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Vendredi, 30 Septembre 2011 12:00

Prototype: The Godfathers of All Ghostbusters

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  • 12:00 pm  | 
  • Wired October 2011

Arthur Balfour (left) and Edward White Benson.
Photos: Getty

Professorial parapsychologists documenting haunted houses in Poltergeist. Venkman and Spengler collecting ectoplasmic residue and measuring psychokinetic energy in Ghostbusters. Pop culture is full of characters who approach ghosts with scientific detachment instead of terror. Where did this Fox Mulderism start? With the Cambridge Association for Spiritual Enquiry, widely known as the Ghost Society. Formed in 1851 at the prestigious university, its founders included future prime minister Arthur Balfour and future archbishop of Canterbury Edward White Benson. Little is known about the group’s day-to-day activities—it was as enamored with mystery and secret societies as it was with the paranormal. But the organization did declare that it was dedicated to “a serious inquiry into the nature of the phenomena which are vaguely called ’supernatural.’” One society member boasted of studying 2,000 apparitional anomalies. The group’s key spookologists moved to London in 1862 and continued their pursuits as the Ghost Club. They helped to discredit some practitioners, like the Davenport brothers, who toured with a so-called spirit cabinet that supposedly let them conjure the dead. The club still exists and still studies the paranormal: Go to its website to hear a rapping sound they recorded at Michelham Priory in East Sussex. Pay the \0xA315 membership fee and you can haunt monthly lectures and trail along on investigations. Remember: The truth is out there.

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