Thursday, December 22, 2016

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

I've always had an interest in Harry Houdini so this book caught my eye.  It's the story of Harry's life along with the folks whose spiritualism he tried to debunk.  I'd never heard of the Witch of Lime Street.  This is her story, too.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review (thank you).  It has been published and you can grab a copy now.

This is very detailed non-fiction look at Houdini and his talents and all the people he knew.  I was surprised to find Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the crowd.  Houdini used a lot of tricks in his act, so he was suspicious of anyone who claimed to be a medium or otherwise involved in spiritualism.  He pointed out several frauds.  When Doyle finds one he thinks is true, he and Houdini find themselves on the outs.

While the read is interesting, there almost too many facts included to make it pleasant reading.  You hear of every seance, every fraud discovered, and follow so many people in the story you could become confused.  I prefer a more succinct form of writing, so this took me a while to read.

The most interesting part is the battle between Houdini and Margery.  She's no witch but he doesn't believe in her manifestations either.  As they dance around each other, it's not easy to tell who is going to win.  I wouldn't say Houdini actually won, but he did stop her from winning a contest put on by the Scientific American.

All in all, it was an interesting look at the 1920's where superstition ran high.  People were anxious to talk to the dead.  Even if the comments were vague, it assuages some of the guilt of the requester.  Sometimes the live feel guilty about being that way or feel that the young ones shouldn't have died so soon.  We still feel that way but most of us don't go visit a medium looking for communication from the dead.

This is history and the author writes a no nonsense book about the past.  It's a bit dry and too many pages but history can be like that.  If you want to know more about Houdini or spiritualism, you'll find it here.

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