Calling the Dead: with Rhodri Hayward

Brompton Cemetery

The Month of the Dead is coming to an end, but not quite yet. Voices in the Ether, one of the last presentations for this years’ celebration of London’s deceased residents is just in time for Halloween – when the survival after death is celebrated.

Rhodri Hayward, a Director of the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University of London presented his views and teachings about spiritualism, mediumship and modern ways of communicating with the dead at Brompton Cemetery Chapel on 27th October.

The session began with an introduction to the supernatural and first recorded presence of a connection between the world of the living and the dead. Auditory sounds like scratching, screaming, knocking were the first signs of spirits who were trying to communicate with the living. 

New Spiritual Dispensation during the 1800’s

The first occasion to be recorded with auditory presence was during 1848, when US natives Kate and Margaret Fox used the knocking technique to engage with the spirits. 

Tracing back to the 18th century, spiritualism first emerged as a concept which frightened most and shocked many more. Trance mediumship was one of the first techniques used to achieve communication with the dead. ‘Table turning’ was established soon after, where the movement of household furniture was used to show the presence of the spirits.

Interestingly, political and social status was a significant factor when the spirits would choose their targets. It was believed that young, underprivileged, weak-minded women with lack of will were the victims of possession during séance. After the process of possession, their character had gained authority and confidence.

During 1900’s an ‘electronic voice phenomenon’ was discovered by Peter Bander. An EVP is created when voices are detected by radio frequency and the longer. Shortwave radio still to this day has disembodied voices appearing constantly.

Modern ways of communicating with the dead are hardly hidden. Ghost photos, and ghost messages randomly appearing on our technological devices are just some of the ways in which spirits try to connect with us. 

Décor from the presentation in Brompton Cemetery Chapel

Facebook and other media outlets allow for the families and loved ones of the deceased to send out messages to them; for instance, after death, Facebook pages can be memorialised, allowing people to leave messages on the deceased’s wall – this is a prime example of the digital connection between two worlds. 

Online cemeteries and online memorial postings have been around for a few years now, where mourners and site visitors can add and edit information about the deceased.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the research about the use of narcotics and connecting with the spiritual world. It is speculated that the use of psychedelic drugs such as; LSD, cannabis and DMT can cause or be the cause of a spiritual awakening. It is still not proven whether drugs can help you become more vulnerable towards possession of spirits.

The last two events for this year’s celebration of the dead are ‘Tales of Beyond’ on 31st October and ‘Frankenstein Phantasmagoria’ on 1st November – both events cost £15. 

At the beginning of October 2020, the Month of the Dead returns bigger and better than ever, make sure you book your tickets early as they sell out in no time.

Words by: Martina Chausheva 

Images: Martina Chausheva