The Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle supported spiritualism and its attempts to find proof of existence beyond the grave. He wrote The History of Spiritualism in 1926, and was a member of the paranormal investigation organisation The Ghost Club.
His book The Coming of the Fairies (1921) discussed theories about the nature and existence of fairies and spirits. He was convinced that the Cottingley Fairies photographs were real. These photographs were later revealed to be a hoax.
Conan Doyle was friends with Harry Houdini, the American magician who became a prominent opponent of the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s. Although Houdini insisted that Spiritualist mediums employed trickery and exposed them as frauds, Conan Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers
Proclaiming his belief in the afterlife, on August 5, 1920, Conan Doyle gave a lecture entitled Death and the Hereafter at Torquay Town Hall to a mainly female audience.
The meeting was presided over by local builder and Freemason Henry Paul Rabbich, the then President of Paignton Spiritualist Society and Vice-President of the Southern Counties Union of Spiritualists.
Conan Doyle later wrote that the Town Hall “was next to a church, and just as I started to speak the church bells began ringing, and I had to shout all the time.” During this visit, he stayed with Henry Paul Rabbich at ‘The Kraal’, 5 Headland Grove, Preston.
In February 1923, Conan Doyle stayed at the Victoria Hotel in Belgrave Road and gave a lecture entitled The New Revelation at the Pavilion, presided over by Torquay’s Mayor GH Tredale.