The American Society for Psychical Research is but a shadow of its former self. So says Guy Lyon Playfair in a recent overview of the ASPR's history published in the Fortean Times (not available online as far as I know).
The Society, founded in 1885 as a companion organization to England's previously established Society for Psychical Research, has had a storied history marked by the contributions of many leading figures in the field, including William James, James Hyslop, Walter Franklin Pierce, Gardner Murphy, and Karlis Osis. In 1972 membership peaked at 2,554.
These days, Playfair argues, it's all gone downhill.
With the retirement of Osis in 1983, in-house activity slowed down and soon ground to a near-halt, or so it appears. For the past 20 years or so, information on the Society’s current activities has been hard to come by. My own request for it was not answered or acknowledged. There have been no Journal or Proceedings since 2004, although the ASPR website remains, inviting those with personal experiences to report to send them to William Roll (although he died in January 2012). Veteran parapsychologist George Hansen estimated in 2007 after a trawl through the society’s tax returns, that membership had fallen from 591 in 1988 to just 23 in 2005. He also noted that its current executive director still enjoys a six-figure salary. His tersely understated conclusion: “It is unclear what services the ASPR actually provides.”
Author Stacy Horn is quoted as saying that her repeated requests to access the ASPR’s archive were rebuffed. “For a year and a half they put me off and I finally accepted that they just didn’t want me to see anything. They wouldn’t even tell me what they had. I’ve since learned that I am just one in a long line of people who had similar experiences with the ASPR.”
It's too bad. With the growth of paranormal websites and TV shows, there's a real opportunity for a revival of the ASPR. Sadly, Playfair's account makes that rosy scenario seem unlikely.