History of Spiritualism and Seances Part 2

About the history of the psychic phenomenons of spiritualism and seances, information about famous mediums and practices.

Spiritualism and Seances

The highest symbol of mediumship was to be able to cause the spirits to materialize. For this the medium retired to a cabinet, in which he or she could concentrate his other energies and produce ectoplasm, a whitish, foamy substance alleged to be secreted by the medium's body. It was of ectoplasm that the spirits formed their visible bodies (though occasionally investigators found them to consist of cheesecloth draped over the very material body of the medium himself). Harm to the materialized spirit was said to cause harm to the medium, so touching the materialization or introducing strong light into the room was normally forbidden, except for an occasional photograph. Obviously this left plenty of room for fraud during a seance, and all the tricks of the magician's trade were discovered at one time or another in the supposedly demure seance room. At the same time, much happened that could not be explained.

D. D. Home was one of the greatest mediums of the time. Though American by upbringing, he went to Europe in 1855 and was accepted into high society. His exploits included a levitation during which, 3 men swore, he floated out of one window and into another. His image was somewhat tarnished by a rather sordid court case, but his ability as a medium was not in question. His immense popularity caused him to be scrutinized by believer and skeptic alike, but Home was never caught in any attempt at fraud.

Eusapia Palladino presented a very different picture. An Italian peasant who deliberately rebuffed all of society's efforts to refine her, she would cheat whenever the opportunity presented itself. However, some of her phenomena occurred under circumstances that seemed to rule out chicanery. Once during a sÈance a 15 1/2-lb. melon was moved from a chair behind her to the sÈance table in front of her. Observers stated that it had no stalk which could have been grasped, and that she was controlled by them at all times. Eusapia had her ups and downs, doing best in Europe, where she was perhaps most at home, and less well in England (1895) and America (1909). Critics feel that her admitted deceptions invalidated all her work; others believe that they may have augmented what was in fact a genuine gift.

Though the golden age of physical mediumship was soon over, other forms continued, and the messages kept coming. Perhaps most astonishing of all were the cross-correspondences, in which several widely separated mediums received different messages, all purporting to come from a few recently deceased physical researchers. They were like pieces of a puzzle--no one piece making sense alone, but becoming clearer and more relevant when considered with the rest.

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