Book Review: Ghosts by Gaslight

   Posted by: David   in Uncategorized

Book Review: Ghosts by Gaslight

Ghost by Gaslight by Troy Taylor is good fun. It is easy to read, well written, engaging, and loaded with illustrations and photographs.

Taylor deals with the usual personalities of Spiritualism and paranormal research in the Victorian age. There is a chapter on the Fox sisters, Daniel Douglas Home, the Davenports, the Eddy brothers, Eusapia Palladino, and the great Leonora Piper to name just a few.

He also covers the researchers like Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Harry Price, and Harry Houdini. And, he devoted four pages to the history of Ouija.

I think his treatment is as fair as it is entertaining.

One story of note that I had not encountered before I read this book was the story of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research séance of October 7, 1930. The story is told on pages 121 to 125.

The source text that Taylor used might have been Leaves from a Psychic’s Case Book published in 1933 by Harry Price however Taylor really doesn’t give his source material.

The purpose of the séance was to attempt contact with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The medium was Eileen Garrett. Eileen is one of the finest but least heralded mediums of history. Her autobiography, which is well worth your time, is Adventures in the Supernormal.

Taylor relates the story of the October séance in which Eileen is supposed to reach out to Conan Doyle but instead encounters the spirit of Lieutenant H. Carmichael Irwin. Irwin was piloting the British Airship R101 when it went down in flames on October 5, 1930 killing 48 of 53 passengers including Irwin.


The séance was under the scientific scrutiny of Harry Price and it established Garrett as one of the truly great mediums of all time.

During the séance, Garrett more or less channeled Irwin while she remained in a trance state. Irwin provided details and used terms that only he could have known. Garrett was also able to provide confidential details known only to the builder of the aircraft who later became a Spiritualist after examining the record of the séance.

Taylor credits Garrett as turning Spiritualism away from physical and toward mental mediumship. I’m not sure that any one person can be credited with this turn. The national leadership of the Spiritualist faith knew that physical mediumship had a tendency to be sensationalized, exploited, and fraudulently produced. The primary goal of Spiritualism has always been to provide scientific proof of the continuity of life. As a faith and as a science, Spiritualism recognized that proof of the continuity of life was best provided by verifiable information provided through a medium that only the deceased could have known.

At the very least Eileen Garrett was among the first of the modern medium. She was a lady of brilliance, talent, and class. An examination of her life would convince most of the reality of the continuity of life.

I hope I have inspired you to go out and buy Troy’s book. The book is well worth your time and the value is well beyond the price of the book.

Much love,

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