The ruse that gave rise to the spiritualist movement.
Edward White’s The Lives of Others is a monthly series about unusual, largely forgotten figures from history.
On July 13, 1930, Arthur Conan Doyle made an appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in the middle of his own memorial service, six days after his death. Nobody saw him, but the spirit medium Estelle Roberts assured those present that Doyle had kept his deathbed promise: he’d returned to deliver proof that talking to the dead really is possible. In life the creator of the arch logician Sherlock Holmes had been as suggestible as those ten thousand paying guests in South Kensington: he was the world’s best-known proponent of spiritualism—the discipline of talking to the dead—and an adherent of just about any wad of mumbo-jumbo going. Doyle believed not only in clairvoyance, but telepathy, telekinesis, and, quite literally, fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Throughout the 1910s and ’20s Doyle’s books, articles, and talks on these subjects helped to furnish spiritualism with mainstream credibility. But the roots of the movement were planted decades earlier in a tiny one-bedroom cottage in the hamlet of Hydesville, New York, the family home of Margaret and John Fox and their daughters Maggie, fourteen, and Kate, eleven. Read More