Spiritualism emerged in the mid-19th century and promoted the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. By 1901 the controversial new religion boasted millions of followers in the US and Britain, and not one but three reels of film were lavished on this lively procession. The smart dresses, hats and suits attest to the Spiritualist Church's largely middle-class congregation.
The film was made by showman Arthur Duncan Thomas, who passed himself off as the American inventor Thomas Edison. "Edison Will Reproduce this Procession in Animated Photograph Twice Daily, St. James' Hall Manchester", reads a promotional placard seen in the film. Contemporary viewers may be surprised to see so many younger participants - among the colourful banners, including one held aloft by members of the 'Royal Spiritual Lyceum', one slogan reads "Open the door for the children". Despite a resurgence of popularity in the 1920s, the movement went into sharp decline, but a network of Spiritualist Churches remains, including several in Greater Manchester.