Hyslop, James Hervey (1854-1920)

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Hyslop, James Hervey (1854-1920)

Professor of logic and ethics and prominent psychical researcher. He was born on August 18, 1854, in Xenia, Ohio. He was educated at Wooster College, Ohio (B.A., 1877), the University of Leipzig (1882-84), and Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D., 1877). He was one of the first American psychologists to connect psychology with psychic phenomena. He joined the philosophy department at Columbia University as a professor in ethics and logic, during which time he became deeply involved with psychical research.

As early as 1888, in a skeptical frame of mind, he was brought for the first time into contact with the supernormal through the mediumship of Leonora Piper. Messages from his father and relatives poured through. Out of 205 incidents mentioned as of his sixteenth sitting, he was able to verify 152.

The personalities of the communicators were so impressive that after 12 sittings he publicly declared,

"I have been talking with my father, my brother, my uncles. Whatever supernormal powers we may be pleased to attibute to Mrs. Piper's secondary personalities, it would be difficult to make me believe that these secondary personalities could have thus completely reconstituted the mental personality of my dead relatives. To admit this would involve me in too many improbabilities. I prefer to believe that I have been talking to my dead relatives in person; it is simpler."

Early in the new century ill health forced him to retire from his teaching post. He used the occasion to found the American Institute for Scientific Research to stir interest and raise funds for psychical research. However, in 1905 Richard Hodgson, the research officer and real force in the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), died. The following year the ASPR was dissolved. Hyslop quickly revived it as a section of his institute. It soon absorbed and replaced the institute altogether.

Hyslop dominated, somewhat autocratically, the ASPR for the rest of his life. He assumed Hodgson's role as chief investigator of Piper's continuing mediumship. He issued the first Journal in January 1907. He recruited both Hereward Carrington and Walter F. Prince to assist in the work.

Hyslop became a significant propagandist of human survival of death. In his Life After Death (1918), for example, he forcefully states,

"I regard the existence of discarnate spirits as scientifically proved and I no longer refer to the skeptic as having any right to speak on the subject. Any man who does not accept the existence of discarnate spirits and the proof of it is either ignorant or a moral coward. I give him short shrift, and do not propose any longer to argue with him on the supposition that he knows anything about the subject."

Hyslop also contributed many ingenious theories to psychical literature. He made a deep study of multiple personality and of obsession, and came to the conclusion that in many cases it could be attributed to spirit possession. In his will he left money to found an institute for the treatment of obsession through the instrumentality of mediums. He died June 17, 1920, in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. The evidence of his own spirit return is discussed by his longtime secretary, Gertrude O. Tubby, in her book James Hyslop X.His Book (1929).


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Hyslop, George H. "James H. Hyslop: His Contribution to Psychical Research." Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (October 1950).

Hyslop, James H. Borderland of Psychical Research. London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.

. Contact with the Other World. New York: Century, 1919.

. Enigmas of Psychical Research. Boston: H. B. Turner, 1906.

. Life After Death: Problems of the Future Life and Its Nature. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1918.

. Psychical Research and Survival. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913.

. Psychical Research and the Resurrection. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1908.

. Science and a Future Life. London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.

Knopf, A. Adolphus. A Reminiscence of and a Promise to Professor James Hervey Hyslop. New York: The Author, 1921.

Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology. New York: Helix Press, 1964.

Tubby, Gertrude. James Hysop XHis Book. York, Pa.: York Printing, 1929.