Specialist in Controversial Beliefs and Experiences
‘A person of great intellectual ability and enterprise.’ – Prof. John Poynton, OMS
Writer, Editor, Social Scientist
Dr Leo Ruickbie, PhD (Lond), MA, BA (Hons), Associate of King’s College London, is a professional writer, editor, social scientist and historian, specialising in controversial areas of human belief and experience.
From Witchcraft to the Trenches
Dr Ruickbie’s PhD is from King’s College, London, for his thesis on contemporary witchcraft and magic use, building on research that won him an MA with distinction from Lancaster University. He is the author of several books, all based on rigorous research: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows (2004 and 2011), Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician (2009), A Brief Guide to the Supernatural (2012), A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting (2013), The Impossible Zoo (2016) and Angels in the Trenches (2018); as well as numerous articles and chapters in scholarly publications. He is also the co-editor with Dr Simon Bacon of Little Horrors: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Anomalous Children and the Construction of Monstrosity (2016), and with Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie of The Material Culture of Magic (forthcoming).
Why the Paranormal?
The paranormal has been the overarching theme of Dr Ruickbie’s work to date, linking witchcraft to visions of angels to contemporary ghost hunting. What we call the paranormal is the coalface of human experience and our understanding of what constitutes ‘reality’. All religion (usually the deepest commitment that people make) comes from someone’s (usually the founder’s) alleged paranormal experience or claims, yet what is termed the paranormal is frequently dismissed or denigrated – it is precisely that reaction which makes the subject doubly interesting.
The paranormal is subjugated knowledge. Its analysis reveals discourses of power, in the Foucauldian sense, that shape spiritual identity and praxis. It reveals Otherness and in doing so challenges cultural norms. We see battlelines in the formation of superstition and magic versus faith and prayer.
The paranormal is also about the hidden factors that influence people’s behaviour, from claiming to see angels to having more accidents on Friday the 13th. It is about those beliefs and experiences that lie outside of organised religion’s control, but which can still be central to people’s lives.
There is also a sense in which ‘the paranormal’ is taking the place of organised religion amongst indigenous populations in the West. When only 30% of people in the UK say that religion plays an important part in their lives (Ipsos-Mori, 2016), but 82% ‘believe in the supernatural’ (VoucherCodesPro survey, 2015), then this tells us something important about the way in which the religious or spiritual landscape is changing.
from Public Speaker to Editor
As well as publishing, Dr Ruickbie is an experienced academic peer reviewer, exhibition curator, public speaker and editor. He is the editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, an international education charity established in 1882 for the scientific study of what we now call the ‘paranormal’. He was appointed in early 2014 and to date has published 16 issues of the magazine.
His work has been mentioned in the media from The Guardian to Radio Jamaica, and his expertise has been sought by film companies, museums and charities, as well as being cited in the current student book for A-Level Sociology in the UK.
He is an elected member of the Royal Historical Society, a Council member of the Society for Psychical Research, a committee member of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik and a member of the Parapsychological Association, Societas Magica, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism and the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2018, together with Dr Rachael Ironside, he established the Society for the Academic Study of the Supernatural to network scholars working in this challenging field.
- Angels in the Trenches: Spiritualism, Superstition and the Supernatural during the First World War
- The Impossible Zoo: An Encyclopedia of Fabulous Beasts and Mythical Monsters
- A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting: How to Identify and Investigate Spirits, Poltergeists, Hauntings and Other Paranormal Activity
- A Brief Guide to the Supernatural: Ghosts, Vampires and the Paranormal
- Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician
- Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History
Edited Academic Volumes
- with Dr Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie, The Material Culture of Magic (forthcoming)
- with Dr Simon Bacon, Little Horrors: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Anomalous Children and the Construction of Monstrosity (2016)
Chapters in Books
- ‘Building the Temple: The Physical Expression of Ritual Magic in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’, in Leo Ruickbie and Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie (eds), The Material Culture of Magic (in preparation).
- ‘The Devil’s Livery: The Role of Nudity in the Depiction of Witchcraft, Wicca and Satanism’, in Judith Nobel and Daniel Zamani (eds), Visions of Enchantment: Occultism, Spirituality and Visual Culture (Routledge, forthcoming).
- ‘Haunters and Hunters: Popular Ghost Hunting and the Pursuit of Paranormal Experience’ in Darryl Caterine and John Morehead (eds), The Paranormal and Popular Culture (forthcoming).
- ‘“Mysteries Wrapped in Enigmas”: Trithemius, Occultism and Cryptography’, in Angela Catalina Ghionea (ed.), Medicine, Alchemy, Science and the Occult in European Thought (forthcoming).
- ‘I was a Real Teenage Werewolf: The Seventeenth Century Witchcraft Trial of Jean Grenier’, in Leo Ruickbie and Simon Bacon (eds), Little Horrors: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Anomalous Children and the Construction of Monstrosity (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2016).
- ‘Magic’, in Patrick Hayes (ed.), Miracles: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Supernatural Events from Antiquity to the Present (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2016).
- ‘Spells’, in Patrick Hayes (ed.), Miracles: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Supernatural Events from Antiquity to the Present (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2016).
- ‘Bell Witch, The’, in Joseph Laycock (ed.), Spirit Possession Around the World: Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion across Cultures (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2015).
- ‘Hunkeler, Roland’, in Joseph Laycock (ed.), Spirit Possession Around the World: Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion across Cultures (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2015)
- ‘Taylor, Michael’, in Joseph Laycock (ed.), Spirit Possession Around the World: Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion across Cultures (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2015).
- ‘Memento (Non)Mori: Memory, Discourse and Transmission during the Eighteenth Century Vampire Epidemic and After’, in Simon Bacon (ed.), Undead Memory: Vampires and Human Memory in Popular Culture (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014).
- ‘Evidence for the Undead: The Role of Medical Investigation in the Eighteenth Century Vampire Epidemic’, in Barbara Brodman and James Doan (eds), The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of a Legend, vol. 1 (Lanham, MD: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/Rowman & Littlefield, 2013).
- ‘“So Terrible a Force”: Spirit Communication in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’, in Christopher M. Moreman (ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World, vol. 3 (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2013).
- ‘“Either Must Die at the Hand of the Other”: Religious Reactions to Harry Potter’, in Jennifer Sims (ed.), The Sociology of Harry Potter (Cheshire, CT: Zossima, 2012).
- ‘Journey to the Centre of the SPR: A Review of the SPR’s 41st International Annual Conference’, Paranormal Review, 86 (Spring 2018).
- ‘A Night with the Black Monk’, Paranormal Review, 83 (Summer 2017).
- ‘Lucid in Leeds: A Review of the SPR’s 40th International Annual Conference’, Paranormal Review, 81 (Winter 2017).
- ‘Funny Bunny: The True Tale of Lepus Cornutus, the Horned Hare’, Paranormal Review, 80 (Autumn 2016).
- ‘The SPR’s London: Around the Capital with the Society for Psychical Research’, Paranormal Review, 80 (Autumn 2016).
- ‘Parazoology in Practice’, Paranormal Review, 80 (Autumn 2016).
- ‘Faking Kluski: The Story Behind the “Faked” Kluski Spirit Hands at the Institut Metapsychique International in Paris’, Paranormal Review, 79 (Summer 2016).
- ‘The Enflied Psychic: An Interview with Dr Ian Rubenstein’, Paranormal Review, 79 (Summer 2016).
- ‘Permanent Paranormal Object: Professor Josephson’s Bent Key’, Paranormal Review, 78 (Spring 2016).
- ‘Mrs Salter and the Angels: The 1915 Society for Psychical Research’s Investigation of “Alleged Visions on the Battlefield” and the Angels of Mons’, Paranormal Review, 76 (Autumn 2015).
- ‘A Previously Unpublished Account of the Angels of Mons’, Paranormal Review, 76 (Autumn 2015).
- ‘Greenwich Meme Time: The Joint Society for Psychical Research and Parapsychological Association Conference at the University of Greenwich, London, 16-19 July 2015’, Paranormal Review, 76 (Autumn 2015).
- ‘The Medium: An Interview with Physical Medium Kai Mügge’, Paranormal Review, 75 (Summer 2015).
- ‘The Séance: Lights, Rappings, Levitations and Apports with Kai Mügge’, Paranormal Review, 75 (Summer 2015).
- ‘Stephen E. Braude: An Interview with the 2014 Recipient of the Myers Memorial Medal’, Paranormal Review, 74 (Spring 2015).
- ‘Virtual Parapsychology: A Review of “Parapsychology and Psychology: Research and Theory Online Conference”, 1–2 November 2014’, Paranormal Review, 73 (Winter 2015).
- ‘Ghoulies, Ghosties, Long Leggedy Beasties and Things That Go Bump in the Night!’ Daily Express (30 October 2014).
- ‘From Polaroid Poltergeists to the Statistics of the Zodiac: Summary of the 2013 Volume of the Zeitschrift für Anomalistik’, Mindfield, 6.3 (2014).
- ‘Paranormal Paris: Inside the Institut Métapsychique International’, Paranormal Review, 72 (October 2014).
- ‘Conference Report: The 38th Annual International SPR Conference’, Paranormal Review, 72 (October 2014).
- With Walter Meyer zu Erpen and Shelley Sweeney, ‘Saving the Paranormal: What Did We Learn from the “Preserving the Historical Collections of Parapsychology” Conference?’, Paranormal Review, 72 (October 2014), 36-7.
- ‘The Black Magic Code’, Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, 6 (2014).
- ‘A Vision in Bermondsey, 1917: A Previously Unreported First World War Anomalous Experience’, Paranormal Review, 71 (July 2014), 28-9.
- ‘The Blood of Satan: The Exorcism of Michael Taylor’, Fortean Times, 313 (April 2014).
- ‘What Possessed Us? Forty Years After Its UK Release, Is The Exorcist Still the Scariest Movie of All Time?’, Fortean Times, 313 (April 2014).
- ‘Friday the 13th’, Daily Express (12 September 2013).
- ‘Britain’s Spookiest Places’, Daily Express (23 August 2013).
- ‘Child Witches: Imaginary Cannibalism and Ritual Abuse in London’, Paranthropology, 3.3 (July 2012), 13-21.
- ‘Vampire Autopsies’, Fortean Times, 288 (Special, 2012).
- ‘Faith Factor: Hallowe’en Then and Now’, Sierra Sun (27 October 2011) [USA].
- ‘Reinventing the Renaissance Occult in Modern and Postmodern Culture Conference’, Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, 20.2 (Vernal Equinox 2011).
- ‘Angels in Space’, Paranormal, 56 (February 2011), pp. 54-57. [Conceptualisations of unknown aerial phenomena, the role of rumour in modern media and the verification of sources.]
- ‘How to Make a Horcrux’, Paranormal, 55 (January 2011), pp. 20-24. [Beliefs and practices concerning the idea of the external soul in folklore and magic.]
- ‘Talk of the Devil, Part 2’, Paranormal, 52 (October 2010), 34-39. [Current beliefs about the Devil.]
- ‘Talk of the Devil, Part 1’, Paranormal, 51 (September 2010), 28-33. [History of the Devil.]
- ‘Sympathy from the Devil’, Paranormal, 49 (July 2010), 56-59. [Explanations of magic.]
- ‘Haiti’s “Devil Pact”’, Paranormal, 46 (April 2010), 10. [Current affairs.]
- ‘Is it Time to Sell Your Soul?’, Pagan Dawn, 171 (Beltane 2009), 22-23. [Faustus]
- ‘Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician’, Watkins Review, 22 (Summer 2009), 13.
- ‘Weber and the Witches: Sociological Theory and Modern Witchcraft’, Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies, 2 (February, 2006), 116-130.
‘I have always admired Dr Leo Ruickbie’s comprehensive expertise in the paranormal.’ – Rosemary Ellen Guiley, bestselling author