Like any other discipline of science, parapsychology has a rich history. Numerous researchers contributed to its development in one way or another, but many of them are almost forgotten by now.

An influential person of the 19th century was industrial chemist Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869) who is chiefly known for describing a universal and all-permeating force he called 'Od'. 

Although he would have not considered himself a parapsychologist, von Reichenbach’s theory of Od had an important impact on theories concerning spiritualism, psychical research and concepts of vital forces. 

Von Reichenbach's theory of Od was based on a huge number of practical experiments he carried out, but most of them must be considered doubtful from today’s perspective – like his theory of Od as a whole. Nevertheless, von Reichenbach also performed pioneering, but little known experiments into peculiar human faculties that seem to have stood the test of time.

For example, he claimed that certain 'sensitive' persons were able to see luminous emanations around magnets in the dark, and that some could also move a compass needle simply by nearing their fingers to it. I included a review of these little known lines of research in my paper on the work and the life of Karl von Reichenbach, and its aftermath (Nahm 2012).

Personally, I have once on my life, and never again, succeeded in moving a compass needle by nearing my fingers to it. For several minutes, I could repeat this effect as often as I wanted to. Hence, curious as it seems, people must indeed be able to generate a kind of emanation that is able to affect (electro-)magnetic properties of objects, and that is as yet unexplained.  

Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869),
founder of the theory of "Od"