The History of Ghost Hunting – a timeline of the 1900’s

Harry Price ghost hunting kit

Harry Price’s ghost hunting kit


The History of Ghost Hunting – a timeline of the 1900’s
By: Michelle McKay (founder of
October 4, 2014

I also did a timeline of ghost hunting in the 1800’s (and the Spiritualist Movement), which is located here. The Spiritualist Movement, which was a paranormal craze, is generally agreed to have begun in the 1840’s and began winding down in the 1920’s.

This is going to be an ongoing work-in-progress. Thus, I will update this page as I come across new information.

In my opinion, the two most notable paranormal investigators of the 1900’s was Hans Holzer (early 1960’s) and Harry Price (early 1920’s).

As for Harry Price, that cool dude with the library and lab that I could only dream of, he was the first to use modern equipment at a ghost investigation. And in 1938-1939 he drafted a Bill for the regulation of psychic practitioners. The photo above is of Harry Price’s ghost hunting kit.


Ghost Hunting in the 1900’s:

Queen Victoria dies on January 22, 1901, hence the Victorian era starts to wind down (the Victorian era is generally agreed to have begun in 1837). The Edwardian era begins.

Elliott O’Donnell, a fictional writer, releases his first non-fictional book on the paranormal titled “Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales” in 1908. Some say that O’Donnell was the first ghost hunter. This certainly is not true (see my article on ghost hunting in the 1800’s). It would, however, be correct to say that O’Donnell was possibly the first celebrity ghost hunter. However, some argue that Harry Price deserves that honour instead, and I, personally, would agree with them. For the name “Harry Price” is far more known than the name “Elliott O’Donnell”, in my opinion, at least in today’s society. I would have to conduct a search through newspaper archives of the day to see for certain who was more popular during their time. I will hazard a guess that Price would come out the winner. Nonetheless, for more information on Harry Price, check out my article on him here. Furthermore, some attribute O’Donnell as the one who coined the term “ghost hunter” citing his 1916 book titled “Twenty Years Experience as a Ghost Hunter” as the evidence. However, this is incorrect. A gentleman by the name of H. Addington Bruce (see below) used this term in the title of his book published in 1908, eight years earlier. Some of O’Donnell’s books can be read online here.

H. Addington Bruce released his first book on the paranormal in 1908 titled “Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters”. Some of Bruce’s books can be read online here.

On April 15, 1912 the Titanic collided with an iceberg. It’s demise was predicted, albeit unknowingly (see 1891 and 1898).

The Edwardian era ends. The First World War (aka. the Great War) begins on July 28, 1914.

On Nov 11, 1918, the First World War ends. The “Interwarperiod begins.

The Spiritualist Movement begins to wind downHarry Price becomes a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Harry Price is 39 years old this year.

The book “Spiritualism: A Popular History From 1847” by Joseph McCabe (a skeptic) was published in 1920 — I have one of the original copies of this book, very interesting read.

In the early 1920’s, magician Harry Houdini began exposing fake psychics.

The infamous Mitchel-Hedges “Crystal Skull” was discovered in the 1920’s in Belize. For more information click here and here.

Harry Price officially begins his paranormal investigations. Harry Price debunks the spirit photographer William Hope. Harry Price’s publication titled “Revelations of a Spirit Medium” was released this year. Harry Price becomes a member of the Magic Circle.

Harry Price is appointed Foreign Research Officer of the American Society for Psychical Research.

Harry Price founded The National Laboratory of Psychical Research. 

Admiral Byrd‘s infamous flight to hollow earth was May 9, 1926.

Harry investigated the Joanna Southcott box “in a blaze of publicity”. Harry Price joins the Ghost Club, and remains there until it temporarily shuts down in 1936.

Harry Price visits the Borley Rectory for the first time.

Harry Price becomes Vice-President of the Magician’s Club. Harry Price begins investigating Helen Duncan (psychic medium, declared guilty by British Witchcraft Act). The American Society for Psychical Research ends Harry Price’s appointment of Foreign Research Officer.

Harry Price conducted the Brocken Experiment in the Harz Mountains, this is the case that made him internationally renowned. Harry Price is 51 years old this year.

The University of London Council for Psychical Investigation replaced The National Laboratory of Psychical Research. 

Harry Price investigated the infamous “Talking Mongoose” (a type of weasel) on the Isle of Man (U.K) with Richard S. Lambert (a biographer and broadcaster) this year. Also this year Harry Price produces a talking film called Psychical Research for Movietone News Theatre.

Harry Price had two books published this year, one titled “Confessions of a Ghost Hunter”, and the other was titled “The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap”. On March 10, 1936, Harry Price broadcasted live on BBC Radio from a reportedly haunted manor house near Meopham, Kent. The program was the first broadcast ever to be made from a haunted house. The purpose of the broadcast was “to give listeners a perfect picture of the technique employed in investigating an alleged haunted house”, wrote Harry Price in his book titled “Fifty Years of Psychical Research”. In 1936, Harry Price’s library was transferred to the University of London, followed shortly by his laboratory and investigative equipment.

Harry Price rented the infamous Borley Rectory for one year to conduct investigations. This was also the year that Harry Price says he saw the spirit of a child named Rosalie during a séance at a house in London, England.

The Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast aired October 30, 1938. This is also the year that Harry Price re-established the Ghost Club, making himself Chairman. And Harry also drafted a Bill for the regulation of psychic practitioners this year.

The “Interwar” period ends. The Second World War begins on September 1, 1939. On Feb 27, 1939 the Borley Rectory is destroyed by fire. Also this year Harry Price produced a Draft Bill for the regulation of psychic practitioners. Harry is 58 years old this year.

Harry Price excavates the ruins of the Borley Rectory cellars and discovers human remains, which he takes to Coopers Studio in London, England to be photographed.

Harry Price testified and gave evidence at the Helen Duncan (psychic medium) trial. During this trial, Helen was the last person to be convicted under the British Witchcraft Act 1735. She was found guilty and served nine months in prison. The ruins of Borley Rectory is demolished.

Canadian ghost-hunter, Dr. Thomas L. Garrett, was written about in the March 5, 1944 issue of “The Milwaukee Sentinel” newspaper in regards to his investigations into a poltergeist in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Second World War ends on May 8, 1945.

Kenneth Arnold sees “flying saucers” on June 24, 1947 near Mount Rainier, Washington.

Harry Priced died on March 29, 1948, at the age of 67 years old.

Parapsychologist, the great Hans Holzer publishes his first book titled “Ghost Hunter”, he ends up writing more then 140 books on the paranormal throughout his career. He also appeared on numerous television programs, radio shows, newspaper articles, and magazines. He also starred in a TV series titled “Ghost Hunter” which aired on Channel 2 in Boston (air date not known, will find out then add it to this page), thus making him the original Ghost Hunter (before the current hit series “Ghost Hunters” ever aired). Holzer’s research into the paranormal was exhaustive and massive — to say the least. The contribution he has made to ghost research, and the paranormal as a whole, has been ENORMOUS. To put even just ten percent of his accomplishments and work onto this timeline would require many pages, therefore I will simply just put a Google link of his work here.

Elliott O’Donnell died on May 8, 1965 (see the year “1908” located above for more about him).

Hans Holzer investigates the infamous house at 112 Ocean Avenue (Amityville) with Ethel Johnson Meyers (spiritual medium) in January 1977.


Copyright © 2014 Michelle McKay. All Rights Reserved.