This weekend, with the passing of the man recognized as the world’s oldest, friends, family, and admirers of the late Alexander Imich said farewell as the 111-year-old New York resident passed from this world.
And with little doubt, Imich believed that there was another life beyond this one: He was also the world’s oldest occultist.
Described as a “psychic researcher” by news outlets that include the New York Times, Imich had compiled and edited a collection of works pertaining to the supernatural in 1995 titled, “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal.” However, his academic history went much further back, which included his interest in the occult.
Imich was born in Poland in 1903. He attended university as a young man, following a brief period of service in the Polish Forces, and in 1929 Imich was awarded his Ph.D. in zoology from Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Three years later, Imich would publish his first academic paper on the occult, dealing with his research into a Polish medium known as Matylda, which appeared in the German publication Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie.
After struggling to find work in the field with his background in zoology, Imich switched his career interests and became a chemist, finding employment during the Second World War in the Soviet-occupied Białystok, where he lived with his wife, Wela. However, upon their refusal to accept Soviet citizenship, the couple were placed in a labor camp for a period. Following the war, and upon learning that the majority of their friends and relatives in Poland had not survived the Holocaust, the pair chose to emigrate to the United States in 1951.
Upon arrival in the United States, Wela began undertaking studies in psychology, while Alexander continued his work as a chemist. However, once Wela entered the practice, the financial stability their careers had provided were conducive for Alexander’s interests to move more toward the occult, and he began to more frequently contributing papers and ideas on various subjects related to parapsychology.
Wela passed away in 1986, but the now widowed Imich pursued his interests in the occult with great passion, founding the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center in 1999 at the age of 96. His aim with the center had been to attempt to formulate a system, and the necessary financing, to raise money for a research project called “The Crucial Demonstration.” With this, Imich aimed to find demonstrable proof of the “the reality of paranormal phenomena,” which could be offered “to mainstream scientists and the general public.”
In 2002, Imich also argued in a paper featured in the eJournal of the Mindshift Institute that future Nobel Prizes should look at fields of scientific study related to burgeoning science of the future, as well as the inner arts pertaining to the human mind:
The disciplines I propose for the new prize will help us in the exploration of outer space and help us become beings worthy of moving beyond our war-torn planet. Cyberscience and mathematics will help in the development of the technology of space travel. They are all vital tools for exploring outer space. Psychology and philosophy willhelp us to learn who we are and to understand the motivations for our actions. They are essential tools for exploring inner space.
In my life, I have witnessed the development of flight, the automobile, electrification of nations, the telephone, the radio and television, atomic energy, the wonders of bioscientific medicine, computer technology, great advances in our knowledge of the cosmos, men walking on the moon—the list could go on and on. Many contributions to these areas have been recognized by the Nobel Prize committee, but not all. There are many others who also deserve the highest scientific honor.
As his health began to fail with his increasing age, Imich requested in 2012 his files pertaining to the paranormal be moved to the University of Manitoba Department of Archives and Special Collections, which include a collection of writings Imich produced from 1932 until 2002 (a listing of these have been made available at the University’s site, and can be read here).
Hours before his passing on the morning of June 8, 2014, friends of Imich related to the press that in the days before his passing he had been in an agitated state, but that calm ensued the day before his passing. Most interestingly, one source noted that Imich “spent his final hours trying to communicate in Polish and Russian with spirits he sensed around him.” It takes little imagination to resolve that Imich’s beloved Wela might have been one of these visitors from beyond, offering a fitting welcome into the realm of the unseen that he spent his entire life exploring, both with reason and integrity.