Séances, Spirits and Murder, Oh My! (and a New Cozy Mystery for You)

by Gilian Baker

Murder Over Medium

Each society mourns and honors their dead differently, and yet one thing remains a constant—humans have been attempting to reconnect with their lost loved ones since the dawn of time.

Séances and mediums first became all the rage during the Victorian era. So it may make you scratch your head that, in our modern age, we’re witnessing a resurgence of interest in the occult.

But all you need do to observe this revival in action is look at the bookshelves in your local shop or channel surf. Witches, hauntings, and all things paranormal are back in fashion.

In the latest Jade Blackwell Mystery, this fascination is explored, tongue in cheek, when Jade welcomes an old colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby, into her home. Unbeknownst to her, her friend is no longer a professor of religious studies, but has found a “higher calling” as a medium. Jade spends the entire book trying to reconcile Gwendolyn’s new beliefs with the woman who demanded empirical evidence years before.

One of the first things Gwendolyn does once she’s darkened Jade’s door is hold a séance.

Séances aren’t only for preteen girls’ slumber parties. Many people visit mediums each year all around the globe, in hopes of reconnecting with a loved one who has left this world. Séances are typically held by a medium, a person who has developed a talent for communicating with those who have passed over. With their help, the dead are able to give messages to those they love who are still living.

Here are some fun facts you may not know about séances and Spiritualism:

  • Famous people who attended séances include Harry Houdini, poet W.B. Yeats andMurder Over Medium Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Nancy Reagan wasn’t the first First Lady to practice the occult in the White House by consulting astrologists. Both First Lady Jane Pierce, wife of Franklin Pierce, and Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln hired mediums to hold séance in the White House to contact their dead sons.
  • In 1840, the world’s first recorded séance was performed by the Fox sisters, Kate and Margaret. They had their séances recorded in text to prove they were the real deal. The two sisters had a huge influence in the world of spiritualism and became highly sought-after mediums. Many years later, they announced their performances had all been faked, though they later recanted that statement.
  • Both First Ladies hired the same famous mediums, the Fox sisters.
  • Harry Houdini was a great believer in Spiritualism and attended séances frequently, until he was unsuccessful at connecting with his departed mother. After that, he put a great deal of energy into proving séances were hoaxes.
  • So obsessed was Houdini with verifying séances were hoaxes, before he died in 1926, he told his wife he would come back to speak with her. They even came up with a code word so she would know it was him. For ten years after his death, she held a séance, but he never did show up. Magicians and fans of Houdini continue the tradition by holding séances each year on his birthday.
  • In 2003, two British mediums, Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, held a pay-per-view séance to contact Princess Diana. They claimed they connected with her—she told them she was having fun in the afterlife, hanging out with Mother Teresa.
  • The Victorians who brought us the Spiritualist movement are the ones we can thank for the popularity of tarot cards and the Ouija board.
  • Tarot cards had been around since the 1400s, but they started out as a card game to be Murder Over Mediumplayed alone. During the Victorian era, tarot cards became a very common way for mediums and spiritualists to receive messages from the dead.
  • The Ouija board was first manufactured during the Victoria era, in 1891, by a game company. It claimed the power to “provided a link between the living world and the one inhabited by the dead.”

You can enjoy more metaphysical mischief in Book 3 of the Jade Blackwell Mystery Series, Murder Over Medium, which is now available for pre-order here.

Murder over Medium book coverFormer English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.


Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    December 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Fun stuff, Gilian! I’ve done quite a bit of research into 19th century spirit mediums, and it’s such a cool area to explore. Some scholars think the surge of interest in seances, spirit-writing, spirit photography, Ouija boards (which were originally called planchettes), and so one was because so many people were left widowed/orphaned by the Civil War, and it provided some comfort to them.

    Best of luck with your release! Very exciting!

    • Reply
      Gilian Baker
      December 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Yes, I’ve heard the same thing, K. B. And it makes total sense. It’s interesting to consider then why the occult and pagan practices are experiencing a renaissance now. 🙂 Thanks for the luck!

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    December 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Love all these tidbits of info. And loved the new book!!

    I’m sure it will be a big hit. Congrats, Gilian!

    • Reply
      Gilian Baker
      December 22, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Kassandra! I had so much fun writing it!

  • Reply
    Lynn Kelley
    December 20, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Congrats on your new book, Gillian. Sounds fun and interesting. I had heard about Houdini and his wife having a secret code word so they’d know if it was really the other one after they passed on. I’m surprised to learn Seances and Mediums became the rage during the Victorian era. I never would have guessed that.

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    December 21, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Hexby, huh? 🙂

    Fun information, Gilian. I had a “professional” tarot reading once. I actually found it very useful. I think a good reader uses the cards as a vehicle to discuss what he/she can see are the client’s life issues.

    • Reply
      Gilian Baker
      December 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Yeah, couldn’t help myself, Vinnie! 🙂 Oh, yeah. I have a favorite deck and use them frequently. I didn’t have to do much research for this book because I know this stuff…use it, believe it. It was fun to play it tongue in cheek. I know what people say about New Age folks–heard it for myself. 🙂

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