"Answers from the Great Beyond": Halloween Open House in Green Library

October 10, 2019
Kathleen M Smith
Spirit photographs from the Stanford Family Collection (SC0033D). Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

Image: Spirit photographs from the Stanford Family Collection (SC0033D). Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

From 10:00am-1:00pm on Thursday, October 31st, 2019, in the IC Classroom of Green Library, there will be an Open House with the theme "Answers from the Great Beyond." This Halloween event looks at seances and other means of communication between the dead and the living. What does it mean to communicate with the dead? Under what conditions is contact between the living and the dead possible? What messages do ghosts and spirits seek to convey?

The idea of contacting or communing with the dead has been present, in various forms, for all of human history. Belief in ghosts and spirits is based on the concept of an afterlife or continued existence in which the dead are willing and able to communicate with the living. The dead are sometimes believed to have useful knowledge since they exist on a different plane of existence. Yet the ways in which ghosts and spirits manifest themselves can vary widely and methods of communication can take many forms.

This event will also present materials related to the spiritualism movements that began in the mid-19th century as an attempt to regulate and control, to demonstrate and scientifically prove the existence of an afterlife. Spiritualism is frequently considered to have begun on March 31, 1848, when sisters Kate and Margaret Fox of Hydesville, New York, claimed to have encountered a spirit who communicated via a system of knocks and sounds. It is here that we see the rise of the medium, or living human who can serve as a conduit for messages between the world of the living and the dead, often conducting rituals known as seances that frequently doubled as social events and parlor entertainment.

Jane Stanford, the university’s co-founder, turned to spiritualism when mourning the death of her son and Stanford’s namesake, Leland Jr. Other famous adherents of spiritualism included many prominent scientists and thinkers of the day who were interested in investigating paranormal activities, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as equally well-known sceptics such as Harry Houdini who sought to expose what they viewed as the predatory fraud of mediums exploiting the grief and credulity of the bereaved.

Join us on October 31st for a fascinating glimpse into this haunting subject!