David is not the only one going through desperate times. Saul is experiencing likely the largest and boldest incursion into his kingdom by the Philistines. They have advanced as far as Aphek and Jezreel, nearly as far north as the Sea of Galilee. Saul has to do something, but what?
Saul really doesn’t know what to do. God will not talk to him, and so he determines to make God talk to him by force through sorcery.
This is really the function of witchcraft, to influence the spirit world to do what you want it to do – if only to reveal information. It is also why magic and witchcraft is forbidden in the Bible. Eventually, folks get to using it to either bypass God, or force God to do their bidding. Such tactics will not work, but to use them is an affront to God.
How did the woman recognize Samuel? When she saw Samuel, why did she immediately make the connection with Saul? We are not told. Perhaps the surprise she registers comes about at her own ability to conjure up someone from the spirit world – particularly someone specific.
Saul asks for direction, but none is given. Instead, Samuel tells Saul what will be. Saul is past redemption. His doom is sealed.
I find the thought that anyone can be beyond redemption one of the saddest of all thoughts, but it is a reality. This is not to say that anyone gets to the point where God will no longer accept them, only that one can get to the point where he no longer will ever be willing to come to God. Saul is there.