The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World


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I was all over it.

Magician Harry Houdini vs The Spiritualists - Houdini series PT 1 - Non Fiction Books

What it came down to was not the subject matter—that was just plain cool—but the way it was related to the reader. To me, the author seemed disinterested. Sure, there is a battle for the fate of our souls going on the question: is there scientific evidence to support the existence of an afterlife? He has tried to fit too much research into the story, so that this reads like an overview of occultism in the s instead of what would be more compelling: the lives of the characters involved, specifically Mina Crandon and Harry Houdini. If Jaher had fleshed out his narrative with dips into their psyches, using their thoughts from personal correspondence and diaries, the story would have had a greater depth, and it would have been more meaningful.

He could have even told the story closer to their perspectives by using more free indirect discourse. Jaher makes a few attempts at this, like on page , but the brunt of the narrative does not make use of this close of a perspective, and it suffers for that lack. If Jaher had told the story from a narrative perspective closer to the characters, he would have elevated the story from the level of a textbook and grounded it in the realm of biography, drastically improving the story without changing any of the important details, because what really matters here is not the whats but the whos.

The people in The Witch of Lime Street had the potential to be more compelling than the events. Their beliefs were at stake, their views of the world, their very existence. If the s and occultism interest you, definitely read this book. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

September 16 – 20, 12222

Jun 09, Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it Shelves: biography , non-fiction. In the early 20th century, spiritualism was all the rage There were thousands of mediums across the country who were fleecing those who were desperate to contact dead relatives.

When the famed author of the immortal Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became an outspoken believer and lecturer in spiritualism it came to the attention of scientists, doctors, psychologists and other men of science, In the early 20th century, spiritualism was all the rage When the famed author of the immortal Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became an outspoken believer and lecturer in spiritualism it came to the attention of scientists, doctors, psychologists and other men of science, mostly non-believers, who began to study this phenomena.

The famed illusionist and escape artist, Harry Houdini, who had initially been attracted to spiritualism, joined in the studies and experiments when he discovered that he could emulate the same effects used by mediums through trickery. He, like the modern day illusionist James Randi, sought the expose the mediums as fakes. The professional magazine Scientific American decided to create a committee of learned men including Houdini to "test" mediums under strict conditions to prove or disprove their claims.

Each subject was exposed as a trickster until one woman, a society lady from Boston who took no money to channel spirits came to their attention. She becomes the subject of this book and her story and the tests surrounding her authenticity as a true medium are simply fascinating. The only weakness of this book is the lack of explanation as to how some of the effects were accomplished but it is not enough to distract the reader from this informative and delightful book.

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

Jul 15, dianne rated it really liked it Shelves: first-reads-give-away. Several of the characters have, through dint of sheer will, recreated themselves in the image they desired; something still doable in the early 20th century. But she may be her own creation as well. It is a historically wonderful story with lots of unlikely personalities bumping up against a radically changing world.

This was what Sir A. Doyle felt led to the rise in spiritualism, and coincided with the decline of a church not designed for modern people. Did any moral force stop that war? But his belief in something beyond this bit of time, and his openness to spirits, probably saved him. A C Doyle seems the most content of the raging egos alive in this epic time.

It was a Goodreads giveaway win. Don't forget to check out the cover in the dark! View 1 comment. Nov 02, N. Light rated it it was amazing. I knew nothing about this time in American History but since I've always been fascinated by Houdini, I picked this up. Well written with a balance of viewpoints, The Witch of Lime Street is a must read. My Rating: 5 stars. Jul 03, Jaksen rated it really liked it Shelves: giveaways. Well, well, a book about seances and Spiritualism, Houdini and assorted 'experts' from various fields of science many with Harvard and similar backgrounds and a medium named Mina or Margery Crandon.

First off, what I thought most compelling was to imagine what my family thought of all this. Oh, how I wished my grandmother was still around! My grandmother had a high school education, but was always so aware of what was going on around her in the world. Very well-read woman for someone from the Well, well, a book about seances and Spiritualism, Houdini and assorted 'experts' from various fields of science many with Harvard and similar backgrounds and a medium named Mina or Margery Crandon.

Very well-read woman for someone from the 'lower' working class. I would have loved to have said omg tell me what your impressions were of Houdini and Mina Crandon! You were in your early twenties at the time, so One of my grandmother's brothers also married a woman who claimed to be a medium, was a Spiritualist minister in a nearby town and told MY mother I'd be born a boy, and stillborn. Wrong, Aunt Trudie! Anyhow, what we've got here is a long-running feud between Houdini, determined to unmask and expose clairvoyants, mediums, etc.

Mina Crandon, was a bonafide medium who was able to channel her dead brother, Walter. What makes the book interesting is that there is no black and white here. Even as Houdini, and those who thought like him - the skeptics - tried to disprove Mina's claims, they all had moments when they wanted her to be real, to be a true medium.

Houdini himself, even as he's uncovering her tricks, is often disappointed.

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He was very close to his mother and wanted very much to be able to speak to her after she passed away. However, he was a not a man to deny the facts. And the facts are fascinating. Though not every one of Mina's 'tricks' is covered here; she was ultimately labeled a fraud and died a lonely, nearly forgotten woman.


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However, at her peak, she was a lively, attractive, flirtatious, and perhaps sexually-promiscuous younger woman. Men seemed smitten with her and often held her hands and legs during seances; they also were allowed to search her body prior to seances. Think about that. This is the early 's. The book was a bit jumpy in places. One chapter would jump in location and time to another without much of a transition to assist the reader It could have used a little better editing in that regard. But overall, a nice introduction to a woman who did battle with Houdini - and lost.

Oct 06, Debbie rated it really liked it Shelves: ebooks , blogging-for-books , debs-books , net-galley-books. I had never heard about any of this. That there was a contest set up by a science magazine to find a "real" medium and the monies that were spent to discover one. How Houdini would denounce every one that they brought forward.

Then how when they brought forth Margery how he went on a one man crusade to denounce her abilities 3. Then how when they brought forth Margery how he went on a one man crusade to denounce her abilities. It was pretty strange. Also the fact that Sir Arthur Canon Doyle got involved. He gave up writing Sherlock and got involved in this crap. Anyways, on to the book. I thought the book was interesting. It was easy read, but not so easy to keep up with all the names. There were a lot of them and if you were to quiz me on them, I'd flunk.

Parts of the book were very interesting, parts of it were not and parts of it were just kinda gross. I had to keep reading though to find out, was she a hoax?

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It always bothered me though that she mostly did the same thing over and over and her brother was the only one that showed up. I didn't like the way Houdini was treating her, but when I looked at his pictures, he looked like a little weasel anyway. Anyway, if your into seances and the spiritual world and history itself, this is definitley something I had never heard of and will definitely give you one up in the trivia games.

Thanks Crown Publishing and Net Galley for this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. Oct 01, Ashley rated it it was ok. Wandering, inconsistent, and more lurid than expository, the story and the breadth of research is interesting, but the actual execution made this book almost unbearable to read. Jun 12, Bev rated it liked it Shelves: biography , history , mount-tbr , paranormal , non-fiction , bought The subtitle is Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World and quite a big deal is made about the fact that "Margery," the so-called "Witch of Lime Street" and famed medium has to prove herself to Houdini.

It's presented as a duel between the two. But--Houdini disappears for a large portion of the book. The beginning alternates between giving us the background on Houdini and how his escape artist abilities lead him to The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher was a bit of a disappointment. The beginning alternates between giving us the background on Houdini and how his escape artist abilities lead him to become intrigued with, investigate, and ultimately debunk the mediums and spiritualists he comes in contact with AND giving the history of the spiritualist movement--including the involvement of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

However, most of the book focuses on a controversial contest that was sponsored by the Scientific American and which offered a large cash prize to the first medium declared genuine by a five-man committee which would include Houdini among its members. But most of the mediums feared Houdini's involvement, so the committee had him continue his escape artist tours and told him they would only call him in if they found a very promising candidate. There were many failures before Margery came along as Doyle's best hope for authentication.

She appeared to be a very powerful medium and produced many dazzling effects--but, again, Houdini wasn't there for most of the tests and she didn't really want to be tested by him. He finally comes along at the end and her powers are thrown into question--enough so that she doesn't win the prize. The book is well-researched and offers a wealth of information on the spiritualist movement in a highly entertaining manner.

But the advertised "duel" between Houdini and Margery is not nearly as dramatic as anticipated and falls rather flat. First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Oct 21, Marjolein rated it really liked it Shelves: read-in-english , arc , historical-fiction. Even though I hadn't heard of it before, I find it not surprising that in this particular atmosphere Spiritualism was at it highest. Together with the ever emerging science which had already proved thing that were thought to be impossible ju 3.

Together with the ever emerging science which had already proved thing that were thought to be impossible just decades before, this lead to the Scientific American holding a contest to find a real, scientifically proven, medium. A very interesting story of which, I'll admit, I'd never heard of. I picked the book up mostly for the historical figures that were mentioned in the blurb, sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini, who would eventually turn against each other on this subject. However, the book focusses mostly on the Scientific American contest and the examination of the most promising candidate, the so-called Witch of Lime Street.

And while it was an enjoyable read, I felt it was too long. At almost pages, it was too long for the story it told. The first half was very good, but with every new examination of Margery, which all seemed quite a lot like the last one, it was harder to keep my interest fully with the book. Overall however, I found the book very interesting and would recommend it to those interested in the s or the Spiritualism craze of that time. Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! May 12, Lori rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , historical.

I would give this book a 3. I have never read a book that had to do with Seances. The world has just gone through World War one. So man people lost loved ones. They yearned for a way to contact them. In the s. Seances,and Quija boards were very popular. As a result many so called psychics came to be claiming they can contact th I would give this book a 3. As a result many so called psychics came to be claiming they can contact the dead. Of course most were fakes and con artists. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent time with psychics trying to contact relatives he has lost. Harry Houdini who was for awhile friends with Arthur Conan Doyle was also interested in trying to find a reputable psychic.

Houdini meets "Margery" the Witch of lime street. This is a very long book over pages. It spends a lot of time writing about psychics, the occult world. It takes the readers back to a place in the s that I have not heard a lot about. Pretty good for the most part. Jul 12, Mauoijenn marked it as to-read Shelves: arc-first-2read , goodreads-giveaway-winner , own-it-mine. Aug 25, Marti rated it really liked it Shelves: general-non-fiction.

Although I believe all Spiritualists are basically flim flam artists, I get a kick out of reading this stuff for the same reason I like anything involving circus freaks, medicine shows etc. While I was aware that Spiritualism was huge after the Civil War, I didn't realize just how much of a fad it was in the s. In retrospect it makes perfect sense because almost everyone knew someone young who had died, either in "The Great War" or the Spanish Flu epidemic.

While I had heard vaguely about som Although I believe all Spiritualists are basically flim flam artists, I get a kick out of reading this stuff for the same reason I like anything involving circus freaks, medicine shows etc. Along with her husband, a prominent Boston doctor, the so-called Witch of Lime Street and her dead brother Walter managed to convince a lot of respectable scientists that she could really talk to the dead.

This was no obscure experiment. It was apparently given worldwide coverage.

The Witch of Lime Street

It got very repetitive because Walter's parlor tricks were largely the same ie. Houdini's repeated attempts to prove she was a fraud did not stick. It seems as if the story was so good that even serious journalists and scientists wanted to milk it for a while. While all this was happening, some other sinister things are hinted at such as rumors that several prospective adoptive children from England were rejected by the Crandons and sent back to England, never to arrive. Since I am reviewing an advanced reading copy, I wonder if the final version will include some of the "Spirit Photographs" that were mentioned in the book.

One, which was part of a talk on Spiritualism given by Doyle, supposedly depicted ghosts of dead soldiers at an Armistice Day commemoration in England which caused hysteria wherever it was shown. I also wanted to see the mad paintings and drawings done by Doyle's father who ended up in an insane asylum [I am Googling as we speak]. The one quote that struck me from the book was essentially that "the more rapidly technology advances, the more people will turn to Spiritualism.

Jul 01, Bob Schnell rated it really liked it Shelves: history , read-in , outsiders-freaks-and-charlatans. Advanced Reading Copy Review Due to be published October This is the full story, as much as it can be told, of Harry Houdini's war against fake mediums and spiritualists and the one woman who fought back against his accusations.

Any one familiar with Houdini's story knows of his mission later in life to expose the charlatans who claimed to be able to speak to the dead and allow them to manifest themselves in our world by moving things, knocking on wood and other parlor tricks. Lesser known i Advanced Reading Copy Review Due to be published October This is the full story, as much as it can be told, of Harry Houdini's war against fake mediums and spiritualists and the one woman who fought back against his accusations.

Best of all, the book evokes the time of Spiritualism in America when so many people who had lost loved ones due to WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic turned to psychics and mediums in their grief. Author David Jaher certainly did his research. Reports from the Scientific American committee give us explicit details about what exactly went on in psychics' drawing rooms to hoodwink the public. We also get rare glimpses into the personal lives of the major players via their journals and letters.

Overall, the story moves along well, though the descriptions of seances get a bit repetitive. The stand-out character for me is Margery's deceased brother Walter who is her spirit contact on "the other side". Walter is quite the personality for a dead man; cracking jokes, making rude comments, acting playful one moment and threatening the next. Is he Margery's alter-ego released under hypnosis, a ventriloquist's effect or the real deal?

No spoiler here, you'll have to read the book and draw your own conclusion. Eerily enough, the day I finished this book I was watching an episode of "Mysteries at the Museum" and a segment about this very story was featured. Cue the spooky music Sep 05, Cindy rated it liked it. The negatives: The author really should have thought long and hard about his target audience. If his intent was to sell this to academics who want every tiny detail [although they prefer it annotated, footnoted, cross referenced and with a bibliography exceeding 3 pages] he did pretty good. The plot suffered; trying to keep track of it was kin The negatives: The author really should have thought long and hard about his target audience.

The plot suffered; trying to keep track of it was kind of like trying to find vegetables in a wildly overgrown garden — hidden gems surrounded by masses of weeds and useless debris. The positives: It is a well told slice of history that I knew relatively little about. I suppose that was due to so many people dying in both the influenza epidemic and WWI. Comments: Both Doyle and Houdini were fanatics in the truest sense of the word.

Both were only looking for the stuff that supported their own points of view. Negative proof would have to be fairly huge to get their attention. The author did a good job presenting both sides, allowing the reader to make their own decisions. For the many spiritualism offers hope — and many people are willing to suspend belief to get that hope.

There will probably never be definitive proof either way — which makes it very fertile ground for the con artists among us. Oct 19, bookczuk added it Shelves: early-review-librarything , taught-me-something , nonfiction , made-me-look-something-up , made-me-think. World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic of carried many souls from this earth.

But could those left behind actually still communicate with them? The panel of experts included MIT physicists, respected judges and Harvard psychologists. And Harry Houdini, a man bereft from loss, but soured by the frauds and schemers bilking other bereaved out of masses amounts of money. But also a man who was an expert on illusion, and who vehemently unmasked charlatans.

The panel dismissed many applicants: frauds, delusional, mentally ill. The author did good job presenting both sides, allowing the reader to act as their own judge. The book reads well, though the pace dropped for me a midstream. However, if this period of time is of interest, and the phenomenon of clairvoyance and interacting with the sprits of the dead intrigues, this presents a good picture of a time in history when these pastimes were prominent. Many thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and to the publisher for sending me this copy.

Dec 15, Andy rated it did not like it Shelves: did-not-finish. I really wanted to like this book. The subject matter seemed right up my alley. However I just could not get past the authors writing style. I'm not sure that it's badly written so much, as writing style really grated on me.

I found myself rereading sections over again to try to figure out what point the author was making, or what the point had to do with the story he was telling.


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The author seemed to switch between 'novelized' telling of the story, and a historical telling of what happened. I w I really wanted to like this book. I would have preferred he stick to one or the other. Every time the book jumped from the what I assume is a more accurate historical telling, to the novelization voice, I started wondering how much he was making up, in order to put the reader 'into' the events.

Occasionally, the author would fall into what I call "stream of consciousness' writing - changing the point of his writing quickly from sentence to sentence, and sometimes even within a sentence. When he did this, it was very jarring for me, and made it hard for me to follow. Again, I really wanted to like this book, and it may be a good read for others.

It was just not for me. Life is too short to struggle through a book you are reading for 'entertainment'. Oct 21, Susan Barton rated it liked it Shelves: paranormal , spirituality , reference , history , non-fiction. During the s, after so many lives were lost during World War I and a deadly flu epidemic, people were eager to stay in touch with their departed loved ones. And so the age Spiritualism and Mysticism was born. David Jaher goes into painstaking detail to provide the background story to the legendary showdown between bel During the s, after so many lives were lost during World War I and a deadly flu epidemic, people were eager to stay in touch with their departed loved ones.

David Jaher goes into painstaking detail to provide the background story to the legendary showdown between believer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and staunch skeptic Harry Houdini. I found this book to be tediously dry and a laborious read. Dec 26, Charlie - A Reading Machine rated it liked it. Find An Event. Create Your Event. Share this event:.

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  6. That question has been posed for all of human history, but in the early twentieth century, after millions of lives had been sacrificed on the battlefields of World War I and lost to the Spanish flu epidemic, the search for an answer would reach new heights. As the bereaved desperately sought ways to connect with their dead loved ones, psychics and spirit mediums emerged from the shadows to offer hope and solace. By the s, Spiritualism was as in vogue as jazz; and in , Scientific American magazine launched the era's most ambitious inquiry into the paranormal.

    Assembling a five-man committee of esteemed experts, the magazine offered a large cash prize to the medium who could demonstrate verifiable psychic phenomena. Mina Crandon to the attention of the Scientific American. After the committee of judges had investigated and discredited countless frauds and charlatans, Mrs. Crandon was the first medium whose powers seemed promising. The wife of a distinguished Boston surgeon, "Margery," as she was called, had become something of a rising star after purportedly channeling the ghost of her long-deceased brother. Members of the committee were unable to debunk her phenomena.

    Only one obstacle stood between Margery and the prize: the fifth judge of the psychic contestnone other than Harry Houdini. As a master illusionist, there was perhaps no one more qualified to investigate Margery's mystifying effects. For years, Houdini had sought out mediums who could contact his own dearly departed mother, only to find hucksters who employed the types of tricks and techniques that he himself had once presented in his spook acts. Those experiences had made him one of Spiritualism's staunchest critics and set the stage for what would soon become an animated andto this daycontroversial show-down between those who believe and those who do not.

    Jaher has been a screenwriter and a professional astrologer. A New York native and resident, this is his first book. The Morbid Anatomy Museum is a non-profit institution.

    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
    The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

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