As the evenings grow darker and the first hint of winter hangs in the air, the western world enters the season of the dead. It is a time when ghost stories, dark tales, and mysterious happenings rise up to help us understand death and the unexplained. Along with the historic house museum and family history, Mabry-Hazen House also preserves this darker history of Americans’ experiences with death, burial, and Spiritualism. For the third year, Mabry-Hazen House will exhibit those macabre, yet fascinating cultural moments during their immersive Victorian Séance Experience.
From 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. on October 29-31, 2020, Mabry Hazen House will host A Victorian Séance Experience inside the front parlors of the 1858 historic house. Under the guidance of a Victorian medium, the séances will reenact a nineteenth-century Spiritualist seance filled with “mysterious and startling wonders.” Joining an “investigator,” sitters will judge historic “demonstrations” of mediumship. Relying on primary sources from the nineteenth century, you will join a scientist to investigate the true nature of a Victorian séance and give “investigators” an immersing experience Whether true manifestations of spirits or clever parlor tricks, sitters at the séances will experience this eerie, yet ubiquitous aspect of 19th century American life.
Séances occur every 20 minutes starting at 6:30 pm and ending at 10:30 p.m. Guests select a specific date and time to reserve a seat at the table. Each session is limited to 6 guests, it is strongly recommended tickets be purchased in advance, and all sitters must be 12 or older. Tickets are $20 per person and $12 for children (ages 12-16). A private session for up to 6 sitters may be reserved for $100. Sitters should arrive at least 15 minutes before their reservation. Tickets can be purchased at www.mabryhazen.com/seance. Service fees apply for online purchases. Payments with cash or check are available. Call 865-522-8661 to arrange payment.
In addition to the séances, psychics, astrologers, and tarot card readers will be performing their crafts for interested parties. Tickets for fortune readings will be available at the door. “We want people to have a sense of the past and present through this event,” says Patrick Hollis, Executive Director of Mabry-Hazen House, “Spiritualism in the United States didn’t go extinct. It evolved into and merged into other religious denominations and beliefs that remain vibrant to this day.”
These sessions use the traditional tools of the Victorian séance to educate about the history of Spiritualism. These seances are for educational and entertainment purposes. This is not a demonstration of mediumship or a way to contact the deceased. It is not recommended for the recently bereaved.
All staff, volunteers, and guests are required to wear a mask or face covering inside the historic house museum or other museum properties. After each séance, all tables and chairs will be sanitized. Masks are encouraged when outside on the grounds and differing groups encouraged to social distance. Visitors who do not respect social distancing, face covering, or 5 core actions may be refused service and asked to leave the site.
In the early decades of Mabry-Hazen House’s history, Spiritualism, a new religious movement aimed at proving the immortality of the soul by communicating with the spirits of the dead, spread in popularity across the United States. It gave many solace during a time of grief, for others proved a form of entertainment, and for some, a livelihood earned from the credulous. In many peoples’ eyes, it even provided empirical proof of the immortality of the soul and life after death.
Claiming an ability to speak with the dead, mediums conducted séances for the curious and devout alike and ostensibly offered empirical evidence of the manifestation of spirits. By 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.
Unfortunately, the height of the Spiritualist movement was riddled with cases of fraud. True believers and practitioners were often overshadowed by crooks and con artists who preyed on those who wanted to speak with their deceased loved ones. Although its popularity diminished, Spiritualism remains a vibrant religion today and inspired numerous other spiritual and religious movements. New age philosophies, theosophy, and present-day psychics and mediums trace their lineage to Spiritualism.
The Mabry-Hazen family were no strangers to Spiritualism. In 1868, Joseph A. Mabry attended seances performed by Spiritualist, Madame Mansfield. Evelyn Hazen, last descendant to live in Mabry-Hazen House, was a believer and practitioner of several offshoots of the Spiritualist religion and small temporary exhibit will be on display showcasing artifacts from this theme.