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Dec 1, 2023



Did you ever think the universe was trying to tell you something? I just finished reading Anderson Cooper’s book on the Vanderbilt family. In it, he describes family patriarch Commodore Vanderbilt’s interest in Spiritualism and clairvoyance. Cooper writes “Evidence suggests that the Commodore had begun attending seances as early as 1864, but given the mainstreaming of Spiritualist practices in the 1860s and ‘70s, this was not as unusual as it may sound. The period immediately after the Civil War had seen a dramatic rise in the Spiritualism movement and other alternative modes of healing and perception, driven largely by the staggering loss of life experienced during the Civil War.”  We explored heiress Theodate Pope Riddle’s obsession with Spiritualism in Grating the Nutmeg episode #109 but what did Hartford’s most famous resident of the Gilded Age, Mark Twain, think about it? And what about the ghosts seen in the Twain House? Whether you  believe in the afterlife, don’t believe in it at all, or just want to come to your own conclusions, this is an episode for you!


Guests today are Mallory Howard, Assistant Curator at The Mark Twain House & Museum and Dr. Jason Scappaticci, historian and Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Connecticut State Community College Capital in Hartford.


And if you need more ghostly insight after listening to this episode, the Mark Twain House is sponsoring a book talk on Dec. 14, 2023 at 7:30pm with television’s Ghost Hunters Adam Berry and Steve Gonsalves in conversation discussing their debut books. Tickets are available on the museum’s website at 


If you want more Spiritualism and ghost stories, check out Grating the Nutmeg Episode 109. Communicating with the Spirits: Theodate Pope Riddle. Listen here:

You can purchase author Steve Courtney’s book “We Shall Have Them With Us Always” The Ghosts of the Mark Twain House at the Mark Twain House Museum gift shop.

Dr. Jason Scappaticci can be reached at

image: Samuel Clemens experimenting in Nicola Tesla’s lab in 1894. Courtesy of The Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, Connecticut.



Grating the Nutmeg is the podcast of Connecticut history and 2023 winner of an Award of Merit for excellence from the Connecticut League of History Organizations. Brought to you by Connecticut Explored, Connecticut’s premiere history magazine. Subscribe now at  


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This episode of Grating the Nutmeg was produced by Mary Donohue and engineered by Patrick O’Sullivan at


Join us in two weeks for our next episode of Grating the Nutmeg, the podcast of Connecticut history.