EX-MINISTER OF the Episcopal Church, research officer of the ASPR from 1920-24, founder and research officer of the Boston
SPR, President of the SPR, 1931-32, an able and extremely sceptical investigator. His cure in the multiple personality case of Doris Fischer was brilliant, his studies of the case of Patience Worth and of the Antigonish ghost especially instructive.
Dr Prince was first drawn to psychical research when, as Rector of All Saints, Pittsburgh, already interested in psychotherapy, he came across 'Doris Fischer', a girl who after much ill-treatment by a drunken father had developed a number of different, sometimes conflicting, personalities (on occasion they left notes for one another!). Dr Prince and his wife adopted her as a daughter in 1908, and by 1914 reintegration was on the way.
His investigations were published by James Hyslop, then Secretary of the American SPR, in its
Journal and Proceedings in 1915 and 1916, and he contributed a paper on the case to the
American Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1916.
In that year, he became Hyslop's assistant, and did much research work; remarkable for its 'thoroughness and attention to detail'. After a temporary change of policy at the ASPR he became Research Officer at its Boston counterpart, whose journal he edited. In 1927, during a visit to Europe, he investigated
Attracted by laboratory work, and results that could be interpreted statistically, he found a kindred spirit in the young
Joseph Banks Rhine
who later wrote of him as 'my principal teacher in psychical research'. His
SPR Presidential Address however, after distinguishing between 'the will to believe' and 'the will to prove', stressed the psychical researcher's continual need for detachment and the danger of getting stuck in a
'working hypothesis' and maintained the importance of field work and historical and legal investigation as well as that of scientific procedures.
Among his books were The Psychic in the House (Boston 1926), The Case of Patience
Worth (Boston 1927), The Enchanted Boundary (Boston
1930), Noted Witnesses for Psychic
Occurrences and (in collaboration with Mrs. Allison) Leonard and Soule
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).
Articles by Walter Franklin Prince on this website:
The Doris Case of Multiple Personality
Noted Witnesses to Psychic Occurrences: Men of Science