I had a very pleasant and interesting day today. The neighbors invited Joe and I out for an afternoon of antiquing. It's an activity we've only recently learned to love. We accepted the invitation, grabbed some lunch, and set off for our first store. In a booth in the very back, something caught my eye instantly. It looked to be some kind of séance or spirit trumpet. A “spirit trumpet” was often used in the early days of séance and was meant for spirits to use for amplifying their voice. A spirit trumpet? In the middle of Missouri? We're pretty far from Lily Dale (a place I would LOVE to visit one day)! What are the chances? I took a picture of it at the antique mall, and once we returned home I was on a quest to find more information on spirit trumpets and hopefully verify if it was one or not.
Spirit trumpets have changed over the years, and you can actually still buy a manufactured trumpet. Most of them are built in sections and collapse. The item I found did not collapse. It was soldered. See the photos for examples of spirit trumpets.
Back to my quest. Someone suggested to me that it might be an “ear trumpet“, which I believe was used as an early form of hearing aid. This seemed to be a reasonable guess… but the one I found was so tall, and I couldn't imagine jamming the end of this thing into my ear! Most of the photos of ear trumpets curved at the ear piece.
Then I remembered that I follow Ron Nagy on Twitter. Ron is an author and expert on all things Lily Dale and spiritualism. I contacted him and he told me it looked to be one of the oldest river driver sound horns he'd ever seen. He also said that these horns were used as the first spirit trumpets before they began making them for the purposes of séance. Cool! I googled several things but ended up finding an almost identical horn, apparently a “boat fog horn” online (see last photo below). A few of the fog horns even had the same little metal hoop where a chain would have been attached.
I wish I knew if this fog horn had been used for spiritualist purposes. I suspect it probably never was, but I'm still considering going back on Monday to get it before it's gone! 🙂 The quest to figure it all out was actually very fun and interesting!