Roll, William George, Jr. (1926-)

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Roll, William George, Jr. (1926-)

Roll, a prominent parapsychologist, was born on July 3, 1926, in Bremen, Germany. He grew up in Denmark and studied at the University of California, Berkeley (B.A., 1949) and with Henry Habberley Price at Oxford University, England (B.Litt, 1960; M.Litt., 1961). While in England, he was president of the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research (1952-57). His Oxford researches covered the effects of hypnosis and the correlation of ESP with personality traits. With the help of the Parapsychology Foundation he was able to establish a laboratory and reading room for psi experiments at the university.

In 1957 he became Louis K. Anspacher Visiting Research Fellow at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and stayed on as a research associate at the Parapsychology Laboratory (1958-60). While at Duke he directed a research project on incorporeal personal agency concerned with survival (1960) and was a member of the editorial staff of the Journal of Parapsychology (1958-60). In 1958 he first investigated a poltergeist and launched himself upon the area of research with which he has become most identified.

While at Duke he also became a member of the founding council of the Parapsychology Association (1957) and was later the association's treasurer (1958), secretary (1959-60), vice president (1963), and president.

In 1960 Charles Eugene Ozanne chose Roll to become the new project director of the Psychical Research Foundation. In 1986 the foundation moved from Durham, North Carolina, to the campus of West Georgia College, Carrollton, Georgia.

Beginning in 1963 Roll edited Theta, a quarterly journal for research on the problem of survival after bodily death; this publication ceased in 1991. He also authored more than 100 scholarly papers on parapsychological topics, edited eleven volumes of research in parapsychology for the Parapsychology Association, and authored thirteen books.


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

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

Roll, William G. "ESP and Memory." In Philosophical Dimensions of Parapsychology, edited by J. M. O. Wheatley and H. L. Edge. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1976.

. The Poltergeist. New York: New American Library, 1972. Reprint: Methuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

. Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research. n.p.: Arno Press, 1975.