Hans Bender (1907–1991) was a distinguished German psychologist and parapsychologist, director of the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene (Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Health) and editor of the journal Zietschrift für Psychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene.
Hans Bender was born February 5, 1907, in Freiburg im Breisgau. His interest in the paranormal was triggered at the age of 17, when he was invited to participate in an Ouija board session with a Spiritualist family in London. The evidently intelligent quality of the messages impressed him, but he was skeptical about their alleged provenance—they seemed more like products of the sitters’ subconscious than communications from beyond the grave.
Bender studied at the College of France, in Paris, where he took courses from the renowned hypnotherapist Pierre Janet. Meanwhile, he began to experiment with Automatic Writing, which confirmed his hunch that these productions owed more to the subconscious than to discarnate entities, but also led him to the conclusion that ESP was sometimes involved. This work resulted in his Ph.D. dissertation, which linked the subconscious to ESP, the first study in the German academic world to have received positive results from ESP experiments. Bender was awarded his Ph.D. in 1933, one year before the publication of J.B. Rhine’s seminal monograph Extra-Sensory Perception.
Bender decided to try to integrate parapsychological studies into the academic framework to which end he took up the study of medicine. He received his M.D. degree from the University of Strasbourg in 1940. Following World War II, he began to teach at the University of Freiburg but then went into business for four years in order to raise money to build an institute devoted to the study of paranormal psychology. In 1950, he founded the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, in Freiburg, and began to edit and publish the Zeitschrift.
After the establishment of his institute, Bender returned to teaching at the University of Freiburg, where he was given a chair in psychology and border areas of psychology. This chair was transformed into a full professorship in 1967, thus integrating parapsychology into the university curriculum, something Bender believed to be his most significant contribution. His was the first (and still the only) such position in Germany, and one of the few in the world. Bender retired from teaching in 1975 but continued as director of the Institut für Grenzgebiete and the editor of its journal until his death in Freiburg on May 7, 1991.
Bender’s approach to parapsychology combined laboratory and field research. He wrote on a wide range of subjects, including spontaneous ESP, Psychokinesis, Poltergeists, Mediumship, spiritual healing, and astrology. He was especially interested in large-scale psychokinesis, such as spoon-bending and poltergeists. Among his investigations was the important ROSENHEIM Poltergeist case.
- Bauer, Eberhard. “Hans Bender: ‘Frontier Scientist’—A Personal Tribute.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)58 (1991): 124–27.
- Pilkington, Rosemarie. Men and Women of Parapsychology: Personal Reflections. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1987.
- Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology. New York: Helix Press, 1964.
- Resch, Andres. “Hans Bender (1907–1991): Leben und Werk.” Grenzegebeit der Wissenschaft 40 (1991): 99–120.
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007