History of spirit communication devices

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "Just in time for Halloween, my colleague Lisa Hix has written a lengthy history of Spiritualism, séances, planchettes, and Ouija boards. One of the many people she interviewed was Brandon Hodge, who collects planchettes and other "spirit-communication" devices."

Séance sitters, while they might be very religious, would also arrive expecting a certain amount of titillation. "The intimacy of the séance is one thing that drives not only the popularity of mediums—particularly when they're attractive young women like Florence Cook, or Kate or Maggie Fox—but also the popularity of the planchette and, later, the talking boards," Hodge says. "Everyone's seated around a table. The lights are dimmed. You place your fingers on the table, and everyone overlaps pinkies. You've got a woman prancing around the room in a glow-in-the-dark muslin sheet and nothing else on underneath. And they would say, 'No, really, reach out and touch the ghost. You can feel her.' How many people got to feel up a woman in the 1870s in public with permission—with their neighbors watching?"