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Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism

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Book Overview

A fascinating story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts in the second half of nineteenth century America viewed through the lives of Kate and Maggie Fox, the sisters whose purported... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Talking To The Dead

Best book on the Fox sisters i have read. Explores their relationship which is as interesting as the paranormal aspects of the story.


Barbara Weisberg has created the first must-read nonfiction title of the year. This is an assured and satisfying work which vividly brings to life a remarkable episode in the cultural history of the United States. In March, 1848, mysterious knocks are suddenly heard in a small house located in rural, upstate New York. No one is certain who or what is creating the strange sounds, but they recur night after night. Are Kate and Maggie Fox, ages 11 and 14, playing an elaborate trick on their parents and the other members of their small community? Or are the girls really able to channel messages from the dead? Talking to the Dead charts the saga of the Fox sisters, and the birth of modern Spiritualism. From a small house near the Canadian border Maggie and Kate are catapulted to nationwide fame. On a series of tours across the heartland, tens of thousands of Americans rush to experience a series of readings and seances. Weisberg's straight-forward yet evocative prose fully engulfs the viewer in the period. Like Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, this is nonfiction so seamless and compelling that it reads like a novel, yet Weisberg's skills as a scrupulous and careful researcher are evident in the pages and pages of notes that conclude this riveting story. Or does it? For the story really has no definite conclusion, and the ramifications of the Fox sisters' experiences are still with us today. Perhaps they always will be. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Fluid articulate prose probes the details of the Fox sisters

Although at first this book appears to deal with a somewhat esoteric topic, it has much appeal for the general reader. The fluid articulate prose probes the details of the Fox sisters' lives and their impact on spiritualism without burdensome discussion of that movement's inner workings. The focus remains on the sisters and, most interestingly, regularly throughout the text placing their story in the wider context of other significant events and ideas of their day. That it's written without a "point-of-view" on the sisters' authenticity helps this obviously well-researched work better illuminate their unusual lives and the times in which they lived.

Comprehensive Research

This comprehensively researched biography of the Fox sisters, founders of modern spiritualism in America, not only provides details of their private lives but also explains the mores of the era in which they lived and how that affected them.Conclusions about whether they were talented mediums, talented con artists or a little of both is left up to the reader. However, after reading the book, you will have the necessary facts to form your own opinion.A fascinating and engrossing read.

Excellent book about the rise of Spiritualism.

Talking To The Dead is an excellent history of spiritualism and the Fox family. Kate and Maggie Fox (and older sister Leah) are mediums who converse with the dead. This started when they were young girls and progressed to the point where they were famous through the Americas and in Europe. They were wined and dined by nobility and common folk alike for many years. Everywhere they went they seemingly spread their powers among many others who met them and therefore they are credited with the creation of the Spiritualism movement (although it had started more quietly during an earlier period). This book is perfect for those interested in mediums, psychics, psychic phenomena and the rise of Spiritualism.
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