Southern Spirits: The Case of the Christchurch Psychical Research Society
This research report analyses the eclectic yet incomplete archives of the Christchurch Psychical Research Society held at Canterbury Museum and the Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury. The Society, active in the early decades of the twentieth century, was part of a wider international spiritualist movement situated on the border of science and religion. This report presents a critical reading of the Society's scrapbook evidence collated by its leader, Edgar Lovell-Smith, between the 1920s and 1940s. Through these ephemeral fragments and in particular the ritual of of the seance, the authors attempt to better understand what can be learnt about psychical research in Christchurch, a historical hub for reformist and alternative spiritualist movements, in the interwar period. The research methodology combined family history with a critical and descriptive reading of archive documents on a topic - Spiritualism - frequently overlooked by mainstream academic historians. Drawing from key secondary alternative religious literature we sought to uncover how investigations into the paranormal by the Society were simultaneously embraced and questioned by its members.
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