Robert L. Van De Castle: 1927-2014

By Haraldsson, Erlendur | The Journal of Parapsychology, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Robert L. Van De Castle: 1927-2014


Haraldsson, Erlendur, The Journal of Parapsychology


Dr. Robert L. Van de Castle passed away on January 29, 2014, at the ripe age of 86. To me he was a very memorable man. I met him first at the Spring Review Meeting at the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (Institute for Parapsychology) in Durham, North Carolina during the year that I spent there in 1969-1970. Rhine held review meetings twice a year and invited a dinner speaker from outside. This time the speaker was Robert (Bob) Van de Castle, who had in the mid-50s spent some time with Rhine at the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory. There he investigated personality correlates of PK performance and was a research assistant to Gaither Pratt in his project for the military involving homing behavior of pigeons.

After Bob's talk at the review meeting, we got into a conversation. This conversation had a decisive effect on my life, for which I will always be grateful. He invited me to join a 1-year internship program in clinical psychology that was being established at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He also guaranteed me time to work on my doctoral dissertation that 1 was writing with Professor Hans Bender in Freiburg, Germany. That was the begining of a long friendship. Whenever 1 visited Charlottesville in the ensuing years 1 always made it a point of seeing Bob and to spend some time with him.

Bob was born in Rochester, New York, on November 16, 1927, as the son of Omar Van de Castle (translates to "Omar from the castle"), who was born in Belgium, and a Canadian mother. He studied at the Universities of Syracuse and Missouri and obtained his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina in 1959. A turning point in Bob's life was his pionering work with Calvin Hall at his Institute of Dream Studies in Miami, Florida. Their joint book The Content Analysis of Dreams (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966) became a classic on quantitative research on dreams. It established norms and revealed prominent differences in the content of dreams between men and women, just to mention one of their findings.

When Bob was invited to join the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, he was offered the opportunity for further research on dreams and sleep, and the Sleep and Dream Research Laboratory of the University of Virginia Medical Center was establised with Bob as director. There I took part in weekly research meetings and found it an enriching experience to follow what research Bob and Peter Hauri--his associate--were doing at the time.

Apart from his clinical work, Bob's life was divided between his research and writing on dreams and on the paranormal, of which the dream part was much greater. He was the author of Our Dreaming Mind (Van de Castle, 1994), which was described as a "landmark" by Monte Ullman, a "masterpiece" by Henry Reed, and "a sweeping compilation unsurpassed in the literature for its scope" by Stanley Krippner.

Bob published over a hundred papers in peer-reviewed journals, wrote articles in many leading newspapers and popular magazines, and discussed dreams on national TV and radio shows. He felt it important to familiarize the public with research on the fascinating realm of dreams. He played a prominent role in the International Association for the Study of Dreams, was their president in 1985, and presented regularly at their conferences, both in the US and abroad. He conducted numerous workshops on dreams on both sides of the Atlantic.

I read in his bibliography that his first publishing venture--on May 14, 1950--was in no less a newspaper than The New York Times. The title of the article was "Honeymoon Abroad: Cycling and Hitch-hiking Helped to Stretch $100 All the Way Across Europe" (Van de Castle, 1950). Bob was always an enterprising man; he travelled widely and knew how to enjoy life.

For the readers of the JP, Bob's involvement with the paranonnal will be of particular interest. …

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