Feeling lost, and we've got the podcast for you, Laborites. I'm Christopher Roberts. And I'm Amanda Knox. I know what it's like to be stuck to wind up in a life I never expected. But your maze might be a cruise ship or your Midnighter a terrorist husband. So get lost. With us starting October 16th, as we step into the personal labyrinth of people like Andrew Yang, LeVar Burton and Malcolm Gladwell, listen to Labyrinths on the I Heart radio app, on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hi, I'm Brian Huskey. I'm bald. And I'm Charlie Sanders. I'm also bald and we want to talk to people about it. Charlie, did you know that the less hair you have, the more interesting you become? Yeah, of course everybody knows that. Oh, did I mention them? Well, on our podcast, Paltalk, we interview people about being bald.
Brian, is this show just for Baldy's Charlie?
No, Harrows will enjoy this, too. I mean, the show is about perception, insecurity, vanity, just like human stuff.
You wouldn't believe the things that come out. Listen to ball talk on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. Chuck Brown over there somewhere in the heart of darkness. I'm in the office, dude, where I hear your voice, Chuck, but I can't see you. Yeah, I mean, I don't know why people need to know the behind the scenes things, but home recording provides some challenges. And I was getting pretty frustrated.
So I was like, you know what, I'm going to go to the studio. Yeah. Because I know it'll sound great in here. Yeah, I know there won't be dogs and children and everyone should feel good about it because I have not seen another human being. Yeah. In the building. Didn't really care. Didn't a security guard try to run you off the road when you were parking.
He didn't try to stop me literally in the parking lot. I was like, what are you doing here? Was like, I'm going to my job. And he said, OK.
He said, stay home, save lives.
But before we left, I mean, apparently since I left, they have these there's a bottle of microphone sanitizer. Whoa.
There are headphone sanitized or not sanitized, but just disposable headphone covers. Sweet. And I feel more safe here than I do at my house.
What a microphone sanitizer that sounds really made up.
Yeah, it's. Oh, go ahead Buzz market. No I won't because it smells bad and I didn't want to buzz marketing and say it smells bad. It's apple flavor. Whoa.
Which would make Emily just like turn over in her bed to kiss a good jolly rancher flavor.
Not the best scent though. I hate it when they add scent to stuff that doesn't need scent.
Yeah. Agreed. Try finding in unscented garbage bag these days.
Uh, is it hard enough to. Yeah. Man every single one of them. I even got some that said unscented and it still smells like you've missed that in parentheses.
Underneath it says most the 99 percent and we can't help ourselves one percent. Rosemary.
Well, I don't have my over the ear headphones right now.
I just it does. So I look, one of you miss long scarves wrapped around my head twice to keep from your audio bleeding on to the track through my microphone.
You either look like Lawrence of Arabia or like you just wandered in with a head injury. Yeah, I had to.
It kept slipping off with the Lawrence of Arabia look. So I had to do it the other way around. So now it looks like I have a nineteenth century toothache. OK.
Oh, man. Give me another picture. It's not it's not very comfortable. My Adam's apple is being pressed toward the back of my throat right now.
Yeah. What was the deal with that whole toothache thing like? Was there isn't there something or was it just like just either chin jutting? It'll help.
Knowing that era, there were probably some sort of like razor blade and heroin concoction that would just scrape the area where the tooth was and inject you with dope to keep you from complaining. Doctor, Dr. Paines, new chin rap now with more leeches, right from the makers of microphone sanitizer.
All right, let's get into this. We've already been goofing around for too long. We finish fine.
Just get this over with. Let's get serious and talk about spiritualism, shall we?
This is a great, great job. I grabbed a great idea by you. Yeah. And it'll be a great episode. Yeah. Greb Sir, we we asked them to help us out with this. We put together a world class article for us, and when we asked them, we said, hey, how about spiritualism? Because my brother wrote his dissertation on that. Should be simple. And I mean, you just forward it.
Is that right? It did. It didn't even like erase his brother's first name. He just did a strikethrough. And Ed, after easy money.
So it is like a really, really interesting phenomenon. It's something I think we kind of take for granted because it pops up everywhere in our world then pop culture. I mean, it's just a part of everything from crystal balls to sciences to Ouija boards to tarot cards, all of this stuff. Movies. Yeah, as a matter of fact, I ran across. So, you know, Dan Aykroyd is huge into UFOs, right? I did know that actually.
He's also enormous into spirits and ghosts. It's actually one of the impetuses. Yeah, I think so. Of him writing Ghostbusters. He's actually a fourth generation spiritualist with a capital S.. Like the church spiritualism, he was raised that way. Has his father, grandfather and great grandfather were all. Spiritualists, and that's how he was raised as well. So it does just kind of it's so permeated our culture. It's weird to think of a time when it wasn't there.
But there actually was this period starting in right about in the middle of the 19th century, going well into the 20th century, where there was a movement that basically said the spirit world is there.
It exists when you die, your personality survives. And some people actually have a talent for communicating with the spirits in the spirit world. And we're going to start doing that. And that was spiritualism, the spiritualist movement. Yeah.
And Ed pointed out which we should as well, that ghosts and things like that and ghost stories they had been around since people have been around everyone since the dawn of humankind has tried to figure out like what happens after you die? Do people visit? Do they take on, you know, other other forms or whatever? So that's different than what we're talking about.
What we're talking about is spiritualism, and that it became a a big scam in a way to get money out of people who are in pain from friends or loved ones.
Sadly, yeah. Yeah, for sure. But there is like a through a thread through there where this same era, the same period in this belief in communicating with the spirits and the idea that you could go to a séance and talk to your dead loved one or whatever, it produced this other group of people who said, yes, there are tons of fraudsters and hucksters out there who are taking advantage of this.
But there's also this real there's the real version of of it actually does exist. And we're going to apply this newfangled thing called science to investigate it. And that produced that that era of people like Charles Faught or Harry Price, who visited the Borrelli rectory, the most haunted place in England, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle like, oh, no, guys, I know I'm trying out a new version like these guys, though. They they were they they believed in this stuff in the possibility of it.
They also believed in the possibility of applying science to it. And even if science couldn't explain it, it didn't mean that it didn't exist. And then there was another group who were what we would recognize today is like pure skeptics, like the James Arantes of the day who all followed in the footsteps of Harry Houdini, as we'll see who kind of created this. So you had hucksters, believers who were skeptical and genuine, pure skeptics who believe none of it was correct.
Yeah. And what I mentioned before, like all the previous attempts to do stuff like this, premed 1400's and largely the Northeast United States, yeah, it was more religious like prophets and shaman and stuff like that. Spiritualism was the birth of the Madam Coolio's of the world. Oh, you add refers to it as a democratisation. And that's one way to look at it.
But it was it was the idea that, hey, if you are chosen and you are special, you know, it's not like you have to be some religious leader. You can just be a regular person with the gift.
Exactly. Yeah. Which was a huge sea change. And there are basically a few things that kind of came together for this mentality, this this fertile kind of imagination of this pocket of America and western New York where all of this began to kind of take shape. And one of those things was the frontier, this frontier mentality. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner called it the significance of the frontier in American history. And he basically said, man, the people who are living out there on the frontier, they're living on the edge of civilization.
The the leading edge. Right, right. Beyond that, what they're coming up against. And this is highly debatable because part of what they were coming up against was Native America. It just wasn't a civilization in the form that any European had ever encountered before. But the idea was that the people who are living on the frontier and expanding westward were basically being forced just by virtue of having to survive under these weird conditions, outside of culture and civilization, in the European sense that that they were having to abandon that culture and basically make it up as they went along and recreate a new culture from the frontier.
And that that just kind of threw the rules out the window.
Yeah, this is one of my favorite things when we do topics that when you can look back.
At a movement and point to factors that at any other time in history, it's just one of these might not have taken, you know, might not have influence, that it might not have happened at all. There's something about that that I've always really loved. And this is a perfect example. The frontier life is one, religious fervor is another. And specifically in New York, in the hundreds, people were really caught up on this religious fervor and it kind of went from town to town.
And there was no there was no big religious authorities in the area. They were out on the frontier. They had no structured hierarchy of religion. And so, again, they could just make up stuff. And I'm not saying that's not tied to this next sentence because I don't want to turn anyone off. But a lot of religion sprang out from this region during that time, like Miller ism and Mormonism and Quakers and Shakers kind of had a resurgence, basically a shot in the arm just because of this fervor going on at the time.
And I couldn't quite put where Miller is and why it seems so familiar. And then I remember that that was the woman who gave birth eventually to Seventh Day Adventists, and that popped up in the Kellogg episode, remember? Yeah, yeah.
Miller ism was where it all started, but that was and that really kind of indicates I love it when things just things we talked about before, like have even more context from something else. But that that just kind of goes to show you, like this is the kind of place where somebody could be like, I'm in contact with the spirits or Jesus came and hung out with me or whatever. And this is what I what I know and what I've been told.
So let's start a religion based on it and not even necessarily just religions, too, but also like social movements, like utopian societies where into your food 20 times.
So your puppy's here. Exactly. Or, you know, women have equal equal rights as men, which is just completely radical. Or how about 50 of us live together? And just by the fact that we all live together, we're married according to this utopian society. Just just whatever you wanted to to do, you kind of could because the frontier threw the rules out the window or at the very least cultural traditions that most people are raised into. When that's not there, people make up their own.
Yeah, for sure. And the third big factor that that you mentioned was or we haven't talked about it with science and you talked a little bit about science at the beginning, but the idea that in the middle of the industrial revolution, when we're really learning a lot more than we ever have about science and things like electro electromagnetism and things that you can't see, but science is saying, oh, it's there, this kind of fed the spiritualist movement because, you know, that's something else that you can't see that other people are saying is there.
So they're like, well, hey, if science is saying there are things out there we can't quite explain, but trust me, it's real, then why shouldn't I believe this stuff, too?
Yeah, or. Well, this is like electromagnetism. Maybe that actually explains how spirits survive after. Right.
It was a really wide open time as far as, you know, acceptance of possibilities rather than no science has said this is not possible or it can't explain this or you can't see it with your own eyes. So it won't it doesn't it doesn't jibe like there was a lot more willingness among people who were scientifically minded to say, well, maybe this is a good explanation of that.
Let's investigate. Yeah, the birth of science and medicine was a really crazy time.
It really was. It really was. So should we take a break? Yes, come on, man. Yes, I think your your beard holster is on too tight.
It is. I haven't been able to feel my nose for about 15 minutes. All right. Well, go rub your nose and bring some family back and we'll talk about some of the rituals.
Hey, it's Bobby Bones, executive producer of Make It Up as we Go, the brand new podcast from Audio Up and I Heart Radio brought to you exclusively by Unilever's Noor and Magnum Brands. The story follows a songwriter's journey as well as the songs themselves and how they make it to country radio from executive producer Miranda Lambert and creators Scarlett Burg and Jared Goosestep, a story inspired by the competitive world of Nashville writing rooms featuring original music by Scarlett Burke, director and executive producer, featuring some of the biggest names in country, including The Cool Guy and Everything Now Nowadays.
Make it up as we go only on the podcast network in association with audio of media created by Scarlett Burke and Jared Goosestep. OK, I'm going to say it, spiritualists nice and there was actually so there's a bunch of factors that led to the beginning of all this, including there is one that that I also came across that we need to mention, a guy named Andrew Jackson Davis who combined the ideas of the German hypnotist, Franz Mesmer with the Swedish philosopher of the soul, Emmanuel Swedenborg.
They were both 18th century. He kind of brought them together and he was a bit of a nobody. But he emerged very, very soon after the Fox sisters became celebrities as a founder of the spiritualist movement, almost like he was doing it off in isolation at the same time that all of this began.
Yeah. So the Fox sisters figure into this really quite largely. And you can even pinpoint a date to what you might consider the birth of the modern American spiritualist movement is March 31, 1848, in Hitsville, New York, near Rochester, at a farm. This Fox family lived there, real people, not a family of cute little red, fuzzy creatures voiced by George Clooney.
Yeah, exactly. Uh, Mr. Mrs. Fox had three daughters, actually. One was much older. Her name was Leah. She was 19 and twenty three years older. Why was that funny?
Because I saw a picture of her and she's like the spitting image of Jeffrey Ross.
You got to look up, Geoffrey. It's but what Liam Fox looked like, I didn't see. I saw the picture of the three of them and I didn't get a good close up. That's an unfortunate look for him and her. Yeah. Anybody really.
And I think he would admit that, too. Oh, yeah. But he's doing all right. What if he had really thin skin? The master, he couldn't take a joke against him. Have you seen that bump and Mike show? It's pretty good.
Uh, now, is that the roast competition thing? Yeah. He and Dave, it'll just sit there and roast people. It's really good.
And I used to love Dave Attell back in the day.
He has just turned into like the weird, like comedy genius friend that that Jeffrey Ross has. And it shines through in this. Awesome. I'll check it out. So the Fox family, older daughter Leah, was 19 and 23 years older than younger. Kate and Maggie are, I guess, Maggie and Kate, if you're going in that order. And on that night on March 31st, 1848, they heard these rapping, knocking sounds and they didn't know where it was coming from.
And that kind of kick started this whole thing in a weird way, this lead. And we'll talk about the more specifics. But in a weird way, this led to them eventually saying, wait a minute, we can make some money if we convince people that young Kate and Maggie are a conduit to the other side.
Yeah, the thing is, is like when it went from, you know, like, oh, there's a ghost rapping or knocking like a poltergeist kind of thing to this ghost will respond to questions from the sisters through rapping and knocking like, how old is Maggie? And it would rap like 15 times or something like that. And that that really caught a lot of people's attention. And Maggie and Kate moved in with Leah. And apparently, from what I read, it was Leah whose idea was to take the show on the road, try to scam people out of money.
It was not a super great person from from what I read. Yeah.
I just sorry. I was thinking of a rapping ghost and I got sidetracked. I'm like George Washington.
I'm here to say I love Fruity Pebbles in a major way.
You know, what's funny is I was going to do that exact same thing. But for the Fox family, that's like the go to rap for guys like us. Oh, it totally is. Because you can't rap. Yeah, I'm here to say something, something, something.
And there's something way the Zack Morris method, I think is what that is.
I wonder if that's based on an actual rap. I guess there was one at some point that really did that, right?
I think Blondie was the popular um. My name is Blondie. I'm here to say I'm going to try rap because it's popular today. Exactly right.
So, uh, what were you saying? I was laughing.
I didn't even notice. I'm sorry. Oh, just there it was basically I was laying at Leah's feet for corrupting the younger sisters.
Yeah. She kind of she ended up managing them as a unit, I think later on, if I'm not mistaken. But there aren't great records of everything going on at the time. But the idea was that Kate and Maggie were the ones it wasn't really her parents, but they're the ones who could actually communicate with this barn spirit.
And so they said, you know what, they not only can talk to this spirit media starts, you know, getting a hold of these stories. And obviously back then, it was a very big deal with something like this coming out in the media with not a lot else going on.
But they moved and would go away to other places and said wherever they go, ghosts are talking to them. Yeah. So you guys my daughters are talented and gifted. They're not just talking to the what we think is our murder victim from our previous house.
Right. Right. Which just changed everything. And also rather suspiciously, Leah suddenly realized that she was able to communicate with spirits, too. So all three of the sisters were able to. But yeah, not just that one murder victim in their house that had been the original ghost, but just about any ghost. And this was the beginning of the spiritualist movement. Basically, a prank by a couple of teenage girls that got way out of hand really fast.
Yeah, and so what do they do? They start having these private sessions where people would pay money and they would wear these big, long dresses that were in fashion at the time. And they would no one's exactly sure the exact mechanism, but they would do some sort of toe knocking or something where they couldn't be seen. And that was the Morse code that they said was the girls speaking to them.
So it was it's really they they had like a little wooden stool under the table with them and they would take off their shoes surreptitiously. And from what I can gather. They could. Pop their knuckle of their toe up and down with enough force that it would make a thud on that wooden stool. That's creepy in and of itself.
It was. Yeah, they should have just been like, forget all this spirit. So what's this weird thing? Yeah, but that was that was the phantom knocking. And we know that because Maggie later on confessed to the New York Tribune maybe or the Post, one of them, and and said like, this is how this is how we did it, actually, in an effort to take her sister Leah down. But it ended up taking the spiritualist movement down in large part.
But that was it, like thumping your knuckle on a wooden stool. They did this for 40, 40 years. They made a living around the world doing that and created a new religion from it. Yeah. And the by the time the spiritualism fad sort of died away, the two younger sisters were. And she recanted that confession, by the way. But everyone's like, yeah, you already said it could try. Right. But the two younger sisters and Maggie especially were in pretty bad shape with alcoholism.
And they died sort of in a call your brothers esque way, very quietly and fairly destitute in New York City in the late 90s, trapped under newspapers, maybe.
But now they had very interesting but also very sad lives. Like I think Maggie married a skeptic and he did not get it right.
He died. He talked her out of doing spiritualism, but she went back after he died, Kate married another spiritualist and she had a huge career touring the world as a spiritualist, made a lot of money, but but apparently lost it all. And Leah, again, was just kind of, I guess, a bit of a villain in the story. Where does that movie, man? I was wondering the exact same thing. It's crazy. It hasn't been made 50 times already, you know.
Yeah, that would be that would be pretty cool. I couldn't even find a good documentary on it. Oh, yeah. Yeah. On them at least I'm sure there are plenty on that they're featured in.
But give me those Fox sisters, no matter how you look at it too, whether you look at it from the the aspect of a believer who thinks like this is where it all started, these two sisters. And there's plenty of reasons to believe if you're credulous person or confiding, as Mark Twain would put it. That, you know, like the the Andrew Jackson Davis guy who who kind of started this thing on his own, supposedly wrote on March 31st, 1848, that spirit came to him and said the work has begun.
We just started something over here and then later found out about the Fox sisters, like there's all sorts of stuff you can believe. And so it's interesting from that respect. But also if you're just a pure dyed in the wool skeptic who do not believe in any kind of afterlife or soul or anything like that, it's equally interesting in a totally different way that this whole, like, almost century long movement started from that, you know. Yeah, it's crazy.
Just love. I love this whole story.
So it's sweeping the nation at this point by the eighteen fifties. And we're going to go over some of the different things that they would do, some of the methods that they would use to communicate with the other side to fake communicate with the other side. The first one is channeling and these would be trance mediums. So this is like when you've seen in a movie when someone is just talking like I am in my regular voice and I'm entering the trance and I'm doing a lot of a lot of showy things to kind of get people, you know, pretty pumped up, feel like they're spending their money.
Well, you get me pumped up, I'll tell you that.
And all of a sudden, you know, I go into this other voice and I'm like a small child.
Maybe the parents lost a child or I'm a woman or I'm Sammy Davis Jr. I just came back to say that don't worry about me. This cat is doing just fine.
I came back to say I love Fruity Pebbles in a major way.
Invented rap. That's right. So if you were a good, talented medium, that meant that you were probably a pretty good actor. You could probably do good voices sometimes in the case. Of course, Scott, who I know we've talked about her before.
Her name sounds familiar, but I have no recollection of talking about her. Yeah, she sounds super familiar, but she was one of the top mediums, trance mediums, because she was this very sort of demure, attractive young lady. And her whole demeanor was about that.
And then she was apparently a great actor because she would go into this these big, heavy, gruff voices and the gulf between who she was and who she was imitating was so great that everyone was just like, fantastic. Coruscant, you're a genius.
Well, also, yes, she was like a little 12 year old girl when she started. And supposedly she would take the stage and confidently discuss, like physics and philosophy and all that stuff because there was some authoritative spirit who had basically taken possession of her. Yeah.
And I looked up her picture and Kate Winslet, I think it's from my casting couches who I would throw in that movie. OK, OK. Not not as the 12 year old. That would be weird unless they do some sort of bad Irishman, the aging. But she looked enough like her and she's a she's a great actor.
So so that's so, so channeling is what you kind of think of where somebody becomes possessed. The medium becomes possessed, right. Yeah. There's also ones where like they're just saying like, oh, I can hear what they're saying, but you can't because they're speaking to me through telepathy.
OK, that reminds me of John Edwards. I remember him crossing over with John Edwards. Yeah.
I can't picture him. I think if I saw a picture I would totally remember, though.
You would. You would. What a weird time the 90s were as far as stuff like that, because although I think his show ran from 2000 to 2004.
Yeah. But that sort of coincided with the Reverend Bob Dobbs in the televangelism and all that good stuff.
Yeah, it was a crazy time.
So then there's automatic writing was another big one, too. And all of this is the media again, because the stuff just is so permeated into pop culture. It's crazy. But automatic writing is instead of the the medium's voice being taken over, the medium being possessed and speaking as the spirit, the the spirit took over their hand and they would start writing. And so in just the same way, Coruscant would have a completely different personality or a different voice or different accent or something like that.
This like the handwriting or the word usage or anything like that would be different then the medium's normal handwriting. This is automatic writing.
And there was I'm trying to decide if I could do that. Well, sometimes they would use their non dominant hand.
So if you want to change your handwriting, just do that to start.
Yeah, I can't wait.
And then there was a woman named Pearl Curhan who wrote at least 5000 poems, novels and plays through automatic writing, all channeling the spirit of a 17th century woman from England named patients worth. Nice, that's prolific, that's a lot of words, and then what about direct voice? Yeah, direct voice is when you are a medium, you contact a spirit and the spirit is so powerful that they just speak to you directly like the medium is just sitting there with your mouth closed.
Yeah. And this happened usually in a dark room where they would have a business partner just behind the curtain, obviously is talking or maybe they were just doing a bad ventriloquist kind of deal where they're it's dark enough where you can't really see their lips moving, throwing their voice. There was a woman named Leslie Flint, this amazing medium. Oh, really?
He looked like the old man from up. No. Did it make you cry when you looked at it? My daughter likes that so much here have these balloons. Yeah, Leslie, I actually love that name for a man, so. Yeah, and I don't know why I assumed.
But he would recreate famous people like Sammy Davis Jr., but wasn't very good at it, apparently, which is kind of funny. That makes us all a little bit more ridiculous and fun.
Well, I was reading an obituary about him that was written by somebody who attended one of his or a couple of, I think, of his seances. And they said things like, you know, a lot of times you could tell, like, what the trickery was or whatever. But there are other times where he would like be speaking over the voice, which is tough to do with ventriloquism. Or one time he was tested. He was made to hold colored water in his mouth while the spirit voices speaking.
And you're like, wow, you know, that's pretty interesting. And then you think, well, there's there's always an explanation for it. Yeah. And, you know, maybe there's another person who who is a Confederate in the room who knows. But it just goes to show that even still, even today in this guy's obituary that was written in the 90s, the 1990s, that they were like, you know, he was largely considered a trickster, a fraud, but they'll still hedge and say, you know, but there were a couple of things that at the very least it's unexplained, which is pretty interesting and neat.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that, no, there really was a spirit that was talking in the room thanks to him. Amazing.
So we had table turning. This is at a you know, this isn't like a theatrical performance. This is in a small room, everyone. And this kind of thing, a Ouija board with this, it's the same sort of thing, except the Ouija board would be the actual table that you're sitting at. You would everyone would put their hands on the table and then the table would move or tilt or something when you're asking questions. So it's inhabiting the furniture.
Of course, what's going on here is either like knee movements or sometimes they had these rings on the medium's finger that were slotted and could move the table around without anyone noticing. Just another little parlor trick, basically. Yeah.
Or, you know, the idea that you're moving the table yourself like a Ouija board. I can't remember what it's called, but basically your your body is is moving without your brain being aware of it. And then there's also just the straight up power of suggestion. And this applies to table turning in a lot of other stuff. But if you're saying, like, if you're the the medium at a seance and you said the table is rising, it's rising, people who are willing to believe a lot of people who went to seances wanted to believe were already believed in this stuff, just the power of suggestion could be like, oh, it is raising a little bit.
I can feel it. I can tell kind of thing.
Yeah. My favorite and I bet your favorite, too, is ectoplasmic manifestations.
That's a good one. Yeah, it's pretty good.
This is when you would actually, as a spiritualist, produce something physical, something would manifest itself, an actual substance. And it was they called it ectoplasm and they could pull it from their body.
And it was just basically something that they would make beforehand out of whatever.
I mean, they would make it out of all kinds of things. It was one story about someone who was actually gluing cut out faces from a magazine onto dolls. Yeah. And those were ectoplasm spirits. But they would hide these things sometimes, like up their butt or in their other body cavities, and they would pull these things out. And some of the pictures that you see online, if you look up ectoplasm, 1400's science is just the pictures themselves are hysterical and frightening all at the same time.
Yeah, especially now when you look back and see them, you're like, how did anybody fall for that? And it's really important to keep in mind, one they wanted to believe, but to these scientists would be carried out in dark rooms to where you couldn't see much at all. You just suddenly see some luminous, you know, cloth or something that you were led to believe was ectoplasm, kind of what looked like floating in the middle of the table or something like that.
It's stuff that's that's really easy to explain. But in a darkened room that you've been sitting in for three hours communicating with spirits, you might be a lot more prone to to buy into it than under normal circumstances. Yeah, for sure. Maybe you're a little drunk, right tipsy on Schnaps, levitation was another big one. Nice little party trick. I actually could sort of do this for a little while. The David Blaine method, I don't know if you ever saw his when he made himself levitate.
It's just kind of hopping up and down in ER right now.
It's you're thinking of trampolines. Oh no, that's not the same thing. People can see those. Oh uh no.
It's all about the angle with the David Blaine method of getting them to see you from the right angle to where what you're really doing is you're rising your body up with just one like just your first three toes on your right foot.
Wow. And you're and you're hiding that with your other foot. So it looks like you're just sort of levitating a few inches off the ground and then you act like you're unsteady and you land back down and go, oh, boy, that was a good one. That was pretty powerful. So wait a minute.
David Blaine can raise his entire body weight with three toes.
Well, I mean, he's on his toes. I just I mean, I could do it at the time, too. This is in the 90s, and that's impressive.
I don't think I ever had the kind of toe strength that is required to do that.
You can raise yourself up with one foot in a seated position. No, no, no.
You're standing oh oh oh oh. Oh, gosh, yeah.
So what you're doing is you're standing there. I gotcha. And then you raise yourself off the ground with just the toes on your right foot, let's say, and you're keeping your left foot is shielding that. So you can't quite see it. Yeah, no, I got it.
And it just creates if you got someone at the right angle and I got pretty good at it, my roommate Justin was like, you're getting better, mate, right? Well, I'm getting drunk.
Well, both of those things were happening.
I thought you were talking about, like, you know, like a faqir or something like that where they're sitting cross-legged and there, oh, I would like to do that with just three toes.
That in and of itself is pretty impressive, but it's pretty good.
Is that all right? What are the other? There's another couple of things they did to your photography. Pretty, uh, pretty straightforward stuff where, you know, this is the very beginnings of photography. So people didn't understand double exposures unless you're a photographer. But if you were, you could do all sorts of neat stuff like double exposed something, a pretty ghostly face in the background over someone's shoulder. That's great. I saw one I saw a spirit photograph where it was a ghostly arm.
It also could have been a genie coming out of a bar or one of the two. It looked exactly the same, but it was like that it was on a table. So they were like, this is a spirit arm levitating. So they're like tying three things together. Table turning, levitating in spirit photography.
Those are great. I think the spirit photography, just because they were taking advantage of this new technology, people didn't even understand. Right. It's like the deep fake of the time. And they were probably like everybody. We got maybe three years.
Yeah, we better get prolific and then everyone's going to be like, oh, that's just double exposure. Right. And then people, like I said earlier, to a lot of the New Age stuff that's tied into spiritualism today, like tarot readings or, oh, I don't know, astrology, stillborns, that kind of stuff, that had nothing to do with this, because spiritualists, all of it grew out of Christianity.
So there was some Christian basis to all of the spiritualist practices. And even though and a lot of ways it was extraordinarily heretical, there was no religious leader in charge of anything. There was no scripture doctrine or anything like that. It was still very much tied into and born out of Christianity. So stuff like occult things would have.
Yeah, would have been very much frowned upon by spiritualists. Totally. Shall we take another break? I think we should. All right. We'll take another break and tell you about what the Civil War had to do with all of this right after this.
All right, so pre civil war in the United States, spiritualism was popular, it was booming, but it was more like the kind of thing that you did in a theater and you would go see it as a curiosity or you might just maybe even knew it was fake and it was just entertainment. There wasn't a lot going on back then.
Kind of like looking at penguins in a zoo today, like, you know, they're fake, but it's still fun to look at right now. Why not go pay a nickel to see Madame?
Whatever, do her little do a little erotic because we'll get into that. She's got a little sexy at times. Do a little ghost shimmy.
This is part of the part of the draw that goes. I mean, but we need to talk about a couple of things here.
The Civil War for sure. But one of the things that was going on, you know, we've been talking about a lot about the northeastern United States and there's a very good reason it didn't take hold in the south.
It's because of the way Christianity was and some might argue still is in the south, didn't leave a lot of room.
The hierarchy didn't leave a lot of room for other schools of thought. And it was basically, even though it wasn't necessarily a cult, it was just shut down kind of from the beginning in the south.
They're like, we'll stick to our voodoo. Thank you very much. Yeah, exactly. Keep that spiritualism stuff out.
Yeah, so it was just not a big thing in the South, the mediums at the time would move off the stage sometimes and have these private séances. Yeah, sometimes they would get in touch with a family member, but oftentimes it would just be kind of the same in the state as a stage show. They would say, like, I'm going to get in touch with Sammy Davis Jr. or whatever the popular dead figure at the time was. Sure.
But that was for like pre civil war. It was entertainment. It was an amusement. But when the civil war came in, a lot of people died in the civil war. And that means that a lot of people who survived the civil war lost a loved one. And this might have been people who, you know, went off to fight and just never came back. Never heard from again. No nothing. I have no idea where they died, where they were buried.
And so that kind of grief, you know, that transcends any kind of time or place. And it created a lot of people, a large population of people who were very interested in getting in touch with their dead relatives. And it just so happened that at the time there was a movement afoot that said, oh, well, this guy over here is actually really good at getting in touch with the dead. Why don't you have a seance with him?
You just have to, you know, pay him to to do this work because it a lot of work, whether you are a believer and a skeptic, it's a lot of work to have been a medium during this time. And so they would be paid and they would make a living like this. And so these seances, these performances were decreased in size, but vastly increased in frequency.
Yeah, a lot more spiritualised doing smaller mediums for families or smaller sentences for families. And the same thing happened after World War One as well.
So it's you know, it's kind of all fun and games until it gets to this level. If it's a big theatre show, fine, whatever. Go pay your money and get entertained for an hour. But when you are taking people's money who have lost loved ones in battle, then that's when it gets kind of really ugly, if you ask me. Right.
And that's where I think a lot of the genuine skeptics who who beat this kind of stuff to a pulp, that's the place that they're coming from. You know, not not not necessarily that it's like an affront to science or reason or common sense or anything like that, but that there are a lot of people who have parted money from people who were bereaved at the time. And you just you don't take advantage of people who are undergoing grief. That's a pretty shot.
Yeah, you do.
That's a life lesson right there for everybody listening, especially the hamster's not only that, not only taking their money, but I imagine in a lot of cases, people made real life decisions based on things that would happen in these sciences, you know. Right. It's sell the family farm like.
Yeah, stuff like that. Oh, God, I hadn't thought about that. They not only sell the family farm, sell it to me, the media. That's what your brother wants you to do for what?
Something's coming through. They're saying pennies on the dollar. It's always so great. Yeah, that's terrible. So by the end of the twentieth century, things started to decline a bit. One was just pure greed. There were too many of them out there. They were all trying to outdo one another. They were trying to draw bigger crowds and more money, and they were getting more outrageous by doing so. Yeah, and that meant just like anything, when you try and do that, the bigger you try to force something to be.
Sometimes that can lead to it's kind of early death, I guess. Yeah.
Go big or go home, but eventually you're going to go home anyway.
That's the end of that saying I love. All right. So part of it was that they they were making more and more audacious claims, but also there were more and more scientists like those that that open minded scientific approach had become a lot more hardened toward spiritualism and mediums because so many had been investigated and found to just be total frauds. Most of the time, the outcome was the medium couldn't reproduce this ectoplasm or get in touch with the spirit when they were under control conditions, or they they went for it and they were found to be a fraud, like the the the knuckle of their toe was found to be rapping on a stool or something like that.
Um, and so as these reports kept coming out, more and more, these scientific investigators were like, I don't think any of this is real. And they would be interviewed in newspapers and the papers would run these articles. And so over time, the the just the general public kind of turned away from spiritualism is is hokum and bonke. But the thing is, is not everyone did. And even still today go Dan Aykroyd. There is a.
A group of people who adhere to spiritualism as a religion know for sure. And one of the big reasons that it didn't completely go away was spiritualists were very smart and that they would use influencers of the day and their act. They would seek out these well-known people. They would tour the world, sometimes tour Europe and do seances with like royal families of various countries. The newspapers write about this. They would get a quote or maybe demand a quote from someone like well known, and they would say, all right, I'll come to a seance, but you've got to give me a quote that I can use on my my fly or whatever.
What's it called? Pull, quote, no, no, the that that fallacy, the logical fallacy, appeal to authority, I think, uh, yeah, yeah.
The appeal to authority. Sure. OK, yeah. Which, you know, makes a lot of sense that people see. Oh well they did a dance for the Prince of Monaco. Right. Or Sammy Davis Jr. then it's got to be good enough for me. It's not Pseudo-Science at all because why would Sammy Davis Jr. believe in Pseudo-Science.
Right. He's just a Satanist. He doesn't care about pseudoscience. That's right.
So one of the other authorities that they would appeal to, Chuck, was what? This one there's an exposé written in 1897. And by God, if I can't, I can't find it anywhere in my tabs. But it was basically, uh oh, revelations of a spirit medium is what it was called. And it was written anonymously by a medium, a huckster, a fraud. And I'm pretty sure it was published in 1897. And it is like 400 pages exposing all the tips and all that stuff, all the tricks.
But one of the there's a glossary of like 19th century slang words among hucksters. It's amazing. But one of them was the top heavy and that was a scientist who was over credentialed. They had all these PhDs and everything like that. So they were book smart, but they were super gullible. And you could get a top heavy to basically say, like, I can't explain it, science can't explain it. That would go a very long way to bolstering your career, you know.
Yeah. Even if you talk to one hundred scientists and one of them was the top heavy, who'd said something valuable to you? That's the only one. You're the tenth dentist of the nine out of ten dentists, right? Exactly.
Exactly. And that's all you need, especially if the other nine dentists just keep their traps shut because they have better things to do. But there were a bunch of people who would not keep their traps shut. I guess actually one of a legendary top-heavy, even though he wasn't a scientist, credentialed or otherwise, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm sorry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
By the way, before I forget, if there's not a band called the tenth dentist out there, then I don't know what to think anymore. It's a good one.
Remember those Trident commercials? I think it was four out of five dentists. One of them was was four out of five. He was bit on the testicles by a squirrel before he can pronounce how before he could recommend dentin or Trade-In or something like that.
Maybe it should be the fifties. It is four out of five. It's not nine out of ten.
Do you remember that now? It was a great the shot was the.
What was that. Was it we make holes in teeth.
Oh yeah. I remember that. The cartoon that was Crysta. Yeah.
OK, you want to hear you want to hear the pinnacle of eighties marketing to kids. My third grade, maybe fourth grade class put on a play about toothpaste.
Yes. And cavities sponsored by Crest. Yeah.
They had a big push back then for taking over the minds of American children.
Well, it worked well. It's funny is is I now use Aquafresh the orange tube. Oh, man. If there is a favorite toothpaste that any boy in America has ever had, that is it in its mind.
That was from the eighties. No, it is now. But I'm saying the crest takeover of my mind work you I'm on Aquafresh boy. Now is that the one with the Tricolour. Yeah. Which is another very appealing part of it.
Man. You'd buy it all don't you. I do. So gullible. Yeah.
I am a little gullible. You're like an Arthur Conan Doyle. So he if you recognize his name, he was the author of Sherlock Holmes. Of course he was super into this. He joined the Society for Psychical Research, which is an early skeptical believer society. And he always he bought into this. He was just convinced. But on the other side of the equation were skeptics who were not convinced, who basically didn't keep their mouth shut. They were the other four who would say, like, no, everybody actually this goes wrong.
My esteemed colleague is has been taken. But then the head of those guys was Harry Houdini, amazingly enough.
Yeah. Houdini, which makes it super ironic that the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, they have have long had Harry Houdini say tonight. Oh, yeah. Where you can go into the Harry Houdini room and do a seance, which is, you know, it's all for fun.
But it is kind of funny that he was very much against this stuff, although supposedly if you go the Magic Castle, they'll tell you that he did and he may have really done this is told his wife before he died that, hey, listen, if I was wrong, I'll come back and I'll contact you and let you know. You're right, and he came back and he said, I've got good news and I've got bad news, the good news is there is a heaven.
The bad news is you're scheduled to pitch there tonight.
Do you remember the scary stories to tell in the dark book?
Yeah. Where was that? What that was from? There was like two friends who played baseball together. Yeah, we had a pact like Harry Houdini and his wife, apparently.
I think that's a there's different versions of that joke, though.
Me and the illustrations in that book were just bar none. Yeah, that was great stuff.
And by the way, we should give a big rest in peace to Mr. Mort Drucker, who passed away. Oh, yeah. A couple of weeks ago in real time. But that was that was a big one. We talk about Mad magazine a lot. And Mort Drucker was my number one with a bullet favorite artist and greed. He passed on and he was one of the greats. He definitely shaped my childhood in a very large way. Yeah, big time with those drawings.
Never ipca. Yeah. Nice. We'll hear from you soon. All right. He's like you guys are pitching tonight. Oh no. Both of us. So. So Harry Houdini is like yeah Josh is going to flub it and Chuck's going to have to be brought in for the save. So Harry Houdini, Harry Houdini created this long standing tradition of stage magicians exposing the fraud of spiritualism, basically. Yeah.
Because they they're like they're stealing our tricks. Yeah. And it's pretty cool. Like he would incorporate into his stage shows a lot of these things that spiritualists were doing to show how they did it. And he was relentless at it. Yeah, he was very relentless, but it was very cool in the fact that it's still going on today. Richard Wiseman, who's come up a few times, he was in the Sheldrake episode, he was in the Ghosts episode.
And I think we somehow misconstrued his research in the Ghost episode to suggest that he had proven ghosts exist. I don't remember exactly the details of it, but we got that one wrong. But in this case, he has recreated séances from the 19th century and has shown how willing people are to totally misreport the events that went on in the science to say that, yes, you know, the table did levitate or all the stuff that he's studying under these controlled conditions.
And it's basically shown not just that the the medium himself or more often herself, as we'll see, was engaging in fraud, but also that the audience was had a willing suspension of disbelief and were part of this, too, by saying, like, I felt the phantom arm tapped me on the shoulder. The medium didn't have anything to do with that. That was just something that kind of came out of the environment that was produced in the sense, you know.
Yeah, pretty interesting. It is pretty interesting.
So we'll finish up here with this. I thought this is very interesting, actually, the social implications of this. Most of the not all, but a lot of these spiritualists were women in the 19th century for some practical reasons. They could wear these long dresses that could hide talento knuckles. They were not because of the time they wouldn't get, like, searched too closely, obviously, because you wouldn't do that if you were a scientist trying to examine whether or not a spiritualist was real or not.
And that led to there were men for sure. But that led to this kind of interesting side note.
One is that women could make their own money. And so it's easy to poo poo something like this. But I'm sure those Fox sisters made a lot more dough than they ever could have, as you know, doing anything else offered and available to them at the time. So that's a good thing. They gave him some agency.
But these it was no coincidence that sometimes the voice from the other side would champion sort of progressive views, because this turned out to be a chance to sort of reshape policy. In a way, if you were a woman and you were a spiritualist, it would be very easy to say, you know, they're saying that women should have more rights and if not, they will come back and haunt you. All right. And that kind of ended up happening in some ways.
Yeah, there was a huge connection between spiritualism and the spiritualist movement and abolitionism, the women's suffrage movement, the women's timber, the temperance movement, and a lot of these progressive women's workers rights. And, you know, if you were an abolitionist and you didn't believe in this kind of thing, you might be like, I'm not really happy about that. But at the same time, it kind of whipped up this fervor in that some people would like their spirits that that that was that were being channeled by the medium.
We're saying things like, you guys better get on the train of abolitionism. You better get rid of slavery. And actually did, especially in these theatrical settings, have a widespread influence on getting the message out there through the spirit communication, weirdly enough.
Yeah, it's almost like one could say anything at all. It's something like, oh, I don't know, a campaign rally and people would believe it if they were an ardent enough believer in the speaker.
Exactly. Especially if they detach their ego to you and your success.
So I just want to give to shout out one to the probably the greatest ghost movie that involves seances ever.
Ghost no. Whoopi Goldberg. No. Right. The others. With Nicole? Yeah, that was good. I was so good at the toilet, the greatest short story involving seances in the spiritualist movement written by arguably the greatest American writer of all time, Joyce Carol Oates. It's called Side to Short Story. It's the same title as a collection of short stories from the 70s, I think 1977 nights. I'd look it up and thank me later. It's seriously just bone chilling how good it is.
I wonder if we could get in touch with her and read that for our Halloween episode.
I tweeted to her once kind of crassly and never heard anything back, even though you were like Twitter. I know she saw that tweet. Hey, Joyce Carol Oates, you think you're so cool, right?
I would love to read that one. There's another one, too. There's a she's probably not just the greatest American writer, but the greatest American horror writer, too. She's great. She's so wonderful. I would read any of her stories. So if you out there know Joyce Carol Oates. Yeah. Contact with her or her publisher, please. We would love to read in our ad free episode one of her short stories for Halloween.
That's right. So I think she might like that aspect. OK.
Oh, one last thing, Chuck. There's a place called Lily Dale in New York, appropriately enough, which is basically a spiritualist community where you can go basically be among spiritualists as a religion today.
Wonderful. Since I said today, it's time for listening to Matt. I'm going to call this. We haven't gotten emails in two weeks from people because something's wrong with our e-mail server, so it's on bad days. Again, you're going to get a couple on bad days, I think. All right. Hey, guys, listening to your recent episode on bidets reminded me of a funny story I thought you might like. 2004, my family bought a new house in the suburbs of Detroit, is designed and built by an exceptionally pragmatic, efficient, yet lacking in aesthetic appreciation.
Engineer to our surprise and my husband's delight as he is from Spain, the master bathroom included a separate Badday unit. And remember, this is 2004 and people were not as familiar in this country. Most people that visited our home had no idea what it was. And we also made the decision to not give advance notice when they went to the bathroom. Invariably, people would emerge from the bathroom trip, either a little wet or with an embarrassed look on their faces.
They confessed to having explored the contraption and released a stream of water onto themselves and into our bathroom was always good for a laugh.
I sure appreciate you guys.
When we moved from Michigan to the south to the South Carolina, what she was she once Miss South Carolina because that would explain that last bit.
Now, I thought it was she meant the South and I didn't see on the next line it said Carolina. So that was just me. Oh, OK. Your voices accompanied us as we made many 12 hour trips back and forth. We enjoyed the knowledge and the tangents, even the tangents. And now you continue to soothe and educate me as I go on my four to five mile recreational walks during the pandemic quarantine and temporary, hopefully furlough. And that is from Michelle Salcedo.
Nice. Thanks a lot, Michelle. We're glad to know that you're doing OK. They're hanging out waiting for things to get back to normal in the South Carolina. That's right. And as it will eventually go back to normal, um, and in the meantime, if you want to get in touch with us, like Michelle did, to let us know some silly story about a bad day or what have you, you can get in touch with us.
Send us an email to stuff podcast, HowStuffWorks Dotcom.
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