Harold Morrow Sherman (1898–1987)
Harold Morrow Sherman was a popular author and lecturer in the fields of self-help and extrasensory perception (ESP). Arkansas was his adopted home, where he lived for forty years and promoted community development in Stone County.
Harold Sherman was born on July 13, 1898, in Traverse City, Michigan, the eldest of three sons of Thomas H. Sherman, a men’s clothier, and Alcinda Morrow Sherman. After briefly attending the University of Michigan, he joined the Student Army Training Corps during World War I. After the war, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, to work for the Ford Motor Company. There, he became reacquainted with a former classmate, Martha Bain, who was a nursing student. They were married on September 26, 1920, and went on to have two daughters.
Sherman began his writing career in 1921 as a reporter for The Marion Chronicle in Marion, Indiana. In 1924, the family moved to New York City, where Sherman wrote a series of popular boys’ sports and adventure books and had two short-running plays produced on Broadway.
In the early 1930s, Sherman tried his hand at popular psychology. His first self-help book, Your Key to Happiness, published in 1935, led to his own personal-philosophy radio show on the Columbia network the following year.
In 1937, Sherman—who believed he possessed a high degree of ESP—experimented in telepathic communication with famed Arctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins. Wilkins, stationed near the North Pole to search for missing Russian fliers, sent thoughts each day at a prearranged time to Sherman, who received and recorded the impressions. When Sherman’s transcripts were later compared to Wilkins’s diary, Sherman scored seventy-percent accuracy. Their story is told in their jointly written book, Thoughts Through Space (1942).
In 1941, Sherman was called to Hollywood to co-write the screenplay for Warner Bros.’ The Adventures of Mark Twain. While there, he renewed his acquaintance with a former Chicago detective named Harry J. Loose, who shared his passion for metaphysics and ESP. Loose told Sherman about a small group of people in Chicago, Illinois, who believed they were receiving communications about God and the universe from superhuman teachers through a man whose identity was kept secret. On Loose’s recommendation, the Shermans moved to Chicago in 1942 to study the developing manuscript of these purported revelations, which was published by the Urantia Foundation in 1955 as The Urantia Book.
Before settling in Chicago, however, the Shermans toured “the wilds of the Ozarks” and bought, on impulse, a dilapidated cottage on the Kahoka Route, ten miles from Mountain View (Stone County). Sherman saw the isolated property, sitting on 120 wooded acres, as a place to develop his ESP abilities and do creative work free from urban distractions. In several of his later books, Sherman praised the Ozarks area for its spiritually conducive qualities.
In 1947, their daughters grown, the Shermans moved into their Arkansas cottage, which they named Ark Haven. Stone County had neither paved highways nor electricity, and the home had no indoor plumbing, but they loved the surroundings. For the first three years, Sherman wrote his books by Coleman lantern.
The popularity of Thoughts Through Space and You Live After Death (1949) led to Sherman’s being in demand as a lecturer on the dinner club circuit in Arkansas and neighboring states. As a member of the Lions Club, together with influential businessmen and politicians, Sherman organized local carnivals and beauty contests and was often recruited as master of ceremonies at these events.
The lack of paved highways, Sherman discovered, was partly due to feuding political groups. In 1949, he ran an editorial in the local paper inviting the citizens to attend a mass meeting to air their differences and unite on a program to submit to the governor and the State Highway Commission. Acting as the meeting’s chairman, Sherman succeeded in getting more than 700 Stone County residents to sign the proposal. Highway 14 was built as a result, and other paved highways followed.
Sherman was also instrumental in bringing electricity to Stone County. Hamilton Moses, then president of Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), told Sherman it would not be worthwhile to run power lines to the county because of its low population density. Sherman called a meeting of the locals, who voted to clear the right-of-way themselves. This petition led Moses to grant the residents electricity in 1950.
In the early 1950s, Sherman lectured across the country to New Thought, church, and civic groups on ESP and personal development. During his respites in Arkansas, he hosted a short-lived self-help TV show in Little Rock (Pulaski County) called Picture What You Want. He also assisted Sid McMath and Orval Faubus in their Arkansas gubernatorial campaigns and collaborated with friend and neighbor Jimmy Driftwood on a never-produced musical about Arkansas, Yankee in Wonderland.
Sherman (accompanied by Martha) spent the 1950s and 1960s in Hollywood, writing for television and lecturing on the topics of his new bestselling books, TNT—The Power Within You (1954) and How to Make ESP Work For You (1964). He also tried unsuccessfully to get several projects sold and produced, including The Amazing Adventures of My Dog Sheppy, a TV pilot produced with money raised from local Arkansas citizens, scripted by Sherman, with music by Jimmy Driftwood.
In 1963, after Sherman and several local Lions Club men were lowered by ropes into the newly discovered Half Mile Cave near Blanchard Springs, he traveled to Washington DC to secure government funding for what would become Blanchard Springs Caverns and the nearby Folk Arts Center.
In 1965, Sherman established ESP Research Associates with partner Al Pollard in Little Rock. After exploring such phenomena as “psychic surgery” in the Philippines, the foundation hosted its first workshop in Little Rock: “Fellowship Workshop in Mind-to-Mind Communication,” with famed psychic Arthur Ford and actress Gloria Swanson as guests. This led to ten subsequent Annual Body, Mind and Spirit Workshops in Hot Springs (Garland County); Dallas, Texas; and St. Louis, Missouri—programs featuring such prominent proponents of psychic phenomena as Jeane Dixon, Uri Geller, and astronaut Edgar Mitchell. In later years, the foundation’s interests centered on research into life-after-death studies.
Sherman’s latter years were spent quietly at Ark Haven preparing and distributing taped self-development courses and answering voluminous mail. He died on August 19, 1987, and is buried in Traverse City, Michigan.
For additional information:
Harold Sherman—The Official Website. http://www.haroldsherman.com/ (accessed May 3, 2019).
Harold Morrow Sherman Collection. University of Central Arkansas Archives and Special Collections, Conway, Arkansas.
“The Original Urantia Notebooks of Harold and Martha Sherman.” Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/TheOriginalUrantiaNotebooksOfHaroldAndMarthaSherman (accessed May 3, 2019).
Praamsma, Saskia, and Matthew Block, eds. The Sherman Diaries: With Letters, Notes, and Other Writings. 5 vols. Pahrump, NV: Square Circles Publishing, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007.
Saskia Praamsma Raevouri and Matthew Block
Bilthoven, The Netherlands
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