Mysticism And Mourning - How Wales Turned To Spiritualism After World War One [Radio Wales]

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2019101720191018 (RW)
20191020 (RW)

The years after World War One saw a surge in spiritualism. With few families untouched by loss the grieving process was a collective experience. Hailed as a "solace in a tortured world", this may explain why so many rational men and women placed their faith in spiritualism and mediums who claimed they could open a channel of communication with loved ones lost in battle..

In this programme Carolyn Hitt investigates the phenomenon from a Welsh perspective, uncovering some remarkable stories of belief and exploitation as emotionally shell-shocked communities attempted to navigate the aftermath of the war that claimed almost 40,000 Welsh lives.

She hears how Caerleon-born writer Arthur Machen unwittingly helped create belief that spirits were comforting "our brave boys" during the war itself through his short story 'The Angel of Mons'. And she explores the extraordinary double life of Welsh suffragist and Liberal politician Winifred Coombe Tennant. Her interest in spiritualism intensified after the death of her eldest son, killed in Flanders in September 1917, aged 19 and she became a medium who was studied by some of the most eminent scientists of the time.

We also hear the tale of the Thomas Brothers of Merthyr Tydfil- two of the most notorious spiritualist mediums of the post-war period. Such was their fame, Tom and Will Thomas attracted the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and London journalists to their seances while Harry Houdini sought to debunk their supposedly supernatural skills.

Carolyn Hitt explores the surge in spiritualism in the years after the First World War.