There was a time, not long ago, when many people believed that death was no barrier to staying connected with loved ones.
The idea was enthusiastically embraced by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the logically minded Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle saw nothing illogical in the ability of psychic mediums to connect the grief-stricken with their lost relations. A true believer and zealous evangelist for spiritualism, Conan Doyle believed such phenomena as automatic writing, frenzied trances, disembodied voices, levitating tables, ghost photography, and oral expulsions of ectoplasm were real and perfectly rational. Conan Doyle’s friend Harry Houdini was dubious. The most renowned magician and escape artist of his time knew plenty about tricking audiences, and his investigations into these spiritual phenomena convinced him that mediums used trickery and illusion to dupe people like his friend. Noyes’ engaging narrative explores how Houdini’s public crusade to expose spiritualism as bunk and mediums as frauds strained his relationship with Conan Doyle. The account is illustrated with archival material and densely populated with odd, outrageous characters such as D.D. Home, whose levitation acts saw him sailing out windows feet first, and Eva C. who expelled “ectoplasm” from her mouth during séances. Sidebars take readers down numerous, entertaining detours.
A compelling true story of magic, ghosts, science, friendship, deception, feuding, and sleuthing told with great flair. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)