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A Magician Among the Spirits

(Collector's Library of the Unknown)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  139 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Harry Houdini and his exposure of the fraud spiritualist, spirit photography, spirit slate writing, ectoplasm, clairvoyance, and other quackery and cons perpetrated on the gullible, by the likes of the Boston Medium Margery, the Davenport Brothers, Annie Eva Fay, the Fox Sisters, Daniel Dunglas Home, Eusapia Pallandino, and other con artists of their ilk.
The whole country
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Fredonia Books (NL)
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Beth Cato
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction, research
I acquired this as a free, legal download from archive.org.

In this fascinating book, first published in 1924, Harry Houdini lays out the evidence that the Spiritualism fad is bunk. The 1920s saw a rise in this religion in the aftermath of the Great War; many families were left grieving and desperate for contact with the beyond, and as ever, grifters emerge to take advantage of their plights.

Harry Houdini considered these people beyond despicable and did everything in his power to prove seances,
Sharon A.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant classic. Another reviewer remarked that it was not technical but oddly emotional. I agree. I found the details about his friendship with Conan Doyle to be heartbreaking.

This is a must for any magician or critical thinker's library.
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
Oct 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Oct 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting time machine ride back to the mid-19th thru the early 20th centuries to survey the spiritualist movement as Harry Houdini recounts his efforts to expose and debunk it. Fraudulent mediums were a wide-spread cottage industry in that era. They would conduct seances, using cheap tricks and sleight-of-hand to convince credulous people that they were in contact with deceased friends or loved ones.

Houdini gives an interesting survey of some of the famous mediums of the era with
Theobald Mary
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Coincidentally, the great magician, Harry Houdini, wrote a book that was published in 1924, the year that the mystery I am currently writing takes place. And it pertains directly to my topic: Spiritualism.

Harry Houdini spent most of his adult like debunking Spiritualism, a quasi-religious movement that is based on communication with the dead through mediums. It is, of course, shot through with fakes, then and now. Houdini’s thirty-five-year mission was to “out” the fakes whenever he could. One o
Incredibly interesting book. I've talked to people about it several times before I finished.
I've known next to nothing about Houdini before reading this. He was a smart guy, and I appreciate his honesty and thorough research into whether or not spirit mediums are legit. He's also very sassy and funny at points.

(view spoiler)
Angie Fehl
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading the nonfiction work The Witch of Lime Street by David Jafer, I was curious to know more about that story, particularly the details behind the strain in the friendship between magician Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I was surprised to discover that they were even friends, let alone had a bit of a falling out over the topic of Spiritualism! Recently I came across a copy of A Magician Among The Spirits, written by Houdini himself in which he not only ...more
This book is important and Houdini was a dedicated investigator and debunker, and an inspiration to skeptics to come later.
This edition of the book is weird, though [no page numbers, no publisher information, no footnotes (they are subsumed in the text itself)] so it’s a bit difficult to read comprehensively, but it was the only edition I could find.
Sarah Chumacero
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book with an intriguing insight into Houdini's relationship with the spiritual community. With real accounts and correspondence, it is a great and very detailed look behind the scenes at how many spiritualists deceived the world. ...more
Insightful and repetitive, a few lol's. ...more
P.S. Winn
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great magician and a man in search of a life hereafter, takes on the phonies as his search continues to see if their really is something on the other side.
Apr 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
kind of sus how hes a christian tho huh
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
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Barry Haworth
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 11, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
B Kevin
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: skepticism, woo
One or two interesting sections, but this is pretty dated. Tales of psychics from the last 19th to early 20th century. More details on how they operated that in " Witch of Lime Street," but the charlatans have moved on from slates. Can you even buy a slate anymore? Interesting from an historical perspective. ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Russell Stamets
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had known about Houdini's work in debunking spiritualists (mostly from the movie). The detail in this book is incredible, the writing engaging, and the way he shoots down the charlatans is kick ass. ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
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. ...more
Rachel Jones
Apr 07, 2008 rated it liked it
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...
Russell Stamets
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is pretty cool. Houdini figures out how each and every one of the spiritualists faked their seances. Even his buddy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Shelock Holmes fame was fooled by some.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Houdini is really cool.
Ken Wyne
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
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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.

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Collector's Library of the Unknown (1 - 10 of 19 books)
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  • The Great Amherst Mystery: A True Narrative of the Supernatural
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