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
Making the Invisible Real: Shamanism in Northeast Asia
Richard Noll, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, DeSales University, Center Valley, PA
In this talk we will encounter “shamans” and the techniques they use to communicate with spirits. Richard Noll’s fieldwork in Northeast China, Mongolia and Japan from 1994 to 2018 will be our guide on this cross-cultural journey through differing conceptions of the spirit world. We will learn how ancient shamanic practices vary according to geography, lifestyle, and cultural history.
Spiritualism, the Science of Crime and Early Forensics
Cathy Guiterrez Ph.D., Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Caesare Lombroso, father of modern criminology and avid Spiritualist, formulated his theory of criminals using the same instruments that he brought to the séance when investigating mediums for the Society of Psychical Research. Spirit materializations and catching criminals both created bodies of absent people through foot prints, finger prints, and photographs. By combining Darwinian evolution and phrenology, Lombroso focused on the criminal rather than the crime, and a new science had begun. We will discover how ancient Greek wisdom, Neanderthal skulls, and mediumship all coalesced into the birth of forensics.
Octagon Houses and Ideal Form
Jesse Bransford, Associate Professor of Art, New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York City
The octagon is a sacred shape in most cultures, and buildings made to the octagonal plan have a long and storied history. The late-nineteenth century saw a boom in octagonal structures, an example of which can be seen here in Lily Dale on Library Street. This talk will look at the history of the octagonal form and its connections to the ideas that influenced the Spiritualist movement. Sacred geometry, place, and spirit all affect the aims and goals of octagonal constructions. These ideas will be integral to our discussion on this unique moment in American architecture.
“Transporte!”: Espiritismo, Spiritualism, and Latin America
Jason Baumann, Assistant Director for Collection Development, The New York Public Library and Visiting Associate Professor, Pratt Institute, New York City
Latin American and Caribbean Espiritismo is usually described as the meeting and mixing of French Kardecism (Spiritism) with forms of African Kongo spirituality. However, Spiritualism was an influence from the start, via exchanges across the Americas. In this session, we will explore the connections and cross-fertilizations between Espiritismo in Latin America and Spiritualism in the United States.
Inside SORRAT: The True Story of America’s Most Active Physical Mediumship Group, 1961-2015.
James McClenon, Ph.D., Author of The Entity Letters
The Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis—known as SORRAT—was founded in 1961 by the poet John G. Neihardt, author of the best-seller Black Elk Speaks. Shortly after forming, the group experienced robust Spiritualist phenomena including rapping sounds, table levitation, anomalous lights, trance messages, written messages, and earthquake effects which shook the room. James McClenon, one of several investigators who studied the group, began working with SORRAT in 1981. In this illustrated talk, McClenon will present an overview of the group, explore theories explaining their psychokinetic activities, and discuss the high strangeness and intense ambiguity that permeated his experiences. Films made by parapsychologist William Edward Cox of SORRAT’s famous ‘mini-lab’ phenomena will also be shared.
Investigating the Supernatural: Scientific Quests to Colonize Hysterical Women and Psychic Mediums
Asti Hustvedt, Ph.D., author of Medical Muses
During the late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century, the female bodies of hysterics and mediums were understood as being untethered from the laws of physiology, capable of extraordinary physical and mental feats. Author Asti Hustvedt, an independent scholar who has written extensively on hysteria and literature, discusses some of the ways in which male scientists attempted to investigate these bewildering female bodies.
Postmodernism, Spiritualism, and the Paranormal
George P. Hansen, author of The Trickster and the Paranormal
French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the founder of deconstruction, wrote on telepathy, ghosts, and hauntology. However, his work has been almost entirely ignored by academics identified with paranormal topics. This talk will explore how postmodern methods of deconstruction have deep implications for the study of the paranormal. Derrida’s work is currently inspiring innovation in paranormal research in some unexpected places.
6:30 pm – Informal reception for the audience and speakers to be held at 12 Third Street in Lily Dale.
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.
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