What may not be as known is that the adoption of these ancient Halloween celebrations and traditions into the mainstream culture in the United States also coincides with the rise of the Spirtualism movement. This influential movement at that same time in history started in the 1840’s in upstate New York and soon spread to Massachusetts. Spiritualism is defined by dictionary.com as “the belief or doctrine that the spirits of the dead, surviving after the mortal life, can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence.” The longest lasting and most influential spiritualist newspaper of that era, Banner of Light, with a nationwide circulation happened to be published in Boston from 1857 until it ceased publishing in 1907. While perhaps not as famous as the well-established community of Lily Dale in western New York, two Massachusetts villages have the distinction of starting as popular Spiritualist summer camps—Onset Bay Grove (now known as Onset Village) in Wareham and Lake Pleasant in Montague. Lake Pleasant, founded in 1870, claims to be the oldest continuously existing Spiritualist center in the United States and both Onset Village and Lake Pleasant today still host spiritualist churches and treasure their open communal spaces and rich sense of community traditions in the “spirit” of their founding.
The State Library’s historical collections happen to be rich in materials on Spritualism as the fascination with the supernatural was a phenomenon that captured both the imagination and skepticism of the nation in the late 19th century as it probably still could be said to do still today here in the 21st!
Some interesting finds:
- The history of the supernatural: in all ages and nations and in all churches, Christian and pagan: demonstrating a universal faith, by William Howitt, 1863.
- Seers of the ages: embracing spiritualism, past and present : doctrines stated and moral tendencies defined, by J.M. Peebles, 1869.
- Spiritualism answered by science: with proofs of a psychic force, by Edward W. Cox, 1872.
- The phenomena of spiritualism scientifically explained and exposed, by Asa Mahan, 1875.
- The physical phenomena of spiritualism, fraudulent and genuine, by Hereward Carrington, 1907.