Spiritualism is the name for the rise in occult studies and attempt to contact the spirit world during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The beliefs were spread by various groups, both serious and fraudulent, that were very abundant during these times. The movement has been associated with the modern obsession with the occult and psychics. Many connected to the spiritualist movement turned out to be frauds but there were some genuinely believing groups. The movement is also considered to be the rise of psychics and fortune-tellers.
The roots of the movement can be traced to Kate and Margaret Fox, sisters who claimed that spirits were communicating with them through a series of knocks and taps but were later shown to be frauds. After the Fox sisters went public with their claim, many followed. Spiritualism was extremely popular among minorities, mainly because of their belief in equality for all. Spiritualism also claimed to be the middle grounds between religion and science, and because of this, spiritualism was demonized by most religious orthodoxies. During World War I, spiritualism gain many supporters in Europe, mainly because spiritualism supported the belief of spirits of the dead lingering. Over time, spiritualism gained a more political standing and was further frowned upon.
Spiritualism’s most popular idea was that through the right equipment and ritual, you could contact the dead. Contact was done through things such as seances, specific boxes used for communication, discussions through mediums, channeling, and automatic writing. The two best known people who were active in the spiritualist movement, either against or for, were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.
Spiritualism is still popular today. Psychics, frauds, and ghost hunters are quite common. As many as 41% of people in the United States believe in a form of psychic abilities and as many as 35% of people in the U.S. believe in ghosts and spirits. There are many television shows that focus on the ‘adventures’ of those who appear to search for the unknown.
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Foundations of Parapsychology by Hoyt L. Edge, Robert L. Morris, John Palmer, and Joseph H. Rush