Friday, 27 October 2017

The Spirit World

Spiritualism first found a receptive audience during the Victorian era, at the same time that magic shows were popular, and the gothic and supernatural featured in literature. The First World War sparked a resurgence of spiritualism. Whilst the Victorians perhaps saw it as a means of entertainment, this time, it was family trying to find out what had become of their husbands, sons, brothers, on the battlefield.

Two names are often associated with this period of spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Oliver Lodge. The former is the most well-known, having been the writer of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Conan Doyle was already interested before his son, Kingsley, died of Spanish Flu in 1918 while serving in the army. However, after this event, Conan Doyle tried contacting his son in the spirit world. Sir Oliver Lodge was a scientist working in the fields of electromagnetism and radio. However, he also undertook psychical research and spiritualism. Lodge lost his son Raymond in the First World War, and in 1916 published the book, Raymond, Life or Death. In this, he gives an account of the occasions he and his wife contacted their son, and of Raymond’s supposed accounts of the spirit world.
The Strand Magazine, July 1917, via
The Strand Magazine, July 1917, via
A controversial subject, it could come between friends (Conan Doyle and Houdini) and family. The following article is from the Newcastle Journal of 19 January 1917:

Local Divorce Case
Wife who left home to “take up spiritualism”

In the Divorce Court yesterday, Mr Justice Low granted a decree nisi to Mr George Edward Waterson, electrical engineer, of Newcastle, for divorce from Mrs Nora Waterson (formerly Miss Davidson) on the ground of misconduct with a Mr EG Castell. The suit was not defended.

Mr Waterson said they were married at a registration office in Newcastle, on 8th August 1903; they lived at Heaton, and at other places in the district, and two children were born. In 1910 Mr Waterson had to go to London to do electrical work, and they lived in Pimlico for a time, until Mrs Waterson wanted to go back to the North. Then they went to live in Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, and after being there a fortnight, Mr Waterson came home one night and found the children at the door. They said their mother had not been home all day, and on the table inside was a letter from her saying “I am going away to London to take up Spiritualism. I am too tired of housekeeping, so don’t look for me, and I will not come back”.

Thereupon Mr Waterson obtained work in London again, and spent many nights looking for her. Eventually he met her at a spiritualistic meeting, and discovered she was living with the correspondent in Stockwell Park Road, SE. She voluntarily confessed misconduct.

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