The Psychic Observer

For thirty years, the Psychic Observer newspaper was at the heart of American Spiritualism. First published in August 1938 by Ralph Pressing, who launched Dale News in 1934, the seasonal journal of Lily Dale. The editors, Ralph and Juliette Pressing, met in Lily Dale in 1936 and in 1937, attended the International Spiritualist Federation (ISF) Congress in Glasgow and London. The American Spiritualist movement experienced phenomenal growth between the wars, and the Pressings realized the United States lacked a national journal.

The ISF Congress proved valuable in linking the Pressings to a global network of Spiritualist newspapers, and the London-based Psychic News proved a ready template for a successful newspaper.

The Psychic Observer became a hub for news, seance updates, church events, and convention reports. The small ads, the large advertising accounts, and subscriptions were the financial backbone of a paper that could not get a national distributor. Psychic Observer quickly became a vital information resource for the public that linked Spiritualists across the states.

The paper had three homes, first in Lily Dale, from which it moved to Jamestown in upstate New York, and finally to Camp Chesterfield in 1954. In 1956 Ralph Pressing suffered a stroke, and the couple sold the newspaper in 1957 to Agnes Reuther, who sold it in 1959 to Tom O’Neil.

In 1960, Tom O’Neil and Andrija Puharich obtained permission from the Chesterfield Camp secretary, Mable Riffle, to film a seance with Edith Stillwell in infrared. The results were conclusive evidence of fraud with other fraudsters recognized on the film and viewable entering and leaving from a concealed door. The resulting uproar from exposure of the “The Mable Riffle scandal” financially ruined the Psychic Observer, which relied on subscriptions. The original paper finally closed in 1965 when the editor, Tom O’Neil, broken-hearted, died.

Ralph and Juliette Pressing returned to writing for the paper after the 1960 scandal, Ralph died in 1970, and Juliette Pressing passed away in 1978. The paper folded in 1961 and resumed publication between 1962/65 in an A5 format. In 1968, Alice Tindall acquired the title and began publishing in 1969 with editors Henry and Diane Nagorka. Spiritualist stories were replaced by UFO encounters, palmistry, and other New Age interests. In 1974 the Psychic Observer merged with the Spiritualist Chimes magazine; it closed in 1981.

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