Alexander Imich, Long-Living Survivor and Student of Paranormal, Dies at 111

Polish Jew Edited Book on Phenomena at Age 95


By Benjamin Ivry

Published June 09, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Alexander Imich, the Polish-born American Jewish parapsychologist who died over the weekend at age 111, suggested that belief, or even credulity, might be a key to longevity.

Imich, a Holocaust survivor who lived in New York, was considered the oldest man on earth at the time of his death.

A devotee of the Israeli-born illusionist Uri Geller later in life, Imich edited the 1995 book “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal: Documented Accounts of Poltergeist, Levitations, Phantoms, and Other Phenomena”, but his interest in parapsychology began decades before. “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal” decribes Imich’s 1932 experience with a Polish medium, Matylda S. who made rings move from the fingers of one person to another, and summoned ghosts at will, as Imich recounted: “I will never forget the kiss of a phantom. An invisible face, whose breath I could distinctly hear and feel on my face, kissed mine. It was a strong and pleasant sensation.”

Born in Częstochowa, Poland in 1903, Imich was fascinated by the supernatural by age thirteen, investigating table turning and Ouija boards as means of communicating with spirits. Imich also read voraciously the sea narratives of Jack London and Joseph Conrad, but when he entered a maritime school to realize his dream of being a sea captain, he encountered anti-Semitic Polish intructors. One such announced that he would abandon any Jewish crew member in the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, Imich resolved to study zoology at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. There, in 1920, he was stymied by anti-Semitic faculty who placed special impediments in his way. Imich managed nonetheless to earn a doctorate in 1927, although as a Polish Jew, an academic career in zoology was closed to him. An early marriage with Genia Mendelsohn, a chemistry student, failed after she ran off with an art instructor. A second marriage to Wela Katzenellenbogen, a lawyer whose German Jewish family claimed to be related to Felix Mendelssohn, Karl Marx, and Martin Buber, proved more durable.

During World War II, Mr. and Mrs. Imich were imprisoned in a Russian labour camp near the White Sea for two years, before reaching Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where they survived from 1942-1947. Dozens of family members in Poland, including Imich’s parents, were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. These lost loved ones doubtless accentuated Imich’s pre-existing need for communication with the spirit world. In 1952 the couple relocated to the United States, where Imich worked as a chemist, while Wela eventually developed a thriving psychological practice. Imich would latch onto new mediums, whose displays he described enthusiastically in articles, including Joseph Nuzum, a magic shop owner and illusionist who appeared to levitate and move through the air. Visitors to Imich’s small Upper West Side apartment would be regaled with a variety of bent knives, forks, and spoons, supposedly deformed by Nuzum and other experts in psychokinesis (these and other claims were refuted by such debunkers as James Randi).

Unfortunately, all Imich’s psychic activities, which increased after his wife’s death in 1986, did not give him foresight into the stock market, and a series of bad investments bankrupted Imich to the point where in 2007 at age 104, he was featured as one of the New York Times’ Neediest Cases.. To the Times, he attributed his longevity in part to never reproducing: “Children take so much out of you. To make a human being was never on my mind.” Instead, Imich focused on “calorie restriction” or “under-nutrition,” eating minimal food while gorging on vitamin supplements according to “Life Extension, A Practical Scientific Approach” (1982) although the “Journal of the American Medical Association” warned that “Some of the ‘health’ advice contained in ‘Life Extension’ would be humorous if it was not so dangerous.”

Undeterred, Imich proudly told one interviewer in 1998 that the nutritional supplements he had experimented with included vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12; calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and chromium. As supplements he also ingested “inositol, ginger, phosphatidylcholine, bromelain, milk thistle seed extract, grape seed extract, flaxseed lignan, ellagic acid, bilberry extract, olive leaf extract, apple polyphenol, bromelain, lutein, panthetine, lycopene, sulforaphane, resveratrol, zeaxanthin, sunflower seeds, coenzyme Q10, garlic, mangosteen, pomegranate, noni complex, ashwagandha, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, seaweed vegetable complex, and turmeric extract.”

Thriving either because of, or despite, this diet, Imich began donating his archives to the University of Manitoba in 2012 when his eyesight started to fade. A believer to the last, he made sure that there, among manuscripts of his published and unpublished works, are found “various pieces of silverware which were bent by Joe A. Nuzum.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.