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The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  3,429 ratings  ·  531 reviews
London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, an ordinary young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding's modest home, china flies off the shelves, eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a terrapin materialises on her ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 1st 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Average rating 3.23  · 
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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
This is a nonfiction book so know it’s not your typical ghost story. That being said, I enjoyed it as I listened to it from the library. I loved the narrator so much that it might have just been him 😏

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Montzalee Wittmann
The Haunting of Alma Fielding
A True Ghost Story
by Kate Summerscale
This book was compiled into a readable format from notes and drawings from a famous researcher, Fodor, that was looking for the truth about whether there was life after death. The book contains some pictures too.
The book reads almost like a story crossed with a newspaper article. It follows Fodor and his search. It was in the late 1930's when spiritualism was spreading across Europe. WWI had finished with great lose of life along
...more
Jenny Lawson
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
If you go into this thinking you're going to get a scary story you will be disappointed but if you're interested in the psychology of the time explaining why someone would be "haunted" this is a good book. It's a bit dry at times but I still enjoyed it. 3.5 stars ...more
Susan
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an account of Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian pioneer of supernatural study, and housewife Alma Fielding, who became the centre of poltergeist activity in pre-war Thornton Heath. The book begins on the 21st February, 1938, when Nandor Fodor receives a letter from the Reverend Francis Nicolle, informing him of a story he saw in the newspaper. Fodor is keen to have a ghost story that he can prove as real and heads over to interview Alma.

Alma lives with her husband, Leslie, son Donald and a lodge
...more
Rennie
Mar 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I think a lot of the cranky reviews for this one come from expecting an actual ghost story, when actually it shows how and why ghost stories exist in the first place. The author did excellent work in showing what underlies every ghost or haunting story - trauma, memory, inability to cope with psychological pain, the layering of mental conflicts and emotional wounds - among other haunting, lingering horrors that are, to me, far more frightening than the supernatural.

I didn’t find it all that dry
...more
Bill Kupersmith
Oct 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I must confess that I failed to enjoy this book as much as the author's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, though that's scarcely the fault of Kate Summerscale. It is obvious she put a huge effort into researching this book and the descriptions of poltergeist phenomena were often breathtakingly amusing, especially in the early parts of the book. But the more we learn about Alma Fielding and her family, the less attractive they become. The subtitle also seems a suggestio falsi. Whether "true" modifies ...more
Kelly Pells
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This was easily one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I love books about the supernatural, and I've read and enjoyed two of Kate Summerscale's previous books.

So it came to a real surprise that this one fell flat for me.

There were parts of it I enjoyed. It was interesting to learn about why seances became so popular in the early 20th century and why hauntings seemed to increase so dramatically. The different theories about the possible causes of hauntings - from the psychological to plain old
...more
Jeanne Adamek
Oct 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Elle
Nov 24, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The only haunting aspect of is book is the fact that people used to guzzle beef extract like people today drink soda, yuck
Daisy
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
A tale of the human need for the other, for that experience that which is outside one's everyday. The need to believe that there is more to life than just what we are presented with. For Nandor Fodor it is the need to find proof of his belief in the afterlife while for Alma Fielding it is the need to be of interest, of use to the world beyond the daily drudgery of an inter-war Croydon Housewife.
I enjoyed the historical side of the book – a time where Institutes of Psychic studies still exist alt
...more
Shamsia
Nov 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was more like reading a psychological report rather than a 'true ghost story'. There was no flow to the narrative and I really struggled to finish it. ...more
Vivienne
My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Haunting of Alma Fielding: a True Ghost Story’ by Kate Summerscale in exchange for an honest review.

My thanks to also to The Pigeonhole for hosting a group read for this title. I enjoyed being able to share my thoughts and exchange comments with my fellow Pigeons as we read through the daily staves.

This is a fascinating account of a groundbreaking investigation into psychic phenomena that took place in England just prior
...more
Elle K
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
London, 1938. Alma Fielding, an ordinary young woman, begins to experience supernatural events in her suburban home.

Nander Fodor - a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research - begins to investigate. In doing so he discovers a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss - and the foreshadowing of a nation's worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor's obsession with the case deepens,
...more
Siria
May 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
In the late 1930s, a London housewife called Alma Fielding claimed that she and her home were being afflicted by a mischievous poltergeist: objects jumped off shelves or floated down the stairs, scratches appeared on Fielding's body and voices whispered in her ear. The events attracted the interest first of the tabloids and then of Nandor Fodor, the Hungary-born director of the International Institute for Psychical Research, one of many such pseudo-scientific institutions which flourished in the ...more
Elizabeth George
To be honest, I wanted to like this book more than I ended up liking it. The subject matter is interesting: a woman in London just before World War II who experiences upsetting visitations from a poltergeist. I like this sort of story and I expected lots of chills and thrills. While it was a fascinating read, it was also quite dry. I like non-fiction to be as good as fiction. I like to be grabbed by the throat and so involved in the story that I don't want to put it down, even if I know the endi ...more
Chloe Fowler
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm really disappointed! I've loved all of Kate Summerscale's books (and I've read them all) and I just was bored by this. I loved the start and oddly, I loved the end, but the haunted middle just dragged like a ghost's manacles. I just felt it was too 'listy'. Endless anecdotes of what Alma Fielding did or felt and not enough of the 'why'. I mean, I realise there is no 'why' (which is kinda the point) but following Fodor to the end of his days might have been far more interesting. Or even follo ...more
Meg Ulmes
Aug 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
I honestly don't know what to say about this book. Sleazy is the word that comes to mind. I am not quite sure why an author of this caliber chose to write about what is basically tabloid material. I kept reading because I thought that surely there would come a point where I would understand why the book was written--but that point never came for me. Please do not waste your time here. There is nothing to be learned or enjoyed in these pages. ...more
Justine
Apr 21, 2022 rated it really liked it
Check out more book reviews and content here!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.

A fascinating true story of trauma, spiritualism, psychology, and national fear. I really enjoyed this look into the 1930's obsession with supposed hauntings, and why people were so desperate to believe in the existence of life after life at this time (and beyond). Summerscale does a great job of setting the scene, showing a nation on the ve
...more
Theresa Smith
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020readnonfic
This was quite a fascinating read. Written in the style of narrative non-fiction, The Haunting of Alma Fielding is a ‘true ghost story’ in the sense that it examines an investigative case from the 1930s in which a woman was haunted by a poltergeist. Using the original case notes, the author has put together a truly compelling book that explores the link between psychology and the supernatural played out against the historical backdrop of a nation gripped by fear and loss.

The investigator for thi
...more
Helen
Apr 04, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I’ve had mixed experiences with Kate Summerscale’s books so far: I loved The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, liked The Wicked Boy and gave up on Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace after a few chapters. I didn’t know what to expect from The Haunting of Alma Fielding, then, but I hoped it would be another good one!

Like Summerscale’s others, this is a non-fiction book based on a true story, in this case the story of an ordinary thirty-four-year-old woman, Alma Fielding, who becomes the centre of paranormal activity
...more
Shannon
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the arc of The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale.

This is set within London in the year 1938. Within the suburbs of London there is a young housewife who has chaos around her..., In Alma's home, china ends up flying off shelves to eggs flying through thin air to stolen jewelry appearing upon on her fingers to white mice crawling out of her own handbag itself and even, beetles appearing from under her own gloves... and
...more
what.heather.loves
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
"Lies and tricks, like ghosts, could be expressions of suffering."

Having read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (I have The Wicked Boy to read), this haunting in 1938 suburban London sounded right up my street. The 'poltergeist' events the Fielding family experienced, focused on Alma Fielding, were humorous, verging on the sublime. I found the context and historical background interesting. However I struggled reading it, found Alma to be irritating and unrelatable and found Nandor Fodor (overly inves
...more
Jessi
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars. My bad, I didn't get when it said non fiction it was going to be so informative and less the story itself. It was dry, I switched to the audiobook version and that did not help.
...more
Jo
Oct 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
It's the 1930s, Europe is careering towards war and suburban housewife Alma Fielding is being plagued by poltergeist activity. A Hungarian emigre who now works as a psychical researcher takes on her case. Summerscale's superb writing brings this true story to life and almost reads like a novel. Well-researched and presented, it's an absorbing tale of the paranormal and psycho- analysis. ...more
David Marsland
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ghosts were all the rage and apparently on the rampage in 1930s Britain. Kate Summerscale’s latest finds celebrity hunters like Harry Price galloping around the country finding spectres in spooky mansions. 6,000 people fill the Albert Hall to hear clairvoyant Estelle Roberts and her spirit guide. An allegedly possessed mongoose is famous on the Isle of Man. Even the venerable Evening Standard is excitable, warning people to “watch your goldfish tonight!” with the arrival of Hungarian medium Lajo ...more
Mitch Karunaratne
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Summerscale has uncovered a gem of a story - a disturbed housewife from south London, pseudo scientists, white mice, flying crockery, seances and law suits. The first two thirds are a recount of the 4 months that Alma Fielding was under study of the International Institute of Psychical Research - with its leading researcher trying to fathom out whether she's real or a fake. Whilst compelling reading i was aching for some commentary and more context. The final third gave you just that! A memorabl ...more
Sophie Guillas
Mar 06, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My favourite kind of non fiction - a story that is too weird and convoluted to be made up. You start off focused on the Alma's haunting but the story is so compelling because everyone is bringing their own baggage to the idea of ghosts and psychic phenomena in general. I didn't know who I was rooting for, but not in a frustrating way. Really cool read after my Victorian psychical research class I took last year.

The book leaves the door open on whether you want to believe Alma was entirely a fra
...more
Megan Burge
Jul 13, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was not what I was expecting. I think subtitling it “a true ghost story” is extremely misleading. What the book is really about is mental illness left untreated. I did come away with a lot of great quotes, though:
- “We each live a fairy tale created by ourselves. We move along in a spiritual track. What has happened before — many times, perhaps — will probably happen again.”
- “All dreams are true, and but the ghosts of our pasts.”
- “I tell you, birth and death mean the same thing to m
...more
SheAintGotNoShoes
I am not quite sure if it was the writing or the story itself that I so heartily disliked and can only manage to give a generous two star rating to.

What was such a promising story was a long and tedious slog and I could not wait for the end.

It is definitely NOT a ghost story.
Beth
Jun 14, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting. Just wanted more of a story narration than informative facts, but still a fascinating story.
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Kate Summerscale (born in 1965) is an English writer and journalist.
She won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction in 2008 with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House and won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1998 (and was shortlisted for the 1997 Whitbread Awards for biography) for the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, about Joe Carstairs, 'fastest woman on water'.
As a journa
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