Greenport Parapsychology Library struggles to stay afloat


Historic East End towns, century-old buildings and lichen-covered cemeteries often harbor stories of long-dead souls connecting with the living in subtle or terrifying ways. Some revel in these stories while others turn and run. An even smaller handful of good people set out in search of such encounters at places like the Rogers Mansion in Southampton, the infamous Wickham Farm House in Cutchogue or the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor, among others. Even fewer are looking for something other than a thrill or a good story to tell their friends – they want answers, and one of the most likely places to find those answers in all of North America is at here in the village of Greenport.

Outside the Eileen J. Garrett Library on Front Street, GreenportOlivier peterson

Hidden from view since 2005, when it left Manhattan and opened at 308 Front Street in the former North Fork Whaling Harbor, the Parapsychology Foundation’s Eileen J. Garrett Research Library is home to one of the largest collections in books, periodicals and audio visual material on psychic research and the paranormal.

Visitors will find over 12,000 books on, but not limited to, ghosts, hauntings, psychic phenomena, spirituality, religion, mysticism, reincarnation, occultism, magic, psychedelics, quantum physics, dreaming, astral projection, healing, death and death, ESP, exorcism, auras, fairies, hypnosis, prophecy, demonology, miracles and even skepticism.

Books on a variety of subjects at the Eileen J. Garrett Library
Books on a variety of paranormal topics in the Eileen J. Garrett LibraryOlivier peterson

The Eileen J. Garrett Research Library collection not only covers an astonishing range of topics, it makes this wealth of knowledge and information available to readers of all skill levels, providing everything from dense academic tomes to the seasoned researcher with a more accessible writing than a layman. novice could follow and understand. Unfortunately, their owner put the building up for sale and the once thriving nonprofit Parapsychology Foundation struggled financially.

This local treasure that once held annual conferences, offered grants and scholarships, and published brilliant brochures and books may, after 70 years of cutting edge work, be closed for good.

“The foundation is non-profit, really non-profit,” jokes Parapsychology Foundation president Lisette Coly, explaining that they first moved the library to Greenport – where she has lived for decades – when things got too expensive in Manhattan. Originally she planned to keep the books in reserve, but she stumbled upon the Front Street location and the rent was exactly the same as their warehouse – so the mission continued.

President of the Lisette Coly Parapsychology Foundation
President of the Lisette Coly Parapsychology FoundationOlivier peterson

“The foundation really serves two groups: academia, researchers around the world, but also the general public,” says Coly. As President of the Parapsychology Foundation since 2012 and, prior to that, Executive Director since 1999, Coly follows in the footsteps of her grandmother, the famous psychic medium Eileen Garrett, who founded the organization in 1951, and her late. mother, Eileen Coly, who succeeded Garrett as president upon her death in 1970.

“The main mission of the Parapsychology Foundation in ’51 was to act as a clearinghouse for information on a very poorly understood and complex field that in ’51 very few people recognized and knew,” he adds. -she. “Now, thanks to our friends in the media, everyone knows our buzzwords. You can’t turn on a TV without some kind of psychic plot or ghost hunters and this and that. My mom used to say that she and Eileen Garrett at first spent all their time explaining what parapsychology is, and I have to try to explain what parapsychology is not.

Portraits of Eileen Garrett and her daughter Eileen Coly are on display at the Eileen J. Garrett Library of the Parapsychology Foundation
Portraits of Eileen Garrett and her daughter Eileen Coly are on display in the library

Coly says that “parapsychology is interdisciplinary,” describing the field as applying scientific methodology to psychic research – essentially trying to understand, for example, why people see ghosts or how psychics talk with the dead. “We have a quantum physicist who thinks it’s quantum wave theory, or a biologist or a psychologist, or a philosopher, so we wanted to have volumes on the shelves that would allow people to jump into the paranormal. You can’t just swim in it without knowing where you’re from, ”she says. “The foundation really wants to make this information and what we know about it accessible to everyone. People expect that since we call ourselves Parapsychology Foundation, I’m here to convince you of all the phenomena, and we’re not here (for that), ”Coly continues, pointing out that the foundation has no opinions. On the different subjects illuminated in their piles.

“Eileen Garrett, my maternal grandmother, herself a psychic in a trance, was heavily criticized because everyone thought that if she supposedly spoke to spirits, she would believe in survival or the afterlife, and she didn’t. ‘wasn’t sure,’ Coly says. , describing her grandmother’s healthy skepticism and longing for answers. “I tell people, that a true believer in all of this, for me, is just as dangerous as a true disbeliever. Because when you’re skeptical and reject everything, or believe everything, well hello, I like to sit in the middle. … There are several possible explanations. I always say you need to eliminate all normal explanations before going paranormal, which people tend not to do. And the more you know, the more you don’t know.

Inside the Eileen J. Garrett Library
Inside the Eileen J. Garrett LibraryOlivier peterson

Whether they are in town for a day or for a two-week stay thanks to a university scholarship, library visitors often begin their research from this perspective, dusting rare and unusual books from the shelves and following different leads. ‘investigation to prove or disprove a hypothesis, or simply to see where the information takes them. The library is open by appointment and operates on a reading basis, but the Parapsychology Foundation website and YouTube channel are full of great resources that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

“This particular library is arguably the three best in the world,” Coly said, noting that it is only surpassed by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) library at Cambridge University in London and the collection of the ‘University of Freiburg in Germany. “Then there’s the Garrett… which means we’re the only one in the US of this size that’s open to the public. “

Bust of Eileen J. Garrett in her eponymous library
Bust of Eileen J. Garrett in her eponymous libraryOlivier peterson

It is also a rare organization run entirely by women for 70 years and three generations, passing from mother to daughter with each change of leadership. Coly points out that the Parapsychology Foundation was originally funded by the first woman elected to Congress from Ohio, Frances Payne Bolton. A Republican with a long-standing interest in parapsychology, Bolton was instrumental in bringing Garrett’s vision to life.

“These two women never understood that they were women and couldn’t do that,” Coly says. “They were like, ‘Look, honey, the hard thing in life is knowing what you want to do. Even if it seems impossible to access it. Understand it. This is the hardest part, then you wonder how to get from A to B.

In 1951, Garrett and Bolton were tired of trying to find people who would fund the research they were interested in, so they decided to start their own foundation. “Ms. Bolton endowed the foundation and we’ve lived off that money all these years,” Coly said, later adding, “We’ve lived on our endowment, and now it’s kind of the end of the road.

Eileen J. Garrett Library signs Parapsychology Foundation
Eileen J. Garrett Library SignOlivier peterson

If Coly is unable to secure the funding needed to give the Parapsychology Foundation – and by extension the Garrett Library – back to its former glory, she wants to find a suitable location for the collection, where it can be. accessible to the public and used for its intended purpose.

“We’re trying to get back on our feet. … I am very concerned about the future of the library. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep it going, ”she said, noting that she and her daughter, Anastasia Damalas, are doing what they can. “I apply for different universities, like maybe Duke University or NYU, who knows? I even thought, maybe I’ll try to go to New York Public (Library)? “

For now, Coly braces for the worst while still hoping for an angel investor or twist that might take them away from what seems inevitable, and instead start a new era in this noble effort to explain what was previously inexplicable.

To learn more about the Parapsychology Foundation and the Eileen J. Garrett Library, and to donate, visit

Inside the Eileen J. Garrett Library
Inside the Eileen J. Garrett LibraryOlivier peterson


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