Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum

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GothicNateC
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Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum

Post by GothicNateC » 19 Feb 2013 01:48

I may get slammed for saying so, but I was very frustrated reading this book. After seeing the incredible cover picture and reading what it was about from the inside cover, I thought WOW!!

I thought it was going to follow a time line of William James from when he first started into his investigation until he passed away, and reveal his findings or speculations. But instead, by page 50, he is only mentioned in a few places, and I actually became confused as to where he actually fit into the Spiritualist Movement. The book jumps around so erratically it is nearly impossible to follow a time line. It jumps forward, then backward then to this person, then to that person, then mentions this person, then a 4 page story about this person. Deborah Blum does have a voice, but just when a section starts to get interesting, she jumps to another time and person, and I cannot connect what relation one is to the next or before. And she sensationalizes, and ads a gossipy tone to the book.

I thought I would give this book a second chance and try to read it again after a long break from the book. By this point in time, I had increased my knowledge of the Modern Spiritualist movement by reading such books as Mediums of the 19th Century (Two Volumes), Talking to the Dead : Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, and Modern American Spiritualism: A twenty years' record of the communion between earth and the world of spirits, numerous books by the Society For Psychical research, the American Society For Psychical Research, just to name a few.

And I must say, GHOST HUNTERS is far from accurate. It's an ok read as a novel, but not as fact. One of the things annoyed me in this book, it is stated that all three Fox sisters lived in a cabin in Hydesville, and that the oldest sister Leah was 16 years old. It states that the night the spirit rapping began in March 1848, all three sisters ran to the parent's bedroom and jumped in to the bed in fright. The facts really are that Leah was 35 years old, married, and lived in Rochester. It was over a month before Leah actually went to her parent's home and collected her two younger sisters Hydesville in History (Classic Reprint). Ms. Blum also states that when the peddler that was murdered in the home years before the Fox Family took residence, that blood had been smeared on the wall as the body was dragged to the basement. This is not documented anywhere else, and if the peddler's blood had been smeared, who saw it on the wall as his death was not even noticed at the time it occurred. No one knew a peddler had been murdered there until it was revealed through the rapping sounds.

Another inaccuracy is about Katie Fox. Katie had a drinking problem and stumbled through her seances. That is a true fact. But Ms. Blum states that Katie did slate writing and dropped her slates. Katie did automatic writing, and there are two volumes Fox-Taylor Automatic Writing, 1869-1892; Unabridged Record, Edited by Sarah E. L. Taylor (1828-1906) Preface by W. G. Langworthy Taylor, Katie Fox, Epochmaking Medium, and the Making of the Taylor-Fox Record, and Katie wrote on brown paper, both hands, font wards and backwards, and talked at the same time. I have yet to read a written record showing that Katie did slate writing. The medium who dropped slates was Dr. Slade who was quite famous for slate writing, a method of spirit communication where a piece of lead is placed between two sealed slate panels, then opened to reveal the spirit message.

Ms. Blum also inaccurately states that the three Fox Sisters were stripped to the waist and examined for trickery. According to public record, they received FULL body searches, not once, but numerous times and were forced to disrobe entirely so that every inch of their bodies and every article of clothing could be fully inspected.

In regard to Mrs. Henry Sidgwick after the death of her husband Henry, Ms. Blume states in her book "She planned a trip to Egypt, where some of her students were working on an archaeological dig and where she might revisit comforting memories of the pleasures of doing math by the Nile." According to the book Mrs. Henry Sidgwick written by Ethel Sidgwick, Mrs. Sidgwick went to Egypt with her niece Maggie Benson and friend of Ms. Benson's. Ms. Benson was a student of Oxford, not Newnham where Mrs. Sidgwick was president and had run the college from Henry's deathbed. Ms. Benson had done social settlement work between the two colleges. In Ethel Sidgwick's book she quotes from Mrs. Sidgwick about how restful the atmosphere of Egypt was and how she did tracings in the tombs. There is no mention of "doing math by the Nile." Two inaccuracies there: Mrs. Sidgwick went to Egypt with her niece and friend, not a class, and did tracings, not math.

Another discrepancy is about Richard Hodgson's salary. According to Ms. Blum, William James paid Dr. Hodgson's salary She states: Donaions had dropped, and James was now paying Hodgson's salary out of his own pocket: so far it had cost him $300."

But according to The Proceedings Of The Society For Psychical Research, Volume 23, in an article written by William James himself, page 27, the salary was provided for Dr. Hodgson anonymously arranged through a Mr. Dorr. "This friend had agreed to pay into the Branch-treasury the amount of deficit in the yearly salary account, provided the operation remain anonymous, and Hodgson should ask no questions."

Why would William James himself write that in a published book if he had paid the salary himself?

I don't care what kind of awards the author has won, if you don't report facts correctly, then your work just becomes a work of fiction. As near as I can tell, Ms. Blum did NOT research her topic. Or, she did internet searches and took some things at face value without researching the facts. And William James, by page 150, had only been written about briefly...maybe 15 to 20 pages worth. It is better to be vaguely accurate than to be completely wrong. Other books have been published by other authors since stating they used Ms. Blum's book as part of their research. That's sad considering the multiple mistakes and fraudulent statements contained in GHOST HUNTERS.

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