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William G. Roll 1926-2012

Loyd Auerbach has forwarded on the sad news that pioneering researcher into the paranormal, William G. Roll, has passed away at 85:

Just received very sad news that Bill Roll, a luminary in the field of Parapsychology, the man who truly fleshed out the human agent model for poltergeists, and one of our greatest field investigators passed away this morning.

Roll moved from Denmark to the United States in 1946, aged 20, and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in psychology and philosophy. Following this he spent a number of years at Oxford University doing parapsychology research, where he received his M. Litt. degree for a thesis entitled “Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research”. In 1957, Roll joined the staff of J.B. Rhine’s Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, where he spent seven years conducting psi experiments and investigating cases of haunting and RSPK/poltergeist activity, which he is perhaps most well-known for. In 1989, Roll received his Ph.D. from Lund University, Sweden, for a thesis entitled “This World or That: An Examination of Parapsychological Findings Suggestive of the Survival of Human Personality After Death.”

During his career Roll wrote more than 100 scientific papers, authored four books, was President of the Parapsychological Association, and in 2002 was awarded the Dinsdale Memorial Award by the Society for Scientific Investigation.

Roll remained active in paranormal research right up till his passing – in fact, on the date of his passing the journal Neurocase posted the abstract for a new article that he was lead author on, “Case report: A prototypical experience of ‘poltergeist’ activity, conspicuous quantitative electroencephalographic patterns, and sLORETA profiles – suggestions for intervention“:

People who report objects moving in their presence, unusual sounds, glows around other people, and multiple sensed presences but do not meet the criteria for psychiatric disorders have been shown to exhibit electrical anomalies over the right temporal lobes. This article reports the striking quantitative electroencephalography, sLORETA results, and experimental elicitation of similar subjective experiences in a middle-aged woman who has been distressed by these classic phenomena that began after a head injury. She exhibited a chronic electrical anomaly over the right temporoinsular region. The rotation of a small pinwheel near her while she ‘concentrated’ upon it was associated with increased coherence between the left and right temporal lobes and concurrent activation of the left prefrontal region. The occurrence of the unusual phenomena and marked ‘sadness’ was associated with increased geomagnetic activity; she reported a similar mood when these variations were simulated experimentally. Our quantitative measurements suggest people displaying these experiences and possible anomalous energies can be viewed clinically and potentially treated.

Vale Willam Roll…may you be discovering the truth of it all as we speak.

  1. What a shame that “A Haunting

    What a shame that “A Haunting Georgia” is no longer available to watch on Youtube though it was replayed this morning on the Bio Channel perhaps in tribute to Roll. The trailer is all that is viewable now whereas just two months ago I was able to link to the full episode on this forum. In “A Haunting In Georgia” Dr. Roll is interviewed about the famous haunting case which he personally investigated on site and in detail. I found his reaction to the case puzzling. For one thing, the entities with which the little girl had been communicating daily turned out upon research to be people who had died nearby in the 1950’s. She even got their names right and was able to identify them cold in some old photos. The case clearly rebutted Roll’s idea that these phenomenon were “electromagnetic hallucinations” because the entities were obviously engaging the girl in real time and acting intelligently – they were not just some residual memory implanted in local matter and playing back blindly in a loop, and also the entities were seen by multiple simultaneous witnesses who were not likely to all be suffering from the same EMF induce hallucination simultaneously In fact, I think Roll was pretty shaken up by the case. He kept vaguely trying to drag in his EMF theory, but it felt like a face saving gesture, and he mostly sounded confused. He kept saying that in effect “this was explainable by science” but his science was not in fact accounting for it.
    There is plenty of merit to Roll’s idea that stray EMF’s cause brain hallucinations, and such dirty fields are the first thing many ghost hunting groups look for, but Roll’s response to the Georgia event epitomizes to me how scientists will waffle and obfuscate when their pet theories are inadequate, incomplete, or confounded.

    Here is the Wiki synopsis of the episode:

    The story gets rerun quite a bit on The Bio Channel and The Discovery Channel, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in this stuff. This was an amazing paranormal event. All of the stories in the series “A Haunting” are excellent renenactments with copious interviews of the actual people caught up in the drama.

    1. Tonight, Friday the 13th, the
      Tonight, Friday the 13th, the show “A Haunting In Georgia” will be played twice on the channel Planet Green. Dr. Roll can be seen in action in this episode. It is one of the top 5 episodes of the series “A Haunting.” Friday night is paranormal night for Planet Green, so there will be other good shows running as well. They start at about 3:00 in the afternoon and go straight through midnight. Three other good episodes of “A Haunting” will be shown too.

      1. More Rolliana
        “Roll arrived on March 11 and the next day things toppled and were thrown about. Tina told Roll that the phenomenon started after the appearance of a friend, Tina Scott, who had died in a car accident. Scott came when Tina was upset, and they talked issues through.

        In continuing incidents, Joan was pinned between a kitchen chair and the refrigerator. One chair attacked Tina, and another chair twice rose up and threw her to the floor. A piece of firewood sped between her legs. During one hour Roll recorded over 15 objects moving.”

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