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- Alex Imich
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Alexander Imich was born in Częstochowa, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire), in 1903. As a child, Imich was a voluminous reader and especially enjoyed the works of Jack London and Joseph Conrad. He pictured himself as an adventurer and as such, decided that his calling was to be a sea captain. To accomplish this dream, he entered Marine School, but had difficulty overcoming the constraints which anti-Semitism put on him. One instructor, for example, declared that any Jews he took with him on his vessel would be left in the middle of the Atlantic. Imich decided a career change was in order. He developed a strong affinity for the natural world and as such, he went to Krakow to study Zoology at Jagiellonian University in 1920.
During his university career, anti-Semitism once again plagued Imich’s aspirations as some of the faculty did everything in their power to hold him back including forcing him to study in English, a language he spoke none of at the time, and assigning him a topic for his doctoral work that had already been covered by a previous doctoral student, thus making his dissertation very likely to be dismissed. Nonetheless, Imich was able to overcome these obstacles and obtain his doctorate in 1927, his dissertation being deemed “good enough”.
While at Jagiellonian, Imich fell in love with a chemistry student named Genia Mendelsohn, who eventually became his wife. While they were married, Imich worked in his father-in-law’s factory while Genia worked to become a painter. Imich’s life was shattered when Genia suddenly disappeared with her art instructor, only to turn up weeks later, her mental health decayed to the point that her father was in the process of committing her to an asylum near Warsaw. Genia spent several months in the asylum and Imich visited her regularly. Nonetheless, the incident irreparably damaged their relationship and they were divorced soon after Genia’s release.
While visiting Genia at the asylum, Imich met and fell in love with a young lawyer named Wela Katzenellenbogen who he married in 1936. Wela came from a very old German-Jewish family that included Karl Marx, Felix Mendelssohn, David Halberstam and Martin Buber. During World War II, both Imich and Wela were interred in a Russian labour camp near the White Sea for two years, but were liberated following the German attack on Russia in 1941. Imich and Wela managed to escape the brunt of the war’s horrors by relocating to Samarkand, Uzbekistan from 1942-1947. They returned to Poland to find that their parents and various members of their extended family had died in concentration camps. After this, Imich and Wela moved to France where Imich had a brother. In 1952 they moved to the United States, first to Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania and then to New York, dividing their week between the two cities.
To make a living, Imich initially took up chemistry, but once Wela made for herself a career as a psychologist in 1965, Imich turned to his real passion: parapsychology. Imich had been interested in the paranormal since childhood. By 13, Imich was dabbling with table tilting and with Ouija boards. As early as 1932, Imich published an article in the German parapsychology journal Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie that explained his encounters with a Matylda S. who was among the first psychics Imich encountered. While living in France, Imich began interacting with a network of mystics, yogis and gurus, particularly via the Ramakrisha Vivekananda Order, an organization that dealt in yogic philosophy.
In New York, Imich met medium Eileen J. Garrett and proposed to her an international meeting of parapsychologists, an idea that meshed with the Parapsychology Foundation’s First International Conference of Parapsychological Studies that Garrett had in the works and that took place in Utrecht, Holland, in 1953. For the rest of his life, Imich remained active in parapsychology, attending some conferences, delivering speeches at others and judging parapsychology-themed essay contests. He edited the book Incredible Tales of the Paranormal in 1995, entered the IM School of Healing Arts in New York, graduating two years later with the title “Reverend”, and in 1999, founded the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center (APRC) which sought to advance parapsychology through research and demonstration. Wela passed away in 1986, but Imich continued to live in the same apartment that they had rented in 1965.
Imich passed away on June 8, 2014, shortly after being named the oldest man in the world at the age of 111 in April 2014.
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Created by Jarad Buckwold (May 15, 2013). Revised by N.Courrier (October 2018).