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The Plasmatic Writer

Author . Poet . Horror Writer  

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A Look Into Victorian Spiritualism

Posted on April 26, 2021 at 3:55 PM

It’s not just playing with a Ouija board and tapping on the wall three times. Spiritualism is the belief the dead can communicate with the living. It has been a wide belief and practice throughout America and Europe since the 1800s. A few well-respected people began the practice with their own early methods. Many Victorians during the 1800s began abandoning their religions in favor of spiritualism despite the vague connection between the two. Victorians were interested in the paranormal, supernatural, and occult because it displayed a new look into parts of religion and the afterlife. Many popular forms of the paranormal included in the late Victorian era were mesmerism, clairvoyance, and others but mainly the big one in Spiritualism.


A few well-known people were for and against the idea of spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the infamous Sherlock Holmes but was fascinated by the principles of spiritualism. Not only that but his wife had taken it up and become a medium and clairvoyant. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was also into it however, her husband was against it despite the fact that she herself was very much into it. While many people were caught up in the fad of the time that was spiritualism there were some who were not and none more so than magician Harry Houdini. Something about spiritualism bothered him and he made it his mission when he wasn’t doing magic to expose as many people who practiced spiritualism as he could. What has his motive? It’s uncertain but perhaps Houdini looked at spiritualism as “fake magic” compared to what he did and didn’t want to see people’s livelihood’s ruined by promises of talking to their dead loved ones.


However, not everyone was against it and even royalty claimed to see ghosts and found themselves getting into spiritualism. Both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert claimed to see spirits and even held one or two seances with a medium in hopes to get a deeper look into the spirits they saw. Spiritualism was a giant wave of a fad that took on literal otherworldly popularity and in many ways, it’s easy to see why people at the time were so taken and accepting of it. On the other hand, it’s also easy to side with Houdini on it in the sense that many people knew it was popular and most likely didn’t have any powers or connections to the supernatural. So rather than try to see if they could become good at it they simply prayed on the vulnerable and ran scams telling people what they wanted to hear and pretended to be communicating with the dead.


Whichever side you choose to stand on you can’t dent that spiritualism was a thing and it is still widely recognized today though in more dramatic fashion and other types of more profound techniques. In a different time, spiritualism could have become a concrete solid religion or common practice with all the elements of what made it popular when it first came out but perhaps luckily people were skeptical and questioned it. Maybe spiritualism has substance but then again maybe it was all nothing more than an idle scam that too many people got caught up in.

Categories: paranormal, Horror

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