The Most Infamous Seances in History

Are these mediums really contacting the dead?

To many people, seances are a joke: a thing that children play at or a hoax used to take advantage of peoples’ suffering. However, throughout history, there have been several infamous seances that could make a believer out of the most hardened skeptic. Let’s take a look at some of history’s most infamous seances.

10. Infamous Seances – The Vision

Black and white photo of W. B. Yeats and Georgie Hyde Lees. The couple were known to hold infamous seances.
Dublin Town

Irish poet William Butler Yeats always had a keen interest in the occult. Spiritualism was such a big part of his life that he ended up marrying Georgie Hyde-Lees, a medium who he had met at a meeting of a secret society called the Order of the Golden Dawn.

One night, Yeats asked his beloved to conduct a seance to help him write a poem using the influence of the spirits. Through automatic writing, a process often used in seances, Yeats penned a poem that he would entitle “Vision.” It was only when the poem was complete that he realized that he had been writing. He claims that a spirit had completely taken control of him to write the piece of poetry.

9. The Spirit of Diana

The Spirit of Diana pay per view cover.

Many infamous seances took place in years gone by. However, the public’s interest in the afterlife is still alive and well. Just ask the thousands who tuned in to watch a pay-per-view broadcast of a seance conducted by British mediums Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker in 2003.

What was so special about this seance? Well, it wasn’t just any spirit the mediums were attempting to contact; they were reaching out to the much-beloved Princess Diana.

The viewers who tuned in hoping to learn shocking secrets about the royal’s life were greatly disappointed. According to the mediums, Diana was enjoying herself in the afterlife and spent much time watching over her two sons. She also claimed to be spending time with Mother Teresa. However, she did reveal that she had planned on marrying Dodi Fayed before her death cut their romance short.

Many people found the televised seance to be in poor taste and deemed it a disgusting attempt to profit from a tragedy.

8. Infamous Seances – The Military Secret

Black and white photo of Helen Duncan in one of her infamous seances.
History Extra

In 1941, in the midst of World War II, a mother whose son was a soldier in the British Royal Navy was desperate for news of her son’s well being. She approached a psychic named Helen Duncan, asking her to contact the spirits for news. Two Navy lieutenants were present for the seance.

Through the spirits, Duncan stated that the woman’s son had unfortunately been lost when the HMS Barham had sunk. The two lieutenants were immediately suspicious; the news that that battleship had been lost had not yet been revealed to the public. They sent two undercover police officers to another seance with Duncan where they promptly arrested her. She was tried under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which forbade fraudulent spiritual activity. Because of her infamous seances, Duncan was the last person ever tried for witchcraft.

7. Bedlam in Goliath

Cover art for Bedlam in Goliath

Progressive rock band The Mars Volta had its own experiences with contacting the afterlife shortly before recording the album Bedlam in Goliath. Unfortunately, dabbling in the occult might have had serious consequences for the band.

While traveling in Jerusalem, the band purchased and used a Ouija board. In fact, the band members state that their sessions with the board were the inspiration for the album. They were excited to begin recording it, but it seemed like they had been cursed with a string of bad luck.

First, the studio in which they planned to record the album unexpectedly flooded twice. Then, their engineer suddenly had a nervous breakdown and their longtime producer almost quit. On a few occasions, they recorded a track only to have it disappear from the computer. Finally, when singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala injured his foot, the band had had enough. They set fire to the Ouija board and buried the ashes where no one could find them. The rest of the album was recorded as planned.

6. Infamous Seances – Judge John W. Edmonds’ Speech

Artistic depiction of John W. Edmonds
Psi Encyclopedia

On April 5, 1874, Judge John W. Edmonds, a lawyer, politician, and avid spiritualist died in his home in New York City. Much to the surprise of his grieving family, his deathbed was not the last that they heard from him. His final words were heard through one of history’s most infamous seances.

Two months later, using the voice of a noted medium named Cora L.V. Tappan, Edmonds gave his final speech in front of a live audience at Cleveland Hall. Those who heard the speech stated that it was eloquent and very much in the usual style of the deceased judge.

Tappan had been performing seances since the age of 15. She was noted for her ability to go into a deep trance while communicating with the dead. After demonstrating her abilities as a medium onstage to deliver Edmonds’ final speech, Tappan became one of the era’s best-known mediums. She even became the pastor of a spiritualist church shortly after the performance and later helped found the National Spiritualist Association.

5. The Mary Todd Lincoln Seances

This is one of the Scariest Vintage Ghost Photos Ever Taken

Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of former US President Abraham Lincoln, was known as an eccentric throughout her lifetime. She often dabbled in matters of spiritualism, and eventually commissioned some infamous seances.

Mary Todd gave birth to four sons throughout her lifetime. Unfortunately, only one of them lived to adulthood. These tragedies were a large part of her motivation to dabble in the occult.

After her husband was assassinated, Mary Todd seemed to be at a breaking point. She decided to hire the Fox Sisters, two noted mediums who made a significant contribution to the popularity of seances in the era, to help her communicate with her deceased sons and husband. Little is known about what happened during the seances, but the Fox sisters later admitted that the “knocking” sounds heard during their seances were fraudulent: the sisters made the sounds with their feet or by cracking their joints.

4. Infamous Seances – Georgiana Houghton’s Art

Art by Georgiana Houghton

Georgiana Houghton was a gifted artist for much of her life. In the early 1860s, she was grief-stricken over the death of her young sister. This led her to develop an interest in spiritualism. Not long after, she began to combine these two interests by conducting infamous seances using art as her medium.

Though she was a talented artist in her own right, her works took off after she began using seances to create her pieces. At first, she stated that her dead ancestors were reaching through her and guiding her hand as she created beautiful watercolors and other types of paintings. Later, she claimed that Renaissance masters such as Titian and Correggio had begun to contact her during her seances.

Many were skeptical of her claims, but they couldn’t deny the result. Her breathtaking art is still exhibited in museums around the world to this day.

3. Prodi’s Ghost

The kidnapping of Aldo Moro.

On April 2, 1978, then-Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi received an unusual tip about the kidnapping of his predecessor, Aldo Moro. Moro had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades, a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group, months before. According to the tipsters, they knew where the former Prime Minister was being held. When asked how they knew, they reported that they had learned the information during a seance.

Prodi stated under oath in an Italian court that the Christian Democracy party, along with several professors from the University of Bologna, had used a Ouija board to contact the “ghost” of former Florence mayor Giorgio La Pira. The ghost had provided the location where Moro was being held. Many skeptics believed that Prodi had in fact gotten the tip from a left-wing source, and didn’t want to reveal the source’s identity.

Police investigated the tip but didn’t locate Moro. Weeks later his body was discovered with 10 bullet wounds to the head.

2. Infamous Seances – Zozo

Zozo demon
Ouija Demon

Zozo isn’t infamous because of any one seance; this entity is terrifying because he has made appearances at numerous seances over the years. No one is certain where Zozo came from, but he often has knowledge that he should have no way of knowing when he appears at a seance.

The most frightening thing about Zozo, other than his apparent love of appearing at seances, is his ability to control and manipulate those he comes into contact with. Sometimes, he uses this ability to play tricks; at other times, his games are much more sinister.

In 2012, two teenagers decided to play with a Ouija board. The seance ended when one of the boys stabbed his friend to death. After he was arrested, he told the police that Zozo had instructed him to kill his friend.

1. The Perron Family Seance

Old photo of the Perron Family. Allegedly the family contacted a demon during one of their infamous seances
The Line Up

Many people have heard the saga of Andrea Perron; her life was the basis for the plot of the movie The Conjuring. However, there were many details that were left out of the movie, such as her involvement with a truly terrifying seance.

When the Perron family moved into a new home in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971, they quickly realized that the home was filled with evil spirits. They called on Ed and Lorraine Warren to rid them of the entities. With the help of a medium, the Warrens and the Perron family conducted a seance. Their attempt to contact the spirits haunting their home went horribly wrong.

During the seance, the medium contacted a particularly violent spirit. The spirit targeted the mother of the family, Carolyn Perron. At the hands of this entity, Carolyn was violently tossed around the house with so much force that she ended up with a serious concussion.

This was just one of the terrifying and violent paranormal events that the Perron family suffered through before being free of the spirits.