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Talking to Dead: How 1918 Pandemic Spanish Flue spurred Spiritualism Craze

When the influenza pandemic hit the U.S. between 1918 and 1920, Americans wanted answers. Their questions weren’t limited to what caused the pandemic or might prevent the next one. They struggled with more eternal concerns, such as what happens to us after we die and whether it’s possible to communicate with dead loved ones.

The flu pandemic wasn’t alone in spurring this search for meaning. World War I, which ended in November 1918, had racked up a worldwide death toll of 20 million soldiers and civilians, according to one estimate. And if that wasn’t sufficiently staggering, the influenza had taken at least 50 million lives. In both cases, most victims were young—between 20 and 40, in the case of the flu—and left behind parents, spouses, sweethearts and children.

Not surprisingly, spiritualism, which promised a window into the afterlife, saw a sudden resurgence in the United States, Great Britain, France and elsewhere. A February 1920 headline in the New York Sun said it all: “Riddle of the Life Hereafter Draws World’s Attention.…… Continue Reading…..

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