This is the phenomenal appearance of seemingly solid objects or spirit forms out of thin air. The Eastern adepts who has mastered the siddhis (“miraculous powers”) are said to possess the ability to materialize objects. Sai Babe of India was renowned for his ability to materialize objects such as food, precious gems, vibuti “holy ash,” and other religious objects.
In Western occultism materialization reached the height of its popularity during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when occurring in mediumship of Spiritualism. Such objects, called apports, which commonly materialized during séances included vases, coins, flowers, and musical instruments. Luminous and phantom-like objects, animal and human spirits also appeared. Some mediums also made objects and themselves, or parts of themselves, disappear.
For the true Spiritualist, all such phenomena were part of the religion, and were believed. But, everyone who witnessed a séance was not orthodox Spiritualists. Skeptics did attend the séances that were held in darkened and secluded rooms. Such rooms, as some suspected, made it to easy to conceal wires, trap doors, and other apparatus, as well as provide a cover for surreptitious movement. Not only did the darkness make some suspicious, it was thought to heighten the imagination of others; if one expected to see a spirit emerge from the dark, there was a good chance that one would do so. It should be noted, too, this was the time of Victorian etiquette that prevented a thorough searching of the medium’s personage, and required observance of the medium’s requests. The medium usually left the room first following the séance requesting all remain seated for several minutes.
However, fraudulent instances were discovered. Such discoveries are recorded throughout the history of Spiritualism and gave it somewhat of a seedy reputation. One of the famous mediums was D. Home who was suspected of being fraudulent, but was never proven guilty. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was another medium. A.G.H.
Source: 29, 350-351.