The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
History comes alive in this textured account of the rivalry between Harry Houdini and the so-called Witch of Lime Street, whose iconic lives intersected at a time when science was on the verge of embracing the paranormal.
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?
An NPR Best Book of 2015
‚Riveting reading...flamboyant, enigmatic, and complex characters. Jaher is also a diligent researcher, and his storytelling skills are impressive.‚ ‚Wall Street Journal
‚Occasionally, you run across a book so good it feels like a secret ‚ and spend months recommending it to anyone who will listen. That's The Witch of Lime Street.‚ ‚ Genevieve Valentine, NPR's Best Books of 2015
‚David Jaher‚s stunning and brilliantly written account of the battle between the Great Houdini and the blond Witch of Lime Street illuminates a lost period in American history...One of Jaher‚s great achievements is to build real suspense in a tale whose conclusion is foreordained‚captivating and unforgettable.‚ ‚Cass Sunstein, The New York Review of Books
‚So carefully paced that readers will still need to pinch themselves to remember the book is nonfiction...The supernatural moments of The Witch of Lime Street are balanced by the author's deft contextualization and inclusion of correspondence and other archival materials. Lurid and almost unbelievable, Jaher‚s debut is a fascinating and sensational chapter of U.S. history.‚ ‚Minneapolis Star Tribune
‚Through deep sourcing of newspaper articles and personal correspondence, Jaher himself has succeeded in reviving ghosts.‚ ‚Washington Post ‚David Jaher‚s colorful account of the career of the woman reporters dubbed The Witch of Lime Street sets her in the context of a wider war over the validity of the spirit world‚ Jaher calls forth a vivid cast of characters in a world no less interesting for being thoroughly physical.‚ ‚Columbus Dispatch
‚In his book The Witch of Lime Street, first-time author David Jaher does a bit of his own sleight of hand, pulling a solid piece of historical reporting out of the ethereal and often tawdry world of spiritualism... Jaher's research of spiritualism and its early 20th-century cast of characters is meticulous.‚ ‚Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
‚Tightly paced and furiously entertaining... The Witch of Lime Street is a well-researched history of the links between vaudeville, magic and mediumship told with verve and humor. Fans of Glen David Gold's novel Carter Beats the Devil will find much to enjoy here.‚ ‚Bookpage
‚The story of how the Scientific American investigation unfolds grows richer the longer it goes on... The Witch of Lime Street is sure to be an important addition to Houdini studies.‚ ‚Dallas Morning News
‚Some of the 20th¨‚century‚s most colorful and larger-than-life figures come together in a story that is almost too bizarre to believe...Jaher is a very gifted storyteller.‚ ‚Historical Novels 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 Starred Review
‚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 Reviews ‚In this excellent first book‚, it is the cat-and-mouse game between Houdini and Margery that will keep readers turning pages. Jaher's narrative gifts keep the story moving while imbuing a real sense of the personality and humanity of the protagonists. This book will be enjoyed by fans of Houdini and the occult and by those fascinated with American social history and Jazz Age culture.‚ ‚Library Journal
‚A beautifully written, deeply researched, and delightfully mysterious tale of grifters and ghosts in the Jazz Age. 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
Author 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. A New York native and resident, he is a screenwriter and is writing his next work of¨‚American history.