The Danish Society for Psychical Research was founded on November 25 1905 and thus it is the third oldest society of its kind in the world. Its purpose is to examine without prejudice or prepossession and in a scientific spirit apparently inexplicable phenomena such as extra-sensory perception or ESP. ESP is a blanket term for paranormal phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition. Psychical research or parapsychology - as it now mostly is called - also examines if the human mind can influence matter, i.e. psychokinesis (PK). Other research areas are healing, near-death experiences, trance and altered states of consciousness (e.g. meditation, hypnosis, automatic writings etc.) and a wide range of phenomena, which are outside the scopes of ordinary psychology.

The then director of the Zoo in Copenhagen Julius Schiøtt became the first president of the society and the founder of the first psychological laboratory in Denmark, Dr. Alfred Lehmann (1858-1921) became vice-president. About a decade earlier Lehmann had published “Aberglaube und Zauberie” (Superstition and Sorcery), a book which made him famous around the world. The two volumes book was a critical scientific evaluation of the spiritualistic phenomena. In the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century psychical researchers mainly examined phenomena such as materializations, table levitations and automatic writings. Today parapsychologists do not work any more in the darkness of the séance room, but in modern laboratories. Even though Lehmann was very sceptical of paranormal phenomena he ended up with accepting the evidence for telepathy in the second edition of his book. It was published in 1920 shortly before his death. He even compared telepathy with wireless telegraphy.
During its more than 100 years lifetime the society has had a rather turbulent life. It was a great achievement when it succeed in organizing the first international congress for psychical research in Copenhagen in 1921. The congress (which was held at the New Carlsberg Glyptotek) was attended by scientists from all parts of the world.

In 1945 the Psychological Laboratory at Copenhagen University carried out some experiments with the famous Danish medium Anna Melloni. A group of psychologists together with the president of the society Dr. Aage Marner participated in these experiments. The experiments did not prove that Mrs. Melloni used paranormal powers to get two pendulums to swing. Actually the experiments showed that the movements of the pendulums were caused by the medium’s knee pushing the table where the showcase with the pendulums was placed.

The height of the society came during the 1970th when the number of members rose from 100 up to about 1.000. That made it possible to invite some of the most well-known parapsychologists to Denmark, e.g. professor Martin Johnson, Vilhelm Schjelderup, Helmut Schmidt, Hans Bender, W. G. Roll, Montague Ullman, Stanley Krippner, Milan Ryzl, R. D. Laing and others. In 1976 the Parapsychology Foundation held its annual international conference in Copenhagen. The society established a foundation for research purpose. The library also flourished during this period. It expanded and became the second largest of its kind in Europe.

Unfortunately, the board in 1987 was divided due to a disagreement concerning the society’s official profile. The question was essentially if the society should continue to have a scientific approach to parapsychology or whether it should join the so-called New Age movement and organize more “popular” lectures and activities. Unfortunately, the conflict was won by the New Age group. As a consequence of this development both the then president and vice-president resigned from their posts.

The following twelve years became in almost every way a long walk in the desert for the society. It plunged itself into more and more occult activities, e.g. crystal healing, power line fields, iris diagnosis, numerology etc. Stage clairvoyance became a frequent event and it was never followed by a serious discussion. Contrary to what the board had expected this new approach led to a dramatic decline in membership subscription. This meant that the library came in immediate danger because there were no means to pay for the rent of the offices. The critical situation even led to that the board for more than three years could not agree on electing a new president of the society.

However, in 1999 a completely new board was elected and it immediately began the long and hard work to restore the society’s scientific profile and its confidence. The library which nearly was lost now became secured. Psychologist Gert Rønsby became president of the born again society. The new board’s main objective became to carry on the legacy of the original society.

In Denmark there are today several occult or parapsychological societies which deal with so-called supernatural phenomena, but the Society for Psychical Research is the only organization whose purpose is to examine such phenomena on a scientific basis. By holding lectures on parapsychology and related topics the society aims at giving the members objective information about the newest achievements in parapsychological research and the philosophical background.