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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The spooky, the mysterious...the bizarre! » » The Problem with Seances (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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docsteve
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Experimentalist I personally think the one thing that stood out about The haunting (original) was the SOUND! That BOOMING!
Also, have you seen the original 'Ring'? That actress creeping out the TV was better than any CGI IMHO!!
Best
Steve
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Bill Ligon
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Doc, the booming and "God! God! Whose hand was I holding?"

Movie makers, in their love for special effects and the influence of slasher films, have forgotten that suggestion and implication -- and the unknown -- are what make things really frightening.

Bill
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docsteve
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Quote:
On 2007-11-26 16:30, Bill Ligon wrote:
the booming and "God! God! Whose hand was I holding?"

Movie makers, in their love for special effects and the influence of slasher films, have forgotten that suggestion and implication -- and the unknown -- are what make things really frightening.

Bill

Hear, hear.
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Bill Fienning
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Whether you are doing something scary or just memorable, setting the mood is very important, perhaps more important than the fancy special effects.

Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Psycho" is one of the most terrifying movies made. Yet, it was deliberately filmed in black and white, not color. Only one person (Janet Leigh) is killed. Even then, the audience does not see her actually stabbed, only her blood in the shower as she is (apparently) being stabbed. Your imagination fills in all the horrible details.
Bill Fienning

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Rory Raven
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Last October, I got a call from a guy who had been to my website and wanted to book a seance party. Great. Since he had been to my site, I made the foolish assumption that he knew what he was getting and I put him down for the date he wanted.

On the night in question, I did the show. Reaction was minimal. There was just something weird hanging in the air. I collected my fee and went home.

A week later, I got an e-mail from the guy's sister (who had been at the seance), saying it was all "fraudulent", that I had "scammed" them, and it was just some kind of show. She wanted the money back. Her brother, who booked me, e-mailed me the next day repeating her demand.

They were expecting a "real" seance. From what I gathered, they were hoping to hear from their (dead) father. No one said anything of the kind to me before the show, or I would have straightened them out. And I assumed that as the guy had gone to my website, he knew what he was getting. He did not. I didn't think I needed to beat him over the head with words like "entertainment" and "re-creation." Obviosuly, I should have. Thicko.

There was obviously no way to talk to them about this; once they start saying you "scammed" them, your goose is cooked.

I mailed them a check and got them the hell out of my life.

Which means they got a free show in October ... hmm, maybe someone here was scammed after all ....

Munchies for thought,

R
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Experimentalist
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Thank you for sharing that Rory.

I recall turning one person away who explained over the phone that he wished to contact his dead partner. I was lucky that he told me that rather than just assuming what I would do.

In addition to a sort of intro-spiel where all expectations are laid out on the table, I may even replace the word "Seance" with something like "Ghost Hunt" in the future.
TEB3
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This is why I began using Ghost Hunt back in the early 1980's. Seance is just a little hard for some people to separate from entertainment. Especially if you work in the Bible Belt!

I cover a lot of that in The Bigger Book of BOO!

Lary/TEB3
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Fortunately, I just recieved your Bigger Book of Boo a few days ago. I look forward to delving into it.
james1a
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Hi:
I just read through this thread, the advice is tremendous, many thanks. I did save and print many posts.
james1a
Rory Raven
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Obviously, in my story, my woes were as much my fault as theirs. Okay, more theirs. Effing morons.

Yes -- The Bigger Book of Boo is a must-read.

The only problem I see now in using the term "Ghost Hunt" is those ... ahem, guys .... on the SciFi Channel. You might get people expecting to stumble around in the dark on night vision. "Dude! Run!"

R
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Experimentalist
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True, Ghost Hunt is also a loaded term.

I think the issue here may simply be that we are attempting to make entertainment from one of the most emptionally volatile issues there is. That being Life after death.
DrNorth
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Quote:
On 2007-11-26 23:15, Bill Fienning wrote:
Only one person (Janet Leigh) is killed. Even then, the audience does not see her actually stabbed, only her blood in the shower as she is (apparently) being stabbed. Your imagination fills in all the horrible details.

Movie nerd alert, two where killed. the PI Arbogast (Martin Balsam),(man I am dating myself !!)was stabbed and fell down the stairs as well. Now back to your thread.
Smile
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Magickman
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Let's not forget that the modern seance would also be the same style show that John Edward does. Putting the show on a more psychic level, then medium.


Magickman
What man knows he calls Science
What he has yet to learn he calls Magick
Both are real!

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Todd Robbins
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Quote:
On 2007-12-09 00:17, Magickman wrote:
Let's not forget that the modern seance would also be the same style show that John Edward does. Putting the show on a more psychic level, then medium.


That is part of the problem. Physical Phenomenon or Message Service. Yesterday vs. Today. Hollywood vs. Spiritual Church. What form is to be embraced?

Todd Robbins
SpellbinderEntertainment
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I’ve personally embraced the Spiritualist Medium role,
and shunned the Edward Psychic role.

My personal decision is a Victorian recreation,
with a Vodou influenced Channel/Medium presiding.
The content is based upon historical local characters.

Some Hollywood influence, but more 12 sitter traditional.

It’s still in development, but so far feedback has been strong.

My two-spirit-slates-cents.
Walt
Bill Fienning
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In my theatrical seance, with my Aunt Elsie as my spirit guide, I seek to demonstrate that the spirits are with us and that they interact with our daily lives. To that end, I summon only Elsie and not anyone else's favorite dead person.

Aunt Elsie demonstrates her knowledge of our current situation as well as delivering (totally inconsequential) information from Summerland. She can even interact with women in the audience, provided they are holding a small piece of cloth from one of her dresses.

Finally, she favors us with an apport of a fresh rosebud as the candle mysteriously goes out and the the seance ends.
Bill Fienning

"It's More than Tricks"
Avrakdavra
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It's terrific to be hearing from such experienced hands... I wonder if I might offer my own novice's thoughts on the seance form, which I billed as a "theatrical re-creation of a Victorian seance," and which was performed for the guests of a seaside bed-and-breakfast inn.

I had the guests assembled in the sitting room, which was fully lit with regular, incandescent lights, and I entered dressed in my period costume. As I introduced the seance by way of recounting some history of the Spiritualist movement, etc., I moved around the room, lighting candles as the patter continued, until there were about twenty candles lit. The talk turned more and more to suggestions to let the imagination journey to a world "lit only by gaslight and candle." At this point, I flipped off the light switches, and there we were: sitting in a Victorian drawing room, the sound of waves rolling in the background, flickering reflections staring in from the blackened windows, as the night's darkness pressed in.

I introduced some brief mentalism by way of establishing my bona fides as a person with the necessary gifts to contact the Other Side. Wary of overdoing it, I confined it to a some work with a cyclical deck (Civil War design cards), psychometry, and PK touches. There was a brief break, and then we went into the dining room for the seance proper. At that point, and despite the emphasis on the "theatrical recreation," there was one young woman who refused to participate because she was simply too anxious and perturbed by what she had seen.

The table seance elicitied a few gasps and yelps, and some nervous laughter, but my overall impression was that the emphasis on the psychological preparation, the setting of the mood and expectation within the performance itself, was more critical than any particular effect that I was able to present (i.e. nothing particularly sophisticated or technical beyond reaching rods, PK timber, Burger-inspired apparitions, and so forth). It was the sad, stained, little doll taken from a charred box in the attic, the faint scent of roses in the air, the thought of beloved grandparents (long since turned to dust and memory), the white roses that wilted in the darkness--these were most potent, I think.

The (hardly novel) lesson I drew was that longing, nostaligia, pathos, and humor can be as potent as terror, surprise, and belief in contact with the Beyond, and that the "theatrical recreation" format can evoke these as effectively as any seance played as "legitimate."

Now, if someone could tell me how to do it without six hours of preparation for 90 minutes of performance, I might be able to do it on a more regular basis...
Bruce
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Just one other wrinkle for you.... the variation that Docc put out re: "At the Mountains of Madness" - not that I actually perform it as written - but when I first got it when I was getting back into magic - it just reminded me most limits and constraints are our own doing - that was a seance redone - a theatrical riff of a horror story using HPL elements - and it can be made as creepy as a Victorian seance - I'm still fiddling with my Tindalos "seance" where dark entities are summoned through the angles of time and things go wayyyyyyyyy out of control... the key is the context and the premise - then the effects flow from that.
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magicusb
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I have been trying to figure a way to add to this subject, since it covers so much that we do. Also be reminded that these forums may be read by those outside the mystery arts.

We call our paranormal evening "HAUNTED! Mind Mysteries & THE Beyond." I believe it is one of the longest continuous running seance events ever in our field.

I believe the reason so many are having a problem is that in a seance you are entering the area that is part theater, possibly part religion, as opposed to variety entertainment, that most here are schooled in. Theater has many different rules and parameters. as do seances.

I see many posters here say in their publicity that they do a "recreation of a seance".

Is this a cop out? A way of telling the audience that the seance is not real?

Or do you mean it is a recreation and yet a "real" seance. It can be taken in different ways, though generally I feel it weakens the overall impression.

We promote our seance as a paranormal evening. This has different meanings depending on who you are. Ours is done in the present, and not a Victorian recreation. As we start we do not weaken it with disclaimers. Non are necessary. At the very beginning to welcome them all to "Psychic Theater", which is the name of our venue and chosen very carefully. We tell them in our promo and phone calls exactly what they will see. Experiments in ESP, Telekinesis, mind control, mentalism, etc. leading to a seance where things happen in the dark when the spirits are willing, as they usually are this time of year. What ever month that may be. It is all in loose story form.

We get the full gamut of attendees from true believers, to people out to have a good time, to those who want to see a "theatrical" event, to total skeptics. It is hard enough to get people to come without turning away a part of our audience. Even so in over three years running about 40 weeks each year, one to three nights a week, no one has EVER asked for their money back, are all happy at the end of the 3 1/2 hour event, and even stay to talk a while from all spectrums of beliefs. We have gotten good press reviews.

They only ones that leave unhappy (?), as it were, are those who run out just before the seance out of fear, or those who insist we turn on the lights mid seance so they can leave, again out of fear. Others do not take the seance portion serious, but go with the flow. It is an event on several levels.

Some that leave early have said they had a great time, but because of their religion were "not allowed to witness a seance."

We tell them at the beginning that they all come to us with different belief systems and ask them to be open minded willing to question some of their beliefs. Again this means different things to different people. To a believer it has a different meaning than to a skeptic. As the script evolves we might tell them how no one really knows what gravity is, or of Einstein and the possibility of time travel to hear sounds of the past, string theory with hundreds of dimensions, etc, etc. Again to question their belief system. This part is a work in progress. We never, never try to contact spirits of their dead relatives or claim we will, but that our building is haunted according to those who live in the area, and we will attempt to contact the spirits that reside here. This is backed up by local newspaper articles.

At the end we have several strong statements that have changed over time. We even at one time concluded with a segment with an actual Bess Houdini recording saying that she did not believe that ghosts or spirits exist to show that side. This brought the show to 4 hours. We, instead, now have several strong statements at the end, including one where we paraphrase Houdini, that goes... Houdini in Magician Among The Spirits" "said anyone who claimed to talk to the dead was either a fraud or the product of a deluded mind... and I hope you realize we are a little bit of both." This is followed by another very strong statement. It keeps changing since this is still a work in progress. Depending on your outlook or who you are, you may replace the word statement above for disclaimer.

People pay $30-35 dollars a ticket and feel they had an exciting, amazing, and worthwhile experience.

Aside from the strong closing statements, we do not try to send any special message. As a producer said years ago, if you want to send a message, work for Western Union.

If you want to see our actual promo and a write up, go to http://PsychicTheater.com and/or http://Supernormalist.com for a better look. There are no pictures of the dark part for obvious reasons.

Glad to answer any questions or comments you might have. You may also PM us if you wish.

Regards
Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich
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TEB3
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Because of living in the "Bible Belt", this was the reason my friend T. Everett Bookings, III became a ghost hunter. And the haunted dinner deals were always advertised as "Have Dinner With A Ghost". For private parties, the pitch was/is "Invite A Ghost To Your Next Party!"

Same script, effects, everything, I just couched it as a ghost hunt, contacting it, then catching it rather than bringing back someone from summer land.

It's worked with NO flack since 1980. And that's why I made USA Today and hundreds of other write-ups and interviews. Ghost are spooky - Seances are trying to contact a dear departed. Big difference in people's perception.

Lary/TEB3/Traveler
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