The early history of Spiritualism is full of peculiar events: apart from trance mediumship, there were rappings, levitations, ectoplasmic apparitions, the spontaneous playing of musical instruments and automatic writings, telekinesis and apports. This startling array of activities makes it difficult to decide whether nineteenth century Spiritualism was a new religion, a form of science or a society game. When a famous nineteenth century sceptic remarked that even if Spiritualism were proved to be true he would find it uninteresting, I think he was referring to this preoccupation with odd manifestations and trivial messages. One early Spiritualist has described it thus:

What have these latter-day dead to tell us? To begin with it is a remarkable thing that they appear to be much more interested in events here below than in those of the world wherein they move. They seem above all jealous to establish their identity, to prove that they know everything, and to convince us of this, they enter into the most minute and forgotten details with extraordinary precision, perspicacity and prolixity. They are also extremely clever at unravelling the intricate family connexions of the person actually questioning them, of any of the sitters, or even of a stranger entering the room. They recall this one's little infirmities, that one's maladies, the eccentricities or tendencies of a third (Maeterlinck, 1913, p.89).