Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: 'The Witch of Lime Street' by David Jaher

✰✰✰½ The 1920s were a decade of glamour and technology. During this time the Spiritualist movement rapidly caught on after millions died during the horrors of World War I and the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. Although it might seem obvious that these paranormal phenomena were hoaxes, many people took séances quite seriously. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a believer. To settle the conflict, the Scientific American magazine decided to sponsor a contest and offer a prize to the medium who could prove her gifts were authentic. Several stepped forward. All were easily discredited. All, that is, until one known as Margery entered.

Like other mediums, Margery claimed to communicate with the dead. Unlike the others, Margery never charged for her séances. As a prominent doctor's wife, the beautiful, charming young woman had many believers. She seemed destined to win the prize, if not for one obstacle. The only one able to resist her charms was the famed illusionist Harry Houdini. In fact, Houdini made it his personal crusade to expose fraudulent mediums. While Margery was a tough nut to crack, Houdini publicly disproved her. Nevertheless, Margery's true believers stood by her. With Houdini's untimely death, Margery's secrets will live on.

The Bottom Line: Jaher's fascination with the topic is evident in the extensive research he undertook in order to write this debut book. In doing so, the author has brought to light an interesting lost piece of American history. Presented in short chapters, some were page-turners while others were bogged down with too many details. Overall, this is an impressive and fascinating tome. Recommended for history buffs and fans of paranormal phenomena and magic. The glow in the dark cover is a nice bonus.

Details: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher. Advance Readers Edition published by Crown Publishers in 2015. 436 p. ISBN: 978-0-307-45106-4 NOTE: I received a free advance reading copy from Crown Publishers in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

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