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Category Archives: Spiritualism

San Antonio Daily Express, July 7, 1873. Here is a singularly pitiable instance of FBAS (False Bender Arrest Syndrome). In the headline of the post that inaugurated this thread I made a casual comparison between FBAS and contemporary hysteria over blue gum negroes. The resemblance actually runs deeper than I’d deeply thought about: Both are basically semi-secularized versions of witchcraft panic. In this case, we have a bit of an overlap with the whole rural wild woman phenomenon too. Everything that plummets must converge, see? Read More »

Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1882. Hey, we’re back in business here at The Hope Chest. (And may I just thank the international service response team of the Hewlett-Packard corporation for fixing me up with working computer in just slightly more time than it would have taken for Rural Free Delivery to deliver me a can of Dapper Dan Pomade? Outstanding.) Read More »

astralAChicago Tribune, March 20, 1921. I think we all instinctively feel the same way about “brown spirit rays,” whatever their source. Then again, if Egyptian mummies turn out to be the primary or sole source of these brown emanations, then charges of Orientalism are sure to follow. In that case, our very favorite color of spiritual radiation is brown–we don’t want any trouble from the late Edward Said’s ronin bodyguards. Read More »

Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1873. Meet the Benders, a Kansan family of saloon-keeping, highway-robbing, serially-killing, corpse-plundering spiritualists. Seems they were doing all right in their chosen line of work until they bumped off the brother of a state senator.
medium cruel1A

Okay, okay: enough with the forensics, however lurid. Let’s get to the spooky stuff!

medium cruel2A

So: the cops, unable to locate the missing persons, enlist the psychic aid of medium Kate Bender, who stalls them long enough for her whole murderous clan to get away. They were never caught, by the way.

That last sentence–”Altogether the murders are without a parallel”– strikes me as wholly licensed by the facts.

witch7-3-1899Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1899. “Spiritualist” is a pretty broad and diffuse category at this time, but basically we’re talking about someone who saw dead people, or at least purported to communicate with them. The bit about the killer losing $250 to his victim is intriguing. Was she the local “conjure woman,” scamming credulous neighbors? Was he a paranoid psychotic who randomly fixated on the blameless Swedenborgian lady next door? I say we hold a seance and interview the principals of the affair.

The word “genius” in “evil genius” is being used in its old, almost forgotten sense of “spirit,” as opposed to “clever bastard” or “MacArthur Grant recipient.”

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