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Hodgson, Richard

(1855-1905). Lawyer and psychic researcher. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, and received his first education at public schools there, afterwards graduating from Melbourne University with degrees of M.A. and LL.D. Shortly after his graduation he entered Cambridge University in England from which he graduated in what was then quaintly termed “mental and moral sciences.”

Hodgson originally intended to devote himself to the practice of law, but during his period at Cambridge he came into contact with Professor Henry Sidgwick who was then President of the Society for Psychic Research (SPR) in England and he developed an interest in psychic research which was to continue until his early death.

Hodgson had considerable contribution to psychic research during the late nineteenth century and, more particularly, due to his severely critical report on Helena P. BLAVATSKY’s ability to produce psychic phenomena, a report that was the cause of very widespread controversy.

The critical nature of this Report, which incidentally never had the status of an official document of the SPR, was partly due to the fact that Hodgson was an arch skeptic of mediums and their purported phenomena. In fact he, along with Frank Podmore, had exposed a number of mediums as frauds. It should be noted, however, that when Hodgson was sent to America in 1888 by the SPR (at the invitation of the American Society for the Psychical Research) to investigate — and in his view to “expose” — the medium Leonora Piper, his attitude underwent a complete reversal, since he could find no indication whatever that Piper’s phenomena were fraudulently produced. In fact, he subsequently altered his life to accord with Spiritualist teachings. He died suddenly in 1905 of a heart attack while playing handball.

In April 1986, Dr. Vernon Harrison, a longtime member of the SPR (and not a member of the Theosophical Society) published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 53, number 803) a critique of the Hodgson Report in which he concluded that Hodgson’s investigation ignored evidence in favor of Blavatsky and therefore Hodgson was to be “found wanting” as an investigator, adding that the SPR owed an apology to HPB, even if “it has taken us one hundred years to demonstrate” she was not a fraud.

P.S.H./R.W.B.

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