The Tape Circle - Séances, Exorcisms and Incantations Disc.
Who knows how long humans have engaged in séances? We certainly have been attempting to pierce the veil that lies between our world and the next since time immemorial.
The séance as we’ve come to know it today – with rapping on tables and the occasional explosion of ectoplasm – is a product of the 19th century. To be precise, it started with two young girls in a farmhouse in Upstate New York.
On March 31, 1848, Maggie Fox (14) and her sister, Kate (11) claimed to communicate with a spirit through a series of raps on the walls and on the furniture. Neighbors were called in to witness the phenomenon, which claimed to be the ghost of a murdered peddler. An examination of the Fox family’s cellar yielded bits of bone and strands of hair.
Thus, the Spiritualist Movement was born.
In a century marked by disease, famine, and war, even a tenuous connection with deceased friends and relatives was a valuable commodity. Spiritualism – and the art of the séance, in particular – flourished. Everyday housewives soon claimed to have a direct line not only to recently dead relatives, but also to long-gone Indian chiefs, medieval monarchs, and the founder of Pennsylvania.
And the role of the medium – the séance leader and channeler of the spirit world – became a desired profession. Medium-led séances were attended by everyone from everyday working folks to politicians and luminaries.
By the turn of the 20th century, the séance and its trappings were big business. Planchettes twirled, automatic writing scrawled, and ectoplasm – the material “incarnation” of the spirit world – spewed from body cavities. Medium Daniel Dunglas Home levitated before the queen of the Netherlands, and Cora Tappan channeled an entire speech from a London judge.
In the 1920s, the passion for Spiritualism waned as skirts grew shorter and gramophones played in every home. Why listen for the dead when you could channel the living jazz greats in your own living room?
But even today, in our technology-savvy age, there are still those who cluster in Spiritualist churches, who consult the channelers of the spirit world, who giggle over a Ouija board past bedtime…
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