A séance might be the perfect way to round out your Halloween party, but it’s no modern parlor game.
References to séance communications date back to the 3rd century Greeks. The earliest known recorded séance is attributed to England’s Dr. John Dee, in the 16th century. Three centuries later, séances had gained such popularity that in 1854, Illinois senator James Shields presented a petition signed by 15,000 people asking the U.S. Congress for a scientific commission to investigate the paranormal phenomena many of them had witnessed. Unsurprisingly, Congress declined, but that didn’t stop President Abraham Lincoln himself from hosting a séance in the Crimson Room of the White House in 1863!
The traditional séance is held in a darkened or candlelit room. Ideally, no more than eight participants, often called sitters, sit around a table or in a circle on the floor in a quiet room where they will not be disturbed. They place their hands flat on the table, fingers touching, sometimes holding hands, and are encouraged to relax by closing their eyes and taking long, deep breaths.
The medium (the person who contacts the other side) may pray or ask spirit guides for protection before calling on any spirits present to make themselves known. The medium will direct the other sitters, and each should get a chance to speak to at least one spirit if they so desire.
The spirits may acknowledge their presence in any number of ways:
-Table rapping: sitters hear loud knocks; the medium may ask spirits to communicate by knocking once for “yes” and twice for “no” or something to that effect.
-Table tilting: the séance table moves of its own accord, despite being held by the sitters.
-Levitation: the table or other objects in the room levitate.
-Changes in temperature: sitters feel cold breezes or drops in temperature.
-Odors: sitters smell perfume, cigars or home cooking.
-Ghostly sounds: sitters hear disembodied voices or music.
-Luminous phenomena: stars, balls of fire, strange lights or other luminous objects appear in the room.
-Apports: small portable objects, sometimes coming from miles away, appear in the room.
-Ectoplasm: this grayish, viscous psychic substance emanates from the medium’s body, occasionally forming into the shape of human limbs or even complete spirit entities.
Not all spirits can or will come when called. On the other hand, some who do may not be a sitter’s dearly departed, but an animal (generally someone’s pet), a spirit guide or even a wandering spirit who speaks a foreign language!
Some spirits are funny, and some are sad. If, however, a negative, angry, or malevolent spirit manifests, it should be told to leave, and the séance should immediately be stopped. Otherwise, the séance can be closed by kindly bidding the spirits farewell, thanking them for coming, and asking them to return to the other side.