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Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Department of History

Abstract

This Master’s thesis is constructed around the Spiritualist lecture tours of Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The famed British author was an ardent Spiritualist who believed it was his personal mission to spread the religion and practices of Spiritualism in Europe, Australia, and America. Houdini, on the other hand, strove to expose deceitful mediums as con artists and fakes. In the early 1920s, both men embarked on lecture tours throughout the United States, spreading their views and attempting to sway the minds of curious Americans. The lectures were well attended, often before full houses, and were well publicized. This research makes use of Conan Doyle’s writings, newspaper coverage and the correspondence of Houdini to examine the lectures and the public reactions and what they conveyed about American’s attitudes toward Modern Spiritualism. Many historians have glanced at the tours and Spiritualism as part of a larger picture in the twentieth century, but this short-lived religious phenomena may help explain how and why Americans were intrigued about an odd, almost cult-like religion. Since there has not been an in depth look at the tours, this will fill a gap in the history of American’s response to organized religion in the early twentieth century.

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