History of Spiritualism and Seances Part 1
About the history of the psychic phenomenons of spiritualism and seances, information about famous mediums and practices.
Spiritualism and Seances
Spiritualism is based on 2 beliefs: that there is a life after death, and that some individuals, called mediums, can communicate with the spirits of those who have "crossed over."
Historically, spiritualism's 1st major impact on the world was with the "Rochester rappings." In 1848 the Fox family, of Hydesville, N.Y., was plagued by noises in their newly rented house. Daughter Kate, snapping her fingers, found that the raps would repeat the number of snaps with apparent intelligence. A code was developed, and soon crowds were gathering, for it seemed that the raps could give all manner of information. The rappings continued to follow Kate and her sister Maggie when they moved elsewhere. The girls always insisted that the rappings were caused by the spirits of the dead.
In fact the Fox sisters were not the 1st to claim communication with sprits. Shamans and witch doctors have exhibited mediumistic talents since man 1st felt the need for religion, and many religious groups have believed their leaders to be guided by spirits. However, it was the Fox sisters who were at the right time and place, sociologically and psychologically, to gain international attention.
In 1849, nearby Rochester saw the 1st public demonstration of spiritualism. Small spiritualist circles sprang up in and around the city, spread across the country, and invaded Europe. By 1855 spiritualism claimed over 2 million adherents.
At 1st American scientists dismissed spiritualism as a fad, but in England both society and science embraced it immediately. It is said that even Queen Victoria took part in a table-tilting circle, and most of the major events of spiritualism's history took place in Europe.
By this time the spirits had progressed far beyond mere rappings, though they often announced their presence by banging or by tilting a table. Typically, a seance started with hymn singing and a Bible reading to attract the higher-minded spirits. The medium would then go into a trance. Most experienced mediums had a regular "control"--one particular spirit who would pass on messages from other spirits. Some mediums simply informed their sitters that so-and-so sent a message to Mrs. X saying such-and-such. Others would apparently have their bodies taken over by the control or by other spirits, who would then converse directly with the sitters. In smaller circles the Ouija board became popular, as did automatic writing.
The phase of spiritualism most open to charges of fraud was physical mediumship. Usually the sitters held hands around a table, so that, in theory, everyone was checking on the whereabouts of everyone else. Often the medium was tied to her chair, with researchers holding her hands and feet, yet even then strange things happened. Objects levitated, musical instruments played, messages appeared on previously clean slates, perfumes or dancing lights filled the air, hands caressed the sitters. Sometimes there were apports--the unexplained appearance of objects that had not been seen in the locked room at the start of the seance.
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