Sunday, October 31, 2010

We Hear The Dead by Dianne K. Salerni

This rich and riveting novel travels back in time to Hydesville, New York in the year 1848 to reveal how Spiritualism, the belief in communicating with the dead, began and launched a craze for spirit rappings, seances, automatic writing, Ouija boards, and mediums who in gaslit parlors reached out to the world beyond the veil to commune with the spirits of the departed to bring comfort to the bereaved or gull them out of their hard-earned dollars.

It all started with Maggie and Kate Fox and a prank to oust their annoying Cousin Lizzie from their bed. Apples dangled from strings to produce a thud on wooden floors and an ability to crack their toe and knee joints helped the girls convince their parents and neighbors that they were in communication with the spirit of a murdered peddler buried in their cellar. When the newspapers got hold of the story and their ambitious elder sister, Leah, with a shrewd eye for the profit potential, took charge it was too late to turn back, and Maggie and Kate became the darlings of the intellectual and artistic sets, eagerly sought after by the bereaved grieving for their departed loved ones, and the object of intense investigation to prove the phenomena they produced either fraudulent or authentic.

Maggie was never comfortable living a lie, she tried to convince herself that she was providing a good, beneficial service to help others move past their grief to find peace and go on with their lives, but Kate persuaded herself that she had a genuine gift, the second sight that was believed to run in their mother's family. Their mother was completely convinced her daughters were in communication with the dead, while practical Leah merely saw the spirit rappings as an escape from poverty.

We Hear the Dead takes us inside the minds of the two sisters and divulges the secrets of the darkened seance rooms with their apparatuses of trickery, like lead balls sewn in hems, and trick candles that suddenly went out, and pianos that seemed to be played by invisible hands, and tables that moved, wobbling and tilting under the sitters' hands. It is also the story of Maggie's ill-fated romance with Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, a man who claimed to love Maggie but despised her dishonest profession, and insisted that she give it up and better herself if she wanted to become his wife, but the famous and beloved hero was never strong enough to withstand his family's disapproval of their relationship and sought to keep it a secret lest he be disinherited.

I have always been fascinated by tales of the spiritualist mediums, their lives, schemes, and duplicity, and I think this is a wonderful book for someone either new to the subject or who is already intrigued and wants to delve a little deeper into the lives of the sisters who started it all.

Two strong spirit raps of approval for Ms. Salerni's first novel.

Note: This novel was originally published as a print on demand book by iuniverse under the title of High Spirits, the current edition was renamed We Hear The Dead by its current publisher Sourcebooks.

Here is Tabby enjoying Dianne's book:

To learn more about Dianne K. Salerni and her work please visit her website and blog at and

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