Blackwood, was a member of The Ghost Club and also the afore-mentioned Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which practiced rituals of spiritual magic called theurgy. Blackwood's most well-known stories are, "The Willows" and "The Wendigo", supernatural tales of an early horror genre called, weird fiction. During Blackwood's period of membership of The Ghost Club, women were not allowed to join or to engage in the diverse lectures and investigations.

In 1962 Peter Underwood, an author and paranormal investigator became the president of The Ghost Club and he went on to publish many books about the clubs investigations and his personal experiences. Underwood has said that he had his first paranormal experience at the age of nine, when he saw the ghost of his father, who had died earlier that day. As a child he also lived at Rosehall for a time, a  seventeenth century house in Hertfordshire, where he claimed to witness  the figure of a headless man. During Underwood's time with The Ghost Club, he was involved in investigating the  Borley Rectory haunting, which had made a former Ghost Club president Harry Price famous, when he wrote two books about it. The house was known as the 'most haunted house in England', until  destroyed in a fire.

Rear view of Borley Rectory

Rear view of Borley Rectory, Wikipedia

Today The Ghost Club is still a private club, which is involved in investigating paranormal activity. For example in 2009 the club investigated the The Jedburgh Castle Jail, which is located on the Scottish border. There had been numerous reports of paranormal activity and specifically of a ghostly piper standing on the battlements. An  investigation team from a few years earlier, had also claimed to witness poltergeist activity at the jail. The latest investigation however,  found nothing significant, but as the longest running Ghost Club in the world, the work continues.   


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Jul 3, 2012 9:58pm
I came across this group when researching myriad other things and was thoroughly entertained by them and by Yeats' involvement. (He also became a sworn enemy of Aleister Crowley's later). Good esoteric piece -- a thumb's up from me.
Jul 3, 2012 10:46pm
Thanks. Although I must say they certainly had some interesting characters around in that period!
Jul 18, 2012 4:17am
Can never get enough about ghosts..always read immediately if I see the word! Nice to add this article to my knowledge bin..
Jul 18, 2012 2:05pm
Thanks. I agree the thought of ghosts brings mystery and excitement.
Aug 25, 2012 11:09am
Great piece and certainly thought-provoking--two thumbs up!
Aug 25, 2012 4:01pm
Thank you very much for reading.
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  1. Ann Saddlemeyer "W.B. YEATS & GEORGE YEATS - THE LETTERS." http://www.turtlebunbury.com/published/published_reviews/pub_rev_yeats.htm. 2011.

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