Shannon Taggart Symposium!
WEIRD STUDIES Live, with JF Martel & Phil Ford
Thursday, July 27th, 2023, Lily Dale Fire Hall, 8pm-10pm
$40 per person | $225 Full Program
Professor Phil Ford and writer J.F. Martel record a live episode of Weird Studies, an arts and philosophy podcast exploring ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call "reality."
Symposium, Part I:
Friday, July 28th, Lily Dale Auditorium, 9am – 6pm
$110 per person | $225 Full Program
Authors of phenomenal topics discuss their books and the processes that brought them into being.
Copies will be available for purchase & signing.
Reclaiming Art, with JF Martel
Drawing on examples ranging from Paleolithic cave paintings to contemporary pop music, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice argues that art is an inborn human phenomenon that precedes the formation of culture and even society. The book places art alongside languages and the biosphere as something endangered by the onslaught of predatory capitalism, spectacle culture, and myopic technological innovation, while also reminding us of its unique power to awaken us to the fundamental mysteries.
Touched by The Hand of Ithell: Writing Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, with Amy Hale
Amy Hale first learned of Ithell Colquhoun while having lunch with a friend in Cornwall twenty-two years ago. At the time, Colquhoun was a little-known surrealist with a relatively obscure reputation in Britain’s occult underground. Since then, her reputation has exploded, not only as a unique force in the wider story of women’s surrealism as an innovator in automatic methods, but also as a significant esoteric theorist, essayist, and novelist. In this illustrated talk, Amy Hale will tell the story of her two decades of research and discovery into the life and work of Ithell Colquhoun that led to the 2020 biography Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor Press) and explore the convergence of cultural moments currently illuminating her work.
Ted Serios: The Mind's Eye, with Emily Hauver
In the 1960s, Ted Serios was purportedly able to document his inner thoughts on Polaroid film in a process called 'thoughtography.' Contemporaneous investigations into Serios's claims produced a vast body of evidence, now held in the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Special Collections. Ted Serios: The Mind's Eye (Atelier Éditions 2023) explores multiple dimensions of the Serios phenomenon through essays by several contributors. Rather than focusing on the validity of Serios's claims, the book encourages readers to arrive at their own conclusions. Curator Emily Hauver will speak about how the publication was actualized following ten years of research and two exhibitions drawn from the Serios/Eisenbud archive. Emily will also share compelling documents uncovered while researching the exhibitions and book, discussing how these records contribute to the ambiguity surrounding the Serios phenomenon rather than its resolution.
Break – 12:00pm – 2pm
Publishing the Paranormal, with Charles and Penelope Emmons
After writing about apparitions (Chinese Ghosts, 1982, 2017) and UFO researchers (At the Threshold, 1997), sociologist Charles F. Emmons joined his wife Penelope Emmons, a counselor and intuitive, in research on spirit mediums (Guided by Spirit, 2003) and on the connections between “objective” scientific studies of anomalies and “subjective” ways of knowing (Science and Spirit, 2012). In this presentation, Charles and Penelope will discuss how their personal journeys inspired them to pursue new strategies for studying and publishing on things “paranormal” or “spiritual.”
Grave, with Allison C. Meier
Allison C. Meier has been leading cemetery tours in the New York City area since 2011, including to graves of Spiritualists and mediums such as Mollie Fancher and the Fox Sisters whose memorials have endured as places of pilgrimage. Her 2023 book Grave, published by Bloomsbury as part of the Object Lessons book series about the hidden lives of ordinary things, is based on her on-the-ground research on the American cemetery. From the 19th-century movement to transform burial grounds into park-like spaces to the rise of cremation and green burial, the grave has radically changed over time. Now there are new opportunities to make cemeteries places where the dead are honored as part of a living community.
Séance: Spiritualism, Photography and the Search for Ectoplasm, with Shannon Taggart
Shannon Taggart first learned of Spiritualism as a teenager after a medium revealed details about her grandfather’s death that proved to be true. In 2001, she began photographing in the town where that message was received: Lily Dale, New York. Her project soon expanded to include séance rooms around the world in a quest to find and photograph ectoplasm – the elusive substance that is said to be both spiritual and material. In this illustrated presentation, Shannon will share stories and pictures from twenty years of photographing mediumship, explaining how two decades of investigation developed into the book Séance (Fulgur Press 2019, Atelier Éditions 2022). Spiritualism’s influence on art, technology, and politics, its relationship with celebrity spirits, and the religion’s intrinsic bond with photography will be part of the discussion.
Music from Elsewhere, with Doug Skinner
Music from Elsewhere (Strange Attractor Press 2023) collects music attributed to non-human inspiration—tunes from fairies, trolls, trows, angels, spirits, and aliens—as well as examples of musical ciphers, imaginary music, and speculative music: categories that often combine and overlap in unpredictable ways. In this presentation, composer/performer Doug Skinner plays some of the pieces from his archive and tells the stories behind them, including channeled music by the Shaker community, the Fox sisters, and the “musical medium” Rosemary Brown.
Symposium, Part 2:
Saturday, July 29th, Lily Dale Auditorium, 9am – 6pm
$110 per person | $225 Full Program
Presentations on the history of Spiritualism, the supernatural, and related topics.
An Introduction to Lily Dale, with Michele Takei
In this presentation, Lily Dale resident, feminist scholar, and founder of Women’s Day Michele (Shelley) Takei, explores what makes Lily Dale both historically important and metaphysically unique. Part one will discuss the town’s past and its essential role in the 19th-century women’s rights movement. Part two will address why defining Spiritualism is difficult, unpacking the slippery definitions embraced at one time or another. Part three will examine the religion’s deep, original, and continuing relationship with science. Shelley will also share a personal story concerning synchronicity and past lives that speaks to Lily Dale’s magic and its ‘site-specific consciousness.’
“You Are to Do What We Say": The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle and his Spirit Guide Pheneas, with Michael W. Homer
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle encountered a spirit named Pheneas through the mediumship of his wife from 1922-1930. Doyle published approximately one-third of these revelations in Pheneas Speaks (1927) and contemplated supplementing them with another book after Pheneas’ prophecies led to the establishment of a worldwide Spiritualist church. But when Doyle died in 1930, several letters were published in which he wondered if spirits from the other side had misled him. Michael W. Homer’s presentation will use previously unpublished materials to explore the séances in which Pheneas appeared to Doyle’s home circle.
Dr. Raymond Buckland’s ‘Wide World of Spirit’, with Steven Intermill, Director of the Buckland Museum, Cleveland
Raymond Buckland first came to prominence in the 1960s as a spokesperson for the modern Witchcraft movement, but he had other metaphysical influences as well. Inspired by his uncle George, Buckland was a student of Spiritualism, acquiring his first spirit board at a young age and continuing his fascination throughout his life. The director of Cleveland's Buckland Museum, Steven Intermill, will explore Buckland's interest in Spiritualism and his summers spent in Lily Dale during his last years. This presentation will also introduce prominent occultists whose interest in Spiritualism overlapped with Buckland, including Austin Osman Spare, Gerald Gardner, and Leo Martello.
Break – 12:00 – 2pm
Spiritual Spectacles: Mother’s Work and the Shaker Era of Manifestations, with Maria Molteni
The Shakers are often called America’s longest lasting “Utopia.” Since their arrival from England in 1766, they’ve sought to build Heaven on Earth within organized, egalitarian communes. While widely known for their fervent worship styles, strict celibacy and excellent design, a brief period of their history known as “The Era of Manifestations” brought forth exceptionally fruitful spirit communication. From roughly 1837-1857 first-generation Shakers, such as early leader Mother Ann Lee (believed to be the Second Coming of Christ as “Holy Mother Wisdom”), appeared to young Shaker “instruments” who channeled their messages. Visual recordings of these correspondences are now known as the Gift Drawings or “Mother’s Work”. This lecture will contextualize the Era of Manifestations, its overlap with Spiritualism, and some of Molteni’s responsive artwork as artist and researcher-in-residence at Hancock, Canterbury, and Harvard Shaker Villages.
A History of London’s College of Psychic Studies, with Gillian Matini, Principal, College of Psychic Studies, London.
Founded in 1884, The College of Psychic Studies occupies six floors of a Victorian townhouse in London. It has hosted many of the world’s greatest mediums, including Helen Duncan and Eileen Garrett. Eminent Presidents include Rev Stainton Moses and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Psychic investigator Harry Price tested mediums at the college for his ‘National Laboratory of Psychical Research.’ Generations of scholars have used its fine collection of esoteric books, including Nandor Fodor and Frank Podmore,. The college also houses an astonishing archive, including spirit-inspired art by Georgiana Houghton, Anna Howitt Watts, and Ethel Le Rossignol, along with artifacts such as Helen Duncan’s scrying mirror and Stainton Moses’ crystal ball. Today, the college continues with talks, classes, workshops, and consultations on psychic studies, personal growth, and healing, complimented by exhibitions showcasing spirit-inspired art. In this illustrated presentation, College principal Gillian Matini guides us through the history of this phenomenal institution.
The Art of Madge Gill: Myrninerest, Marconi, Mars, and Music, with Vivienne Roberts, Archivist & Curator, College of Psychic Studies, London
Madge Gill’s mesmerizing artworks have fascinated audiences for a century. Her impulsive ink drawings of female faces floating within patterned backgrounds of calico are instantly identifiable, as are the thousands of smaller works on postcards, pieces of cardboard, and rare hand-woven textiles. Madge Gill, although popular, remains an enigma. Was she a true advocate of spirit-inspired art, or was this a convenient mask to hide her compulsive urge to create? Was Myrninerest her spirit guide or just Madge’s ‘inner rest’ constructed to make sense of her artistic achievements? Vivienne Roberts will discuss the journey of Madge from Barnardos child to internationally acclaimed mediumistic artist and doyenne of the outsider art world.
The Trash Stratum, with Phil Ford
Philip K. Dick wrote that "the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum." Among other things, this means that divine messages will appear in the humblest forms and where you least expect to find them. Even outright trickery and deceit might hold the key to whatever it is you need to hear; as Ramsey Dukes has argued, the charlatan and the magus are not so different and might even end up being the same person. This talk considers the surprisingly complex relationship between truth and trickery in spiritual life and explores the notion of "kayfabe," a kind of play-acting that sometimes can manifest the reality it simulates.