The Anomalist


The Odyssey of a Psychical Investigator: 
Seeking D. Scott Rogo*

By Patrick Huyghe

It was that year: 1984. But it wasn’t anything like George Orwell said it would be. Life was not grim. It was downright zany. A movie that came out that summer called Ghostbusters was certainly proof of that.

I was a science journalist at the time, churning out one article after another for Science Digest, which was not at all digest-sized but large and glossy, nor all science, which made it a perfect home for me. The editor let me pursue just about anything. Killer amoeba? Okay. Black holes at the center of the galaxy? Okay.

The annual conference of the Parapsychological Association, which was taking place in Dallas at Southern Methodist University that August? Okay. But I wouldn’t be covering the conference; it was more of a fishing expedition.

So it was that I came to Dallas, mixed with a bunch of parapsychologists and would-be parapsychologists, caught a fish I wanted to pursue—computer assisted psi testing
and met an amazing person by the name of D. Scott Rogo.

Rogo was just a couple of years older than me but he had already written more than a dozen books and co-authored several others on such topics as reincarnation, ghosts, ESP, psychokinesis, poltergeists, and, yes, even UFOs, which at the time was my passion. I had not yet published my first book. He also wrote regularly for Psychic and Fate, as well as other magazines. He seemed to be everywhere, doing everything.

In fact, Rogo somehow managed to be two people at once. Not only was he a prolific author/journalist, but he was also a recognized and respected researcher in the field of parapsychology. His peer reviewed articles on such topics as the ganzfield appeared in Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and the European Journal of Parapsychology, as well as Parapsychology Review. He even served as a visiting researcher at the Psychical Research Foundation, which was then in Durham, North Carolina, and at the Division of Parapsychology and Psychophysics of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

I hesitate to make too much of my brief encounter with Scott Rogo, especially in the light of the recent drubbing James Frey took for his A Million Little Pieces. It happened more than two decades ago and my memory is not great to begin with. I did introduce myself and we spoke briefly, but mostly I remember being very impressed by how much he participated in, and contributed to, the question and answer periods that followed the presentations. He often seemed to know more than anyone else in the room. As George Hansen noted in his tribute to Scott Rogo, which was published in The Anthropology of Consciousness: “Scott was also a leading authority on the history of psychical research. In this I would estimate that there are only three or four people in the world who might be considered to be in his league. The breadth of his historical knowledge of the field was unsurpassed.”

The conference was over quickly and the only other episode I remember clearly is a taxi ride to dinner one night. I don’t remember if Scott was in the cab with us, I’m only certain my friend Barbara Flick was one of those jammed into the back seat, but we were riding along with the Ghostbusters theme blaring on the radio, appropriately enough, when the cab driver turned around briefly and asked, “Hey, what do you people do?” And we all broke out laughing and said: “We’re ghostbusters!”

Shortly afterward I made plans to visit Chuck Honorton’s Psychophysical Research Laboratories (PRL) in Princeton, New Jersey, for an article I planned to write for Science Digest on the work the lab was doing on computer-based games that could test people for their psi abilities. I had picked out Honorton as one of the most impressive and brilliant parapsychologists at the Dallas conference. At his lab I ended up meeting a few people whom I have counted as friends ever since, one being the crusty George Hansen, another the charming Rick Berger. But the article I wrote on PsiLab, as their computer program was called, would never be published by Science Digest, and my brief attempt to follow Scott Rogo’s path in journalism came to an end. It was back to more orthodox science stories for me.

Six years later, in August of 1990, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news that Scott Rogo had been murdered at his home outside Los Angeles. It happened on the first day of that year’s meeting of the Parapsychological Association in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Barbara Flick tells me that, before getting the awful news, everyone was wondering why Scott Rogo hadn’t shown up at the meeting. Just 40 years old, Scott was found stabbed to death after a neighbor, who became suspicious because Scott’s sprinkler system had been running for two days and decided to call the police. The newspapers quoted his mother, Winifred Rogo, who explained that her son had become interested in psychic phenomena after having had what he believed was an “out of the body” experience. (Coincidentally, my own out of the body experiences had also stimulated my interest in psychic matters.)

While Winifred initially assumed that her son had been murdered by a prowler, by someone off the street, the truth was that he had been murdered by a friend named John Battista. On January 13, 1992, Battista was convicted of second-degree murder; he is currently serving a fifteen-year-to-life sentence.

Fast forward a decade later. After publishing a half dozen books of my own, I had given up on magazine journalism and was now a book editor. Almost all of Scott Rogo’s books were now out-of-print, and I wondered if I could locate his estate and see if they would let us reprint some of his works. I asked around, spoke to many parapsychologists, but no one had any idea who to contact, where to begin my search. I kept asking over the years but without luck – until the summer of 2005.

I happened to be emailing Jerome Clark about a couple of books he had written with Loren Coleman (now republished as a double volume called The Unidentified & Creatures of the Other Edge) when I asked Jerry, since he had co-written a book with Scott, if he happened to know who was presently in control of Scott’s estate. Jerry recalled that the last contact he had had with Scott's family was that morning in August 1990 when his mother called with the terrible news about Scott. Jerry remembered the name of Scott’s father, his profession, and where he worked.

I immediately got in touch with Jack Rogo, who I found to be still hard at work at the age of 84! Jack thought it was a wonderful idea to reprint Scott’s works, and we quickly decided on more than a handful of titles to reprint first. And so it was that at the end of 2005 Anomalist Books issued seven works by D. Scott Rogo.

Our first reprint was Scott’s startling original first book, which the publisher had titled NAD: A Study of Some Unusual “Other World” Experiences. The problem with that title is that you need to know what NAD is to know what the book is about. NAD is actually a Sanskrit term signifying transcendental, astral, psychic, or paranormal music, music that’s heard from no apparent source. But this first volume was essentially a “casebook” of paranormal music experiences, a word Scott would later use to describe this first volume of a two-volume set. So we retitled that book A Casebook of Otherworldly Music: Vol. 1 of Paranormal Music Experiences. For the second volume in the series, which Scott indicated was more of a “study” of these paranormal musical experience, we kept the original title and added our own subtitle: A Psychic Study of the Music of the Spheres: Vol. 2 of Paranormal Music Experiences. As far as I am aware, there are no other books devoted to this fascinating subject.

Two of Scott’s books we reprinted are heavily autobiographical. The earlier volume, In Search of the Unknown, is subtitled “The Odyssey of a Psychical Investigator” and it traces Scott journey, beginning in 1967, when he made the decision to study psychic phenomena as a full time occupation. In this volume he detailed his search for psychics, his experiments with Blue Harary, his investigation of haunted houses, his evenings at sťances, and his encounters with the fads, frauds and fallacies of the psychic world. The second autobiographical volume, published a decade later, covers Scott’s search to witness and document poltergeist phenomena, and is appropriately called On the Track of the Poltergeist. (This book is a more complete statement of his views on the subject than an earlier volume called The Poltergeist Experience that he wrote on the subject. Did I say he was enormously prolific?) Scott didn’t completely buy in to the widely accepted theory that these ”noisy ghosts” were caused by the repressed hostility of one of the individuals involved. He came to believe that different poltergeist cases emerged from different psychological roots.

How-to-be-psychic manuals are quite popular these days. Stacey Wolf wrote one called Psychic Living and Ingo Swann wrote Everybody’s Guide to Natural ESP. Both Wolf and Swann are psychics. Scott never claimed to be psychic (though he felt that what he called the “Library Angel” certainly helped in him in his research and writing). What Rogo brings to the table in his own step-by-step guide to self-testing and psychic training called Our Psychic Potentials is his deep knowledge of the history of the subject. So unlike most such psychic handbooks, Rogo’s volume is backed up by voluminous research. Readers have called his approach “open minded,” “frank,” and “refreshing.”

By far the biggest book we reprinted is Scott Rogo’s Miracles: A Parascientific Inquiry into Wondrous Phenomena. This 330-page, fully indexed, well-illustrated volume is Scott’s attempt to present the scientific, rather than religious, case for the miraculous. “To discover how miracles occur, when they occur, and why they occur, are empirical questions,” wrote Rogo, that science should be able to answer. After examining the stories of a glowing cross in the window of a church in Florida, a bleeding statue of Christ in Philadelphia, a young boy cured of his blindness at Loudres, the stigmata of Padre Pio, the shroud of Turin, and much more, Scott comes to a naturalistic view of the miraculous. Not only do most religious miracles have purely secular analogues in the world of psychic phenomena, but the talent to perform a miracle, he believed, may be a natural human potential, not just the province of saints and mystics.

The seventh book in our new Rogo catalog is The Search for Yesterday: A Critical Examination of the Evidence for Reincarnation, a volume of particular interest given the manner of Scott’s own worldly exit. The word “critical” in the subtitle might put off some potential readers, thinking this might be a debunking of reincarnation. But taking a good hard look at a subject, separating the wheat from the chaff, leaves you, when all is said and done, with the best evidence for a phenomenon. And that’s what Scott has done in spades in this book, which has even drawn praise by the always critical George Hansen: “The Search for Yesterday is probably the single best book critiquing the research on reincarnation.”

And what, you wonder, does Rogo conclude about reincarnation? “I believe that the human personality survives death, but this is not the same as positing the existence of an immortal soul,” he wrote. You’ll have to read the book to understand why he makes this distinction.

I am proud to have had the opportunity to bring these books back in circulation and at the end of December I sent copies of Scott’s newly republished books to Jack and Winifred Rogo. Jack thought they looked wonderful and was very pleased.

Then, just two weeks later, Jack’s wife, Scott’s mother, passed away.

Did she need to tell him that his books had been reprinted?

Did he already know?

Is there a D. Scott Rogo somewhere?

Yes, there is. At the very least, he is in every one of these books.

*This article was originally published by Phenomena Magazine in 2006. Since it first appeared, Anomalist Books has published an eighth volume in the D. Scott Rogo reprint series: The Haunted Universe. Annalisa Ventola, who writes the blog, Public Parapsychology, has reviewed many of these books for the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Excerpts from her reviews have appeared at the Anomalist Books blog.