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The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini
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The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini

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2.99 of 5 stars 2.99  ·  rating details  ·  151 ratings  ·  50 reviews
In the tradition of their Haunting of the Presidents, national bestselling authors Joel Martin and William J. Birnes write The Haunting of America: From The Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini, the only book to tell the story of how paranormal events influenced and sometimes even drove political events. In a narrative retelling of American history thatbegins withthe Salem ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Forge Books (first published 2009)
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Lisa
The only good thing I can say about this books is that the first and last chapters, for the most part, were interesting. Just so happens, those are the parts about the Salem Witch Trails and Harry Houdini.

I expected this book to be about the paranormal history of the United States, and one chapter in particular caught my eye: chapter 3, Is That You, Mr. Splitfood? I thought this chapter would be about devil lore in the US, of which there is no shortage. But no, like most of the book, it was abou
...more
Ann
Wow, this book really benefits from having a legitimate-looking cover! I was super excited to read it, and was horribly disappointed to realize that it's a vanity press-style history with a ton of non-credible research put into it. It's all based on new age, paranormal "science". I slogged through most of the terrible 40+ page introduction about the ENTIRE history of the world, as viewed through a paranormal lens, and even kept going when the authors insisted that ancient Sumeria MUST have been ...more
Darcia Helle
The title of this one can easily throw off a potential reader, which is a little irritating. There is nothing about hauntings in this book, as the title implies. Instead, the authors follow the history of spiritualism - psychics, mediums, etc. - throughout American history. We learn about the popular spiritualists of the day, their seances, etc. We also learn about a few popular politicians, such as Abraham Lincoln, who used mediums to help them make decisions.

The writing was easy to follow, tho
...more
Sandra
I won this book on Goodreads and am very thankful that I was so fortunate to be one of the chosen.

When I got the book I thought it would be more about experiences that political people have had, and how it affected the choices that they made.

This book reads more like a biography of how the supernatural came to be, and how our country has responded to it. Although it does have some supernatural events that happened to political people, it reads more like a history book.

I find at times it does i
...more
Art
The book should really be titled "The Paranormal in America, with some ancient history thrown in." The authors discuss paranormal events in the ancient world before diving into American history. From the Salem Witch trials to the Bell witch to spiritualism, the authors summarize paranormal events throughout American history. Until reading this book, I was mostly unaware of President and Mrs. Lincoln's interest and participation in spiritualism. The authors do make some mistakes. Early on the aut ...more
Tara Lynn
I won't bother to repeat what everyone else seems to have already posted: bad scholarship, incorrect citations, dry reading, and a baffling lack of ANY mention of Cayce.

I expected more from this book, and although I didn't win it in the First-Reads giveaway, it made it into my to-read list because it looked promising. Now I wish that I'd waited for the initial reviews before buying the book.
Jewell Moreno
This book was fascinating. If you're looking for a book with scary ghost stories, this isn't it, although I did get spooked with the retelling of the Bell Witch story. Instead this book is a historical view of paranormal belief in America's history from the 1600s through the 1800s. Very accurate and surprisingly very objective. Sometimes when reading a book of this type it is preachy or has an agenda the authors are trying to sell you. I didn't feel that at all, and enjoyed the book very well. I ...more
Nikki
This isn't your normal everyday ghost story book that holds just ghost stories. Instead what you'll find is a more textbook like book that looks into different parts of our American history that deal with the paranormal realm of ghosts and explains how those events helped shape our history here in America. So in other words it is a cultural study of how paranormal events have played a role in how our country has become what it is today and what effects those events have had on our country here i ...more
Cassia Dyandra
Due to the title and synopsis in the jacket I came into this book anticipating something vastly different than what I ended up reading. The introduction aggravated me and I really should have stopped there, but then the first chapter, about Salem, was pretty interesting and informative and I thought the book was going to take a turn for the better. Had the book anywhere in its advertising said that it was about the history of Spiritualism and full of many mini biographies about various mediums t ...more
Liriel27
Dec 22, 2009 Liriel27 is currently reading it
Recommends it for: those who don't mind ridiculous leaps of logic
I won this book through First Reads. So far, I have not been able to get past the introduction to this book, which is a 61-page primer on the ancient origins of the New Age movement (and which, the authors will pardon me, seems to have little to do with the presence of the supernatural in America, beyond attempting to convince people that the supernatural exists - without which belief, I doubt if they would even care this book existed, much less open it and slog through 61 pages of quasi-histori ...more
Victoria
I won this on a first-reads giveaway on goodreads.

It's really more of a 2.5 star, but since I can't give half stars, 2 will have to do. This book wasn't really what I was expecting when I entered the first-read giveaway. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this textbook like read was not it. I found the arguments repetitive and tenuous in many parts.

When the authors were just discussing events or stories of spiritualists or spiritual events it was fine, even interesting. However, when
...more
Stacy
So disappointed. I enjoyed The Haunting of the Presidents by these authors, and was expecting something similar. I did not expect entire chapters on Lincoln and other Presidents to be almost identical in both books.

After a very short bit on Salem and the Founding Fathers, most of the book details the spiritualism movement. That's been done before, and far better, in a book called Lily
Dale. The only interesting insight in that section is the relation between the women's rights movement and the
...more
Traci
This book would have been a lot more enjoyable if the authors had taken either a skeptical point of view, a believers' point of view, or tried to write their entire book from a neutral perspective, but unfortunately this book is all over the place.

It's the first book I've read that tries to pass a scholarly opinion that the Salem witch hysteria was caused by acutal witchcraft. Which is fine, or even interesting, except that the chapters on seances and mediumship came off as overly skeptical.

The
...more
Melissa
Won on first reads. As the world lost a great lady when my wonderful friend, Ramona, just passed away, this review will serve for both of us. She will be dearly missed and cancer will be cursed for taking her from us so young.

Upon receiving this, I dug right in. I am very into paranormal aspects. I did not know about much of the things in this book. My intrests are peaked and things have been answered that I was curious about. I now want to go digging more into these areas and it is thanks to th
...more
Isidore
Repetitive and absurdly credulous. The section dealing with the Salem witch trials is interesting and lucid, but it's followed by utterly unconvincing anecdotes about Washington's alleged mystical experiences (plainly fabricated during the Civil War era) and Lincoln's involvement with spiritualism (based on a medium's self-serving memoirs) which make it painfully clear that the authors will not be engaging in a lot of hard critical thinking.

The rest of the book charts a course through familiar b
...more
Kristy Dybala
The premise was interesting enough, and it started off well with the story of the Salem witch trials. (Though I am ignoring the long, dense introduction that told the story of the supernatural through world history.) The beginning seemed well-researched and well-written, but it was all downhill from there. The writing became increasingly choppy, poorly edited, and extremely subjective ('clearly she was a gifted psychic' - really?). While I learned some interesting things about the rise and fall ...more
Julie Douglas
Just read some reviews of this book, and I wonder if the reviewers read the same book I'm reading. I think this one is very interesting and a fun read. Also don't get the sense that the authors believe everything they are writing about as some reviewers suggest. They seem to have a healthy dose of skepticism. I'm enjoying it. It's a good book for people who are curious about paranormal events in our history. I'll definitely delve into some of the stories more by reading other books, but this is ...more
Lynette
I couldn't finish this book. I felt like the author was buying into all of the crazy stuff he was talking about - like saying that some of the witches in Salem actually practiced witchcraft. This "witchcraft" that he's talking about is really just herblore, NOT witchcraft, but he seems to think they actually WERE witches. After a few chapters, I just lost all respect for this author's research because everything seemed to be colored by his personal opinions, and had to put the book down. Very di ...more
Joey
Meh...the history itself is very interesting. However, the extent to which the authors themselves believe in spiritualism, and allow that belief to permeate their narrative, severely detracts from the efficacy and validity of the book itself. Also, it's not terribly well-researched. Too many of the citations are from previously compiled historical narratives rather than original source material. Still, though, taken at face value, the individual stories and anecdotes are interesting and entertai ...more
Allison
I have to say, I couldn't even finish this book. It reads like a textbook -- which really wasn't what bothered me since I'm used to that with the serial killer books. The huge problem was that the title was completely misleading and the book dealt mostly with constant references to extraterrestrial things. Maybe if that's what I was expecting I would've liked it, but it was just too out there for me.
Amy
This book gives a cursory background of the paranormal and spiritual history in the United States. It contained many stories I did not know about, as well as many that I do. Overall it was engaging, but the last half of the book did tend to drag out a bit more. Too bad this wasn't out for my Folklore Class that focused on the "weird."
Patrick
I wasn't feeling great so I plowed through this mish-mash. Then I felt worse.

The book is mostly a sympathetic history of American spiritualism, by which is meant mesmerism, mediums, table rapping and the like.

Which is fine, but there isn't a whole lot of haunting going on here.

There's nothing new here. A waste of time.
Emily
Jan 30, 2010 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in history and learning about the paranormal therein.
Recommended to Emily by: goodreads
Shelves: non-fiction
I got this book from the goodreads giveaway. It was a really interesting book. The first bit is a little slow, but once you move past the first couple of chapters, the rest of the book moves fairly quickly. Very interesting stories and information, I really enjoyed reading and learning throughout this book!
Erin Lowe
An interesting read but not quite what I expected. It wasn't really about the haunting of America but about the history of spiritualism in America. I enjoyed learning about the different figures in American spiritualism but I'm not sure I would reccommend this book to anyone.
Elizabeth
A more accurate title for this book would be The History of Spiritualism and the Occult in America. It is well-written, interesting and imformative, but if you are looking for a book of ghost stories, this is not it. It loses a star for the misleading title.
Rachel
Awful, just awful. I have no idea why I finished this book. I really had hoped it would be awesome. But it was not. Instead it was a love letter to superstition and there were far too many instances where science and reason were balked at.
Ellen C
The intro was really weird and really out there, it didn't fit with the style of the book at all. I would label this more of an alternate view of history. Interesting information and kind of a fun travel through American history.
Michael
First Reads Giveaway Winner

I was expecting a book with tales of the paranormal that involved notable people within American history. What I got was a history of spiritualism and mediums that read like a textbook.
Kathleen McRae
This book has some interesting information here and there but was dry and crusty to read . It also felt like it was poorly cobbled together and timelines were jumbled and names were difficult to remember.
Lori
A very very interesting read that went rather quickly. I especially like the last chapter that discussed Houdini & Sir Arthur C Doyle and the new movement of Spiritualism. A very good book
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