HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction,…
Loading...

The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit…

by David Jaher

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2846659,045 (3.63)47
  1. 00
    The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Boston's Great Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo (asukamaxwell)
    asukamaxwell: Same era, certain locations (ex: Beacon Hill) and historical figures (ex: Comstock and Dr. Holmes) appear in both. They compliment each other very well.
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 47 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
I worried a bit about this one before starting. I knew of Harry Houdini's long quest to debunk so-called mediums, and I'd heard that one of them had supposedly predicted the day of his death. Something on the jacket blurb must have made me think this was going to be about the amazingly talented psychics and the way they had the last word. However, that was not the case here. It was, generally, a biography of Houdini, the Scientific American contest to find a genuine psychic, and Margery, the woman who had by far the best chance of winning the prize. Magicians are often the best skeptics because they know how the tricks are done. But it turns out there was more to it than mere stage trickery. Houdini wanted, desperately, to find a medium who really could talk to his beloved late mother. Some of his fellow investigators were not as impartial as they seemed. All in all, a thorough and engaging journey through this early 20th century fad. ( )
  melydia | Feb 17, 2019 |
In the early 20th century, a new religion was born, that of the spiritualists. Started by the Fox sisters, post WWI, spiritualists claimed that direct communication with the dead was possible and that psychic phenomena that moved objects existed. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a huge spokesperson in this movement. Harry Houdini, the world's greatest magician and escape artist also wanted to believe in spiritualists and yet every one he encountered, he proved a fraud. Then in 1924, Scientific American magazine held a scientific study offering $2500 to a genuine psychic. All were discounted until Margery Crandon appeared on the scene. Sophisticated and affable, beautiful as well, Margery (Mina) took spiritualism to new levels. But Houdini was convinced that she too was pulling a sham. The Witch of Lime Street covers the happenings in Boston and the happenings in Houdini's life during the early part of the 20th century. ( )
  phoenixcomet | Feb 7, 2019 |
The title of this book is what immediately captured by attention---anything with Houdini and séances can’t be bad. The top of the inside dust jacket stirred my imagination: History comes alive in this textured account of the rivalry between Harry Houdini and the so-called Witch of Lime street…”Not to mention the dust jacket glows in the dark which is really cool.

Before I even started reading, I was disappointed. Having been initially classified as fiction, I was bummed to learn that this was nonfiction. But I was intrigued, so I didn’t let a little thing like that stop me. I was ready to be whisked away to the 1920s: back to jazz, spiritualism, Prohibition, and the fascination with the occult.

I want to say upfront that this book is well-written. It’s not hard to follow and is not merely fact stacked upon fact, as many historical books are. It pulled me in, but I kept reading and reading, waiting for Houdini and Margery to go head-to-head. It took more than half the book to get there.
The book’s first half was about the rise in spiritualism in the United States and the role Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) played.

Fascinating background that a reader not well schooled in its complex history needs to know. Houdini was more like a bit player; he showed up near the end, and the biggest scene he played was his own death. I have to admit, that I felt cheated. And too, the book does not present conclusive evidence as to whether Margery was a fake or truly had a gift to communicate with her brother, who happened to be on the other side.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | Mar 12, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World is a book in which author David Jaher recreates the world of this true life story in remarkable factual and novelistic detail. The central conflict involves the great Harry Houdini and a medium called Margery who surprisingly resides at the center of high society Boston. Jaher goes to great lengths in telling his readers about the rise of Houdini and how he became obsessed, due to the loss of his beloved mother, with exposing fraudulent mediums. Equally Jaher illuminates how mediums like Margery where being taken seriously at a time scientific advances, technological change and the impact of the devastation of the Great War aka World War I. Most stunning to many readers will be the central roles played by the Scientific American magazine in sponsoring a contest for mediums as well as the involvement of the creator of Sherlock Holmes [Arthur Conan Doyle]] as a champion of mediums being pivotal in the new religion of spiritualism!

I have a long fascination with Houdini and the condensed biography (I would welcome a full biography on the magician from the author) offered here by Jaher was my favorite part of the book including learning he had a close, then fractious, relationship with Doyle. Honestly, for this reader the central conflict and approach of treating Margery's seances as possibly authentic goes on for far too long in far too much detail. Still this dense, detailed, deeply researched book brings to life a forgotten time when talking to the dead was deemed just as likely as one day visiting the moon! ( )
  ralphcoviello | Jul 30, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“ 'The idea of the Scientific American, ' one columnist wrote, was 'to prove or disprove all the beliefs of spiritualists with one swishing swipe of its sword' “ p 74

I have an interest in reading about many forms of religion and the afterlife. I knew that the Spiritualism movement had been very popular in the early twentieth century, but not much beyond that.

After the millions of deaths in WWI, the spiritualism movement grew by leaps and bounds as the bereaved sought desperately to once more be in contact with their loved ones. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes series became a vocal proponent of the ability to reach those had passed on.

And so the young journal Scientific American put together a panel of experts – made up of spiritualists, scientists and the magician and escape artist Harry Houdini to award a monetary prize to any medium who could prove the veracity of their encounters. One by one, each medium was discredited as being a trickster. Often this was done by Harry Houdini who was a master of illusion and could reproduce any so called supernatural effect by physical means.

In 1924, enter Mina Stinson Crandon, who produced a variety of phenomena during seances, supposedly produced by her dead brother Walter. She had many devoted followers, including several of the supposed skeptics on the Scientific American panel itself.

Her story epitomizes the spiritualism movement as Harry Houdini worked to show that even her amazing feats could be reproduced.

However, not all her followers were convinced that all her phenomena had been explained, and even on her deathbed, she declined to give further explanations.

This is a very detailed and well-researched look at spiritualism. I found it well written, but the details worked against it for me and I got a bit bogged down in its 400 pages. I suspect it will work best for someone with a deep interest in Harry Houdini, the spiritualism movement and the debunking of so-called psychic phenomena. The detailed bibliography and index will make it a useful reference and easy to refer to specific incidents. ( )
  streamsong | Feb 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Magick...is the most perfect and chief science. - Marcus Agrippa
Dedication
For my grandmother, Henrietta Jaher, and the memory of her son, my father, Frederic Cople Jaher
First words
A woman in a black velvet coat pushed through the revolving doors of the Grosvenor Hotel and waving a miniature Union Jack in each hand waltzed slowly around the marble hall.
Quotations
Then he put a bullet through his own temple and joined them in that place where the big tent is struck and the barkers are silent.
Where are the monstrous men with chests like barrels and mustaches like the wings of eagles who strode across my childhood's gaze? Buried, I suppose, in the Flanders mud. - George Orwell
You were once wild here! Don't let them tame you!
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice.
One did not summon men like Comstock and McDougall from Boston or pull Houdini from whatever skyscraper he was hanging from...to test some quack just off the train from Lily Dale...
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
History comes alive in this textured account of the rivalry between Harry Houdini and the so-called Witch of Lime Street, whose iconic lives intersected at a time when science was on the verge of embracing the paranormal.

The 1920s are famous as the golden age of jazz and glamour, but it was also an era of fevered yearning for communion with the spirit world, after the loss of tens of millions in the First World War and the Spanish-flu epidemic. A desperate search for reunion with dead loved ones precipitated a tidal wave of self-proclaimed psychics—and, as reputable media sought stories on occult phenomena, mediums became celebrities.

Against this backdrop, in 1924, the pretty wife of a distinguished Boston surgeon came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. Her most vocal advocate was none other than Sherlock Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed so thoroughly in Margery's powers that he urged her to enter a controversial contest, sponsored by Scientific American and offering a large cash prize to the first medium declared authentic by its impressive five-man investigative committee. Admired for both her exceptional charm and her dazzling effects, Margery was the best hope for the psychic practice to be empirically verified. Her supernatural gifts beguiled four of the judges. There was only one left to convince...the acclaimed escape artist, Harry Houdini.

David Jaher's extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation's most credible spirit medium. The Witch of Lime Street, the first book to capture their electric public rivalry and the competition that brought them into each other’s orbit, returns us to an oft-mythologized era to deepen our understanding of its history, all while igniting our imagination and engaging with the timeless question: Is there life after death?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307451062, Hardcover)

History comes alive in this textured account of the rivalry between Harry Houdini and the so-called Witch of Lime Street, whose iconic lives intersected at a time when science was on the verge of embracing the paranormal.

The 1920s are famous as the golden age of jazz and glamour, but it was also an era of fevered yearning for communion with the spirit world, after the loss of tens of millions in the First World War and the Spanish-flu epidemic. A desperate search for reunion with dead loved ones precipitated a tidal wave of self-proclaimed psychics—and, as reputable media sought stories on occult phenomena, mediums became celebrities.

Against this backdrop, in 1924, the pretty wife of a distinguished Boston surgeon came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. Her most vocal advocate was none other than Sherlock Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed so thoroughly in Margery's powers that he urged her to enter a controversial contest, sponsored by Scientific American and offering a large cash prize to the first medium declared authentic by its impressive five-man investigative committee.  Admired for both her exceptional charm and her dazzling effects, Margery was the best hope for the psychic practice to be empirically verified.  Her supernatural gifts beguiled four of the judges. There was only one left to convince...the acclaimed escape artist, Harry Houdini.

David Jaher's extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation's most credible spirit medium. The Witch of Lime Street, the first book to capture their electric public rivalry and the competition that brought them into each other’s orbit, returns us to an oft-mythologized era to deepen our understanding of its history, all while igniting our imagination and engaging with the timeless question: Is there life after death?

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 01 Jul 2015 20:29:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1924 the wife of a Boston surgeon came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. Her most vocal advocate was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed so thoroughly in Margery's powers that he urged her to enter a controversial contest, sponsored by Scientific American. Her supernatural gifts beguiled four of the judges. There was only one left to convince... the acclaimed escape artist, Harry Houdini. Jaher captures their electric public rivalry and the competition that brought them into each other's orbit.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alum

David Jaher's book The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sign up to get a pre-publication copy in exchange for a review.

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.63)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 7
2.5 5
3 19
3.5 11
4 32
4.5 7
5 13

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 133,450,877 books! | Top bar: Always visible