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Friday, December 25, 2015

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

Harry Houdini with his mother and his wife. (Wikipedia)

Beautiful, cultured and refined, Mina Crandon held séances that were the talk of Boston.  Her husband, a doctor, appeared to have complete faith in her powers.  She conjured up the spirit of her dead brother Walter who loved to have fun.  He whispered through a spirit trumpet and teased spectators.  Mysterious objects also appeared, such as tambourines illuminated by spirit lights and psychic dogs barking.  Nobody was able to discover whether her powers were real and she wasn’t corrupt – she didn’t take money for her popular séances.  Nicknamed the ‘Witch of Lime Street’, the only person that she was afraid of was the fantastic escape artist, Houdini.

Houdini hated ‘psychics’ and ‘outed’ several of them, including George Renner in Cleveland and Mrs Cook in Harlem. He wore a disguise of white whiskers and tousled hair, holding a hand raised to his ear whenever the mediums spoke.  Renner crawled around at his séances and smeared the spirits that he was supposed to enchant with lampblack.  Houdini shone his pocket flashlight after the séance began, when voices were heard through a trumpet and the guitar levitated, showing Renner smeared with soot.  Renner was told that he was a fraud.

Houdini caught Mrs Cook with her mouth on the trumpet rather than her spirits – Snowdrop, Chief and Bright Eyes.  He shone his flashlight at the surprised medium.  The spectators must have been astonished.

Unlike the great magician, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had strong faith in Spiritualism, calling it ‘the greatest thing that ever came out of America’.  He believed that he had spoken face-to-face with his dead son, twice with his dead brother, and once with his dead nephew.  He would be extremely impressed with Mina Crandon.

This book by David Jaher tells the strange and fascinating story of Houdini’s friendship with Doyle, a scientific contest to find a real psychic and the larger-than-life character of Mina Crandon.  Well-written and thoroughly researched, it will keep readers intrigued until the ending.


I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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