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November 19, 2010


Have you ever participated in a séance? Do you believe that dead people can be contacted through these types of activities? I personally do not believe so, but it is fascinating to read about and speculate on. It would be most interesting if we could come into contact with dead loved ones, friends, etc. What would they tell us? Would there be a great feeling of comfort to those still here?

A séance is a gathering of a small group of individuals who sit together to obtain paranormal manifestations or establish communications with the dead. At least one member of the group is usually a medium or at least possessed of some mediumistic powers. Early séances were conducted by private mediums who took no fee for their performances. Later, professional mediums arose whose séances were available to the public for a fee. Unfortunately, much of the common wisdom concerning séances was derived from sittings that later proved to be fake, including the great majority of séances involving physical phenomena, and many of the conditions for a successful séance touted by Spiritualists have little relationship to the manifestation of psychic phenomena or spirit contact.

Participants do not need not to have any psychic powers, although the phenomena reported are generally more impressive if they do. Usually, séances are held with a single medium, because, according to Spiritualists, a second powerful medium can lead to confusion as the spirits manifest.

Ideally, males and females should be about equally represented at séances. The majority of the sitters should not be too old. Young sitters provide favorable conditions if their attitude is serious. Skepticism does not prevent success, but the effect of a hostile or suspicious mind is not helpful and may be a hindrance.

Strangers generally are not introduced frequently into the circle. A series of at least six sittings should be held without altering the participants. It is recommended that no more than two or three sittings be held a week. A favorable environment is an essential condition for a séance. Excitement or fatigue before the sitting should be avoided. The medium should not take any stimulants. He or she should be comfortable and have a peaceful mind.

A dark or semi-dark séance room is believed to be most favorable for phenomena because light is said to often interferes with spirit manifestation. Skeptics have often noted that it favors fraud, and the demand for darkness was an early hindrance to discovering the manipulations of fake mediums. However, darkness is by no means essential for the production of psychic phenomena, and many remarkable effects have been said to be produced in good light.

Harry Houdini set out to and did expose many of the fraudulent mediums that took advantage of participants and demonstrated how these mediums performed tricks and stunts to simulate spirit manifestation. Harry Houdini did not necessarily believe that spirits of the dead could be contacted. Aside from his fame as a stage magician and astonishing escape artist, Houdini was just as well known - especially in the later part of his career - as a debunker of spirit mediums and phony séances. He felt, however, that if it were possible for anyone to come back, he would find a way to do it.

After World War I, there was a resurgence in the spiritualist movement as many families longed to contact those who had perished in battle. Supposed mediums were there to fill the need for a public that was so desperate and willing to believe. The best mediums were masterful tricksters and show people, and their séances were thrilling multimedia performances of spirit channeling, levitating tables, floating instruments that played themselves, written messages from the dead and spontaneous manifestations of ectoplasm. The performances were quite ingenious and succeeded in fooling many otherwise intelligent people. Houdini, being a magician and a rather ingenious fellow himself, knew that these séances were just clever hoaxes.

For many years after Houdini’s death, his wife tried séances in an attempt to contact her husband, but to no avail. Even now, mediums attempt to contact Harry Houdini, usually on Halloween night which is when he died. As of yet, there has been no success. Is there a place where seances could be successful in the mystical regions of the Tao?