Spirits at Stowe

Spiritualism as Resistance

October 27, 2023 to October 28, 2023

Spirits at Stowe return for October!


Tours: 6:00 pm & 7:00 pm

(tour groups are limited to 14 people)
Cost: Adults $20; Seniors $15; Under 17 $10


October 19, 20, 21

October 26, 27, 28

* On October 21 and 28, we will host lectures from 4:30 – 6:00 pm that adds depth and context to the information presented in tours.  Each lecture is limited to 35 people, registration required. 

Lectures are free to attend, donations are greatly appreciated.  



Join our Spirits at Stowe tour as we delve into the historic social and political context of the 19th century and explore the role of Spiritualism in the lives of reformers, suffragists, and Black activists.


Like many people grappling with loss in the post-Civil War era, Harriet Beecher Stowe- a mother who outlived four of her seven children- found solace in the Spiritualist belief that the spirits of the dead moved and communicated freely in the world of the living and embraced Spiritualism even as she affirmed her commitment to mainstream religion. The Spirits at Stowe tours will allow us to consider in greater depth a less-frequently explored part of Harriet’s life such as child mortality and her complex, even fluid, relationship with organized religion, especially her father’s religion. The tour expands on the life of Isabella Beecher Hooker, allowing us to speak with nuance about the variety of social justice approaches, from Isabella’s more radical support of suffrage to Harriet’s more tepid position. The tour and lectures also open up conversations about Spiritualism as a tool of resistance for radicals and reformers, such as enslaved people and Black (and) women activists by affording opportunities to speak the “unspeakable” via communication with “the other side.” The tour also opens conversation about class inasmuch as Spiritualism offered vocations that brought people into the parlors of social classes they otherwise would never enter. The transgressing of class boundaries is a social justice issue that comes up more tangentially in our regularly offered tours.


During the tour, the Stowe House is “set” to reflect a Spiritualist setting. It takes place later in the evening and lit by (electric) candlelight. Participants on the tour observe and engage with the materials of Spiritualism including a planchette on view, Isabella’s “Spirit Book” in which she recorded the names of those who she felt she communicated with through Spiritualism, images of Spiritualist books and photography to illustrate the images and words associated with Spiritualism, and quotes about Spiritualism. Tour participants will consider the possibilities, limitations, and contradictions of Spiritualist beliefs.






Beth Caruso is with the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project (CWTEP). Ms. Caruso’s research focuses on Connecticut’s troubled history with accusations and persecution of witchcraft. Beginning even before Salem and the infamous witch trials of 1692, at least 49 people were accused of witchcraft in Connecticut. Of these 49 people, we know of 34 who were indicted on the charge of witchcraft and 11 who were hanged for the crime. Ms. Caruso demonstrates that accusations were influenced by political standing, class, gender, race, and age, and that practices that provoked accusations were actually widespread throughout communities, such as the use of protective markings over doorways and reciting phrases and “spells” to heal people. Some of these practices found resurgence in the 19th century in Spiritualism. Like accusations of witchcraft, Spiritualism held dimensions of gender, class, and social status. However, unlike 17th– and 18th– century accusations, 19th-century Spiritualism was often a source of expressing authority or resistance to dominant social norms.


Ms. Caruso writes regularly about this history both for publication in journals and magazines, and for the CWTEP website. She has also brought this history to people through her historically informed books. She will present about Connecticut’s history of 17th– and 18th-century witch trials and why exoneration of the persecuted individuals remains a relevant and vital issue. Her presentation will highlight Hartford specifically and will be of particular interest to local visitors.





Dr. Tracey Hucks is professor of Theology at Harvard University. Dr. Hucks has written extensively about the Afro-Caribbean roots of spiritualism. Her book, Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, vol. 1, explores the nuanced differences among Caribbean religious practices and how those practices have changed over time. The chapter “Obeah, Piety, and Poison in The Slave Son,” specifically looks at Black diasporic religious practices in the books Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and The Slave Son, by Marcella Wilkins. Dr. Hucks argues that Stowe, through the character of Uncle Tom, sought to present enslaved people sympathetically, and therefore downplayed Afro-Caribbean aspects of their religious and spiritual practices. Wilkins, on the other hand, represented the obeah religion more extensively in her characters, contributing to a more threatening view of enslaved people.

Through this analysis, Dr. Hucks develops the links between Afro-Caribbean religious practices and Spiritualism in the 19th century, and illuminates how race, social status, and gender influenced Spiritualist practices. Dr. Hucks will present a lecture on her research followed by an audience Q & A.


Location Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Katharine S. Day House
Doors Open
Program 6:00 - 7:00 pm & 7:00 - 8:00 pm
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