The Haunting of America

( 8 )

Overview

William J. Birnes and Joel Martin present The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini, the only book to tell the story of how paranormal events influenced the United States. In a retelling of American history that begins with the Salem Witch Trials of the seventeenth century, Birnes and Martin unearth the roots of America's fascination with the ghosts, goblins, and demons that possess our imaginations and nightmares. The authors examine the political history of the United States through ...

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Overview

William J. Birnes and Joel Martin present The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini, the only book to tell the story of how paranormal events influenced the United States. In a retelling of American history that begins with the Salem Witch Trials of the seventeenth century, Birnes and Martin unearth the roots of America's fascination with the ghosts, goblins, and demons that possess our imaginations and nightmares. The authors examine the political history of the United States through the lens of the paranormal and investigate the spiritual events that inspired public policy: channelers and mediums who have advised presidents, premonitions of political catastrophes, and spirits summoned to communicate with living government officials.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Birnes (The Day After Roswell), star of the History Channel's UFO Hunters, and veteran paranormal expert Martin chronicle a wide variety of what they view as occult and mystical experiences in a comprehensive account that spans centuries, from colonial times to 9/11. There may well have been black magic practice in Salem, they speculate, and recount George Washington's purported prophetic vision at Valley Forge, strange sightings of Washington's apparition at Gettysburg and elsewhere, the Bell Witch of Tennessee and Lincoln's precognitive dreams, while introducing such key figures as the charismatic Franz Mesmer and Margaret Fox, whose controversial spirit rappings prompted the surge of 19th-century spiritualism, even after her later revelation that she was just cracking "the joint of her big toe." Covering chicanery and conjurers, demons and guardian angels, skeptics and believers and a woman who's convinced her recurring dreams prefigured 9/11, Birnes and Martin have produced an informative and entertaining overview that will leave fans of the occult eager for future collaborations by these authors. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Following The Haunting of the Presidents, Birnes (The Day After Roswell), star of the History Channel's UFO Hunters, and Martin present this new title, which the jacket copy proclaims to be "the only book to tell the story of how paranormal events influenced the United States." It certainly is not, though it might be the first one with a 50-page introduction discussing such topics as Sumerian astronomy, Egyptian pyramids, and magic and divination in the Bible. The authors begin the U.S. section with an overly simplistic analysis of the Salem witch trials, stating that they're rooted in Calvinism (why similar trials occurred in Europe among other Protestant sects and Catholics is never addressed); they then proceed to discuss Spiritualism, psychic research, and paranormal events. The authors use primary sources at times, as well as secondary sources, encyclopedias, and less-reputable texts (e.g., Zechariah Sitchin, who believes humanity was founded by aliens). In some cases, they gloss over historical difficulties with their source material yet criticize other scholars for bias. VERDICT Excellent books—e.g., Mitch Horowitz's Occult America and Herbert Leventhal'sscholarly In the Shadow of the Enlightenment—are better purchases.—Dan Harms, SUNY Cortland Memorial Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Intriguing but insufficiently skeptical account of the paranormal in American history. The tone of this purported history is set by the introduction, in which the authors ask readers to consider "the provocative possibility of extraterrestrial intervention and influence" on Earth's earliest humans, suggesting that various religions' legends may have been real-life paranormal phenomena. Birnes and Martin, who have collaborated on two previous volumes (The Haunting of the Presidents: A Paranormal History of the U.S. Presidency, 2003, etc.), parade a series of supernatural-themed events from the 1690s to the early 20th century. The stories are interesting enough and give the reader a taste of how widespread belief in the paranormal was at one time in American culture. However, the authors relate some rather dubious tales without passing judgment on their credibility, a disingenuous sort of neutrality that will drive away serious students of history. Several pages, for example, are devoted to George Washington's vision of an angel at Valley Forge; only afterward, without much comment, do Birnes and Martin acknowledge that the story does not appear in any of Washington's own voluminous journals and correspondence, but comes from a sketchy second-hand newspaper account by one of the general's aides. In a long section that documents the Spiritualism fad of the 19th century, the authors strongly imply that medium D.D. Home, whose supposed achievements included levitation and clairvoyance, may have been the real deal, skating over considerable skepticism about him expressed then and now. Readers will find some diverting tidbits involving such famous figures as Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini andThomas Edison, but those who want a more critical guide to this subject should look elsewhere. Shallow and unpersuasive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765313812
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,037,911
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Authors' Note 9

Foreword George Noory Noory, George 11

Acknowledgments 13

Introduction What Is New Age? 17

1 Colonial America: The Devil in Salem 63

2 Whig, Tory, and Spiritualist 102

3 Is that You, Mr. Splitfoot? 154

4 Spiritualism Spreading like Wildfire 176

5 Home and the Power of Levitation 223

6 Women at the Seance Table 246

7 From Seance to Science 282

8 A Magician Among the Spirits 328

Notes 349

Bibliography 367

Index 383

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    fun account

    The authors take a close look at alleged haunting in America going from colonial times to 9/11. There is a myriad of claims over the three plus centuries as the writers describe what allegedly occurred with the emphasis on the paranormal aspects of an event. William J. Birnes and Joel Martin evaluate the possibility as to whether black magic was actually practiced just prior to the Salem witch trials and a couple of George Washington tales especially several sightings at Gettysburg and other battle sights. Other presidents also receive focus like Jackson who testified at the Bell Witch incident and Lincoln who supposedly dreamed of his assassination. Filled with charming fakes like Margaret "the big toe" Fix and hypnotic charmers like Franz Mesmer, THE HAUNTING OF AMERICA is a fascinating look at the alleged paranormal history of the country. The book includes Houdini, Doyle, Edison and Rhine as the para intertwines with the normal whether it is the Ford Theater, Valley Forge, the White House or even the early evolutionary leap of ultra adaptive Cro-Magnan and even more adaptive Homo sapiens, perhaps seeded from an ET visit. This is a fun account to read; just leave behind the skepticism as the entertaining tome lacks any.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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