Radio Gallery number 7: A Stellar Key to the Summerland

Author: Olivia Plender

A Stellar Key to the Summerland is a documentary about The Modern Spiritualist Movement, a religion that originated in New York State, USA, in 1848 with the notorious Hydesville Rappings. Despite being based on speaking to the dead, Spiritualists saw themselves as part of a rational religion in dialogue with scientific developments; parallels were made between the messages received via a medium and new communication technologies such as the telegraph and later the telephone and the radio. However this programme particularly examines how Spiritualists used the religion to visualise an alternative to industrial society, overlapping with non-conformist political causes such as the Co-operative movement and the campaign for women’s suffrage. The programme is read by Rufus Wright and is structured as a lecture, a broadcast format that now seems old fashioned. It includes seance recordings and interviews with ‘scientists’ involved with studying spiritualism.