Occult expert Allen Spraggett was an editor of the Star religion

Allen Spraggett

March 26, 1932 – July 19, 2022

For more than three decades, Allen Spraggett, a man of God, has popularized the paranormal throughout North America. The Scientific Psychoanalytic Review once described the ordained minister, author, broadcaster, psychic researcher, astrologer, editor and frequent speaker as “Canada’s foremost authority on ESP.” Indeed, in 1978 and 1995, the Supreme Court of Ontario recognized him as an expert witness on voodoo and parapsychology.

Allen, says daughter Sandra Spies, “made the world of the paranormal accessible to the masses. The world of the inexplicable was not something to be afraid of, but rather something to explore.”

Born in Toronto to Henry Spraggett, a World War I war veteran in the Canadian Forces, and his wife Gertrude (née Brown), a homemaker, Allen Frederick Spraggett was, daughter Alanna Proszanski, says, a “precocious, highly intelligent child.” learning to read at a young 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 grade school, Allen recruited older boys to protect him, son Stephen Spraggett says, ‘rewarding them with handmade cardboard ‘medals’ of bravery. He was a leader among his friends and always had ideas for adventures.”

Allen attended the United Brethren in Christ Sunday School, which sparked his interest in religion. When he was 14, he had a vision that he was to preach the gospel and was ordained the following year. The Ontario Temperance Organization hired him to preach with the Temperance Union in Protestant churches across the province.

After graduating from high school, the Freelance Evangelical Ministry hired Allen as pastor for the Holiness Church of God in Feversham, where he expanded the congregation from 20 to more than 150 parishioners in two years. From there, he worked at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Collingwood, and while serving as a pastor at Elk Lake in 1958, he was admitted to Queen’s University theological college. When he was married and had two children, Allen transferred to churches in Frankville, Plum Hollow, and Toledo so that he could attend school. He graduated with a BA in Theology in 1962.

That same year, Toronto Star editor-in-chief Charles Templeton was looking for a religion editor, Spies says. Despite Allen having no journalism experience, Templeton was impressed with the younger man’s writing and storytelling proposals and hired him.

As religion editor, Allen was given carte blanche to build the section. Colleagues, Spies says: ‘(were) incredulous that Dad was typing with only one finger. When you hear the sound of the keys flying, you would think he used every finger.”

In 1969, he gave up his editorship 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.

Founding president of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research in the late 1960s, Allen also served on the executive council of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship in Chicago and was a fellow of the College of Human Sciences. He has written 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.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, Allen made and presented radio programs, the most popular being ‘Sun Spots’, ‘The Unexplained’ and ‘You and Your Sun Sign’ for the stations CFRB, CFNY and CKMW. He was also the host and writer of such television shows as ‘Beyond Reason’ and ‘The Occult’.

His broadcast programs made information about paranormal phenomena, including research into the belief in life after death, available to the general public. “When he spoke,” says 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 by celebrities and was always familiar and friendly. “Daddy’s face would light up instantly when he greeted someone,” says Kathryn. He often dropped a joke or leaned over and shared an observation in a quiet, conspiratorial voice. He could feel what tone to take, what mood was needed, whether it was entertainment or words of wisdom or comfort. People would always walk away a little longer and brighter.”

He was sought after as a speaker and teacher at universities and colleges across North America and taught a course on parapsychology at Ryerson.

After a diagnosis of leukemia in the late ’80s, Allen withdrew from public life. He was reappointed as minister of mental sciences in 1986 and received an honorary doctorate from Montreal’s International College of Spiritual & Psychic Sciences. He practiced as a hypnotist and as an astrologer for private clients, including a mining executive making a business decision and an actor anxious to get a part, Kathryn says.

The teenage Allen had first seen Marion Martin from the pulpit while preaching in Feversham; she was a tuba player in the Salvation Army Band. After watching him preach, Marion recalls, “I told my mom I saw the person I was going to marry.” She later learned that Allen had told his mother the same thing. They didn’t officially meet until the following summer, when they both worked as counselors at a Bible camp in Collingwood.

They married in June 1954 and of their 68 years of marriage were born five children: Stephen (born 1955), Alanna (1958), Sandra (1961), Dennis (1964) and Kathryn (1969) and four grandchildren.

With a passion for learning, music and the visual arts, Allen was a well-read man, Stephen says. “He rarely had a book in his hand unless he punched his own next book on his old Underwood typewriter.”

Kathryn recalls that her father, a fast reader, would “read multiple books, cover to cover,” in a single trip to the bookstore. “His study included thousands of books on different subjects and he knew them all,” Stephen adds. “He was Google before there was a Google.”

“His enthusiasm and ability to communicate his findings across so many platforms (made) it impossible to replicate him,” says Kathryn.

In search of the truth, Allen sought “answers to the strange and inexplicable events that happen in life,” Spies says. “Dad had many questions about the nature of our reality and devoted his life to finding the answers.”

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