Books: Who You Gonna Call?

At the turn of the 19th century, some serious scholars chased some tantalizing spirits

It's not hard to understand the vogue for spiritualism that developed in the late 19th century. With religion under serious challenge from science, the afterlife--which religion affirmed and science scoffed at--became a subject of nervous fascination. Respectable people held parlor séances. Celebrity spiritualists like D.D. Home even made house calls. In 1869 three witnesses in a London residence reported that Home levitated, floated out a window and drifted back in through the window of another room.

It was all spine-tingling fun. But was any of it real? A handful of scientists and scholars brave enough to risk their reputation entered the...

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