THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY
Bibliographer, editor, author; librarian, Society for Psychical Research, London, 1929-35. B. November 18, 1904, Geneva, Switzerland. Doctuer ès lettres University of Geneva. Joint editor, Oxford Books on Bibliography; general editor, Assn. of Special Libraries and Information Bureaus,1942-46; editor and executive officer, British Union Cataloge of Periodicals, 1944-46;founder, editor (1945-47), (Journal of Documentation; counselor, World Bibliographical and Library Centre, and director, Department of Exchange of Information, UNESCO, 1946-49. Chevalier, Legion of Honor.
Dr. Besterman was co-author with Sir William Barrett (q.v.) of the book The Diving Rod: An Experimental Psychological Investigation (1926). In 1927 he compiled the library catalogue of the Society for Psychical Research, adding supplements in 1928, 1929, and 1931. He served as SPR librarian from 1929 to 1935 and as investigations officer from 1933 to 1935.
For the SPR, Dr. Besterman engaged in several research projects, including a European tour of psychical investigations, and experimental sittins with a number of mediums, among them Mrs. Osborne Leonard adn Rudi Schneider (qq.v). The work for which he is probably best known is the series of experiments he organized in 1931 in order to test the reliability of witnesses of seance-room occurrences. The project consisted of a series of "imitation seances" in which all of the "phenomena" were produced by normal means and carefully prearranged. After each sitting those present were asked to describe what had occurred. The results appeared to demonstrate conclusively the unreliability of testimony from untrained observers.
Dr. Besterman toured the United State for the SPR in 1934. The next year he resigned his posts in the society and, except for the publication in 1938 of his book Water Divining: New Facts and Theories, supplementing his earlier work with Barrett, he gave up the study of parapsychology.
Author of numberous bibliographies and books on bibliography, Dr. Besterman also wrote several volumes dealing with psychic research and parapsychology, including Crystal Gazing (1924); In the Way of Heaven (1926); and Some Modern Mediums (1930). His papers in the SPR Proceedings include "Evocation of the Dead and Kindred Phenomena among the Natives of Madagascar" (Vol. 38, Part 109, 1928-29); "Report of a Four Months' Tour of Psychical Investigation" (Vol. 38, Part 111, 1929); "Report of a Series of Experiments in Clairvoyance Conducted at a Distance under Approximately Fraud-Proof Conditions" (with Ina Jephson, q.v., and S. G. Soal, q.v., Vol. 39, Part 118, 1931); "Further Inquiries into the Element of Chance in Book-Tests" (Vol. 40, Part 121, 1931-32); "Evidential Extracts from Sittings with Mrs. Leonard" (with W. S. Irving; Vol. 40, Part 122, 1931-32); "The Psychology of Testimony in Relation to Paraphysical Phenomena: Report of an Experiment" (Vol. 40, Part 124, 1931-32); "The Mediumship of Rudi Schneider" (Vol. 40, Part 125, 1931-32); "Report of an Inquiry into Precognitive Dreams" (Vol. 41, Part 130, 1932-33); "An Experiment in "Clairvoyance" with M. Stepfan Ossowiecki" (Vol. 41, Part 132, 1932-33); "Report of an Investigation into the Mediumship of Rudi Schneider" (with Oliver Gatty, q.v.; Vol. 42, Part 137, 1934). Residence: les Délices, Geneva, Switzerland.
Taken from Helene Pleasants (1964) Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946-1996 NY: Garrett Publications