The Witch of Lime Street: Book summary and reviews of The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

The Witch of Lime Street

Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

by David Jaher

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

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Book Summary

David Jaher's extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation's most credible spirit medium.

The 1920s are famous as the golden age of jazz and glamour, but it was also an era of fevered yearning for communion with the 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 came to embody the raging national debate over Spiritualism, a movement devoted to communication with the dead. Reporters dubbed her the blonde Witch of Lime Street, but she was known to her followers simply as Margery. 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.  Admired for both her exceptional charm and her dazzling effects, Margery was the best hope for the psychic practice to be empirically verified.  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, a relentless 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?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In the 1920s during the revival of Spiritualism, seances and mediums were a dime a dozen. But how to tell if any of them were the real thing? Scientific American decided to subject the best of the best to a test. Any medium that passed muster with a five-man panel would be deemed authentic and win an impressive cash prize. The Witch of Lime Street is essentially a look at this historic contest, the players and the results. Jaher, who has obviously researched this book exhaustively takes such a long time to set up the event that one loses interest halfway through. A series of quacks parade on and off the stage and by the time the titular witch is actually ready for the limelight (sorry), we've had more than our fill of dark parlors and tables walking off by themselves. The topic would have made for an impressive longform magazine article, and the book kicks off well, but more than 400 pages is just overkill." - Poornima Apte, BookBrowse.com

"Starred Review. Jaher brings Harry Houdini's crusade against Spiritualism back into popular knowledge in his gripping first book…a fascinating look at the Spiritualist movement in 1920s America." - Publishers Weekly

"Jaher's narrative style is as engaging as his character portraits are colorful. Together, they bring a bygone age and its defining spiritual obsessions roaring to life. Fascinating, sometimes thrilling, reading." - Kirkus

"David Jaher writes about the battle between science and spiritualism with a charming combination of sympathy, skepticism, and suspense. Jaher has made a great debut as a historian and a story-teller." - Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most Famous Man in America

"This compelling book by David Jaher is a genuinely lovely exploration of our belief systems, both magical and rational. I can promise you that once you finish it, you'll want to sit down and read it again. That's exactly what I did." - Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Ghost Hunters and The Poisoner's Handbook

"A spectacular debut that is both a thrilling page-turner and an unforgettable tale of a high-stakes rivalry." - David King, bestselling author of Death in the City of Light and Vienna, 1814

"Reads like a collection of mysterious tarot cards - Ouija boards, bizarre madame mediums, and yes our friend the Great Houdini. Read it if you dare." - Lily Koppel, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Astronaut Wives Club

"Jaher's meticulously researched account of Scientific American's infamous contest to find an authentic medium had me racing through the pages to find out how it all turns out. To keep this spoiler-free I'll just say that the paranormal showdown of the early 20th century doesn't wrap up how you may think." - Stacy Horn, author of Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory

The information about The Witch of Lime Street shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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David Jaher received a BA from Brandeis University and an MFA in Film Production from New York University. At NYU, he was the recipient of the WTC Johnson Fellowship for directing. Jaher has been a screenwriter and a professional astrologer. A New York native and resident, this is his first book.

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