The Witch of Lime Street

  • by David Jaher
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 14 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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?

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What the Critics Say

"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 Reviews)
"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great History of a Fascinating Cultural Phenomenon

This book is a scholarly but entertaining discussion of one of the most curious cultural phenomena of the 20th century - the spiritualist craze that swept the country after World War I. The focus is on the climactic episode of this era, when the greatest psychic fraud of the movement finally met her nemesis in the Great Houdini. Indeed, the book reminded me of why I always admired him so much. In the last few years of his life he focused his talents and experience on relentlessly exposing those who were so successful at duping the most vulnerable in society. One of the most interesting side stories is Houdini's conflict with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife - both dedicated advocates of the spiritualist movement.
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- R. Schechter

Really loved this book.

Gosh really loved this book. Such amazing characters, the times, the story. It helps I live in Boston and am familiar with the Beacon hill area. I listened to it twice, and may listen a third time.
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- SCOTT

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-06-2015
  • Publisher: Random House Audio