The Vail Collection offers a complex snapshot of the state of spiritualism and psychic research in the nineteenth century, ranging from exposés of fraudulent mediums to scientific investigations by some of the finest minds of the era.
A highlight of the collection is an early run of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. The Society was a serious group founded to investigate all aspects of paranormal, supernatural, parapsychological, and psychic phenomena. Some of the more illustrious early members included Arthur Balfour (who later served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir William Crookes, the noted discoverer of thallium and cathode rays, and creator of the Crookes tube.
The Vail Collection also includes early works from the Spiritualism movement in the United States, which began with the 1848 emergence of New York State’s Fox sisters as psychic mediums. Dering collected such American works as Charles Hammond’s Philosophy of the Spirit-World, and another work purported to have been written by the Biblical figures of Joshua and Solomon, as well as by the long-dead 17th century figure George Fox. Dering also owned Astounding Facts from the Spirit World, Witnessed at the House of J.A. Gridley, Southampton, Mass.,the title page of which implores, “Who is not interested!!?? Say, who!!!!????”
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