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Dear reader: below are séance rules that our diarist’s Mama may have had to abide by when she contacted her dead mother at the ‘spiritual meeting’ in Missoula, March of 1922, except for a few modern rules (‘please turn off your cellular device, all our seance conductors are certified’).  I find the procedure for “gloom and doom” pronouncements particularly interesting!

The below is posted by the Spiritualist Church of New York City and accessed at on December 14, 2013.

“Séance rules.

1. Please be on time.  Once the séance begins, we cannot admit latecomers.

 2. Please don’t get up during the séance for any purpose or to leave the room.  By doing so you will disrupt the delicate connection to the frequencies and the connection to the spirit world.  Of course in case of emergency we make exceptions to this rule.

 3.  Please turn off all cellular devices or other noise making electronics.

 4.  If you are hearing impaired, you may use NON-noise making personal equipment.  If you simply have trouble hearing, please inform the séance conductors before the séance begins and they will try to accommodate you by asking you to sit close to them in the circle.

 5.  Any type of behavior that is disruptive, disrespectful, rude, angry or, abrasive will not be tolerated.  If for some reason a participant does not comply with rules of common decency or is unable to comply with this rule, the séance conductors are ultimately in charge and will have such person removed from the room.  Therefore the Spiritualist Church of NYC reserves the right to evict anyone who creates a scene or engages in such negative behavior.

 6. To protect the privacy of each participant, audio or video recording is not permitted. 

 7.  Because our séances are message circles, we do not permit participants to practice trance-mediumship during the séance.  Trance work is reserved for other specially controlled settings and is considered inappropriate in our séances.

 8.  At all times the séance conductors will “police” the séance to make sure that the above rules are followed.  Séance conductors have the responsibility to protect everyone from any inappropriate behavior.

 9.  Messages of doom and gloom are not given by the séance conductors.  Nor do we allow other mediums to give such messages.  If a participant begins a message, or at any point during the message doom or gloom is given by a medium, the séance conductor will immediately interrupt the medium and not permit the message to be given.

 10.  All séance conductors at the Spiritualist Church of NYC are certified.  This means that they have had extensive training in psychic and mediumship development as well as having completed a rigorous and advanced Certified Séance Course and internship at the Holistic Studies Institute.  Many of our conductors have devoted years to cultivate their gifts in order to be of service to others.  Therefore we ask that you abide by these rules as well as respect the séance conductor as they are the authority figure, representing the church Board of Trustees.  The séance conductor is responsible for enforcing all the above rules on behalf of the church.

 11.  No one under the age of 14 is permitted to attend the séance. Anyone between the ages of 14 – 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must give permission for those in their care to attend the séance.

 12.  In larger groups, every attendee is not guaranteed of receiving a message.”

Put your best foot forward: 1920s style

These shoes are a good example of what our diarist would have found on department store shelves in Missoula, Montana in 1922. They are summer styles, which would most likely have been marked way down in Feb. of 1922. Love those little heels. This photo and great fashion of that era can be found at

I hurried across the street, bought a cup of coffee, and carefully opened the first diary.

“Sun. Jan. 1. 1922” clearly written in delicate cursive script, a fountain pen with Kool-aid purple ink.  “10 degrees below.”  Brrr… typical for central Montana in winter.

“Did not get up as early as we should have,” continues our mystery lady, “but I did the upstairs work while Mama & Ruth were getting Breakfast.  We were very busy all morn fixing for our New Years dinner.  We had sweet & Irish potators, Fried Spring Chicken, squash, string beans, cucumber & Beet pickle, bread, Butter, gravy, Jello salad, cheese, Jelly, & mince pie.  Apples and Oranges.”

I could feel my own belly beginning to growl at this recitation.  Imagine the kitchen with stove fires roaring, women chatting and brushing past each other, the smell of chicken, taters, and pie, with 10-below weather just outside the window!

Below is a photo of the kitchen at Grant Kohrs Ranch, which was bigger, but gives you a feel for the magnificent stove that was the heart of any ranching kitchen.  Historic American Buildings Survey photo MT-39-A-19.


This is one of the mystery diaries found in a Missoula dumpster. In pretty good shape, isn’t it? If you look closely you can see the owner’s handwriting. Photo taken in Butterfly Herbs on Higgins St. in Missoula, which in 1922 was a drugstore. The diarist probably had a connection with this building: to be revealed in a posting soon.

In spidery writing on the front cover I could barely make out “1922.”  Wow!  Two days later I bought all four diaries.  The owner of Circle Square told me he’d bought them, along with photo negatives in their original envelope, from a professional salvager.  They were found right here in a Missoula dumpster. 

Wait a minute: someone threw away four diaries written in the early 1920s, and photographs too?  How sad!