Supernatural Magazine

Dawn of a New Age: The Early History of Spiritualism. Part 3

A reasonable person might think that with so many mediums being discredited, Spiritualism would have died and faded away in obscurity, however something strange happened on the way to the grave. The millions of faithful followers of this movement stuck to their new beliefs and their favourite medium.

Spiritualism was now a full blown faith that boasted over 8 million followers worldwide. Many even believed that this new faith was capable of dethroning the traditional Christian Church and become the dominant spiritual belief system of the time. Of course the church would have none of that and would not go down without a fight. Preachers and priests alike railed against Spiritualism from the pulpit calling the movement a tool of the devil to lead the faithful astray.

Spiritualism on the surface appeared to be just another sect of Christianity. They held services sang hymns and prayed, but the differences were evident. Traditional Christianity taught that an all knowing, all powerful God guided the destiny of man. Spiritualism regarded God as more of an abstract concept rather than a personal deity that judged mankind for its sins. The major difference between the two was the destiny of the human soul.

The concept of an eternal hell for sinners and a heaven for the righteous was an outdated concept; rather than relying on god, spiritualist relied on mediums to tap into that otherworldly realm of the spirit. They believed that after many years of evolving through various levels of the afterlife, spirits were capable of imparting great spiritual truths. Despite all the opposition it faced, Spiritualism appeared to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th century, Spiritualism showed signs of waning. People began returning to traditional churches and the industrial revolution was in full swing, bringing many down from the clouds planting their feet firmly on the ground. However, two events would rear their ugly heads causing thousands to seek out answers about existence from non-traditional source. Spiritualism enjoyed a short lived comeback.

In the early years of the 20th century, the world found itself thrown into the Great War, World War I. The second spectre that loomed over mankind was the outbreak of Spanish influenza, a virus that killed millions around the world. With all this death, destruction and uncertainty people found themselves faced with their own mortality and once again turned to the darkened parlours of the psychic medium. If they couldn’t get the answers they sought on this side of life, surely they could get them from the other side.

By 1920, the war was over, the virus that destroyed the lives of millions was finally contained life thankfully seemed to return to normal. Spiritualism as a belief system began to fade. Mediums that were contracted to contact the dead were proved to be frauds out to line their pockets with the money of the bereaved. Harry Houdini, the great escape artist was instrumental in killing off what was left of Spiritualism by exposing dozens of mediums as frauds. Except for a few faithful who hung on, the 1920s witnessed the end of Spiritualism.

Recently a friend and I were talking about Spiritualism and we both agreed that this movement never quite faded away. There are still spiritualist camps across the United States and England. But reality TV has helped revitalize the movement when a number of reality paranormal TV shows became a trend in the early years of the 21st century. However instead of darkened parlours modern

Ghost hunters travel across the country investigating alleged haunted locations to make contact with the dead. Instead of using the talents of a medium, to and amateur ghost hunters alike use technology to contact the dead and armed with lots and lots of batteries.

Seeking answers outside ourselves will always be a part of the human experience. Whether you seek it from a supreme being, or a psychic medium. The search continues.

Rick Hale

Rick Hale

Rick Hale has spent his life in the pursuit of the unknown after witnessing an apparition at his grandparents’ house on the north side of Chicago.

Over the past 20-plus years, Rick has been on dozens of investigations with large paranormal groups to being completely independent.