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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Deja Vu: Seances = 19th C Twitter

Deja Vu: Seances = 19th C Twitter

While I was promoting WE HEAR THE DEAD in the early months of 2010, I had a startling revelation about the role played by séances in the 19th century. Too bad I only had 5 blog followers at the time …

Thanks to the Déjà Vu Blogfest – The Day of the Do-Over – I get to share it again!

While working on a guest post for my blog tour, trying to explain why abolitionists and suffragettes endorsed the Fox sisters’ séances, it suddenly hit me: Seances were the 19th century’s version of Twitter!

Picture it — People receiving brief, cryptic messages sent by faceless entities from a far away place. That pretty much describes both a séance and Twitter, doesn’t it?

While I was writing the Fox sisters’ story in WE HEAR THE DEAD, I struggled to find an explanation for why intelligent and educated people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass supported something that was just a clever hoax. Were they really taken in? Eventually I came to the conclusion that – just like today – people endorse things that benefit them.

People were quick to believe messages sent from Heaven, but, of course, as with Twitter, one can never be really certain of the sender’s true identity. 19th century Senator John Calhoun was a staunch (even rabid) advocate of slavery. Yet, after his death, Calhoun’s spirit (@johncalhoun if you please) visited the Fox sisters’ séances, claiming he’d been enlightened by the Truth in the afterlife and recanting his former position!

Stanton, Mott, Douglass, and other reformers knew exactly what they were doing when they endorsed the Fox sisters. They had a message they wanted to spread, and the Fox sisters, abolitionists and fledgling feminists themselves, were more than happy to cooperate. As @benjaminfranklin said in one of their séances, “Great changes are on the horizon!”

21 Responses to Deja Vu: Seances = 19th C Twitter

  1. Sarah says:

    I’d never thought of it that way, but it does actually make a weird sort of sense–and calls attention to how we perceive and trust despite a lot of information. Excellent re-post, Dianne!

  2. I think I remember this one! Great points then and now!

  3. That’s too funny! And I absolutely love how you connected it to your novel!

  4. Ha! That’s a good analogy between that and Twitter! 🙂

  5. Linda G. says:

    It’s deja vu all over again!

    Great post — you’re spot on with your analysis. 🙂

  6. Great choice for a re-post. My mother was interested in seances and fortune tellers, but it never floated my boat. (Not because I was positive it was all hoakum, but because I was a teensy bit afraid it wasn’t.) Anyhow, I can hardly wait to read this book. Will be ordering it on my new Kindle after Christmas.

  7. So glad you chose this post to repeat. I totally agree with your observations. I remember playing with Ouija when I was a kid.

  8. Lydia Kang says:

    OMG, that’s so true! Twitter is just like a seance. IT can be creepy too, with all those weirdo twitterers…

    Thanks so much for participating in the Blogfest!

  9. DL Hammons says:

    *snicker* How brillant, comparing Twitter to seances! I love it! I just know I’m gonna chuckle the next time I sign on.

    Excellent choice for a re-post! Thanks for taking part in our blogfest and helping to make today so special! 🙂

  10. That is pretty funny.

    The most awesome thing about this Deja Vu blogfest is how many AWESOME ideas I am getting.


  11. Steven says:

    Love it: Twitter and seances!

  12. What an interesting post! I have a love hate relationship with Twitter – never quite saw it this way. 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

  13. Ha! I’m already a follower, but enjoyed this post. The Twitter/seance connection was one I hadn’t pondered yet! Hilarious! Enjoying the fest and hope you are too (though it’s taking up my ENTIRE DAY!).

  14. Margo Kelly says:

    Hello! I’m a new follower from the DejaVu Blogfest. Nice to meet you! 🙂

  15. I’m so glad you reposted this. It’s such a cool analogy. Love the photo, too!

  16. Vicki Rocho says:

    I think a lot of them were taken in and wanted to believe they were receiving messages from the other side. The others were probably suspicious but didn’t want to say anything — kinda like the Emperor’s New Clothes…

    Love the Twitter comparison.

  17. Interesting comparison. And just like Twitter, sometimes the messages make no sense!

  18. mshatch says:

    love it, and the new pic of you 🙂

  19. What a perfect comparison! I’m Deja Vu-ing. Nice to meet you.

  20. What a fun idea. I’m glad I got to read it this time round 🙂

  21. Since I haven’t lived in the 19th C and I’m not on Twitter, I can’t say for certain, but I think you have something here!

    Fun blogfest repost.