Calling the Spirits

A History of Seances

Lisa Morton

Calling the Spirits

Lisa Morton

Distributed for Reaktion Books

336 pages | 10 color plates, 20 halftones | 5 1/4 x 8 1/4
Cloth $22.50 ISBN: 9781789142808 Published January 2021 For sale in North and South America only
"Fascinating. . . . A fun and thorough look at how humans have tried to communicate with the dead over time."—Library Journal

"An impressive piece of research. . . . A must-read for anyone fascinated with Spiritualism."—Alma Katsu, author of The Deep and The Hunger


Calling the Spirits investigates the eerie history of our conversations with the dead, from necromancy in Homer’s Odyssey to the emergence of Spiritualism, when Victorians were entranced by mediums and the seance was born.

Among our cast are the Fox sisters, teenagers surrounded by “spirit rappings;” Daniel Dunglas Home, the “greatest medium of all time;” Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose unlikely friendship was forged, then riven, by the afterlife; and Helen Duncan, the medium whose trial in 1944 for witchcraft proved more popular to the public than news about the war.

The book also considers Ouija boards, modern psychics and paranormal investigations, and is illustrated with engravings, fine art (from beyond), and photographs. A hugely entertaining contribution from the supernaturally adept Lisa Morton, Calling the Spirits begs the question: is anybody there . . . ?
Review Quotes
Library Journal
"It’s not only fearful fiction that is having a moment. With the world full of real-life terrors, nonfiction writers are also responding. Informational texts about horror have traditionally been limited to local ghost tales or explorations of horror in film. Now, authors are entering new territory that goes beyond the confines of the genre. Morton, the world’s eminent expert on Halloween, has a fascinating new book, Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances, a fun and thorough look at how humans have tried to communicate with the dead over time."
Magonia Review of Books
"Morton is clearly skeptical of most of the claims made for séances and the phenomena of Spiritualism, but presents the claims of those involved in an even-handed manner, whilst also presenting the voices of those, throughout history, who have found no evidence for the reality of any form of postmortem communication. The fascinating history of séances is filled with mystery, deception, self-deception, genuine belief, scientific inquiry, and personal transformation, which is well described in this extremely interesting and readable account."
Alma Katsu, author of "The Deep" and "The Hunger"
"An impressive piece of research. . . . Calling the Spirits is a must-read for anyone fascinated with Spiritualism."
Who Do You Think You Are Magazine
"While Victorian obsessions are the meat of Calling the Spirits, it is bookended by the necromancy of the ancients and modern séances. . . . Morton’s book will interest anyone whose ancestors claimed psychic powers."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://press.uchicago.edu
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