Dr. Hazel Denning founded the Parapsychological Association of Riverside in Riverside, California.
Later, she became the primary founding member of the Association for Past Life Research and Therapies, which is now the International Association of Regression Research and Therapies.
After she retired from active work with IARRT, she wrote three books. I have read all three and recommend them highly.
If you are interested in ghost hunting, though, you will want to read the book that was her first published book, True Hauntings: Spirits with a Purpose. She reports from actual ghost hunting experiences on the discoveries she, and the mediums she used to do this research, gleaned about the meanings of hauntings and the healings required to normalize such circumstances.
True Hauntings is a beautifully written and solidly informative book about the world of the paranormal. Anyone with a genuine interest in "ghosts" will find this book answers most of his questions about this subject and does so with style. Dr. Denning has a style that struck me as being not only graceful, but, in and of itself, as health-giving as her book’s message.
PC (Pat Chalfant): I came to an APRT training weekend at which you told a wonderful story about your first encounter with past life recall. I loved the story. Could you tell about it before we talk about how APRT was founded?
HD (Hazel Denning): Well, my experience was a very dramatic one. I had studied hypnosis. I was a hypnotherapist and I had studied reincarnation for quite a long time and was convinced that that was a physical law, at least. This young woman was sent to me by a doctor friend of mine. She had tried to commit suicide. At the time I was a youth director in the Methodist Church. And my doctor said he was sending me this young woman because I worked with young people all the time and she was in quite a bit of stress.
So when she came, we talked and I said your mind knows everything about you so let's go into your mind and see what it has to tell you. I expected her to go back to childhood, perhaps. She cried. In fact, she cried for three sessions. The third session I said, "Now look, you've abreacted enough and you've gotten enough of this pain out and now let's see what's causing this pain."
So she kept saying I don't know why I hurt, I don't know why I'm crying. Then she stopped crying and said, "I'm black and I'm in a bucket brigade, and I'm trying to put the fire out. The Union soldiers set fire to my plantation and we're trying to put it out." Then she jumped and said, "Oh, now I know why I hate that lamp in my Grandmother's house. It's just like the one here in the plantation kitchen.
I'm a housemaid. I know why I had hysterics when I went to see GONE WITH THE WIND. She said when Scarlett O'Hara stood in the fields and said she'd never be hungry again, I stood in the fields and said I'd never be black again. And when I went to the movie and came to that part I really came unglued, I had hysterics and didn't know why.
PC: Did you have any preconceived ideas about past lives?
HD: I believed in reincarnation but I didn't think you could access that material, never dreamed you could. So listening to it coming out of her was a shock to me. Of course, I went along with it, didn't ask questions and brought out whatever I could from her and when she left I sat in my chair and thought, "Good heavens! Do you mean a person can actually recall that stuff? If they can, what a fantastic tool for therapy."
So, from then on, right there in the Methodist church, when people would come in for counseling, I would say, "Well, I have a new thing that I would like to try that might unravel this, if it's all right with you." And it worked every time! I was just amazed. Here I was getting all this stuff, and I'm thinking , "How can I share this? I don't dare tell anybody. They'll think I'm crazy."
Well, for fifteen years I did this and I kept complete records. I have transcripts, hundreds of tapes out in my garage from those early sessions. I knew that this was a valid thing but I wasn't ready to share it and stick my neck out.
Then in 1976 I went to Monte Carlo to an international congress and there was a psychiatrist there by the name of Dr. Green from New York and I could tell from what he said that he was doing the same thing I was. So I accosted him and we became acquainted. We had a wonderful time sharing what we were finding.
Now when he left me, (now he's a psychiatrist, you see) he spread his hands out and he said, "No question about it, it's the coming therapy." So, I went home in the clouds thinking how wonderful it was that I had found somebody else who was doing it, too. Then right after that, in fact it was in 1976, that a number of books came out, Edith Fiore's book came out, Dr. Winkler put out one, I think Lenz was way back them, and a man named Graham put out one, THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF REINCARNATION, then Marcia Moore came out with one.
PC: I know those books, but I don't know Graham's book.
HD: Well, it's the first one I found and I thought now I didn't have to write a book about it because he had said it all. All the stuff he reported I had experienced. So that's how it opened up and then I became more open about it, too.
PC: I was looking back through the APRT Journals and Rob Bontenbal mentions Dr. Ten Dam.
HD: I was delighted to discover that some people in Redwood City were doing Past Life regression therapy. So I announced that I would be glad to get a directory together of all the people that were doing this so that we could know each other, have some kind of contact, and I asked $5 to cover postage and printing. A very few people did respond. But the following year Ron Jue was directing (I think it was a UCLA extension course) at UC Irvine.
But it was an extension program in reincarnation and he invited me to help him put together an extra day for people who were interested in past life regression therapy.
We spent quite a bit time working on it. We announced that we would have a special meeting on Thursday afternoon before the main conference began. We had 52 people there. And we had a very nice meeting. Everyone was excited and enthusiastic about having the organization.
So at that meeting 8 people were appointed to serve as a committee to draw up bylaws and articles and to propose a board of directors, in other words to present nominees for a board of directors to run the organization.
PC: Ron said he thought that you had already gotten a date, or made plans to do a weekend similar to his, is that not true?
HD: No, I had wanted to do something but hadn't come to any conclusions about what it could be. Then when I met him, (and as a matter of fact that meeting was certainly contrived by someone upstairs) because we went to a lecture we were both invited to attend, (neither of us wanted to go) but we decided we should. And as soon as we met, we recognized each other and we were friends from that moment on.
And then he told me about this conference he was having and told me his idea about having an extra time for people who were interested in past life therapy. And since that's what I was doing, it sounded like a wonderful arrangement. So, that is how it came about. I sent letters out to all of these names that I had, telling them about this extra meeting and inviting them to come.
It was also announced in the flyers ahead of time that we were going to have it. So this committee of eight people met throughout the next number of months until the fall. And some of them were as far away as Arizona, one of them was from up north in California and they paid their own expenses to come together for these meetings.
We studied a number of different bylaws and articles from different organizations and drew up our own suggested bylaws and articles and constitution and we presented these 15 names in the fall. There were again about 50 or more people at this second meeting. Our organization meeting in September was in connection again with one of Ron's extension programs. It was not an entity in itself.
PC: I see. He mentioned that he had done another weekend at San Diego. Is that where this happened?
HD: I'm not absolutely certain about that. I thought it was in Irvine. But it could have been in San Diego at the one that he did there.
He couldn't remember exactly who the first board members were. He remembered some of them but wasn't certain of all the names.
Three days before the conference, Ron Jue called and said I should be the first president. I said that we should have a man and it should be a state licensed psychologist and I shouldn't be the first president.
We came to this board meeting, unsure of who was going to be the first president and it was Helen Wambaugh who said, "Hazel, there's no question about it. You've been in this field longer than any of us, you have the background and who cares about the fact that you're a woman, not a man. You must be the first president. So they voted me in, in spite of myself.
PC: Well, it certainly proved to be the right choice.
HD: I was the first president and I served two terms. And I was very careful to be sure that in the bylaws it stated that you could only be president a certain length of time, because I did not want to become an institution. And so when we were about to terminate my second term, everybody said, "What are we going to do?" Because I was kind of running everything, and I said, "No problem at all, just make me an executive director." So that's what we did.
PC: Well, that's certainly understandable. Well, I've talked to Winafred Lucas, Ron Jue, and now you.
HD: Well, Winafred wasn't in on the beginning, though.
PC: No, she said she didn't come in, she thought, until the second meeting or the second day of one of the conferences.
HD: I'm sorry you couldn't interview Helen Wambaugh, too. And Edie Fiore was in from the very beginning, too, you know. She's very famous, you know.
PC: Yes, I know. I interviewed her when her book ENCOUNTERS was coming out, but I wasn't thinking about this kind of article at the time so I didn't get any information that applies.
HD: She's been a wonderful supporter. She was writing a book at the time, but she agreed to be on the board just to lend her name, but she wasn't able to be active. Then as time went on, she finished her book and so on, and she's been active ever since. She comes to any conference we ask her to speak for and she doesn't charge us, of course. She's been very generous in giving her time. Do you have the list of our Honorary Life Members?
PC: I don't think I do.
HD: We have some very prestigious people who have been given Honorary Life Memberships. We give one Honorary Life Membership a year.
Edie is one of them and Thelma Moss is another one. Now Thelma had never been active in the group but we gave her an Honorary Life Membership to honor her for all of her contributions in this field. Helen Wambaugh is one. I am, too, but not to my liking. I was very cross with them for doing that. Ron Jue is, and Winafred Lucas.
PC: Hazel, I have another question. When did the Newsletter begin? In Journal I, Vol. 1, you say that you have a Newsletter, and that Volume is dated 1986.
HD: Oh, it began immediately. I put out the first newsletter on a mimeograph.
PC: I thought Ron indicated it happened later.
HD: No, we started the newsletter immediately because we thought that that was the lifeline of any organization.
PC: Winafred Lucas said you took your doctorate where she was on the faculty?
HD: At that time it was International University.
PC: Did it become something else later?
HD: It became Sierra College. Well, she taught at the University of California, didn't she? I think she has an emeritus status or was a fellow or something. She's a very outstanding person. She's a very brilliant woman and was a straight psychotherapist for years. And all of this stuff was quite a thing to change to.
PC: I know because I asked her how she first started doing past life therapy. She said she hadn't done it prior to joining APRT. And that leads into something I wanted to talk to you about.
I have heard from all the people I've talked to about APRT's beginnings; that originally there were a lot of people from the psychic field who were not therapists at the first meetings. How did you find therapists to come and be a part of this?
HD: Yes, but that was 20 years ago. It's incorporated, too, by the way. And a man in the east gave us a quarter of a million dollars a few years back to do a research project to prove that man could heal himself with his mind.
PC: Yes, I remember reading a short article in one of the APRT Journals about it, just giving some of the results. I looked forward to another one and I don't think I saw another one.
HD: No, there hasn't been. I have all the statistics now and I've written it up and sent it out to three magazines who didn't want it and so it's kind of sitting here, but I'm hoping to get to do something about it.
PC: What a shame, I wonder why they didn't want it?
HD: I don't know. I just don't understand why.
PC: Where did you send it?
HD: I sent it to New Age and Psychology Today.
PC: I thought it was really exciting.
HD: You see, I can't send it to an orthodox science magazine because we had no control groups. Because it is impossible to have a control group in that kind of research and We knew it from the very beginning. But I think that the thing about it that was strongest about it was that we had so many fantastic cures like cancer, arthritis, bone degeneration and all kinds of things that are still perfectly well and were very, very ill.
And I thought that cases like that would carry weight and make it an acceptable experience. We did take statistics. But, again, our statistics showed that measured on a standard of mild improvement, substantial improvement, dramatic improvement, and symptoms gone, we had an over an 80% success. But you see, the basis for that was the person himself and the therapist, and you know, that's not statistical.
In other words, a person saying he's well, without a medical documentation, doesn't hold water in statistics. The fact is that one of them who had migraines and arthritis so bad that she could hardly walk sometimes ten years later now is walking around and hasn't had a bit of trouble since. That should hold water, shouldn't it?
PC: Yes, it certainly should...
HD: But it doesn't with traditional statisticians. But then the verification of the cures at Lourdes are very hard to come by even though there are a lot of them.
You see, we saw about 1200 people altogether, (we have statistics based on I think 619, finally) and in most of our cases, we could not get medical documentation because most of those people had been under doctors' care and would not go back. Many of the people we worked with had that attitude.
PC: Thank you so much for the interview, Hazel.
HD: You are very welcome Patricia. Thanks for having me.