The Witch of Lime Street

The Witch of Lime Street

Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

eBook - 2015
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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 an unseen 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 became the idolized focus of the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement centered on communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. A socially prominent woman of exceptional charm, 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. Margery was the best hope for the psychic practice to be empirically verified, and 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, the world's greatest 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?
Publisher: [New York] : Crown, [2015]
ISBN: 9780307451088
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From Library Staff

After World War I, Spiritualism, became all the rage in Europe and America. In the 1920’s, escape artist Harry Houdini turned his energies to exposing spiritualist frauds who claimed to communicate with the dead. Mrs. Mina Cranston, whom reporters called the blonde Witch of Lime Street, was known... Read More »

After World War I, Spiritualism, became all the rage in Europe and America. In the 1920’s, escape artist Harry Houdini turned his energies to exposing spiritualist frauds who claimed to communicate with the dead. Mrs. Mina Cranston, whom reporters called the blonde Witch of Lime Street, was known... Read More »

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Nov 19, 2018

The devastating loss of life during WWI and the subsequent flu epidemic brought many to the fledgling religion of Spiritualism in the early 1920s. The bereaved sought to speak to their deceased loved ones through the purported sensitivity of “mediums,” who would summon the spirits at séances held in darkened rooms, often resulting in disembodied voices, spectral images, and the mysterious moving of objects around the room. Even notable figures of the era were intrigued about the tantalizing possibility of communicating with their lost loved ones. This included friends Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the eminently logical character Sherlock Holmes, and renowned illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini, desperate to speak to his dear departed mother just one more time. While Doyle became a true believer, Houdini’s extensive background in illusion helped him to see through the trickery immediately, and he did not hesitate to unmask the imposters. When the “Scientific American” offered a cash prize to anyone who could successfully produce verified psychic phenomena, most applicants were promptly eliminated. But a flirtatious young woman from Boston began to produce phenomena not so easily explained. While other committee members swooned, a furious Houdini vowed to expose the charming charlatan once and for all.

Jul 01, 2017

The Witch of Lime Street was a fascinating read. Jaher aptly brings to life the era of Spiritualism and Houdini's determination to expose the frauds and tricksters. Although slow at the beginning, the characters and mystery soon had me engrossed.

Oct 31, 2016

When I checked out this book I really didn't know what I was in for. And after reading it I can now say that overall this book gives great insight on the 1920's. Little did I know how important the spiritual world was in the 1920's. A very interesting story that I knew pretty much very little of. At some points the book was boring, others interesting, and at some moments just hard to go on. However as a fanatic of phenomenon and the spirit world - this book definitely fulfilled those interests. Ouija boards and seances were reportedly very popular during this time. As a result many so called psychics came to be claiming they can contact the dead. Which pretty much sums up Houdini's attempts to prove that Margery or in other words "the Witch of Lime Street" to be a hoax. Overall you are given great insight on the 1920's and peoples struggles of grieving over loved ones lost in the Spanish flu epidemic and the first world war which caused them to regularly get information on such things. Between tackling the truths of the spiritual world and the scientific.

May 04, 2016

A great true story. I love to read anything about Houdini. This story makes him look like both a master magican and a fallible human being at the same time.

Feb 23, 2016

Interesting from a Houdini perspective. He was very involved in disproving those who claimed to communicate with the dead. The descriptions of seances and the goings-on that were conjured made me want to see pictures from the day. I wish that more had been provided.

An interesting history, but it sunk into redundancy.

Oct 31, 2015

curiosity about Conan Doyle led me to this book; so far it reads like a novel, makes it easy to keep reading

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