Manifesting Spirits is an exploration of contemporary trance and physical mediumship at a private spiritualist home-circle called the Bristol Spirit Lodge. Located in a garden on the outskirts of Bristol, the Lodge is a wooden shed specially constructed for the purposes of mediumship development and spirit communication. Through a combination of ethnographic observations in séances – including his own experiences of mediumship development – and interviews with spirits and their mediums, Hunter delves into a sub-urban world of trance states, ectoplasm, spirit lights and discarnate entities. Issues relating to altered states of consciousness, personhood, performance and the efficacy of ritual are examined in order to make sense of the processes by which spirits become manifest in social reality.
A large part of Manifesting Spirits is given over to a broader discussion of anthropology’s evolving attitudes toward the ‘paranormal’ as a component of the ‘life-worlds’ of many people across the globe, and argues for the development of a non-reductive anthropological approach to the paranormal, and mediumship in particular. This emerging framework – referred to as ‘ontological flooding’ does not attempt to explain away the existence of spirits in terms of functional, cognitive or pathological theories (as most mainstream theorists tend to do), but rather embraces a processual perspective that emphasizes complexity and multiple interconnected processes underlying spirit possession performances and experiences.