Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini” as Want to Read:
The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.1  ·  Rating details ·  218 Ratings  ·  55 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 that begins with the Sale ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by Forge (first published 2009)
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 Haunting of America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Haunting of America

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Mar 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bargain-finds
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
Tara Lynn
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Cassia Frankincense
Jul 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
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.
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
A more appropriate title would have been "Spiritualism in America."
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: believers in spiritualism, those interested in spiritualism's history in USA
1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 stars ("it was ok"), because Goodreads doesn't have a 1.5 star "meh" option

I'm a person who likes when books are/do what they say they are/will on the cover and I really would've liked this book more if it had been presented accurately. The back blurb talks about "America's fascination with ghosts, goblins, and demons" but that is not what this is about. Instead it is almost entirely about spiritualism and mediumship, except for the prologue and the first chapter. The
Oct 22, 2009 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
M.A. Kropp
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I will admit that this was a rather slow read for me. Not because it is not a good read, but it is non-fiction, and rather textbook-ish, and that is always a bit slower for me to read. The book is written by William Birnes of UFO Hunters and Joel Marting, a paranormal investigator. They report on the alleged spiritualist and paranormal activity in America, starting at the Salem witch trials and going through the events of 9/11. 

The book is divided into sections, each of which centers on a type o
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jewell Moreno
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sharon Hill
Jan 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Full of unsupported speculation, missing existing scientific explanations on many subjects but regularly uses the idea that "one theory suggests" without understanding that a "theory" has evidence to support it. Authors frame issues with stupid questions such as: How did such intellectually gifted individuals (Newton, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Boyle) co-exist in a world where demons haunted and witches made pacts with the devil? This is a long, rambling, incoherent book from people who aim to only ...more
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.

Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Julie Douglas
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Nov 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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!
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Jul 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters
  • Haunted Britain and Ireland
  • Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps: True Tales of an Accidental Ghost Hunter
  • Haunted: The Incredible True Story of a Canadian Family's Experience Living in a Haunted House
  • Haunting Experiences: Encounters with the Otherworldly
  • Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places
  • The World's Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of
  • Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America's Haunted Inns and Hotels
  • Don't Call Them Ghosts: The Spirit Children of Fontaine Manse
  • I Never Believed in Ghosts Until . . .
  • Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory
  • The Haunting of Twentieth-Century America
  • Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story
  • Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales
  • Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation
  • 13 Ghosts: Strange But True Ghost Stories
  • Ghost Hunting: True Stories of Unexplained Phenomena from The Atlantic Paranormal Society
  • Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death