Posted in Male Author, Nonfiction, Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Magic Monday Review ~ Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.ย  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena by William E. Robinson

Magicians and spiritualists have pretty much been at odds since the spiritualist movement began. Contrary to popular belief, Houdini wasn’t the first to butt heads with fraudulent mediums. Not even close. William E. Robinson’sย Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena was published in 1898 and it isn’t the first.

Before writing his treatise, Robinson (known later in his career as Chung Ling Soo) had dabbled in mediumistic performances. Notably, he was almost arrested in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair when his collaboration with magician Zanzic took a turn for the worse. They had built a sensational seance parlor with effects so realistic that it was impossible to convince sitters that no spirits were involved, not that Robinson or Zanzic were terribly interested in telling the truth. It was maybe a sense of guilt that later prompted the writing of Spirit Slate Writing, but more likely it was an opportunity to make a last little bit of money off some tricks that Robinson was no longer interested in.

The book covers various methods of slate writing and billet tests as well as some mentalism and a few more “magician” oriented tricks. The methods are broad, but not as in depth as David Abbott’s Behind the Scenes with the Mediums. That’s okay. Robinson’s text is much more accessible to a common reader.

There are occasions while reading this sort of book that I wonder if the author is putting me on. I know that part of magic is going to a ridiculous amount of effort for an effect, but… For example, there’s the Head Telegraph through which a confederate would signal the medium with answers to questions. The line ran to a device hidden in the mediums hair that would tap on her head in Morse code. This almost seems like a comedic parody method.



What Am I Reading?

  • “Strigoi” by Lavie Tidhar – the third in a set of short works which I’ll review Thursday for #COYER
  • Continuing Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Started last week even though I’m in the middle of Great Expectations: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by Tad Williams for Deal Me In

On the Blog

I’m moving my review day to Thursdays (from Tuesdays) to even out my posting schedule. I’d also like to find a way of adding some posts related to Eric’s & my books, but I haven’t decided how to gracefully do that.

So, what are you reading? Any magic to share?