SSE Talks – Investigating A Spiritist Seance Group – Stephen Braude


In late March and early April, I visited the Felix Circle in Hanau, Germany. For several years, this group has been evolving from an informal table-tilting sitter group to a group more closely resembling the classic spiritualist seance groups in the late nineteenth century. In the past year, in particular, they have been reporting, not simply full table levitations, but also apported objects and apparent materializations. These latter phenomena occur primarily in the context of a “cabinet” seance, during which one of the sitters (now identified as a medium) sits in a curtained-off area of the seance room, occasionally opening the curtains to reveal ostensible materializations.

I sat with this group for two sessions, a cabinet sitting and a table-tilting session. In the former, conducted almost entirely in darkness, I was presented with many of the classic spiritualist phenomena: including rapping sounds throughout the room, a levitating plastic trumpet with luminescent tape on one end floating around the room, and apparent materialized hands, some seeming to emerge from the medium’s mouth under red light. In the table-tilting session, also conducted in darkness (but part of which was recorded in infrared high-definition video), we had vigorous table movements and one brief but apparently complete table levitation. At present, I’d have to say that nothing I witnessed either discourages or encourages suspicion. Fortunately, the group seems amenable to further investigations under tighter controls and more relentless infrared video recording.

I’ll discuss the phenomena in detail and show portions of the infrared video.

Dr. Braude is Chair of the Philosophy department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Recorded at the 29th annual SSE Conference in 2010 in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Join the SSE to support to support the Society’s commitment to maintain an open professional forum for researchers at the edge of conventional science:

The SSE provides a forum for original research into cutting edge and unconventional areas. Views and opinions belong only to the speakers, and are not necessarily endorsed by the SSE.

Published on May 5, 2011