One evening in 1972 a group of young people from Catalina High School were talking about dreams. One told of a dream where he was led through a fantasyland by a Wizard who was all dressed in black and performed magic. In the dreams he saw faries and elves dancing in the moonlight. Three others said they'd had the same dream. Another friend said he was pretty sure their dream was an actual place, so they set out to find it. What they found was sadly overgrown with weeds and badly in need of repair, and the aging Wizard (George Phar Legler). [more inside]
Arthur Conan Doyle became interested in Spiritualism as early as 1886, inspired by the writing of the US High Courts Judge John Worth Edmonds, and confessing his belief in the supernatural in various publications, including The Coming of the Fairies, "a collection of facts" about the Cottingley Fairies, published a year after the start of an odd friendship. In 1920, Doyle received the book The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin from none other than Harry Houdini, the renowned magician turned resolute skeptic, yet the two became friends, discussing spiritualism in terms of faith and frauds, respectively. [more inside]
British romance novelist Ida Cook (1904-1986) wrote over a hundred books for Mills & Boon under the name Mary Burchell, including the thirteen-book, opera-focused Warrender saga. The passion she and her sister, Louise Cook, shared for opera carried them across oceans and countries in the years prior to the outbreak of WWII, and when Ida took account of her writing career's financial success, she was by struck by a "terrible, moving and overwhelming thought--I could save life with it." So beginning in 1937, she and Louise helped save dozens of lives by entering Germany disguised as themselves: eccentric opera fanatics. Louise Carpenter's "Ida and Louise" looks into the lives of these two sisters, these "lives which swung dizzyingly between the purest fantasy and the utterly real." [more inside]
How New World Wine Resurrects Old Religion
I used to be a regular at a wine bar in San Clemente, a beach town in California where my wife and I lived when we were first married. The ‘Tuscan’ decor of the place was a little too vivid for my taste, but the wine was priced right and the owner was a great conversationalist. He would tell us stories from behind the bar about his travels to vineyards in Chile and New Zealand, and he had a charming populist streak. When people got too pretentious about the wine, he would roll his eyes and say: ‘Relax, it’s just a beverage.’ He was wrong about that, of course. Since its invention more than 8,000 years ago, wine has always been more than just a beverage.
Ehrich Weisz may not have had much formal education, but he grew up to be Harry Houdini, self-educated stunt performer, escape artist, and owner of "one of the largest libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going back as far as 1489." Houdini bequeathed much of his collection to the Library of Congress, which received 3,988 volumes from his collection in 1927, including a number of magic books inscribed or annotated by well-known magicians. Archive.org has more of the Harry Houdini Collection online. He also put a great deal of research into his tricks, as seen in his letter to Dr. W. J. McConnell, a physiologist at the U.S. Bureau of Mines, written up after Houdini's watery grave stunt in 1926.
Creed Crusher, or Spiritual Mill for Pulverizing Creeds &C. is an 1867 poster by Dr. T. L. Lewis. In it, a pair of cherubs grind the religious and educational institutions of 19th-century against a an allegorical globe of philosophy dominated by the Great Ocean of Spiritualism. Below, Lewis quotes himself no less than four times. Similarly weird is the anthropomorphic map of Europe by Schmidt. (Both via the Big Map Blog previously)
One of the hottest authors of the 1910s had been dead for over 200 years before she ever published a word. Patience Worth, as channeled through the ouija board of St. Louis housewife Pearl Curran, published several novels and scores of poems before the death of her link to the material world in 1937.
About 2% of the US population died while serving in the military during the US Civil War, roughly equivalent to about six million people today. A few years after the war the best selling book at 100,000 copies was Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' The Gates Ajar, which deals mainly with heaven and what exactly happens there. Spoilers follow. [more inside]
There is a remarkable collection of books partially exhibited online at the Richter Library at the University of Miami. The library's physical exhibit includes a sample display of books on spiritual photography, clairvoyance, and a nice run of FATE Magazine. The collection contains over 1700 books and there is a full bibliography. You might ask, what's so special about this collection? Well, the books are all From the Library of Jackie Gleason. [more inside]
The Benders were a family of German immigrants who opened a store and restaurant in the newly formed state of Kansas in the late 19th century. Led by the spiritualist Kate, they also were some of the United States first serial killers. [more inside]
Virtual Out-of-Body Experience. Using two procedures to deliberately scramble a person's visual and tactile senses, neuroscientists are able to induce "out-of-body" experiences in people. The effect is the same as the 'rubber hand illusion', but extends the effect to the whole body instead of just one limb (you can try the hand illusion for yourself).
Blavatsky Net - Theosophy.
Apophenia, pareidolia and type II statistical error are the product. People looking for signs, visions, miracles and portents are the market. Actual products can get you in trouble, but offering your services as a psychic or spiritualist seems to be safe. You will need a good memory and some public speaking ability. If you're good you can even try to tell the target audience what you're really doing and they'll do their best to convince you that your powers are real. Good luck.
"Modern Spiritualism", dark room seances, tin trumpets, and mediums While the Taliban are off hijacking Islam, John Edward and Crossing Over conduct the injustice at home, hijacking time-honored "Modern Spiritualism" so he and his clan can personally profit from his cruel form of emotional abduction. Thankfully, his attempt to deliver the 9-11 victims on national television was cancelled.
He sees dead people. (NYT link) John Edward, host of Sci Fi channel's "Crossing Over", can "read" his audience and pass messages from the deceased. Or is it just like a game of 20 questions? After a few questions he can make guesses and be close enough to right that people believe it. Have you ever seen the show, and do you believe him? Have you ever been read by a psychic? Do you have psychic powers yourself?
Belief in Astrology up 3% to 28% and belief in ghosts up 13% to 38%. I find the new Gallup Poll on Americans' Belief in Psychic and Paranormal Phenomena depressing, but not surprising. Aren't we supposed to be headed in the other direction?