Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
Robert (Bob) Van de Castle, well-known as a dream researcher, and as a parapsychologist, passed away on January 29th in Charlottesville, Virginia, due to complications arising from a stroke. The sad news of his passing led me to remember the first time I saw him. This was in Charlottesville during the 1980s. For a short time Bob came to weekly lunch meetings held at the University of Virginia’s Division of Parapsychology (now Division of Perceptual Studies), where I was a Research Assistant. There I got my first exposure to his interest in dreams and psychodynamics.
Photos of Bob in Different Time Periods
Always a dynamic personality Bob impressed me with his energy, something I got to see many times during the next years. He made me smile many times when he referred to some people’s personality’s as “juicy,” by which he meant, individuals who had some passion and character, as compared to non-juicy characters, or those suffering from flat or unexpressive personalities. He preferred the former. There is no question that Bob was, as Rosemarie Pilkington said in an email she sent me as I was writing these comments, “a lusty celebrant of life.”
Bob’s website has a great deal of information about his life and work, but I will summarize some of the professional aspects of his life here, all of which also appears in his CV. He had a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina (1959) and was involved with dream and parapsychological studies most of his professional life. At UVA, Bob was Professor Emeritus at the Health Sciences Center (he retired in 1993). In this University he was Chief Psychologist for the Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic (1986-1992), and Director of the Sleep and Dream Laboratory (1967-1985). Furthermore, he was the Director of the Clinical Psychology Internship Project (1980-1992). He also taught and held positions in other institutions before he was affiliated to the University of Virginia.
In the area of dream studies Bob was the author of Our Dreaming Mind (1994), one of the best general overviews of dreams studies available. He also wrote The Psychology of Dreaming (1971), and was the second author with Calvin Hall of the classic and influential book The Content Analysis of Dreams (1966). In addition, Bob was the President of the Association for the Study of Dreams (1985-1986). See an interview with Bob about dreams here.
Bob was also intensely interested in parapsychology. He spent time at the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University (1954-1955) where he conducted experimental projects about ESP and psychokinesis. He also served in important capacities within the Parapsychological Association . Bob was President (1970) and Public Information Officer of the Association (1974-1983).
Over the years he was involved in many parapsychological projects. For a period, mainly during the 1970s, he became known for his writings about parapsychology and anthropology. In addition to his interest in dream ESP Bob was a successful producer of psychic dreams, a talent plainly evident in his participation in the experimental dream ESP program conducted at the Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, and which earned him the title of “The Prince of the Percipients.”
Some of his parapsychology-related published articles are:
“An Exploratory Study of Some Variables in Individual ESP Performance.” Journal of Parapsychology, 1953.
“A Report on a Sentence Completion Form of Sheep-Goat Attitude Scale” (with R. R. White). Journal of Parapsychology , 1955.
“Differential Patterns of ESP Scoring as a Function of Differential Attitudes Toward ESP” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1957.
“An Exploratory Study of Some Personality Correlates Associated with PK Performance.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1958.
“A Review of ESP Tests Carried Out in the Classroom.” International Journal of Parapsychology, 1959.
“The Facilitation of ESP Through Hypnosis.” American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1969.
“Psi Abilities in Primitive Groups.” Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association, 1970.
“An Investigation of Psi Abilities Among the Cuna Indians of Panama.” In A. Angoff and D. Barth (Eds.), Parapsychology and Anthropology, 1974.
“Parapsychology and Anthropology.” In B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology, 1977.
“Sleep and Dreams.” In B.Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology, 1977.
“Psi Manifestations in Multiple Personality Disorder.” In L. Coly & J. McMahon (Eds.), Psi in Clinical Practice, 1989.
“Dream ESP.” In C. Roe, W. Kramer & L. Coly (Eds.), Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology, 2009.
More recently, he authored with Rita Dwyer and Bobbie Ann Pimm, “Dreams as a Multidimensional Expression of Psi,” published in Explore in 2010.
Bob continued to be intellectually active during the last years of his life, working on many projects that he shared with his partner Bobbie Ann Pimm. I remember traveling with him from the US to Utrecht in 2008 to attend an important parapsychology conference in which not only did he present a paper, but he was also a very active participant in the discussions and social events. The last email I have in my inbasket from him was from December 12, 2013, in which he sent me (and others in his list), a link to an article he wrote entitled “Dreams Can Reveal and Soothe Holiday Season Stress”.
More recently, in fact only a few days before his death, Bob was in Panama, where he had been many years earlier to study the Kuna, or Cuna (now Guna) People. In an email that he wrote on January 27th to Lisette Coly , the President of the Parapsychology Foundation –the organization which funded his early research—he commented on this trip. He wrote that he had been collecting accounts of dreams and conducting some ESP testing. “Efforts were limited,” he said, “because the school was on vacation, but we managed to interact and test with about 40 students.”
Bob Van de Castle is no longer with us, but his work remains. This, and his personality, will never be forgotten by those who knew him. My condolences to his family and friends.