Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Witch of Lime Street: Review

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher was a bit of a disappointment. The subtitle is Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World and quite a big deal is made about the fact that "Margery," the so-called "Witch of Lime Street" and famed medium has to prove herself to Houdini. It's presented as a duel between the two. But--Houdini disappears for a large portion of the book.

The beginning alternates between giving us the background on Houdini and how his escape artist abilities lead him to become intrigued with, investigate, and ultimately debunk the mediums and spiritualists he comes in contact with AND giving the history of the spiritualist movement--including the involvement of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. However, most of the book focuses on a controversial contest that was sponsored by the Scientific American and which offered a large cash prize to the first medium declared genuine by a five-man committee which would include Houdini among its members. But most of the mediums feared Houdini's involvement, so the committee had him continue his escape artist tours and told him they would only call him in if they found a very promising candidate.

There were many failures before Margery came along as Doyle's best hope for authentication. She appeared to be a very powerful medium and produced many dazzling effects--but, again, Houdini wasn't there for most of the tests and she didn't really want to be tested by him. He finally comes along at the end and her powers are thrown into question--enough so that she doesn't win the prize.

The book is well-researched and offers a wealth of information on the spiritualist movement in a highly entertaining manner. But the advertised "duel" between Houdini and Margery is not nearly as dramatic as anticipated and falls rather flat. ★★

~Fun Fact: The cover glows in the dark with ghostly green and white for the words and images.

[Finished on 6/12/18]

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