In this illustrated presentation, award-winning photographer and author Shannon Taggart will share original photographs from her 17 year-long exploration of séances and the endeavor to blur the lines between life and death. She will discuss the curious ways that Spiritualist mediums, Vodou practitioners, and also the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson have used altered states of consciousness in their quests to access invisible realms. Her photographs have been exhibited and featured internationally in TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek. Taggart’s book, SÉANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm, will be released in 2019.
The Science of Things Spiritual: A Symposium in Lily Dale, New York
Programmed by Shannon Taggart, with Susan B. Barnes
Purchase Tickets Here
9:00am – 6:00pm – lectures
6:30pm – Reception
The Moment of Revelation: Cases from Upstate New York’s Spiritual History
Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., Professor of Music Emeritus, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York
Upstate New York is well known as the cradle of the Shakers, Mormonism, Spiritualism, Adventism, Theosophy, and many lesser-known movements. This talk asks the question: How exactly did the leaders get started on their missions? Examples may include Jemima Wilkinson, Joseph Smith, Charles Grandison Finney, John Humphrey Noyes, Thomas Lake Harris, Andrew Jackson Davis, Paschal Beverly Randolph, John Murray Spear, Isaac Post, Amanda Jones, Cyrus Teed, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. What patterns and lessons emerge from this?
Linen Veils and Lightning Masks: Theurgical Mediumship of Late Antiquity
Leonard George, Ph.D., Chair of the School of Social Sciences, Capilano University
Combining the metaphysics of Plato with ecstatic rites of paganism, theurgy emerged from Syria in the second century and became one of the most important spiritual practices of late antiquity. In contrast with theology (“talking about the sacred”), theurgy (“sacred action”) involved direct mediumistic access to wisdom conveyed by a range of spiritual entities, from departed souls to deities. Aspects of theurgy were preserved in the Byzantine Empire and transmitted to Renaissance Italy, and fed the roots of modern Spiritualism.
A Survey of Spirit Architecture
Steve Bass, Architect
Though construction is a very practical matter, many buildings have been designed by people engaged in spiritual contact. This presentation looks at houses and buildings that have been designed with the aid of spiritual forces, whether those forces act through direct communication, symbolic inspiration, or magical affectation. We’ll look at the buildings themselves and recount the stories of their creators.
The Ancient Oracles Revived: Sibyls, Spirits, and the Extraordinary Power of a Woman’s Voice
Marjorie Roth, Ph.D., D.M.A., Professor of Music and Director of the Honors Program, Nazareth College, Rochester, New York
This talk contemplates the phenomenon of Sibylline prophecy and its distant echo in the practice of Spiritualism today. The legendary Sibyls of antiquity uttered their oracles “with frenzied mouth, unadorned and unperfumed,” using a voice so strong it would “reach for a thousand years.” We will encounter “Sibyls” belonging to several different time periods and walks of life up to and including the mediums of Lily Dale, exploring how their voices—and their messages—have changed their worlds.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Coming of the Fairies
Massimo Introvigne, Managing Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)
This talk will explore the controversial case of the “Cottingley Fairies.” In 1917, 10-year-old Frances Griffiths and her teenage cousin Elsie Wright claimed to have photographed fairies in Cottingley, England. Theosophist Edward Gardner introduced them to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a well-known supporter of Spiritualism. In September 1922, Doyle published The Coming of the Fairies, where he defended the genuineness of the photographs. Skepticism about the photographs grew as more sophisticated analyses became available. In 1983, Elsie confessed that the pictures had been created by using paper figures of fairies, although Frances maintained that one of the photographs was genuine and that they had really seen the fairies.
Spiritual Healing: The Fate of a Traditional Practice in a Scientific Age
J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, Texas
The modern practice of spiritual healing was born in the eighteenth century as Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer attempted to find the scientific underpinnings of natural healing in the study of magnets the positing of a universal cosmic fluid which could be manipulated for bodily health. His success led to a popular movement which would become one of the building blocks of Spiritualism in the following century. Passed from generation to generation through the twentieth century, the practice would periodically become the subject of scientific experimentation. This presentation will explore why spiritual healing has yet to experience acceptance in medical circles, despite maintaining a large base of support and at times producing spectacular results.
Transgender, Spiritualism, and the Paranormal
George P. Hansen, author of The Trickster and the Paranormal
Historically, transgender persons have been leaders of ritual and were seen as possessing supernatural powers. Among Native Americans are found two-spirit people—persons who would take the role of the opposite sex—who often became shamans and communicated with spirits. Many nat kadaws, spirit mediums in Burma, are transgender. The same pattern is found in numerous cultures worldwide, including Spiritualism. This pattern of gender ambiguity will be discussed in relation to liminality, a concept that gives deep insight into myth, ritual, and paranormal phenomena.
Informal reception for the audience and speakers
12 Third St. in Lily Dale. (free)
SEANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm
An Illustrated Presentation with Shannon Taggart
Tickets £12 including a Hendrick's Gin cocktail. Please click here to buy.
Spiritualism is a religion that believes we can communicate with spirits of the dead. Photographer Shannon Taggart first became aware of Spiritualism as a teenager, when a medium at a séance revealed a startling detail about her grandfather's death which proved to be true.
In 2001 Shannon set out on a journey to discover and photograph séance rooms around the world. Her prime motive was to capture and record ‘ectoplasm’ – the elusive substance that is said to be both spiritual and material. In her talk, Shannon will reveal the story of spiritualism and her travels alongside her original photos and historical imagery that attempts to capture spirits on film.
Please note, Spiritualism's photographic past contains some of the most bizarre, absurd and uniquely unsettling images in the history of photography.
Shannon Taggart is a photographer and independent researcher based in Brooklyn, New York. Her photographs have been exhibited and featured internationally, including within the publications TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover and Newsweek. Her work has been recognised by Nikon, Magnum Photos and the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography, the International Photography Awards and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. From 2014 to 2016, she was Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in New York.
"Each generation produces a very small number of artists, researchers and seekers who bring great integrity and critical realism to study of the occult and paranormal. Shannon is one of the very few in our time. As a photographer and critically sympathetic researcher, Shannon demonstrates the most rare of traits: ability to think beyond given categories and never, ever to sacrifice intellectual integrity for drama or hasty conclusions. Shannon would be a stellar researcher in any field; but in this one, so fraught with pitfalls and blind alleys, she is a worldwide resource."
Mitch Horowitz, PEN Award-winning author of Occult America
A day-long symposium dedicated to the intersections of art and death at Green-Wood Cemetery to celebrate the publication of Death: A Graveside Companion, edited by Morbid Anatomy creator Joanna Ebenstein. Tickets and more can be found here.
Presenters--most of whom also contributed to the book--include medical historian Michael Sappol; Evan Michelson of Obscura Antiques and Oddities and TV's Oddities; hair artist and art historian Karen Bachmannn; filmmaker Eva Aridjis Porter; Ronni Thomas of the The Midnight Archive; photographer Shannon Taggart; Bruce Goldfarb of Baltimore’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer; Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier; and more. Talks, screenings, and show-and-tells will span the allure of Victorian hair art made to mourn the dead, Géricault's morgue paintings used as studies for the Raft of the Medusa, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, death in Mexico, photography of spirits after death, the surprising history of the guillotine, anatomical self identity, and much more.
Books will be available at a special discounted rate, lunch will be provided, and many contributors will be on hand to sign copies of the book.
Shannon Taggart and Peter Bebergal will discuss art, the otherwordly, and technology at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA.
For more information: