Mediums Rare

Richard Matheson, Author
Richard Matheson, Author Cemetery Dance Publications $40 (140p) ISBN 978-1-58767-007-7
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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Prolific screenwriter and genre novelist Matheson (What Dreams May Come; I Am Legend; Passion Play [Forecasts, June 26], etc.) has long maintained an interest in parapsychology--divination, telepathy, ESP and the like. His brief and elegantly printed new volume amounts to a lightly fictionalized history--in quick, evocative episodes--of paranormal abilities from Greek antiquity to those of the renowned American psychic Edgar Cayce. Most of the episodes in between depict the famous seers, mediums and performers of the 19th century, whose feats Matheson admires. Margaret and Kate Fox, aged 10 and seven, in 1848 convinced their parents and many other Americans that they were in touch with the ghosts in a haunted house. (Matheson adds that the grown-up Margaret recanted, explaining how she had herself produced the ghosts' mysterious rapping noises; he believes the recantation fake, arranged by the sisters' ""enemies."") Civil War-era medium Nettie Colburn instructed President Lincoln to visit his troops; Matheson thinks she channeled deceased statesman Daniel Webster. New England mediums ""Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Piper"" underwent elaborate tests in attempts to prove their psychic connections genuine; William James, for one, was impressed. Harry Houdini used his great stage-magic talents to unmask a bevy of psychic frauds; Matheson describes some, then discusses what he believes are genuine paranormal experiences linked to Houdini. Matheson's afterword repeats his confident claims that the powers he describes are real and pleads for serious study of them. Fans of parapsychology or of the author's esteemed novels may enjoy this lively exploration of topics that so interest a genre legend. (Aug.)
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