Tag Archives: antique

Dr. Silkini’s Ghost Show: Do the Dead Return? Spooks Sit Beside You!

 

Do the dead return? Spooks sit beside you? Wow, a Ghost Show! I’d love to go! It’s even from a theatre in my home town! The only problem is that I’m several decades too late… and a McDonalds sits where the theatre once was. I did, however, get to see a few movies there as a kid though. Annie and Goonies are the ones I remember the most. 

The above poster, which Joe and I discovered in a very cool new antique store in Lexington, led me to reading and learning about a part of history I knew very little about. Should I be embarrassed about this? I’m now fascinated! I’ve not been able to find a similar version of this poster from another theatre, which may also be why this was marked at $145. I didn’t buy it, of course… oh but I wanted it really badly. If I had to make a guess, I’d say it was from the 1950s, but I’m not entirely sure. The piece of tape above “Thursday”, is covering what I assume is probably the word “MIDNIGHT”. The store, The Country Peddler, has so many similar posters and banners, including lots of oil painted canvas advertisements (not sure what else to call them) from as early as the 1800s , plus lots of large nostalgic items, like jukeboxes, for example. Check it out if you make it to Lexington.

 

The Midnight Ghost Show…

The concept of the ghost show was apparently started by Elwin-Charles Peck in 1929. Really it was a stage magic show inspired by the popularity of spiritualism, and the tricks were the same ones used by the charlatans and fraudulent mediums of the time. People (mainly kids and teens) went for the séances, conjuring, flying ghosts that glowed in the dark, terrifying stunts, and audience participation. Often there were staged blackouts, where tricks would then be played on audience members, making them believe there was a “spook” near them.

In the 1930s and 40s these traveling “midnight ghost shows” were very popular in small towns around the country. Peck inspired a generation of copycats, all known as “ghost masters”, that took the ghost show to an all new level in the 40s and the 50s. The most successful of these would be Jack Baker, whose stage name was Dr. Silkini. It is said that humor is what Baker added to the already popular ghost show formula to make it so wildly successful. The concept struggled to keep the attention of an audience through the 60s and 70s, mainly due to the popularity of television. Jack Baker died in 1980.  

I’m really bummed that I missed this craze. I bet it was really fun. Were any of my readers fortunate enough to have witnessed any of these shows from the time period? I’d love to hear from you!  

 

Want more info? 

The main sources I used for this blog post come from two wonderful articles: Matt Novak’s The Rise and Fall of the Midnight Ghost Shows and Jim Knipfel’s Dr. Silkini’s Asylum of Horrors.  I urge you to check these sites out if you want to learn more. 

 

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Spirit Trumpets…

The vintage find that started my quest today!

The vintage find that started my quest today!

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. 

Modern spirit trumpets, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

Modern spirit trumpets, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

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. 

Antique spirit trumpet, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

Antique spirit trumpet, courtesy of www.skeptiseum.org.

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! 

This is a "boat fog horn" that I found on e-bay. Pretty close, wouldn't you say? My antique find does not have the reed or mouth piece on top.

This is a “boat fog horn” that I found on ebay. Pretty close, wouldn’t you say? My antique find does not have the reed or mouth piece on top.

Related Posts:

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

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