14 August 2010

Slandered by academics (part 1)

It is probable that widespread slanders had been spread about me and my incipient research institute from the time I was thrown out in 1957, but one seldom had direct evidence.

However, it happened that one of our Consultants, Graham Weddell, a physiology lecturer at Oxford, rang me a year or more after Charles McCreery had graduated in 1964, at which time he (Charles) had called a halt to communication with his family so as to recover from the run-down state he had got into as a result of his mother’s constant pestering.

Dr Weddell sometimes seemed a somewhat tactless person, who revealed inside information, perhaps to gain the confidence of the person to whom he was talking. On this occasion, he said, ‘They are making an awful lot of fuss about your research assistant.’

I was nonplussed and thought of various part-time workers we had employed whom I had not known very well, and wondered what any of them might have done.

‘Can’t I at least know who it is you are talking about?’

Weddell seemed to hesitate. ‘Well, he has a very important father and his father is beside himself about his drug-taking.’

‘You mean Charles McCreery, son of General McCreery?’ I said, surprised. ‘There is no question of his having ever taken drugs.’

After a bit more reiteration of this, Weddell seemed to accept it and said that it must have arisen from the association of ideas between parapsychology and drug-taking.

I had reservations about this, because when some really damaging slander or piece of hostility against us was revealed, and we gave our side of it, people always found it easy to brush it aside with, ‘Oh, it’s just the subject’ (‘the subject’ being parapsychology). Actually I thought that was a rationalisation, and the reasons for the hostility were more profound. But I went along with the idea on this occasion, partly to show that we did not regard ourselves as part of some ‘parapsychological’ population.

‘I suppose it has not helped that Steve Abrams* has been in the papers recently,’ I said. ‘He has been going to the Home Office to tell them that marijuana ought to be legalised since he claims it is an aid to creativity for writers.’

I asked who had been saying these things about Charles, and Weddell gave me the names of three people whom Charles subsequently proceeded to tax with it by phone: Oliver Van Oss (headmaster of Charterhouse), John Butterworth (Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University) and Sir Folliott Sandford (Registrar of Oxford University).

* an American parapsychologist with a research organisation in Oxford

More about this episode can be read here.