Following the devastating losses of human life incurred during the First World War and then the Spanish Influenza Pandemic, bereaved families turned to the nascent religion of Spiritualism, which promised them contact and communication with the spirits of the dead. Sadly, but inevitably, most of those families fell prey to the cynical trickery of “ghost racketeers”, whose seances were con games designed to separate their victims from their hard-earned cash.
Enter Rose Mackenberg, a private detective trained by the great magician and escape artist Harry Houdini to infiltrate and expose the ghost racket. Rose became the most prominent and prolific member of Houdini’s “secret service” of investigators. Throughout the 1920s, she was instrumental in debunking hundreds of phony spirit mediums.
Houdini’s Girl Detective is an illustrated anthology of Rose’s original expose articles, first published in several North American newspapers during 1929. Each chapter addresses a different aspect of the ghost racket, offering a deeply skeptical take on ectoplasm, spirit rapping, table-tipping, “love and luck potions” and similar chicanery.
Recommended for anyone with an interest in the causes and effects of the Jazz Age spiritualism craze.