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Servants of the Supernatural: The Night Side of the Victorian Mind Hardcover – 6 Mar 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd (6 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043401334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434013340
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,045,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`In his fascinating book, Servants of the Supernatural, Antonio Melechi brings to life the wonderfully flamboyant cheats and frauds of the 19th century medium trade. We tend to believe that we would never be so gullible. But Melechi's story arises from the real life Victorian struggles to balance the competing worldviews of science and religion, something we yet wrestle with today. His tale stands beautifully as a reminder to choose one's beliefs carefully in vulnerable times.' -- Deborah Blum, author of Ghost Hunters

`Servants of the Supernatural ... is a brief history...of the extraordinary popularity of psychics, mesmerists, mediums and somnambulists in the Victorian era. It is a fascinating and hilarious subject.' -- Mail on Sunday

`This is one of the most balanced and thoroughly engaging accounts I have ever come across of the Victorian spiritualist demimonde.'
-- New Humanist

`[An] engrossing account of séances, mesmerism and mediums.' -- Scotland on Sunday

`[a] lustrous new book - a history of the heyday of the Victorian séance in all its table-trembling, tambourine-tapping glory.' -- Word Magazine

Book Description

A compelling history of the golden era of the Victorian seance that tells the tale of the mediums and psychics, their followers, and the sleuths who set out to expose them --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Freddie Valentine on 24 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Too much of the focus here is on mesmerism (something I had already read extensively about) and I was hoping for more on the subject of seances, Victorian mediums and some entertaining and intriguing anecdotes concerning the great characters around that time.
The book is written in a very dry way and is tedious in places. There are better books on the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Caterkiller on 7 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite a promising topic this book fails to explore the breadth of its subject; instead it focuses mainly on mesmerism for about 70% of the book, seances and spiritualism for the remainder. The events described in this tome took place against a backdrop of frenzied inquiry into the natural sciences and it would have been helpful if the author had laid out some kind of context before leaping straight into a description of animal magnetism. The perfectly plausible explanation that a lot of the participants in mesmerism were under the influence of hypnosis isn't explored until the very brief epilogue by which point the reader is likely suffering from extreme boredom from the numberous repetitions in this quite slim volume.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Victorian Fads 15 Dec. 2011
By Teresa Pietersen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While reading this brief look into late Victorian era obsessions with mesmerism, science, religious doubts & seances, it became obvious that Antonio Melechi had done a huge amount of research.
The first half of the book is taken up with the subject of mesmerism, trance & hypnotism with the reactions and views of some of the medical profession of the time and how different publications reported on each. Although necessary in explaining the progress and foundation from which public interest and much public debate began, it did seem to be over-kill.
I found the history of deminishing church attendance, interest in the paranormal and major cultural shifts within all classes of the population very interesting but was disappointed that the author didn't spend any time to bring it all together and state a summary of his findings.
There was just a short epilogue, without any real summation.
So excellent facts but no thoughts or conclusions - so draw your own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very Dry 27 Feb. 2014
By Garnet - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a topic that I am supremely interested in, having read many books about Spiritualism and hysteria and the Victorian mindset. It's clear this author knows his stuff and spent a lot of time getting his facts straight.

I did like reading details about the movers and shakers of the Victorian interest in mesmerism and how it became such a fad that people seemed to jump on the bandwagon in order to make money and become famous. But about half-way through this book I found my attention wandering as the writing style was just too dry and didn't make the people come to life for me. Not enough anyway.

I ended up skimming the rest of the book and was disappointed with the ending as it didn't really seem to come to any point. Maybe, it wasn't meant to as this seemed to be an overview of a time period when the rise of industrialism and interest in science seemingly clashed with interest in the occult and the supernatural. But I was still disappointed.

This will not be a keeper for me. I much preferred the book "Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism" over this book, because it made the Fox sisters and their time period and Spiritualism, table rapping, etc much more accessible and interesting.
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