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Originating from the French word “seoir” (to sit), séance came to be used as meaning the attempt to communicate with those in the spiritual world. Typically this came to be associated with a group of people meeting  in order to receive messages from the dead and speak to ghosts through a spirit medium. Mediums ranged from humans claiming to channel spirit voices to Ouija boards and trances.  Communication with the Other Side by George Lyttelton in 1760 was a notable text advocating the use of séance, however the popularity of the séance increased greatly with the founding of Spiritualism around the mid nineteenth century. Famous individuals such as Mary Todd Lincoln 1818-1882 (wife of President Abraham Lincoln) and stage magicians such as John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917) and Harry Houdini (1874-1926) contributed to popularizing the séance.  However stage mediumship and séances came under attack by many skeptics as many were accused of using fraudulent stage magic to pretend paranormal activities were occurring. Similarly séances were criticized by the Catholic Church, who believed mediums attempt to connect with the spiritual world was an example of transgression into the sacred realm of God. Séances today are still used, particularly by the Spiritualist community who use this event as normal practice within their religion.

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