Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street



In the 1920’s, the public wanted mystics, spiritualists and mediums. Harry Houdini, the world’s best magician fed his fans with his unbelievable feats. and his repertoire of his tricks including his “mentalist” ability, causing people to believe he could converse with the dead. Actually, he didn’t do either one. Like all magicians, he performed his magic and tricked audiences by using misdirection and trickery.

Several of Houdini’s fans included famous people – including Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle, the master of British crime fiction, was desperate to believe he could communicate with his dead son. Houdini  and Conan Doyle had their own opinions on the subject and each had their own following of fans.

Houdini was very close to his mother. After his mother passed away, he hoped to communicate with her one last time, even though he knew his performances were strictly a show. He was determined to stop people from using their logical emotions and place them under his “spell”, so he could continue to enjoy his success.

The 1920’s were an age when spiritualism became not only a pseudo-religion but was also considered a science. Prominent institutions such as Harvard University set up a Parapsychology Department. Scientific American,  a well-respected scientific publication even offered a reward for anyone proving they were truly a medium.

The Witch of Lime Street,  Margery, claimed she could communicate with the dead, and bring back the spirit of her deceased brother, Howard. Through endless séances , Howard continued to “materialize” and perform the “tricks” the researchers had contrived to prove he was real. One the tricks involved Mary exuding  ectoplasm – a supernatural viscous substance which appears to exude from Mary’s body during a spiritualistic trance, demonstrating the manifestation of spirits.coming out of her vagina.

Mr. Jaher’s book is well researched and gives the reader an in-depth look into the spiritualism craze that swept the world during the early 20th century. In the end, he discusses Margery’s final séances but doesn’t offer any final conclusions, allowing the reader to make his own decision.

The book was interesting,  yet lengthy and repetitive at times. Margery’s “performances” and the research around them went on for years, often several times a week. Mr. Jaher recounted as many of them as he could. I enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book, but the middle part could have been trimmed significantly if Mr. Jaher only included those séances where something new happened.  I recommend this book for Houdini fans and those interested in 1920’s mysticism.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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