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review 2017-02-24 17:48
Review: Ghostland: No Man's Land
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey
Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead - Christine Wicker

  I was quite excited to spend my monthly Audible credit on this book; what a fascinating idea--reframing American history by examining our relationship with our landmark haunted locales.

 

I, unfortunately, have returned it to Audible.

 

Each house is well-chosen: the Lemp mansion, for example, as a haunted touchstone in American history and culture...

and then debunked as an actual, or at least a full as-known haunting by the author. Chapter after chapter.

 

I hung on through the underlayer of smugness until the author stated repeatedly that Spiritualism didn't last, it was dead, it was no longer a thriving practice in the United States. Then I stopped reading. Why? I had reached the intolerable level of poor scholarship and research. There is an entire town of Spiritualists who live and work as such, in plain sight, and have done so for years: Lily Dale. Both a documentary and a book are available about Lily Dale, New York, and both are easy to find:

 

Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead * Christine Wicker

 

HBO Documentaries: No One Dies in Lily Dale

 

Side note: The author was also treated well by the Lemp Mansion's hosts, taken on their Haunted Tour, and given the choice room--one that is on the tour because it is reported to exhibit so much phenomena. His entire account of his Lemp tour and stay was mocking, in my opinion, disdainful of staff, location's history, and even his fellow tour group members! I feel as if I have been subjected to a history book written by a hipster: "Look, we're supposed to be enjoying this. OMG, all these people are really enjoying this! I cannot wait 'til I return to my cocktail and typewriter." Combined with the shoddy research, and some debunking claims without citations, this book is disappointedly unprofessional.

 

Also posted at The Dollop: American History Podcast

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review 2014-11-21 03:56
Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead - Christine Wicker

Lily Dale: The Town that Talks to the Dead wasn't quite what I expected (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). As the author is a former journalist, I expected heaping loads of skepticism.There was a fair amount but there were also fleeting moments of unchecked belief. More questions were raised than actually answered which I believe is the point. Spiritualism (the main topic of this book besides the town itself) can not be definitively proven (what religion can beyond a shadow of a doubt? that's why faith exists...) and yet the people in this town have an unshakable belief. While immersing herself in their customs, Wicker observed and participated in events that she could not explain through rational means. Was this spirits communicating beyond the grave? Were these people really capable of reading a person's future? Is it all a big crock of bull? Or is there something else going on here? If you're intrigued by the supernatural and/or want to learn more about a religion that has been popular since the 1800s then this is probably the book for you.

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review 2007-01-01 00:00
Not In Kansas Anymore - Christine Wicker Christine Wicker set out to investigate alternative magical religious practices in the United States. Noting that the popularity of magical belief is growing, and turning up in unlikely places, Wicker's book seeks to understand how and why magic is turning up in unlikely places. The result, Not in Kansas Anymore, is part travelogue, part personal reflection, and part religious study. Wicker takes us through Voodoo, Wicca, Vampirism, and other magical traditions currently practiced in the United States. The point of this book is not so much to come to any great conclusion about magical religions as it is to experience the journey. And for Wicker, it is indeed a journey. This book is infused with much of Wicker's personal reflections. As an experienced religious journalist (that is, journalist who covers religious topics) Wicker is used to treading in the realm of the spiritual, and she has been forced to think about her own place in the larger spiritual-paranormal world. Clearly, she's open-minded, and her own interactions with magical religious traditions are an important component of the book. Thus, we see plenty of personal interjection, when Wicker explicitly considers her own experiences and beliefs. She finds some of the traditions she observes more appealing than others, and she feels more spiritual energy surrounding some than others. Ultimatley, while I found this book engaging enough, I was dissappointed too. I was hoping that the book would be more argument-driven, and I found that that combination of personal reflection and journalistic reporting detracted from one another. I'd rather have read two books on each of the above topics, rather than trying to digest both in one book. Each could use more development.
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