Episode 87: Seance It Isn’t So – Spiritualism in Victorian Philadelphia

In the late 1840s, two young women in a small town outside of Rochester, NY, caused quite a stir when it was discovered they could communicate with the spirit world.  Although some people associate the concept of spiritualism with the Fox sisters, the believe in an afterlife existed long before anyone heard the names Margaret and Kate Fox.

Spiritualism was a strongly held belief in Victorian Philadelphia.  In fact, it was so great that in 1852 First Association of Spiritualists of Philadelphia met for the very first time.  While we weren’t the first official spiritualists, this association is one of the oldest in the world.  A little over 10 years later the association ratified a spiritualist constitution, founded on the belief in a higher power and equality of all mankind.  While many practicing spiritualists in the city of brotherly love truly believed in doing good throughout this life in preparation for the next, some were actually charlatans who capitalized on peoples’ belief in spirits for their own financial gain.

In this episode I’m joined by special guest Diane, host of the History Goes Bump podcast, as we discuss the spiritualism movement in Philadelphia. Diane and I pull back the curtain on one of the most famous ghosts ever conjured by mediums – a young spirit named Katie King – and reveal the trickery self professed mediums Nelson and Jennie Holmes perpetrated on Philadelphia in the 1870s.

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