Canadian-born author, lecturer, astrologer and mystic Manly Hall was born on March 18, 1891. Hall is best known for his 1928 work The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Over his 70 year career, he gave thousands of lectures, including two at Carnegie Hall, and published over 150 volumes. In 1934, he founded The Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, which he dedicated to the “Truth Seekers of All Time,” with a research library, lecture hall and publishing house. See a video about Manly Hall at this link.
According to Mitch Horowitz, author of the critically acclaimed Occult America,the origins of the device known today as the Ouija Board can be traced back to the late 19th Century — although not reliably further back than that. Horowitz cites a March 28, 1886 article appearing in the Sunday supplement of the New York Daily Tribune entitled “A Mysterious Talking Board and Table over Which Northern Ohio is Agitated.” The article included an illustration and description of an early talking board very similar to today’s version.
On March 31, 1848 — a watershed date in American séance history — Kate and Margaret, just 12 and 15 years old, conducted the first American séance.
Allen Kardec, the 19th Century founder of “Spiritism” and a man who changed the course of Latin American religious movements, died on March 31, 1869.
Professor Black Herman died on April 17, 1934, while on tour in Louisville, Kentucky. In an obituary, The New York Age, a leading African American newspaper, described him as one of Harlem’s most colorful characters — a magician, seer, herb specialist and fortune teller; a man who, among his followers, “had risen to the standing of god whom they expect to rise out of his grave.”
Charles Hoy Fort (August 6, 1874 – May 3, 1932) was an American writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The terms Fortean and Forteana are sometimes used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort’s books sold well and are still in print. His work continues to inspire admirers, who refer to themselves as “Forteans,” and has influenced some aspects of science fiction.
Fort’s collections of scientific anomalies, including The Book of the Damned (1919), influenced numerous science fiction writers with their skepticism and as sources of ideas. “Fortean” phenomena are events which seem to challenge the boundaries of accepted scientific knowledge, and the Fortean Times (founded as The News in 1973 and renamed in 1976) investigates such phenomena.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, often known as Madame Blavatsky; was a controversial Russian occultist, philosopher, and author who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. She gained an international following as the leading theoretician of Theosophy, the esoteric movement that the society promoted. Her death, on May 8, 1891, is celebrated as “White Lotus Day” among Theosophists. Read more about Madame Blavatsky here.
William H. Mumler (1832–1884) was an American spirit photographer who worked in New York and Boston. His first spirit photograph was apparently an accident—a self-portrait which, when developed, also revealed the “spirit” of his deceased cousin. Mumler then left his job as an engraver to pursue spirit photography full-time, taking advantage of the large number of people who had lost relatives in the American Civil War. His two most famous images are the photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband Abraham Lincoln and the portrait of Master Herrod, a medium, with three spirit guides.
Six years after the appearance of that article a patent for a “Ouija or Egyptian luck-board” was filed by Baltimore attorney Elijah H. Bond, who in turn assigned the rights to Charles W. Kennard and William H.A. Maupin. This early talking board (the patent was filed on May 28, 1898) was the first with the Ouija name.