Seances and Magic

After the spirit rappings of the Fox Sisters, mediums began conducting seances everywhere. Some of these Spiritualists added to the Fox Sister routines. The most famous innovators were the Davenport brothers. They performed a very successful theatrical show that was not really a seance, it was more a magic show. By around 1855, they came up with the medium's cabinet, an enclosure whose purpose was to gather in the medium's psychic energy. Skeptic's concluded that the cabinet's true function was to hide the magic tricks. The Davenports worked inside the elaborate piece of woodwork picture here. By the 1920s mediums like Margery made do with as little as a curtained-off alcove or corner.

Harry Houdini sought out an befriended the sole surviving Davenport, Ira. Although Houdini dislike mediums, he admired the Davenports as professional colleagues. Houdini learned some of his best escape tricks from Ira Davenport.

Skeptics can take note of the fact that the Davenports never claimed to be mediums. It was the Spiritualists who kept suggesting that they were mediums with psychic powers.


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