March 26, 1932 — July 19, 2022
For more than three decades, Allen Spraggett, a man of God, popularized the paranormal across North America. The scholarly psychoanalytic journal once described the ordained minister, author, broadcaster, psychic researcher, astrologer, editor, and sought-after speaker as “Canada’s foremost authority on PSE.” Indeed, in 1978 and 1995, the Supreme Court of Ontario recognized him as an expert witness on the subjects of voodoo and parapsychology.
Allen, says his daughter Sandra Spies, “made the world of the paranormal accessible to the masses. The world of the unexplained was not something to be feared, but rather something to be explored.
Born in Toronto to Henry Spraggett, a First World War veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, and his wife Gertrude (née Brown), a homemaker, Allen Frederick Spraggett was, says his daughter Alanna Proszanski, a ” precocious and very intelligent child” who learned to read from an early age. His brother Charles, 13 years his senior, had left the family home in St. Clair and Dufferin when Allen was five.
When he was bullied in elementary school, Allen recruited older boys to protect him, says his son Stephen Spraggett, “by rewarding them with handmade cardboard ‘medals’ of bravery. He was a leader among his friends, always having ideas for adventures.
Allen attended Sunday school at United Brethren in Christ, which sparked his interest in religion. At age 14, he had a vision that he should preach the gospel and was ordained the following year. The Ontario Temperance Organization hired him to preach with the Temperance Union in Protestant churches throughout the province.
After graduating from high school, Independent Evangelical Ministry hired Allen as pastor of the Holiness Church of God in Feversham where, in two years, he grew the congregation from 20 to more than 150 parishioners. From there he worked at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Collingwood and, while pastoring at Elk Lake in 1958, he was accepted into Queen’s University Theological College. Then married with two children, Allen transferred to churches in Frankville, Plum Hollow and Toledo so he could attend school. He obtained a BA in theology in 1962.
That same year, the Toronto Star Executive editor Charles Templeton was looking for a religious editor, Spies says. Although Allen had no journalistic experience, Templeton was impressed with the young man’s writing and story proposals and hired him.
As a religious editor, Allen was given carte blanche to build the section. Colleagues, Spies says, “(were) incredulous that Dad typed with just one finger. Hearing the sound of the keys flying, you’d think he was using all the fingers.
In 1969, he left his post as editor to become a daily columnist, writing about the paranormal for the Star until 1971. He left to start a syndicated weekly column, “The Unexplained” (1972-1977). During his 10-year career with the Star, he interviewed such high-profile subjects as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Martin Luther King Jr.
As founding president of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research in the late 1960s, Allen also served on the executive board of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship in Chicago and was a fellow of the College of Human Sciences. He is the author of 11 books – on paranormal activity, the afterlife, ESP and psychic healing – including “The Unexplained”, “Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Who Believes in Miracles” and “The Psychic Mafia “.
The ’70s and ’80s saw Allen create and host radio shows, the most popular being “Sun Spots”, “The Unexplained” and “You and Your Sun Sign” for stations CFRB, CFNY and CKMW. He was also the host and author of television shows such as “Beyond Reason” and “The Occult”.
Its broadcast programs have made information about psychic phenomena available to the general public, including research on the belief in life after death. “When he spoke,” says his daughter Kathryn Spraggett, “(Allen) approached his work with such enthusiasm and joy that it was easy to get caught up in his world.”
Despite his fame, he was unimpressed with fame and was always familiar and friendly. “Dad’s face lit up immediately when he greeted someone,” says Kathryn. “He would often drop a little joke or lean in and share an observation in a calm, conspiratorial voice. He could sense what tone to take, what humor was needed, whether it was entertainment or words of wisdom or comfort. People always left a little taller and brighter.
He was in demand as a lecturer and lecturer at universities and colleges across North America and taught a parapsychology course at Ryerson.
Following a diagnosis of leukemia in the late 80s, Allen retired from public life. He was re-ordained as Minister of Spiritual Sciences in 1986 and received an honorary doctorate in ministry from the International College of Spiritual and Psychic Sciences of Montreal. He practiced as a hypnotist and as an astrologer for private clients, including a mining executive making a business decision and an actor keen to get involved, Kathryn says.
Teenage Allen had first spotted Marion Martin from the pulpit while preaching in Feversham; she was a tuba player in the Salvation Army band. After seeing him preach, Marion remembers: “I told my mother that I had seen the person I was going to marry. She later learned that Allen had said the same thing to her mother. They did not meet officially until the following summer, when they both worked as counselors at a Bible camp in Collingwood.
They married in June 1954 and their 68-year marriage produced five children: Stephen (b. 1955), Alanna (1958), Sandra (1961), Dennis (1964) and Kathryn (1969) and four grandchildren.
With a passion for learning, music and the fine arts, Allen was a cultured man, Stephen says. “He was rarely without a book in hand when he wasn’t typing his next book on his old Underwood typewriter.”
Kathryn remembers her father, a fast reader, “reading several books, cover to cover” in one trip to the bookstore. “His study contained thousands of books on various subjects and he knew them all,” adds Stephen. “He was Google before there was a Google.”
“His enthusiasm and ability to communicate his findings on so many platforms (made) it impossible to replicate,” says Kathryn.
In search of truth, Allen “searched for answers to the strange and inexplicable events that occur in life,” says Spies. “Dad had many questions about the nature of our reality and dedicated his life to finding the answers.”
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