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William G. Roll papers

Identifier: MS-0014

Scope and Content

This collection contains the correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, artifacts (including targets for experiments and cutlery bent allegedly through psychokinesis), audio-visual recordings, and other materials pertaining to the work of William G. Roll in the field of parapsychology. Parapsychology explores the existence and causes of psychic abilities and paranormal phenomenon. Other terms for this field include: paraphysics, psychical research, psi phenomena, and psi research.

Roll's papers particularly focus on ESP and linkages to poltergeists, near-death experiences, and other psi phenomena.

Approximately 38 boxes of English, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Japanese and other language parapsychology serials representing likely over 100 distinct titles have been separated for cataloging. These items can be found in the Library's catalog by searching William G. Roll as the former owner. These serials may have been part of the Psychical Research Foundation [PRF] library when PRF relocated to West Georgia College in 1986 however they are unmarked and unstamped so that possibility cannot be verified. These titles will be cataloged beginning February 2016 and the William G. Roll serials cataloging project may take up to 2 years to complete. When cataloged, the titles will be available in Special Collections.


  • 1901-2010


Restrictions on Access

Open to all users. Because social security numbers or other materials with privacy concerns may be present, the Head of Special Collections will preview boxes before serving them to patrons.

User Restrictions

As stipulated by United States Copyright Law

Biographical Note

William George Roll, Jr. was born on July 3, 1926 in Bremen, Germany, the son of William George Roll and Gudrun Agerholm Roll. He served with the Danish Resistance Forces during World War II, from 1943 to 1945. On June 22, 1950, he married Murial Gold, and together they had three children. He received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1949, majoring in philosophy and psychology, after transferring from Holt Gymnasium in Denmark. A year later, Roll moved to England and studied parapsychology under Professor H. H. Rice at Oxford University. While there, he received his Master of Letters for a thesis titled "Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research," and was president of the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research from 1952 to 1957. In 1989, he received his Ph.D. from Lund University in Lund, Sweden for a thesis titled "This World or That: An Examination of Parapsychological Findings Suggestive of the Survival of Human Personality after Death."

In 1957, Roll joined the staff of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University. During this time, in 1958, Roll participated in his first case when he and J. G. Pratt investigated claims of objects moving in a home in Seaford, Long Island, New York. In the paper in which Pratt and Roll detailed their investigation; they coined the term "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" [RSPK]. In 1961, he was appointed project director of the Psychical Research Foundation [PRF] at Duke and remained there until it dissolved any connection with the campus in the 1970s. In 1986, Roll was appointed Professor of Psychical Research and Psychology at West Georgia College, now the University of West Georgia, with funding from the PRF. The foundation relocated to West Georgia until its dissolution. Roll and the PRF arrived at West Georgia College as part of the psychology department's movement to add a variety of courses that went beyond traditional psychology, and he brought a worldwide reputation as a parapsychologist when he joined the program. According to the department's website, "with his Danish background, Dutch education, English accent, and experience in a Zen monastery, he exemplified the encompassing versatility of the program."

Roll was a member of several different professional societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Psychical Research, Parapsychological Association, and the Society for Psychical Research. Roll wrote more than 100 scientific papers, several articles for anthologies, edited 11 volumes of Research in Parapsychology, and wrote four books: The Poltergeist (1972), Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research (1975, his M.Litt. thesis), Psychic Connections (1995, with Lois Duncan), and Unleashed (2004, with Valerie Storey). In 1996 he received the Parapsychological Association's award for a Distinguished Career in Parapsychology. In 2002 he was awarded the Dinsdale Memorial Award by the Society for Scientific Investigation for his RSPK studies. Even after retirement, Roll taught the occasional course at the University of West Georgia as an adjunct professor. He died in Illinois in January 2012.


180.53 Linear feet (224 boxes and 1OV item and digitized content)




Papers of William G. Roll, a former psychology professor at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia, formerly known as West Georgia College. Roll was a prominent figure in the field of parapsychology, serving as president of the Parapsychological Association and helping create a nationally recognized psychology program at West Georgia College in the 1980s.


Arranged in five series: I. First Accession a. Correspondence b. Manuscripts II. Second Accession III. Audio-Visual Materials IV. Photographs V. Artifacts


Donated by William G. Roll, June 30, 1987 and 2007.

Processed By

Finding aid compiled by Suzanne Durham, Jacob Glazier, Erika Pratt, Sarah Warren, Lisa Glass, and Cristiana Valenti from 2009-2015. Processing completed December 2015.

Selected portions of this collection have been digitized and are available in the Special Collections research guide at

Digitized materials are also available in the finding aid at the folder level.

Finding Aid to the William G. Roll papers, 1901-2010 MS-0014
Finding aid prepared by Written by Suzanne Durham, Jacob Glazier, Erika Pratt, Sarah Warren, Lisa Glass, and Cristiana Valenti 2009-2015
© 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English
Finding aid converted with funds from a UWG FY14 Presidential Assistance Grant.

Repository Details

Part of the University of West Georgia Special Collections Repository

Special Collections, Ingram Library
University of West Georgia
1601 Maple Street
Carrollton GA 30118-2000 United States