Missionary Zeal: 1920-1930

A Spiritualist Life

In 1916, Conan Doyle’s The New Revelation was published, which argued that Spiritualism would one day replace Christianity. In the following years, he gave public lectures and wrote widely on Spiritualist phenomena. In the Twenties, he went on Spiritualist missions to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe.

In the next decade he wrote numerous Spiritualist works, and was involved in several controversies. Most famously, he endorsed the photographs of the Cottingley Fairies. He also declared spirit photography to be real, and befriended illusionist Harry Houdini.

Conan Doyle became convinced that Houdini had supernatural powers, while Houdini remained critical of Conan Doyle’s faith. Eventually, the two celebrities fell out and a public spat ensued over the validity of séances and conjuring. Conan Doyle continued as a leading figure in Spiritualism, and remained a convinced Spiritualist up to his death.

Back at home in 1930, illness got the better of Conan Doyle. He died in the morning of the 7th of July. A memorial service was held in the Albert Hall on the 13th of July, with around 6,000 mourners in attendance to celebrate the life of the beloved author.

Wooden tablets originally held by Minstead Churchyard, the New Forest where he was reinterred are currently on display as part of the Conan Doyle exhibition. The tablet inscription reads:

“Blade straight
Steel true
Arthur Conan Doyle Born May 22nd 1859 Passed on 7th July 1930.”


Three men

Arthur Conan Doyle with his sons, Adiran and Denis during the late 1920s.

A memorial service programme, cover with printed text.

A memorial service programme for Arthur Conan Doyle at the Royal Albert Hall.

Group of people sitting on a beach

Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife Jean their children, Denis, Adrian, and Jean sitting with Harry Houdini at Atlantic City.