Walt Whitman: 10 Misconceptions
Least to Greatest

by Mitchell Santine Gould, Curator, LeavesOfGrass.Org


Starting in 1848, a powerful wave of spiritualism swept the nation, as thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans flocked to seances in an attempt to contact the spirits of the dead. Whitman biographies would convince you that Walt was nothing but contemptuous of spiritualism — another topic that grew increasingly embarrassing after the Civil War.

seance in 'Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler' a 1922 film
Seance in 'Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler' a 1922 film.

He actually sent mixed messages about the practice for most of his life, but it’s not true that he simply dismissed it as nonsense. Spiritualism historian John Buescher discovered two newspaper articles from the 1857 and 1858 which document Walt Whitman’s eager engagement with the spirits.