Friday Book Share: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

Happy Friday, SEers! It’s time for another book share. As always, when my turn for this post surfaces, I agonize over the choice.  I have so many favorite books, and the number continues to grow as I devour new novels.  Today, I’m sharing a non-fiction book I read in June of 2016. It’s stayed with me that long.

The Witch of Lime Street:  Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World was the catalyst that inspired me to write Cusp of Night.  

book cover for The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher has cameo style photos of Harry Houdini and psychic Mina Crandon on black background

Set during the 1920s, David Jaher’s impeccably researched account brings Harry Houdini’s obsession with exposing sham mediums to vivid life.  The reader is treated to the glitz and glamour of 1920s America, Houdini’s difficult friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Doyle was a staunch believer in Spiritualism), and Houdini’s efforts to expose popular psychical medium, Mina Crandon, as a charlatan.

Book  Blurb:

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?

Sound good? The Amazon link can be found here.  Fun fact: I bought the hardcover edition at my local bookstore, not realizing the green elements on the cover glow at night.  The first time I turned off the light, it was a goose bump-inspired surprise.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Friday book share. I’m fascinated by Houdini and the time period in which this tale is set. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it, or your favorite books in general.  Feel free to ramble in the comments below. 🙂

Ready, set, go!


bio box for author Mae Clair

34 thoughts on “Friday Book Share: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and Last Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  2. The glowing cover would have freaked me out!

    There was a television show a couple of years ago about Doyle and Houdini (and another woman) who joined together to solve crimes that may or may not have had supernatural elements. As you might guess, Houdini always sought to disprove it and Doyle was optimistic. I rather liked it; the mysteries were so-so, but the character interplay was engaging. It was canceled after one season. But I love the premise. I didn’t realize it was inspired by their real-life relationship. This sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, how I loved that series (Houdini and Doyle). I was thoroughly bummed when it was cancelled. 😦

      Yes, those two men had such a strange friendship. There were times when they were at each others throats (metaphorically speaking) and others when they staunchly supported each other. Doyle’s wife was said to be gifted with Automatic Writing and did an auto writing for Houdini once to channel his mother. Part of the problem is that she only spoke in Yiddish and the messages Lady Jean channeled were in English. They had a rather strong falling out after that but did reconcile to a degree before Houdini died. There was also a time when Houdini (in a effort to make Sir Arthur realize how sham mediums operated) performed a trick once for Sir Arthur that left him so shaken he would never speak of it again. Even Houdini didn’t speak of it. Riveting stuff.

      This book is utterly fascinating. I think you’d enjoyed it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Very cool! I love seeing what inspired “Cusp of Night.” It was such a turning point in time as far as women breaking away from the restrictions placed on them, and the spiritualist movement. Thanks for sharing, Mae! Oh yeah, and oh how awesome that the book glows in the dark. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m enraptured by this time period (and the late 1800s). It must have been an amazing time to be alive with all the changes and discoveries taking place, the changes in society and life in general. The book was utterly fascinating. One I can see myself reading again–and of course that cover is an added bonus.
      Thanks for commenting, Jan! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great book cover! Whoever thought to make the book glow at night is brilliant! I’m not really into historical fiction, but I love everything paranormal, so I have a feeling I will be reading this one one day. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The green cover is dazzling with the lights out, Yvette. I was blown away when I realized it glowed.

      Although this book is non-fiction, in many ways it flows like a novel. Glad to hear it may edge it’s way onto your TBR! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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