Although the skeptic vs. spiritualist rivalry between Harry Houdini and Mina Crandon (a.k.a. “Margery the Medium”) has been well-documented previously, we’ve never seen it explained in such exacting detail nor depth, nor so well contextualized in the social and intellectual mileu of Jazz Age America, as in David Jaher’s The Witch of Lime Street.
The book is social history written with a novelistic sensibility (and has recently been optioned as the basis for a feature film), delineating the peculiar personality politics of the post-First World War spiritualism controversy.
Our only criticism is that perhaps too much space was devoted to play-by-play descriptions of “Margery’s” seances, which – although obviously a key point of interest – did tend to repetitively resolve into “weird things happening in a dark room”. That minor quibble aside, this is a must-read book for anyone interested in the causes and effects of the ’20s seance craze.