After the American Civil War, while bodies still littered battlefields, the movement known as Spiritualism began to sweep across America as thousands of people, mostly from shock and grief, tried to make contact with the recently departed. The movement captivated Europe as well, especially England in the aftermath of the Great War and Great Influenza Epidemic. Prominent figures such as Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats, and Queen Victoria were mesmerised. The movement's most famous spokesman was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Known to the world as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle underwent what many people atthe time considered an enigmatic transformation, turning his back on the hyper-rational Holmes and plunging into the supernatural. What was it that convinced a brilliant man like Doyle, the creator of the great exemplar of cold, objective thought, that there was a reality beyond the reality? Why did professors, philosophers, statesmen and men of science like the great evolutionist Alfred Russell Wallace, the Novel-Laureate physiologist Charles Richet, and the distinguished chemist Sir William Crookes also become Spiritualists?
Using the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a lens, Bechtel probes this largely unexplored movement, a movement rife with fraud but also full of genuine evidence that is difficult to dismiss. Expertly written and peppered with engaging anecdotes, Through a Glass, Darkly is a terrifically fun read.
STEFAN BECHTEL is the author or co-author of twelve books, including Mr. Hornaday's War and Redemption Alley, which have sold more than two million copies and been translated into ten languages. His work has appeared in Esquire, The Washington Post, and other publications. Bechtel and Stains met in 1985 while working on the star-up team that created Men's Health. LAURENCE ROY STAINS has been the editor of Philadelphia Magazine and the founding editor of New Shelter. He has written for national publications, including The New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post. He is an associate professor of journalism at Temple University.