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Talking to the Dead


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About the Author

Barbara Weisberg has also written about the Fox sisters for American Heritage magazine. Formerly a freelance producer whose work has appeared on cable, network, and public television, she lives with her stepchildren and husband, writer and producer David Black, in New York City.


In the spring of 1848, 11-year-old Kate and 14-year-old Maggie Fox began hearing unusual noises in the western New York house their family had recently rented. The source of the "rapping" sounds was attributed to the spirit of a peddler who communicated with the girls, telling them the previous tenant had robbed, murdered and buried him in the basement. Within a year, spirits were also communicating through the girls' much-older and reportedly manipulative sister Leah. News of the unusual events spread, drawing curious and sometimes hostile crowds. The phenomena gave rise to the popularity of Spiritualism and catapulted the young girls into a life of international celebrity for the next 40 years. Their group s?ances and private sessions brought them into contact with such powerful figures as Horace Greeley, who defended them in print and provided a home and education for Kate, and a Russian bureaucrat who invited Kate to promote Spiritualism and use her powers to develop security procedures for the coronation of Czar Alexander III in 1882. Maggie later publicly denounced Spiritualism and demonstrated how she produced the rapping sounds-only to reverse her stance the following year. Weisberg, a former television producer and documentary filmmaker, seamlessly tells the Foxes' story within the context of geographic and religious influences as well as national events. (Apr. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"A fascinating exploration of the mysteries of mortality and faith..... A most readable and instructive story."----Frederic Morton, author of A Perfect Splendor - Vienna 1888/9 and The Rothschilds
"Engrossing and poignant...a fascinating read, both for scholars and the general reading public."--Patricia Cline Cohen, author of The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York.
"Part history, part biography, part weird tale...a fascinating story of the birth of Spiritualism."----FATE Magazine, June 2004
"Talking to the Dead takes you on a thrilling ride....you are sure to be mesmerized."----Molly Peacock, editor, The Private I: Privacy in a Public World and author of Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1980 - 2001
"Why the country...was receptive to this spiritual and moral movement is another fascinating question raised by this provocative book."--Boston Globe
"Weisberg...seamlessly tells the Foxes' story within the context of geographic and religious influences as well as national events"--Publishers Weekly
"The reach of this story is extraordinary. A fabulous read."--Richard Dreyfuss
"Whether you are a sucker for the supernatural or a rabid non-believer, this book is compelling...."----Michael Lutin, Vanity Fair Planetarium Astrologer
"Weisberg goes beyond stereotypes...A revealing look at the history of spiritualism and its place in nineteenth-century culture.--Booklist
"[A] well-researched...insightful look at the social climate of the 19th century....makes for fascinating reading."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[P]rovides admirable social context for the girls' misadventures as mediums....also conveys a vivid sense of their personalities."--Los Angeles Times
"Weisberg illustrates that this seemingly simple account of fakery and gullibility is in fact mesmerizingly complex . . . ."--Washington Post Book World
"Weisberg has given us a story of enduring human emotions."----Edmund Blair Bolles, author of The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
"Barbara Weisberg raises the specter of two winsome adolescent sisters who convinced America they were Talking to the Dead."--Vanity Fair
"Weisberg writes with clarity and intelligence...This book tells us a lot about our own relationship with death and dying."----Alec Baldwin
"Weisberg captures the essence of that era in this gracefully written scholarly biography."--Library Journal
"A wide-ranging account....Well-grounded social history."--Kirkus Reviews
"[An] engaging study...[a] lively tale of a little-known slice of American history."--Publishers Weekly
"Fascinating...an excellent history of spiritualism in America."--Stuart Woods, author of Reckless Abandon and other novels
"...vividly brings alive one of America's most fascinating historical eras. This book is a fine read and an excellent reference."----Christine Wicker, author of Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead

In 1848 two adolescent sisters in New York State convinced friends and neighbors that the spirit of a murdered peddler was communicating with them through a series of audible raps or knocks. That they were able to do so reveals as much about the American psyche at mid-19th century as it does about the remarkable sisters, Catherine and Margaret Fox. The "Rochester rappings" precipitated a national furor over Spiritualism, a religious and cultural phenomenon whose followers believed spirit communication was based in scientific principles similar to those underlying magnetism and electricity. Author and documentary filmmaker Weisberg captures the essence of that era in this gracefully written scholarly biography tracing the Fox sisters' private lives and public careers as mediums. One of the few books devoted to the sisters, it complements more definitive studies of Spiritualism, such as Ann Braude's 1989 Radical Spirits and R. Laurence Moore's 1977 In Search of White Crows. Appropriate for general readers and undergraduate students interested in 19th-century religion, culture, or women's history.-Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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