Ye Olde Spirit Communication Devices

Okay! Sorry for the delay on this post. I meant to schedule it for last week, but it took longer to write than I thought it would. It turns out that there are A LOT of devices that were invented to speak with spirits. Seriously, I probably could’ve written a book if so inclined. But I am not inclined to do that, so this post is what I have for you.

Back in Victorian days (my favorite time period that is not the present), there was a fascination with conversing with the dead. A religious movement called Spiritualism was prevalent, maybe because a whole bunch of people were dying of things like consumption. The living really wanted their loved ones on afterlife speed dial, and who can blame them?

Mediumship was popular. Séances were popular. Lucky for the would-be mediums, they had some tools at their disposal. Let’s check out a few of them, shall we?

Let’s start with the planchette. Here’s an old ad for one.


Planchettes are used for “automatic writing” or “spirit writing”, which is where a spirit communicates through a living person by moving their hands and forming shapes or words. If you’ve read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, one of the lady characters uses one. Here’s an example of what spirit writing might look like. This page was done by Hélène Smith.

spirit writing

A planchette can also be used with a ouija board. Participants ask the spirits a question. Planchette scoots across the board, pointing to answers. I think most people know what this one is, given that they’re pretty easy to find.


Next up, we have the spirit trumpet. I really want one of these, just because it’s so darn odd.

spirit trumpet

It works thus: the trumpet is placed at the center of the séance table. When a ghost is present, the trumpet supposedly lifts from the table, floating, and amplifies whispers from ghosts.


Now, we move on to the Telepathic Spirit Communicator. With such a fancy name, it simply must be legit! This bad boy is a dial-plate planchette invented by WT Braham.


There are other devices that are of somewhat similar design with dials and letters and such:
Isaac Pease’s Spiritual Telegraph
Daniel Hornung’s Emanulector
George F. Pearson’s Cablegraph
Hudson Tuttle’s Psychograph

There is another psychograph (someone didn’t trademark the name?) invented by Adolphus Theodore Wagner. This one looks far more interesting than Tuttle’s. We’ve got some paddles and arms that are used to point to letters on the table. I could see people getting mad and yanking on the arms of this thing, like séance tug-of-war.


Okay, last one. Robert Hare’s Spiritoscope. As you can see, the medium sits where they can’t see the letters on the dial. Hare believed that this meant the medium was less able to interfere with whatever the spirits were trying to say.



That’s it for today, kids.

Various Sources: