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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

séance Correctly spelled “séance,” rather than “seance,” this word is from the French, derived from the Latin verb sedere (“to sit”) and meaning “a sitting.” It is a session during which attempts are made to contact departed spirits. A person who attends is referred to as a sitter. The person calling up spirits is called the medium.
      Séances are held by a group of persons usually seated about a table in the dark or semi-darkness. The medium is believed to go into a trance state in which he or she is able to contact dead persons. Various noises such as creaks, raps, clicks, and voices are said to come from beyond the grave. Props such as tambourines, horns, guitars, and drums are heard to play, and it is believed that they have been handled by spirits.
      Materializations, performed by only the most skilled mediums, are occasionally seen. Often a glowing figure, said to be made of ectoplasm, can be seen and felt moving about. A materialization séance is mentioned in the Bible, in 1 Samuel.

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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.

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