Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Magician and the Spirits” as Want to Read:
The Magician and the Spirits
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Magician and the Spirits

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  104 ratings  ·  27 reviews
"Noyes makes history accessible and irresistible . . . Excellent."*

A century ago, the curious idea that spirits not only survive death but can be contacted on the "other side" was widespread. Psychic mediums led countless seances, claiming to connect the grieving with their lost relations through everything from frenzied trance writing to sticky expulsions of ectoplasm.

Hardcover, 152 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Magician and the Spirits, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Magician and the Spirits

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  104 ratings  ·  27 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Magician and the Spirits
Elisha Condie
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This an older kid's book, picked up from the library bookshelf full of Halloween type stuff. It would take a kid a couple days, and is non-fiction and has great photographs and explanatory illustrations. And I kind of loved it.
I knew who Houdini was, but barely. I didn't know he took it upon himself to unmask the Spiritualists of his time as fakes and phonies and it drove him totally bonkers that they were tricking people into thinking they could communicate with the dead. He thought that was
Alyx Campbell
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this biography that focuses intensely on Houdini's fascination with spirits. This one may have gotten more stars from me if it wasn't so inaccessible. Even I, as an adult, would get confused by the (sometimes unnecessary) rich vocabulary, making it less accessible for children. I also really liked all the callouts and design of the text, but at times it was distracting because the flow of how the callouts were placed was odd. All in all, I would recommend but with these caveats.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, children, non-fiction
I was obsessed with Harry Houdini biographies when I was younger, but this one (also geared towards children) gives a whole new side to him that I never knew about. It was fascinating to read about spiritualism in the late 19th/early 20th century and how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the biggest advocate/believer of mediums and seances! I can't wait to see a finished copy with all of the gorgeous illustrations!
Zach Koenig
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When people say the name Harry Houdini, the first thing that usually comes to mind is “magic”. There was, however, a completely different side to Houdini, one in which he devoted much of his life to debunking the practice of spiritualism, exposing all the tricks and deceptions of the trade as only he could. In “The Magician and the Spirits”, author Deborah Noyes chronicles that side of Houdini while also giving a brief history of spiritualism in the process.

“Magician and the Spirits” begins with
Rachael Quinn
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
My final Battle of the Books book for the year!  I saved this one for last for two reasons: it was the shortest and it was the one that I was most interested in.  It's no secret that I am a fan of the supernatural and this was right up my alley.

Houdini is known by most as a magician and brilliant escape artist.  However, Houdini dedicated a large portion of his life to trying to disprove the Spiritualism of the day.  When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's wife performs a seance for him in order to contac
Excellent treatment of Harry Houdini's almost life long quest to debunk the Spiritualism movement of the late 19th/early 20th century. He exposed the tricks used by so called mediums to prey upon those who grieved for their departed family members. I really loved all of the primary source documents that were included. The close and then fractured relationship between Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a firm believer in Spiritualism) was so sad.

This is a nice concise explanation of how mediums
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini knew a thing or two about fooling crowds. So, at the turn of the 20th century when people became obsessed with trying to communicate with the dead, he was more than a little skeptical. He began to question the claims of the spiritualists, mediums and psychics who were popular celebrities. From ghost photography to séances, from table rapping to levitation, Houdini used his special knowledge to uncover flimflammers, rogues and charlatans. Chock-full ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not a huge fan of magicians or illusionists, but Houdini's skepticism (yet wanting to believe) in spiritualism has always fascinated me. Maybe because he publicly proved these folks were frauds? Probably.
This children's biography of Harry Houdini was pretty great. I got a little distracted by the number of sidebars (which always irritate me) but a lot of the information was great. Especially for those young skeptics out there.
Margery Bayne
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book that was tailor made for my interests: magicians and the history of spiritualism. Even though it was a children's nonfiction book, I found the prose engaging rather than overly simplistic.

This would probably be a great book for kids and teens interested in magic tricks and Houdini.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
The book itself was a beautiful book - illustrations and borders. The subject matter was fascinating. I found the text of the book to be disjointed and hard to follow. I'm glad it had a good index because I needed it. I wonder if I might be better off reading Houdini's own account in A Magician Among the Spirits.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Battle of the Books 2020

Know This : I am a HUGE fan of the TV show Mythbusters. So I thoroughly enjoyed this real-life account of Houdini's lifelong crusade to crack open and expose the whole Spiritualist movement of the early 20th Century. He claimed that all the tricks of the trade used by Mediums of the day (to convince their captive - and many times gullible - audience that they were, in fact communicating with the spirits of departed loved ones) were nothing more than slight of hand and
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting short book about Houdini's magic and his quest to debunk spiritualists. Also interesting information about Arthur Conan Doyle's to me inexplicable belief in spiritualists. Nicely illustrated and full of interesting trivia.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm not usually a fan of biographies, but I've always been fascinated with Houdini's drive to destroy fraudulent mediums. This is not a particularly long read, and gave more details than I had known previously. It also contains a three page bibliography for further study.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
A well written book that contains extremely interesting information. The audience will be limited to those students who are interested in magic, ghosts or are aware of who Harry Houdini was. The language is elevated and will not reach all students at this age level.
Holli Keel
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This children’s book was a great introduction to Harry and Bess Houdini. I learned things I didn’t know about them, and appreciated learning more about spiritualism and mediums during their lifetime. Not sure how many kids would read it, but I enjoyed it.
I've been meaning to read this for about a year, and today's train trip to DC was a good time. It was an interesting read, and gave good historical information about the Spiritualist movement, but I wish it had been a little heavier on biographical information about Houdini and his work.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at Harry Houdini's ongoing examination of spiritualism, his efforts to debunk the charlatans and the history behind the cultural fascination that dominated the period.
Hallie Jackson
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5 stars.
Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biograhpy
GReat! Lots of pictures to help tell the tale.
Kyle Pucciarello
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really cool look a side of Houdini not many know about. Narrative non-fiction works well to tell the story in an exciting, engaging way.
Esther Keller
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
See my review in School Library Connection.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read my review at Bookish Adventures. ...more
Patrick Trent
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book tales of Houdini's investigation of spiritualism that was very popular the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
rated it liked it
Dec 11, 2018
rated it really liked it
Sep 07, 2017
rated it really liked it
Oct 02, 2018
Edward Sullivan
Reviewed for professional publication.
Judith Hayn
rated it it was amazing
Feb 19, 2018
Karin Ledford
rated it really liked it
Feb 15, 2020
Jennifer Kelley
rated it really liked it
Oct 09, 2018
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Almost American Girl
  • Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story
  • Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession
  • Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge
  • The Dark Hills Divide (The Land of Elyon, #1)
  • The Tenth City (The Land of Elyon, #3)
  • Into the Mist (The Land of Elyon, #0.5)
  • Stargazer (The Land of Elyon, #4)
  • Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington
  • Touching Spirit Bear
  • Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)
  • Other Words for Home
  • Go with the Flow
  • The Calendar
  • Rules for Vanishing
  • A.D. The Bible Continues: The Book of Acts: The Incredible Story of the First Followers of Jesus, according to the Bible
  • The Hayburn Family
See similar books…
Deb writes for adults and children and is also an editor and photographer. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
9 likes · 8 comments