Tag Archives: 2020

Antique How To Book: “Spirit Intercourse” (1917)

Just in time for Halloween we have “Spirit Intercourse” by J. Hewat McKenzie from 1917. But actually it was by his wife (?) and he wrote it down and got it published. It is very difficult to find information on her and it seems he fraternized with a number of mediums during his career as a businessman in parapsychology. His book was immensely popular in the United States during and in the aftermath of World War I. He even published pamphlets about what would happen to the spirits of soldiers attempting to make their way home to loved ones.

Who was his wife? We may never know.

Before we go any further, I need to thank the book seller that helped me find and acquire this book. Remember to support your small book stores this year!

Allen was a pleasure to work with, and so helpful. I highly recommend Burkeyme Books for finding rare and unusual books like this one! They’re very talented at acquiring unique special interest items, especially in regards to primary and period literature. Be sure to check them out 🙂

Spirit Intercourse

I don’t mean anything lewd. What the title means is communicating with and documenting interactions with the dead: aka Mediumship.

In 1917 this book would have gained popularity as Spiritualism began to have a resurgence with the rise of The Great War In Europe. With primarily young men and husbands being sent overseas from the United States with many uncertain how to communicate with their loved ones to confirm their living status, spiritualism was an option to turn to, much like earlier versions had been for seamen for a millennia before. This helped this book gain popularity, especially during and after the 1918 Influenza.

The American Spiritualism movement is complicated. I argue that reactions to Southern Religious Spiritism movements, westward expansion, the introduction of new technologies, and the Civil War had a major role to play with its rise in inland America during the 19th century, but that’s just me and an argument for another time. The main thing is it provided comfort and studies show talking to a deceased loved one do help people feel better. This book, though related, is from a Scottish parapsychologist and should not be confused too deeply with the American movement.

It’s important to note that “spiritualism” as a broad category with many forms is an internationally present form of traditional religious belief dating back farther than anyone really knows. There’s extensive crossover with indigenous cultures of all continents, including those conquered by the romans in Europe. The concepts of this differs from Animism and can be considered similar in philosophical concepts.

Anyways, for this Halloween special edition we are going to try out a few of these methods of communicating with the dead. We have some interesting dead people in Missoula, and I have some interesting dead family members and a number of other potential people to talk to since we live between two cemeteries (quiet neighbors!).

The hardest part was choosing what to do! plus, I can’t just leave all these explanations out, can I? So I’ll be doing a special Halloween Twitch stream reading aloud from this book tomorrow, 31 October 2020. We might even do a laser show (we’ll see how our uploading goes).

For today’s post and following instructions we are going to be focusing on chapter 6: First Steps To Spirit Intercourse. For more on the other chapters be sure to check out the Halloween Twitch stream tomorrow!

Chapter VI: First Steps To Spirit Intercourse

For each of these early preparatory sections from this chapter Jacob and I are going to share our comments on what we found most interesting.

Advice To Beginners

  • A recurring meme of antique how to books is how they are all “at considerable expense” – Jacob and I have both noted this in other antique how to books, regardless of their quality of information.
  • The author is salty (Jacob: very) at many people. Especially those in the fields of theology and psychology. But this is a safe thing for skeptics to do. He ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
  • Be polite – being too skeptical directly towards a medium is rude and causes problems…

Dangers

  • “This doesn’t actually say anything about what the dangers are” – I don’t disagree with Jacob on this.

Difficulties

  • Thoughts cause difficulties (Big Mood)
  • “Claiming to be spirits”

On To The How To!

Planchette

Similar to the planchette used for the Ouija board, this was a toy that took a pencil and drew on a piece of paper. First, one must “magnetize” the paper by having all participants rub their hands over it. Because we do not yet have one of the original style planchettes, we balanced the pencil between our fingers with hands flattened and asked a few questions. The suggested questions in the book were about relatives in Australia or the Pacific (New Zealand?), but we opted for Boston and Florida.

“Does anyone have new warts?”

I believe we can take that as maybe a “no” or “try again”

Table Tilting

Sit alternating male and female around an uncovered table and engage in pleasant but not frivolous conversation. Place hands upon the table and after a time the table will start to move and someone will need to take charge as the spirits get rowdy and begin moving things around. No minimum group size is recommended, so we decided to try with two.

It was surprisingly difficult to get this picture with our set up. Jacob kept trying to hit the camera remote with his toe (in the true spirit of Mediumship) and it kept timing out.

Automatic Writing

With attention otherwise otherwise occupied, hold a pencil and let it do its own thing on a piece of paper and see what happens.

I hope you enjoyed this fun jaunt through and antique how to book on Mediumship. Join me tomorrow on twitch.tv/dreaminventor for a livestream of more of the book being read aloud. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Announcement: Twitch Channel

Hey Everyone!

I now have a channel on Twitch so you have an opportunity to hang out with me while I’m reading antique books, editing photographs, researching photographs, writing, and doing historic document research. As a general warning: my research on primary documents from the 19th and early 20th century can be disturbing. I find out information on what society believed during this time period that may be distressing to some individuals, so viewer discretion is advised.

On occasion I would like to also get our uploading capabilities set such that I can play Steam games with friends, or even Among Us.

Each stream will be titled based on what I am doing. I will get side tracked. In my first stream today I got side tracked with a hand-and-cheek tug-o-war vaudevillian style impromptu comedy performance and it was *fun*. Other interruptions you can expect will include Nyxie playing the piano and Jacob popping into chat.

It’s 2020. I need an excuse to start putting on make up and doing my hair. I need an excuse to start speaking aloud to get used to the sound of my own voice again. I need to interact with human beings outside the house in a way that isn’t potentially life threatening.

I haven’t come up with a streaming schedule yet. Most likely it will be for only a couple hours at a time Monday through Friday. Any weekend hours will be a shocking surprise.

As I work to get this set up, I appreciate patience. At this time, I am limited by frustrations with Spectrum internet being our only option and also *the worst*. Don’t know what I mean?

This is my maximum capability right now.

That’s not really great if I want to interact with people or do much on Twitch. So, we’re working on it. I’m looking forward to being able to interact in real time.

My first stream went live and I hope I didn’t scare too many people away as we were discussing John Cowan, M.D.’s 1915 version of his book “The Science Of A New Life” where we examined an example of the intersection early feminism, the Temperance Movement, the American Eugenics Movement, American Spiritism, Mesmerism, and the many other social movements that were going on prior to the U.S.’s involvement in World War I.

Public School Pre-Vaccine Public Health Class Circa 1932 – Part 1: Good Citizenship

What did we do to prevent diseases and still carry on with daily life before vaccines existed? Vulnerable populations still existed. Public health measures still existed, even under President Herbert Hoover. So let’s take a gander into the archives of historical texts, starting with my grandmother’s health textbook.

It should be noted, as we are reading a historic text in its context, that my grandmother was a young white woman born in 1925 in Birmingham, Alabama to a doctor that made a point of treating people of all colors. That is not to say this did not occur without discrimination. As I was not alive and never met my great grandfather, I will never know the full story without speculation. My grandmother did explain to me that she attended an all white school. The name of the school her and her brother, William, attended was called “Edgewood” according to her distinctive cursive handwriting on the inside cover. I do not know if this is the same textbook that was used at other schools in the Birmingham area.

Controlling Disease

One distinct aspect of this textbook is the emphasis on good citizenship skills being a necessary requirement for preventing disease. But what is “good citizenship” and how does a health textbook from the 1930s define this?

Earlier in the text, good citizenship is defined as including everything from behavioral expectations and good hygiene to looking out for your fellow man in your daily activities. One prohibition era example of this being moderating consumption of anything that may dull or alter perception, such as alcohol containing medicines. There is an emphasis on “knowing thyself” and having awareness as being an important philosophical concept necessary for good health (see below).

Part of good citizenship seems to be a willingness to understand the concept of doing what is best for the common good, or what is best for maintaining the health and wellbeing of the population at large. This included some rather drastic measures, such as “sanitariums.” I will get to how tuberculosis sanitariums are described in the book in part 2 when we discuss the concept of the common good.

Good Citizenship

What did good citizenship mean? This is discussed throughout the textbook and I have attempted to summarize the concept here. It meant:

  • Not going out in public if you were sick, caring for a sick person at home, or were exposed to someone you later found out was sick until after the isolation period was over. In fact, make a special room in your house that can be converted to a “sick room” to isolate a person if they get sick – make sure it has plenty of windows you can open to keep the room “well-aired” with lots of daylight while it is shut off from the rest of the house.
  • Participating in volunteer groups, such as community service and church groups, that provide resources to keep others from feeling like they can not maintain the actions associated with good citizenship.
  • Keeping yourself clean and encouraging those around you to do the same through regular bathing, hand washing, and laundering of garments. This also included the wearing of aprons and work clothes that would be changed upon entering the home. By changing outfits regularly you kept the “germs” associated with the different parts of your life compartmentalized.
  • During certain times of the year, such as the winter, keep a wash basin by the front door with lye soap for guests and occupants of the home or building.
  • Wearing gloves to keep the hands clean while you are out and about and changing gloves between activities. These should be laundered regularly.
  • Using a handkerchief that is not to be shared for crying, coughing, sneezing, and all other expulsions of bodily fluids from the face. This should be laundered regularly with a disinfectant.
  • Eating healthy, home-cooked food from a clean kitchen, and bringing food of this kind to events. Practicing good hygiene in the kitchen is a must. (There is no mention of hand washing or gloves in the kitchen interestingly, but there is mention of washing vegetables, utensils, plates, and the management of food waste.)
  • Having home activities that keep your family fit and healthy, while bonded together. Suggested sports include examples such as tennis and chopping wood. (I’m not kidding about the chopping wood bit – that’s a sport for family bonding.)
  • Listening to the directions of your public health officials to prevent outbreaks. At the time only one vaccine was available (pertussis), but there were other prevention methods no longer used today.
Chart with information on incubation period and isolation requirements post exposure.

If you were exposed to someone with one of these diseases you had to isolate at home. If you didn’t do that, your parents were being bad citizens.

What is a bad citizen? That’s a more complicated subject and is where we start to delve into problematic areas with how this advice was given. In more modern terms that strip away the problematic content of the past, if you’re actively not helping to keep everyone around you safe and out of harm’s way, you’re a bad citizen.

It’s fascinating how times change. These methods were used to keep schools safe and in session before vaccines (not perfectly – outbreaks definitely still happened).

Anyways, I’ll revisit history again soon. Hope this was as informative for you as it was for me!


If you would like to see more posts like this one, please be sure to like, comment, and/or share this post. This helps me know which posts my readers like the most so I can try and cater my content. As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to join me.

This post is dedicated to my friend Katrina, and other friends currently dealing with teaching full classrooms over Zoom. Be sure to thank a teacher today.

How To Shop For A Sextant Online During A Global Pandemic

Or… Shopping For My Spouse’s Birthday Gift

I shake my head and stare at the screen.

“I want to feel the brass and hold it. Feel the movement of each piece and know I’ll be able to calibrate it for him,” I whine to the cat. The autumn winds blowing down from Alaska drown out my words as they wind their way over the Rockies.

Staring at the pictures, I imagine the heavy brass of my family’s sextant balanced in my clumsy hands as my father lets me look at it. His calloused palms poised to catch the instrument should I falter.

“This one won’t do.” I toss it into the mental pile of surveying and mapping equipment I look at; never purchase.

Who can afford to spend over a thousand dollars on something like this over the internet? I mentally discard another with a fancier, more modern black finish.

I call my parents. “I want to buy Jacob a sextant for his birthday. What’s the story behind ours? Does Dad have any advice?”

Thousands of miles of static and telephone lines crackle. “The one your dad has was your great grandfather’s from the maritime academy. Why do you want one for Jacob?”

I pause and shrug into the phone. “To record our locations for dark sky photography. GPS can’t be trusted out here.” I grasp my forehead and castigate my own thoughts. But I’m the one that knows how to use one for surveying, navigation, and astronomy – that would be a terrible gift.

I stare out at the horizon hidden by mountains and try to find the ocean beneath the curvature of the earth. Jacob doesn’t care about the difference between a mile and a nautical mile. What does he care about?

I catch him and ask about his feelings around flying and clouds pass over the sun – visibility down to less than 5 miles and he gives me a look that says VFR ain’t going to fly. He never got a seaplane rating and this dream is about to try a water landing without pontoons. “I don’t know when the next time I’m going to fly is. Please don’t get me anything that could be related to flying.”

I decide against getting him a sextant and reminisce about when we spent hours talking about the intersection of history where airplanes and ships used the same navigation systems and why. I stare at the stormy sea of sky lapping against the mountain sides and remember our last aerial photography trip. I order his birthday cake and continue to brainstorm better gifts.

Montana now has the highest rate of transmission of any state. Distracted, I stare at the news and try to process how dangerous it is to step outside. This was all predictable based on the behavior patterns of 1918.

Birthdays have to remain special in the face of COVID, so I order wine and check our reservation for the weekend. I check that his favorite decaf pop and breakfast cereal are in the pantry. I try and decide what else we should do to make it a special day about him.

While most of the United States has been living with this since March, Jacob has been living with COVID since it first hit obscure global news last autumn and I brought it home by explaining how diseases follow human behavior patterns. In February I set up forecasting models and told him how to prepare before the preppers drained the stores of paper products, resulting in channeled anxiety and full isolation.

My incredible husband and love of my life sits with me in my mind while I wonder how to celebrate someone as amazing as him. I think of bonfires, quality time, adventures, and our daily lives. I think about these acts of preparation and foresight and how they are gifts and acts of love in themselves.

I buy Jacob 2 books and 2 glass vessels for his birthday following the theme: Scientific Magic. I write a blog post about not buying a sextant and realizing that was a dumb gift idea. I refuse to spoil the surprise while I continue further preparations and celebrate his existence everyday.


Happy Birthday to my amazing partner and best friend, Jacob. I have many best friends, but you are the one I married and the one I celebrate today. My forever partner in adventure 💕