The Lilly Library engages in some paranormal activity

Guest post courtesy of IU Communications multimedia intern Milana Katic:

This weekend Indiana University’s Lilly Library will hold the opening reception for its most recent exhibition, “Spiritualists, Sorcerers, and Stage Magicians: Magic and the Supernatural at the Lilly Library.”

The show itself began mystifying the visitors of the Lilly on June 2, in large part due to its eclectic content that has captured audiences for centuries.

“We have everything from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, and there is just this continued historical obsession with things that we can’t see,” said Rebecca Baumann, co-curator and Lilly Librarian.

As a part of IU’s Summer Festival of the Arts, “Spiritualists, Sorcerers, and Stage Magicians” is undoubtedly one of the stranger installations in this summer’s artistic lineup. From Houdini to hallucinations, the exhibition has an obscure object for anyone who appreciates the occult. Some of the main features include spirit photography from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, correspondence with the famous occultist Aleister Crowley, 17th century illustrations from witch hunting manuals, and a collection of the pulp magazine Weird Tales, one of the Lilly’s latest acquisitions.

"The Great Prophecy of the End of the World: Mother Shipton and her Remarkable Prophecies," a 19th cent. print from London, is one of the exhibit's many features.

“The Great Prophecy of the End of the World: Mother Shipton and her Remarkable Prophecies,” a 19th century print from London, is one of the exhibit’s many features.

“I think anybody who comes here is going to find something that is exciting and interesting—a story that will speak to them whether it be about ghosts, or witches, or stage magic,” Baumann said. “There are just so many great stories here.”

In addition to the uncanny display, the opening reception will include a magic show with self-proclaimed “spooky magician” Steve Bryant. With disembodied “stage hands” to help him with card tricks and eerie illusions, Bryant ensures there will be at least one scream during the show.

“Any magic trick really well done is kind of spooky because it kind of shocks your system,” Bryant said. “Some magicians like laughs, some like applause, I occasionally like screams.”

The reception begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, with the magic show; a short talk and reception will follow. The exhibition runs at the Lilly until August 30, when POOF! It disappears without a trace.

About the Indiana University Summer Festival of the Arts

The Summer Festival of the Arts began in 2011 and seeks to bring all of Indiana University Bloomington’s cultural elements together, including live music, theater, dance, conferences, lectures, art openings and films. Events take place from May until August and ensure those visiting Bloomington as well as students, community members and IU faculty and staff are aware of the rich cultural offerings on campus. Calendar listings can be found on the festival website, For event updates, follow @IUArtsFest and #IUArtsFest on Twitter.

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