Mysticism And Mourning

Episodes

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Broadcast
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20191017

The years after World War One saw a massive 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 the spiritualist church and mediums who claimed they could open a channel of communication with loved ones lost in the trenches, air or seas of the conflict.

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 a million 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 well-respected medium. She used the pseudonym Mrs Willett.

We also hear the tale of the Thomas Brothers of Penylan - 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 Harry Houdini to their seances. And we bring the story full circle by visiting Pontywaun Spiritualist Church in Cross Keys to discover its history. One of the many churches that sprung up after WWI, this corrugated steel building still attracts people wishing to contact loved ones on the other side and is a popular haunt for touring mediums.

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

2019101720191018 (RW)

The years after World War One saw a massive 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 the spiritualist church and mediums who claimed they could open a channel of communication with loved ones lost in the trenches, air or seas of the conflict.

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 a million 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 well-respected medium. She used the pseudonym Mrs Willett.

We also hear the tale of the Thomas Brothers of Penylan - 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 Harry Houdini to their seances. And we bring the story full circle by visiting Pontywaun Spiritualist Church in Cross Keys to discover its history. One of the many churches that sprung up after WWI, this corrugated steel building still attracts people wishing to contact loved ones on the other side and is a popular haunt for touring mediums.

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