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A Magician Among the Spirits

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  57 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Harry Houdini (1874 1926), whose real name was Erik Weisz, was one of the most famous magicians and escapologists of all time. He was highly sceptical of the many claims made concerning psychic and paranormal phenomena, which were very popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He attended hundreds of s ances for the purposes of his study, and never expe ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published January 14th 2011 by Cambridge University Press
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Valerie
This is not the edition I saw, which was a pamphlet in 'library binding' (which covers a multitude of sins).

It was largely this book that led to a fatal quarrel between Houdini and his longtime friend Arthur Conan Doyle which ended up ending their friendship. Houdini turned to the spiritualists in an attempt to establish contact with his deceased mother, whom he felt he had neglected. As a form of therapy, in other words. If he'd had a less religious bent, he might have turned to psychotherapist
...more
1luvbooks
This book took me a long time to read, but not because I didn't love it. Because I didn't want to finish it and give it back. It was so good, I wanted to stretch it out and make it last as long as possible. I learned a lot from it... but this book was oddly emotional, in a way, despite the fact that it's nonfiction. Houdini had no problem being upfront about his life as it related to his investigations and to Spiritualism in general. There is a feeling that comes with certain books that the auth ...more
Blake
While I was expecting more technical explication, Houdini presents his extensive research on the (then) epidemic wave of Spiritualism in a logical, forthright, and pleasant manner. The first chapters are largely biographical, outlining the (typically criminal) careers of a number of so-called spirit conjurer while the second half is largely made up of Houdini's own research and experiences therein.

Though the book was written largely as a manual to disarm and dissemble the con artists that were p
...more
Barry Haworth
An excellent review of the trick and deceptions attendant on Spiritualism.

This book, first published in 1924, is a review of the investigations of escape artist Harry Houdini into the different strands of spiritualism current in the late 19th and early 20th century. A accomplished stage magician, Houdini is aware of the many dodges possible to a skilled performer, and debunks the alleged supernatural explanation of those whom he investigates.

The only real flaw I could find with the book is that
...more
Kyra
Houdini opened his mind to Spiritualism in hopes of communicating with his deceased mother, but with his background in magic, knew that nothing that was being offered by the mediums was anything more than parlor tricks. In this book, you will discover not only the desperation of mankind to experience communication with the other side, but the sinister nature of those who will sink to the lowest lows to make money off these desperate souls. It is an insight to the most awful parts of human nature ...more
Kim Krisco
Interesting -- especially the diverse kinds of people he knew.
Elizabeth
Learn how to impress your friends with the tricks of the pseudo-psychic! This is fun stuff. I read it for research. It’s not literature, but it has that earnestness of turn-of-the-century manifesto writing that makes you wonder why we don’t care quite SO much about what we believe in as they used to. There’s no irony in this text. It’s as full of self-convinced bamblusterating as Breton. I’d like to see less hand-wringing and bemused detachment in our own manifestoes.
Ceejay
This was a fascinating read. It is dated, of course, but the second half of the book did tell how Spiritualist cheated their followers. I was also quite interested in the relationship between Sir Author Conan Doyle (a believer) and Houdini (a skeptic). There were letters in the book that the two gents sent each other.The letter writing style in the twenties seems so much more personal then today's e-mails.
Anaala
I find it odd that Houdini's skepticism of the cult of spiritualism did not extend to his other equally ridiculous beliefs.

He was however, a capable investigator and it is saddening that sense has not prevailed and these disgusting examples of humanity continue to profit from tricking the credulous and bereaved.
Rachel Jones
Houdini hated con-artists. He had a sense of honor about fakery - he was honest that his magic was illusory, and he despised those who foisted off illusion as truth. He especially despised mediums who took advantage of the gullible and grieving with their seance tricks. This is his expose...
Dianne
Houdini's take on the spiritualist movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He debunks their methods and shows how his own sleight of hand tricks are used to fool the gullible public. Anyone interested in this topic should read what Houdini had to say.
Aaron
Interesting read for anyone interested in history of "Spiritualism". Houdini spends the whole book debunking many of the more famous cases of the generation prior to his death.
Anne
Houdini is really cool.
Brandon
The only thing that holds this book back is its age. Harry goes into great detail on how psychics trick people and steal their money. the only problem was he talked about a lot of people that I didn't know in the first half of the book. The second half really picks up as he goes into detail on the specific tools that are used by psychics. This book is interesting( to anybody that considers psychics to be royal scumbags, and you should) and funny (I really enjoyed how sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried ...more
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Harry Houdini, whose birth name in Hungary was Erik Weisz (which was changed to Ehrich Weiss when he immigrated to the United States), was a Jewish Hungarian American magician, escapologist (widely regarded as one of the greatest ever) and stunt performer, as well as a skeptic and investigator of spiritualists, film producer and actor. Harry Houdini forever changed the world of magic and escapes.
More about Harry Houdini...
The Right Way to Do Wrong: A Unique Selection of Writings by History's Greatest Escape Artist Houdini on Magic On Deception Miracle Mongers and Their Methods Sherlock Holmes contra Houdini

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