Today, September 29th, 2014, is the 90th birthday of the woman who was responsible for giving us wonderful Parapsychological Association conventions from the 1980s through mid-2000s, Laura F. Knipe, known to her friends as Fanny.
As an organizer Fanny had a talent for picking comfortable venues, overcoming unexpected problems, and making sure we had everything we needed for a terrific conference from the piano for our own Jazz Prof PA past-President Dr Stephen Braude and our Classical Piano Virtuoso PA Full Member Rick Berger, to all the tech we could ever want, not to mention great wine with the banquet when the budget could bear it.
Fanny was always able to pull together all of the background organizational tasks—that often started the year before—into a smooth-running experience from registration to the final PA Business meeting. She took many trips to scout out great venues in those days. As many of you will remember she was also the long-time organizational center of the American Society for Psychical Research on 73rd Street in New York City just off Central Park West.
Fanny agreed to put together a reminiscence on the occasion of her 90th birthday, so before we get to the Birthday Greetings we have for Fanny. Here's her story in her own words.
Some Reminiscences of My Years with the ASPR and the PA
by Laura F. Knipe
I started working for the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in September, 1967, when the Society, open to the public, was located at 880 5th Avenue, Manhattan. There was a library in the front room, with the office in the entrance area. The larger room in the rear was for the editor of the Journal. Dr. Karlis Osis’s research office was not there but was located in a professional office of an apartment building in the east 70s. [The photo above is Fanny with a volunteer at the Dallas PA in 1984.]
In the early fall of ’67 LOOK magazine printed a lengthy article about Bishop James Pike being lost in the Judean desert and dying there. A psychic had given a location in which to find him, but no one considered it until it was too late. There was a note at the end of the article that you could “become a member of the ASPR, 880-5th Ave. NYC—send $10.” Bishop Pike had been active in New York and there were many phone calls from New Yorkers requesting information.
I was in the office a few Saturdays and Sundays that winter. The renovations at 5 West 73rd St. were ongoing until September, 1968, and continued even after Dr. Osis’s group and the library and business office moved into the building. There were then twelve employees, two of whom, Rhea White and Laura Dale, worked from Long Island.
By the fall of 1968, Dr. Osis, his staff and I had settled in at 5 West 73rd St. The lecture program began then. Lectures were held in the Carnegie Building at 46th Street and First Avenue, across from the UN building. After one season the programs were moved one block north to the United Engineering Building.
The first lecture I attended was given by Dr. William G. Roll. Before the lecture, started there was quite a stir in the front of the audience with everyone greeting a very elaborately gowned woman not known to me but (obviously) familiar to many others there: It was Eileen J. Garrett of the Parapsychology Foundation. Roll’s lecture was excellent and the ASPR had a good response to it. Lecture programs were off to a fine start. (Years later, when I was president of the Fairhaven Historical Society, I asked Bill Roll to lecture and he filled the hall. More kudos for him!)
Lecture programs continued through the '70s in the United Engineering Building but unfortunately many New Yorkers were uncomfortable leaving the lectures at 10 p.m. and so short talks were presented in the library at the ASPR. The annual meeting and dinner with lecture were successful and very well attended especially the one held at the Harvard Club on 44th Street.
While Dr. Osis headed research, I was really running the building, making sure that everything worked, from renting the basement and fifth floor as offices to non-profit organizations for additional income to fixing faulty plumbing!
Years later I volunteered with the help of Dr. Osis’s secretary to request that the PA have the meeting at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey in 1983. I made arrangements with the University for the dorms, auditorium, special display space and the banquet. [The photo to the left is from the Sonoma PA in 1986 with (from the left) Keith Harary, Charles T. Tart, and Tron McConnell.
The PA conventions I have arranged-- the accommodations and all of the venue within the site-- have been in 12 cities: Madison, New Jersey (Fairleigh Dickenson University, August 1983); Medford, Massachusetts (Tufts University, 1985); Montreal, Canada, (1988); San Diego California (1989 and 1996); Chevy Chase, Maryland (1990); Las Vegas, Nevada (1992); Toronto, Canada (1993); Durham, North Carolina (1995); Brighton, England (1997); Halifax, Canada (1998); and Vancouver, Canada (2003).
The most frustrating convention for me was the 1985 meeting at Tufts University. It was unusually hot for New England and French exchange summer students had wrecked the air conditioned dormitory, so PA Convention attendees had non-air conditioned dorms. The last day of the meeting, Bob Morris remarked from the stage that these had been some “hot fanny nights.” Bob was droll. Then there was a problem for vegetarians not being given vegetarian food at the banquet. The last day I had to remember to pick up the four electric fans I had borrowed from my neighbors and from my house in Fairhaven.
After the Tufts experience, there were thoughts of upgrading the accommodations and I was ready to help the cause. I believed the members would like to go to interesting cities with pleasant venues at least once. I tried to keep that in mind when selecting possible venues.
I learned some important lessons at the next meeting I handled. It was not for the PA but for the ASPR.
In October, 1987 the ASPR sponsored a program of prominent and interesting people including Raymond Moody, John Beloff, Julian Isaacs, Rosemarie Pilkington and Arthur Berger.
The program at the DuPont Plaza in Miami, Florida, was to last two days, a Saturday and Sunday. The local arrangements partner had promised to handle the publicity and to give me names and rates of prospective hotels for the events but did neither. At the eleventh hour I consulted a young man who was an active volunteer at the ASPR and who now lived in Miami: he gave me the names of possible hotels in which we could hold the two-day meeting with good locations and parking. Fortunately my uncle lived in Miami and he drove me to all the local radio stations with the announcement that there was a two-day meeting and they broadcast all the information, and most importantly that the lectures started the next day. By Sunday there was a fair turnout. There were lessons for me to learn, and I did!
At the PA convention in Montreal the following year, several men from the near-east in army uniforms were in the registration area when it opened. I greeted them and asked “and will you be going to the U.S.?” One replied, “No,” but the officer standing next to him looked stunned! Dean Radin remembers the men too. Dean gave a wonderful talk at the banquet. Senator Claiborne Pell who was the invited banquet speaker, spoke too.
The first San Diego convention was a success. The excellent guest speaker was Michael Crichton, who was very well received. After the meeting I called to thank him and said I would like to send him a check for expenses. He said he was happy to speak and declined the check. I thanked him again.
The PA convention in Vancouver seemed to have the best of everything—great little hotel, priced right, in a beautiful city and perfect weather. I look back with pride on the care I took with the conventions. We were always able to add to the PA’s coffers, much more than even we expected.
Happy Birthday to Fanny
Because I'm writing this, I just wanted to say before I include the greetings of the rest of us, that I had the luck to help out in a couple of the conferences that Fanny organized, principally the Durham PA in 1995 (with the help of the Rhine Research Center staff of the day) and the Vancouver PA in 2003. Lisette Coly of the Parapsychology Foundation and I organized the 2001 PA in New York City, and Annalisa Ventola and I organized the 2012 Durham PA with the help and support of Susan Freeman and the volunteers and staff of the Rhine Research Center. I also organized the 2005 Parapsychology Foundation conference in Charlottesville. That's a preamble to what I want to say which is that, basically, I learned everything I know about organizing conventions from Fanny. She showed a keen understanding of convention budgets, how to get the best rates for the hotels she approached (such as never call the 800 number or the corporate office of a hotel line because you always get better deals from building a good relationship with the local hotel), and how to make sure all the expectations of the membership were met, from comfortable rooms to the presence of the piano (sadly not possible for two of the conferences I organized), how to set up the poster area and handle the registration so well that registration was a joy and all the records were in the proper order for submission to the PA. She also has an uncanny ability to know how many people are coming, and when it's safe to play a little bit with the expected profit and upgrade the wine or the dessert or add more flowers to the banquet tables.
I have so many favorite memories of Fanny's presence at our conventions, but I confess—probably because I'm a nosy soul—that I especially loved hanging around with Fanny and Rosemarie Pilkington and leafing through their great collection of photos from PAs gone by. Happy Birthday, Fanny! You've done great service to the PA!
And just a note, I called Fanny around 8:30pm tonight when I realized I wouldn't be able to get the blog up on the site before Tuesday the 30th. We have not spoken on the phone in so long that we actually had a three hour catch up phone call. It was absolutely wonderful talking to Fanny again, and Annalisa, I'm sending you an email full of good advice about future PA conferences. My fondest wish for all of us is that when we get to our 90th, we're all just like Fanny on her birthday: cooking on all four burners!
And now on to Rosemarie Pilkington.
From Rosemarie Pilkington
Fanny Knipe on her 90th Birthday
I accompanied Fanny on many of her errands in preparing for PA conventions so I know first-hand how hard she worked. She is a shrewd business woman and negotiated with hotels, florists, et al to get the best deals for the groups. Back in the day she had an unerring sense of color and style and always provided beautiful settings for the annual banquets and worked tirelessly to assure that everything ran smoothly. [The photo below is PA Member Rich Strong and Fanny at the Montreal PA in 1988.]
But few people know that Fanny also has her own psychic abilities, which—although she is very fond of talking-- she didn’t speak about much. For instance, very often she’d be talking to a new acquaintance and ask them a question which, it would turn out, elicited from them some troubling area of their lives that they were reluctant to speak of to others.
Once at the ASPR Dr. Osis was asked if he could have psychics try to locate a small private plane that had gone down somewhere between Connecticut and Buffalo, New York. Besides the pilot, it was carrying two executives of a major American company. Dr. Osis asked several psychics but also asked Fanny to give it a try. She took a map of the area out of her desk and pointed out to him exactly where she felt the plane had crashed. It was fall and she told him that the plane would not be found until after “every leaf was down.”
Janet Mitchell asked her if the men were in the plane and Fanny said no, the plane was empty.
Perhaps because Fanny’s predicted location was different from all the others, Osis never reported what she said but later after the leaves had fallen from the trees the plane was found exactly where Fanny had said it was. All three men had been thrown from the plane. Osis acknowledged her publicly and apologized for not having enough faith in her report to file it.
This was only one of several “Remote Viewings” that Fanny did successfully. But she’ll always be remembered for the superlative job she did in keeping the ASPR running and in helping create memorable PA conventions.
From Mary Rose Barrington
Happy remembrances of an afternoon out from the Brighton conference, with a rather dramatic ending, endured heroically by you and Rosemarie. Best wishes, Mary Rose Barrington. [The photo to the right is from the Brighton PA in 1997. From the left are Fanny Knipe, Mary Rose Barrington, and Arthur Ellison.]
From Richard & Kathy Broughton
All our best wishes for your 90th birthday. Lots of fond memories of being “partners in crime” in the days of running the PA, “Faxes from the other side” and other great times. A Joshua Slocum commemorative cup plate still casts a blue shaft of light through our kitchen window and the old wooden lamp that we pinched from your neighbour’s flat in NYC still illuminates our living room in merry old England. Happy Birthday from Richard & Kathy Broughton.
From Jim Carpenter
My warmest birthday wishes to Fannie Knipe! What a lovely and positive person. You deserve much love and celebration, and I hope you get it! Jim Carpenter
From Lisette Coly
I wish you the Happiest of Birthday greetings with fond memories of your visits to the PF while on 57th Street and various meeting at conferences. Both my mother and I always admired your efforts to keep the parapsychologists in line and as we know first hand that’s not easy Hugs, Lisette.
From Deborah Delanoy
90? It doesn't seem possible (who knows where the time goes…). I hope you have an absolutely wonderful birthday and a great year – indeed, a great following decade! With fond best wishes, Deborah.
From Erlendur Haraldsson
Fanny Knipe was a precious person for the American Sociey for Psychical Research. She was always in the office and kept everything well organized and orderly. For those of us who worked there in the early '70s she was a pillar of stability, knowledgeable about whatever we needed to know, and particularly reliable. There was so much clarity and integrity about Fanny. And she was a delightful person to deal with and became a great friend.
The Parapsychological Association learnt to appreciate her organzing ability and reliability, and they found no person better qualified than her to organize some ot the PA conventions that took place in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. We could be sure, whatever she did, she did well and thoroughly. My cordial congratulations to Fanny on her ninetieth birthday!
From Stanley Krippner
I have nothing but pleasant memories of Fanny over the many decades I have known her. She was ingenious and efficient in the way she found venues for PA conventions. She has a splendid sense of humor that enlivened every meeting she attended. But she does not suffer fools gladly. Fanny has displayed keen judgement and can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Happy Birthday Fanny! It has been a pleasure to have known you all these years! Stan Krippner
From Jim Matlock
Fanny was one of the first people--perhaps the first person--I met in parapsychology. She was Executive Secretary of the ASPR when I visited there in 1985 and 1986 to organize the archives, and she was always supportive and encouraging of that project. Happy Birthday, Fanny!
From Dean Radin
I wanted to express my good wishes for Fanny's 90th birthday. I fondly recall working with Fanny on arrangements for several PA conventions, and I always enjoyed catching up on news when we chatted on the phone or in person.
From Marilyn Schlitz
Dear Fanny: Happy Birthday!
Appreciating all your contributions to the PA, to each of us who attended your well run conferences, and the humor you brought to it. Will never forget your fan club, a la Bob Morris. With fond best wishes, Marilyn Schlitz. [The photo to the left is Fanny Knipe and Marilyn Schlitz at the Heidelberg PA in 1991.
From Stephan Schwartz
Fanny -- Once again you are leading the way; I am a mere 72. May this be a wonderful birthday, and the best year ever. And thank you for your many years of tireless work advancing the field of consciousness research. -- Stephan
From Charles Tart
Hi Fanny! Thank you for all those years you always greeted me at registration with a smile that made me feel I'd come home! Plus a zillion things you did behind the scenes! Charley
From Jessica Utts
Hi Fanny, Congratulations on turning 90! We sure miss you at the PA meetings. And we miss your ability to find charming, inexpensive places to hold those meetings. No one has been able to replace you in that! Now we rely on volunteers from the membership to host the meetings, which sometimes works well and sometimes doesn't. You did a great service to us all with your skill in that area. I hope you are enjoying your retirement! With best wishes, Jessica. [The photo below is Caroline Watt, Fanny and Prof Robert Morris at the Toronto PA in 1993.]
If anybody else would like to add memories of Fanny and the PA and Birthday Greetings—Because as Carlos Alvarado says, everybody should celebrate their Birthday for at least a month!— Rosemarie and I will make sure she sees them, and I'll be more than happy to edit them into the blog for posterity. So if you'd like to join in the fun, send me your Happy Belated Birthdays to firstname.lastname@example.org and between Rosemarie and I, we'll make sure Fanny gets them.
I would also like to thank Rosemarie Pilkington for first, having this wonderful idea to say Happy Birthday to this energetic and hard-working woman on the occasion of her 90th birthday. Second, I'd like to thank Rosemarie for publicizing our call for birthday greetings on the various chat lists around the field.
And Fanny? Happy Birthday and many more!