Burns concludes that their efforts, which ascribed validity to some psychic phenomena, deserve to be taken seriously today, arguing “To accept the notion that the smartest minds in the world, thousands of them, engaged in a conspiracy to delude lesser minds is a more preposterous assumption than accepting the veracity of the feats” of the spiritualists. Readers may not be as convinced as Burns of the validity of several of the phenomena that he recounts, even as he attempts to disprove common objections and appeals to the scientific probity of the investigators. But his expertise and skill as a historical storyteller is clear throughout. When the Dead Talked… is extensively researched, with helpful bibliography and glossary, plus photos of his principal subjects, the psychics and skeptics who investigated them.
Burns’s deep research is combined with a familiar tone which welcomes the reader to participate in the same journey that he himself did from skepticism to openness to the reality of psychic phenomena. Readers fascinated by how scientists in the last half of the 19th century thought about psychic phenomena will appreciate Burns’s exploration of this fascinating history.
Takeaway: Fascinating study of spiritualism and the scientists who found it credible.
Comparable Titles: Barbara Weisberg’s Talking to the Dead, Lisa Morton’s Calling the Spirits.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B