Whether or not they involved supernatural forces, séances conducted during the spiritualism movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries were still creepy. Vintage pictures show mediums shaking tables, levitating objects, and spitting up “ectoplasm” (which was really gauze or muslin, in most cases). There are plenty of photographs of old séances online, but below you can view something much rarer: an early film recording of a medium attempting to contact the dead.
This footage from the AP Archive features British medium Meurig Morris giving a “dramatic demonstration” in front of a live audience in 1932. According to the editor’s note at the beginning of the clip, it was “the first time in the history of sound motion pictures" that “British Movietone news has been able to record a séance.”
Morris’s specialty wasn’t regurgitating cloth or causing objects to fly. She was instead famous for entering trances, during which she would channel a spirit called the “Power,” which spouted philosophical and religious ramblings for up to 45-minute stretches. In this video, her classic act is enhanced by microphones falling from the ceiling, seemingly on their own. The disruption fails to break her concentration.
This particular seance featured a famous witness on the stage: Lady Jean Conan Doyle, the wife of Sir Arthur. The Sherlock Holmes author was an ardent spiritualist, attending séances and opening his own psychic bookstore in 1925. His wife apparently shared his interest in supernatural matters.
After watching the video below, you can read more about the history of the spiritualist movement here.