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Jan 18, 2024


Step into the Victorian era with an author and Victorianist, Steele Alexandra Douris. Steele specializes in Victorian crime, gothic fiction, and Spiritualism, and is the author of Spirits, Seers & Séances: Victorian Spiritualism, Magic & the Supernatural. In this episode you’ll discover the hidden gems of 19th-century newspapers, periodicals, and the women's magazines that helped to shape the Spiritualist community. Need a response to someone worried about the dangers of practicing any form of spirit communication? Try a timeless quote from prominent Spiritualist, W.T. Stead. Are you ready to try something new at your next party? Plan a Tableaux Vivant, the fascinating and long-lost Victorian party activity! You know that old curio “curiosity” cabinet in the corner? You can thank the Victorians for that. And criminal investigation, detective fiction, and psychometry? You can thank the Victorians for that too! Visit for more info.

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In this episode:

Intro :00

Steele Alexandra Douris is an author, artist, and Victorianist, specializing in Victorian crime, gothic fiction, and spiritualism. She is a PhD candidate in the English department at Stanford University, where she has taught courses on Victorian spiritualism, ghost stories, and the gothic novel. She holds an MA in English from Stanford University and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. As an undergraduate, Steele observed the social behavior of lemurs, wielded a trowel as part of a central Texas archaeological dig, and learned to identify primate fossils and human bones. As a graduate student, she disappeared into the archives of Victorian Britain, and now emerges only periodically to collect new tarot decks, hunt for fossils, and hoard art supplies. Steele splits her time between foggy NorCal and sunny South Texas, towing her mountain of journals and sketchbooks with her wherever she goes. You can learn more about Steele by visiting :50

Steele’s book is Spirits, Seers & Séances: Victorian Spiritualism, Magic & the Supernatural. 2:36

What is a “Victorianist?” Plus Steele’s academic passions. 3:26

A passion for archaeology, art, and literature. 5:01

What did the newspapers have to say about it? “I work a lot in newspapers… 19th century newspapers, 19th century periodicals and early 20th century women’s magazines.” 6:38

In her research into Spiritualism, Steele was amazed by how many Spiritualist magazines, newspapers, and periodicals there were at the time, like The Medium and Daybreak. “The material really just gave me a glimpse into the entire engine of the Spiritualist community beyond just what I had pictured at the beginning.” 7:38

Steele includes really great “try it yourself” exercises at the end of each chapter! Examples include instructions for holding a traditional spirit circle, sitting for a solitary seance, meditating like Dr. Mesmer, automatic writing/automatic art, channeling blindfolded, sitting for a psychic portrait, practicing psychometry, channeling your inner folklorist, exploring your own shadow/reading a gothic tale, scrying, making a Halloween card, or holding a Christmas seance! 8:55

Patrick discusses some of the really cool fall issues of The Delineator, an American women's magazine of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 10:51

Tableaux Vivant, a fascinating, long-lost Victorian party activity. 12:02

“It’s hard to move in many modern occult circles without tripping over the Victorians. And yet, somehow, in the process of becoming ubiquitous, the Victorians have also become invisible.” 16:16

Patrick on one of his “a-ha” moments from the book: “Some of us dream of putting away our modern tools and technology to pretend we’re Victorian. But in reality, Victorians were all about becoming modern, with the huge advances in technology that was happening at the time.” 16:16

What economic class of Victorians are we usually imagining? 21:12

Need a timeless response to someone worried about the dangers of using the Ouija Board or practicing any form of spirit communication? Try this great mid-1890s quote from prominent Spiritualist W.T. Stead, which he claims was channeled by his spirit guide, Julia. 22:28

Victorian personal ads! 26:06

The unique Victorian practice of Psychometry 27:59

Criminal investigation, detective fiction, ballistics, fingerprint analysis, criminal psychology, profiling, and paranormal investigation! 32:23

Curiosity “curio” cabinets, curiosity shops, and specimen cabinets. 33:30

The Worlds Fair Expositions 35:28

Christmas lore and the legends of bells underground and under water. 36:52

The Victorian activities that Steele incorporates into her daily life! 41:50

Final thoughts from Steele 47:13

Outro 48:43

A special THANK YOU to Patreon supporters at the Super Paranerd and Parlor Guest level! 50:03


For more on Steele Alexandra Douris

Spirits, Seers & Séances: Victorian Spiritualism, Magic & the Supernatural (Amazon)

Facebook: @steelearcana

Instagram: @steelearcana



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