Tag Archives: spirit contact

THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS

By Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe weaves fictional magic involving tales of ancestral bloodlines, curses, ghosts, and witch trials. All of this spun amid solid historical fact. In this book, Boston at the turn of the last century, anchors the story of Sibyl Allston, a woman who is resigned to her role as family caretaker after she loses her mother and younger sister on the Titanic.    

Once a society debutante, Sibyl’s circle now includes a medium with whom she hopes to reconnect with her dead family members. When her younger brother is dismissed from Harvard for reasons he won’t disclose, Sibyl seeks out a former romantic acquaintance for help. Professor Benton Jones, who is recently widowed comes to her aid. Sibyl gets caught up in the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown as she falls increasingly under the spell of the medium she has come to trust. Can Benton help her to solve what’s going on now and in the family’s past?     

The book is character-driven and slow in places. The period descriptions and blending of the paranormal with an investigation keeps things interesting overall. The author uses multiple points of view to frame the story. Sibyl has her tale but so does her father Lan, her mother Helen, her sister Eulah, and her brother Harlan. Ultimately, this is a story about Sibyl finding her truth after much searching. A good book to be enjoyed for its characterization, setting, and the thoughts it provokes on fate versus free will. And just for fun, the author provides directions on how to do your own scrying!

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Part II: THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

Sir Robert Ottley, Royalist

 Continuing with JH Brennan’s, Whisperings: The Secret History of the Spirit World, I wanted to mention the research conducted by Dr. A.R. G. Owen a few years after Bacheldor’s work. A Canadian research group led by Owen wondered if they could create a ghost.

Working a lot like fictional writers, the group created “Philip” and gave him a whole history. Philip had been a Cavalier officer during the English Civil War and had resided at Diddington Hall (a real place). The story of his life was a fabrication and went like this. Although Philip was married, he had an affair with a gypsy girl which had enraged his wife. The wife managed to have the girl denounced as a witch and burned. So distraught was Philip that he threw himself off the battlements of the hall committing suicide. Poor Philip!

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

Diddington Hall. Photo: John Evans

The group held séances for a year trying to contact the Cavalier with no luck. I think it’s pretty amazing they’d keep at it that long with no result. One of the group eventually read Bacheldor’s work and wondered if a lighthearted atmosphere might make a difference. Giving it the old college try, they sang and told jokes, and oddly enough, after a few more séances, things started to happen. They heard their first rap and the table slid across the floor. Success at last! Encouraged, someone asked if Philip was doing it and was answered back with a loud rap. Having contacted the entity, the group used the one knock for yes and two for no method, to go on to communicate with Philip. Phillip affirmed the basic facts of his fictional life story and went on to reveal additional details the group had not created. The séances also produced various physical phenomena. The most spectacular was recorded for a television program. A table climbed a set of steps joining the panelists being interviewed.

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

I’ll leave you to ponder the significance of the Philip research. As a fiction author, I’m already concocting plots about how the other side conspires to have a good laugh at Owen and the other sitters.

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