Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other names like Price and Yeats were all fascinated by the supernatural and created a group that united like minded thinkers – The Ghost Club!
Best-selling author and podcaster Kate Winkler Dawson joins me to discuss this famous club and their efforts to prove (or disprove) the reality of the paranormal.
You can find her audiobook project – The Ghost Club – at Amazon: https://amzn.to/41jQBGP
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This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the Paranormal Podcast. I’m Jim Harold. So glad to be with you once again. You know, unfortunately, when we talk about ghosts and the supernatural, sometimes society, the media, think of those of us who pursue these interests as maybe a little kooky. But it wasn’t always like that, and we’re going to talk about that today. In fact, some of the greatest minds on the planet were engaged in parapsychological studies and interests, and we’re going to talk about that with Kate Winkler Dawson.
She has a new Penguin Audiobook Original. As I understand it, it’s audiobook only, and by the time that this airs, it will be out. It’s called The Ghost Club. Kate is very accomplished; she’s been on our Crime Scene show as well. She’s the acclaimed author of American Sherlock and the host of multiple true crime podcasts, including Wicked Words. But this time she turns her attention to the supernatural, to the paranormal, and talks about the Ghost Club in this new release. Kate, thank you for joining us. I appreciate you taking time to talk about this. I think it’s so interesting.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Thanks for having me. I love when I can fuse history with true crime and spooky stuff, so this was a great opportunity for me to do that. I’m happy to be here.
JIM HAROLD: Was what I said true? I do think there’s a certain “kookification” that has happened to the paranormal and to the supernatural. [laughs] Like “if you believe in that, you’re not quite there.” The great minds today, like the Neil DeGrasse Tysons or different people out there, you think of them as skeptics. But that wasn’t always the case, was it?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: No, it’s true. We’re talking about the rise of spiritualism, which was really late 1800s, early 1900s in America and in the UK, and it was spreading across the world. You had some of the world’s greatest minds who believed in mediums and the afterlife and how to connect these two worlds, and that there was a spectrum in between, and how can we help these spirits move from Earth to the middle ground to the afterlife? I was very surprised when I read the Ghost Club archive about all of the people, these really powerful people and these amazing creatives, who really felt strongly about connecting with the spirits and how you do it.
JIM HAROLD: What was the Ghost Club, and how long was it around?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Oh gosh, it’s been around forever, more than 150 years. The Ghost Club is the longest running ghost club in the world, and it really started in the 1870s with Charles Dickens, who was a member. It was a secret group, dinner club, of men in London who would meet once a month and they would talk about their families and their work and their lives and eat French food and also talk about the supernatural and spirits. Eventually, members would investigate different mediums.
This is happening in America post-Civil War, when you have all of these men torn away from their families unexpectedly, and in a devastating way. So you had people who really trusted mediums, clairvoyants, who were ready to turn over money for one last conversation with their loved one, or guidance or whatever. You really saw it in the UK with World War I, where you had people who were also pulled away, and people were willing to pay a lot of money to mediums.
So the Ghost Club, these men, who eventually would be Charles Dickens and Harry Houdini and William Yates, who were true believers and skeptics at the same time, and who really wanted to separate the fake mediums from the authentic ones – because they were ripping people off. They were really taking advantage of people who were grieving.
JIM HAROLD: And honestly, I think that’s the perfect mix. In other words, I believe in the other side, I believe in the spiritual. I even believe that there are people who have real psychic gifts and can tap into things, or it seems to me that that’s possible. But on the other hand, as you said, there are people who use this as a way to generate revenue for themselves, preying upon other people, and that certainly is not a good thing.
So I applaud them. When we think about skeptics today, I think we think about people who are like, “Nope, there’s nothing to any of this. This is all BS.” When you say skeptic, I think that’s what people think of. But that’s not the sense of what these skeptics were. They were true skeptics in the sense that they had an interest, but they wanted to look at each case on its merits. Is that right?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Yeah, I was very surprised about the number of people with scientific backgrounds who were members of the Ghost Club. There was sort of a rival club, the SPR, that was filled up with people who were of a scientific mind where they really wanted to use tests to test these mediums.
The Ghost Club, you really had people who were straddling two worlds. Also, you have to keep in mind, these people who identified as spiritualists, even though the number of spiritualists was much higher than it is now, they still felt ostracized. Especially these members of the higher echelon of the British military who were reporting about things that happened in their childhood. They needed a place to feel safe, and at the same time, they also wanted a place to sound off a little bit about some people who they felt like were taking advantage of people who were susceptible.
So there was this medium. I think generally, the people in the Ghost Club were true believers, but they did not believe that everyone was an authentic medium. But if you look at somebody like Arthur Conan Doyle, who of course penned all of the Sherlock Holmes books, he seemed to be a true believer in every sense, and I never really read about him being particularly skeptical about very many mediums. I think he really felt like there were an abundance of people who had that gift.
JIM HAROLD: I might be getting this confabulated, but was there a member of the Ghost Club who fell for the whole fairy craze that was going on? Does that ring a bell?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: It’s interesting because my podcasts are in the Exactly Right Network with My Favorite Murder, and I remember joking with Karen Kilgariff about, “Oh, these guys believed in fairies,” and she was very, very adamant – her family is from Ireland, and I think she was telling me that her grandfather talked about fairies in the forest.
Fairies were not their concentration; it certainly was both benevolent and nefarious spirits that were roaming the earth, just waiting to cause problems or to help people. But I think fairies were often a source of conversation, but not the bad fairies. Just as evidence still that there were these things happening that were unexplainable by science.
JIM HAROLD: I think the whole fairy thing is a good example of this. I can’t remember the years – it might’ve been around the relatively early 1900s, with the supposed pictures of fairies and so forth that were later found out to be totally faked. My feeling is that, yeah, fakes exist, unfortunately. Hoaxes exist. But that doesn’t make the whole category bogus. I think sometimes the hardcore debunkers, the ones who aren’t even interested in listening to the merits, say, “Aha! See this? That means all of it’s a bunch of BS.” And that’s where I have a little bit of angst with the current debunker flavor of skeptic. Certainly some things are fake, some things are hoaxed; I think it’s horrible, but it does happen.
You were talking about the membership – Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, who ostensibly wrote the most famous ghost story of all time. Who were some of the other members of the Ghost Club?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: I would say Yates is one of the more important ones. And Yates was a true believer to his core. He and his wife did automatic writing. He was inspired by tales of spirits and his own experiences. Whether these were authentic experiences or not, this influenced one of the most important writers in history. Of course, Doyle was the same way, and so was Dickens.
But again, at their heart, these are all people who really are true believers, including a man named Harry Price. Harry Price was one of the most important figures in spiritualism. He was known as the world’s greatest ghost hunter – or at least, the most well known. [laughs] He was an expert at publicity. He was the chairman of the Ghost Club for quite a while before he died. Harry Price was very well known for investigating what became known as the most haunted house in England, which was called the Borley Rectory.
Harry Price had gone out there numerous times and had talked about it very openly with the Ghost Club, that he was dragging his entire lab, funky different instruments, most of which he had innovated himself, out to this sprawling, creepy rectory in the middle of rural England. There were several hundred years’ worth of ghosts haunting this place, so he was investigating it. The two stories intertwine in that way, where you have all of these members eventually take a tour of the rectory, and you have the Ghost Club increasing their membership because Harry Price is leading them and is so high profile because of all of these investigations.
Harry Price was a magician, a conjurer. He was gifted at figuring out who was an authentic medium, he said, and who was a fake medium. But the big question is whether or not Harry Price the ghost hunter was himself fake. Did he replicate, did he imagine, did he make up all of the things that occurred at the Borley Rectory? – which was wild. His investigation was wild.
Again, this is a leap of faith. It’s just blind faith, just like people would reckon with religion. This was a religion. Spiritualism was an authentic religion. The question for me – and I don’t know if this was a question for you after hearing the audiobook, but the question for me always has been, throughout this book: Were these spiritualists who were coming together at the Ghost Club, who were telling – I’m not kidding – thousands of stories in the archive – were they all part of a conspiracy? Were they doing this to create a community? Were they doing this to connect with people and they were all making it up and agreeing with each other, and this was all fake? Were there some authentic interactions and some not authentic interactions? Or was everything they said authentic? Was everything real?
That is up to the individual, and I’m always interested in hearing what people believe at the end of the story.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, it is fascinating to think about it in that way. A couple other names I want to talk about. Houdini. I’d always thought that he was a total debunker and that kind of thing. And certainly, again, anybody who can bring out a fake, someone who’s really taking advantage of people, I think that’s a good thing. What was Houdini’s real stance, though? Was he totally “this is all fake,” or did he have a more nuanced stance about all of this?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Certainly more nuanced. Again, anyone in the Ghost Club would have been identified immediately as a true skeptic who could not be swayed, he would not have been able to even come to meetings. He would not have been able to associate. I think there was a connection he had with Arthur Conan Doyle that eventually was disrupted by Houdini’s friendship with Harry Price. And I think there were times when Houdini was trying to connect an awful lot, and he was a believer, but he also believed that the majority of people were ripping off these unsuspecting, very vulnerable people.
So I think it was mixed. I think you’re right, it was nuanced. And I think he did believe, but I think he believed that the majority of the people out there who were claiming to be mediums were not real.
JIM HAROLD: Is it true that he set up a code – I don’t know if you researched this much, but he set up a code with his wife upon his death? Is that true? I know there’s constantly, on Halloween – didn’t he die on Halloween? Am I remembering correctly, Houdini died on Halloween?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: You know, he’s not a huge part of the Ghost Club’s story. He wasn’t a huge part of the Ghost Club. He was in there, he would come to meetings, but I didn’t concentrate on Houdini very much. That sounds about right, and I do believe the code story is right, but it wasn’t a big part of the story that I was telling.
JIM HAROLD: I really think he’s a fascinating guy. Maybe that’s something for a future book, there you go. [laughs]
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: There you go. [laughs] Well, certainly the relationship between Houdini and Doyle has been explored a lot in books. You have this true believer and this person who’s friends with Houdini, who was out there trying to debunk mediums. Much like with Harry Price, Arthur Conan Doyle’s relationship with skeptics was always very tenuous. He didn’t want to isolate people, but at the same time, he was offended by the idea that you could hand over a list of mediums that Doyle thought were authentic, but that were proven to not be. And then, of course, “Are you authentic? Are you close-minded?” was usually Doyle’s reaction to that. “You are close-minded. You are not as elevated as I am about this subject.” That makes sense.
Again, this area is so gray. It is the definition of gray for me. It is everybody’s individual experience. The jury’s still out for me. I say in the book, I grew up in what was purported to be a haunted farmhouse that was owned by – the county in Texas where I was, the county’s first undertaker. So you’re talking about bodies coming in and out of this building that I lived in. It’s always interesting. My feelings almost change daily about whether or not I’ve interacted with spirits growing up, or whether I still do.
JIM HAROLD: I think that’s the sign of intellectual honesty, to even doubt yourself sometimes and go back and forth. There are subjects in this area that I do exactly the same thing. We’re going to have more discussion with Kate Winkler Dawson about her recent audiobook – and we’ll talk about why she decided to go in that direction for this – The Ghost Club. We’ll be back right after this.
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If you love the Paranormal Podcast, be sure to check out Jim Harold’s Campfire, where ordinary people share their extraordinary stories of ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and terrifying encounters. Find it for free wherever you listen to this podcast. Tune in to Jim Harold’s Campfire today. Now, we return to the Paranormal Podcast.
JIM HAROLD: We’re back on the Paranormal Podcast. Our guest is Kate Winkler Dawson. The audiobook is The Ghost Club, and we’re so glad to speak with her today. She’s extremely accomplished, a podcast host, and we appreciate her taking time today.
Kate, about this being an audiobook – usually, back in the day, you would write a book and it would come out in hardcover and eventually come out in paperback, and then also there would been audiobook version. But this is kind of the other way around where, if I understand correctly, at least at this point, this is an audiobook exclusive. Why did you decide to take it in this direction?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: There were a couple of reasons. One, because of the three podcasts that I have, my audiences skew heavily towards audiobooks and stories that are told through audio, so I think it made sense to the publisher and to me that this could be an audiobook exclusive.
I am not a fan of creating a full-length book that doesn’t merit a full-length book, and I think the story of the Ghost Club is really interesting, but there has to be more than just telling a series of ghosts. You have to have some analysis and some reflection and a lot of research. That was important to me, and this story really fit in well with this format because it’s telling a ghost story. Going through my life, I grew up in rural Texas part of the time after my parents got a divorce, and I was a member of the 4-H Club. We would go on trail rides, and we would camp and we would tell ghost stories by the edge of the river. That’s how I grew up. So this very much feels like telling a ghost story by a Campfire. And I love that. So it fit well with this format, I think.
I also think that telling a story to my audience, there’s an intimacy that I really like. I can’t really joke or have inflection in a traditional book, so this is a lot better format for me. So I was very happy that the publisher was interested in doing this. You’re right, it’s very unusual. This doesn’t happen very often. I was happy that Penguin Random House was ready to explore this with me and really feeling like my audience would follow me through this story.
JIM HAROLD: I think that’s a great idea, particularly when it comes to ghost stories. Probably my most popular show is called Jim Harold’s Campfire; I’ve been doing it for – what is it now? – almost 14 years, believe it or not.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Wow.
JIM HAROLD: We do books off of them and things, but the thing is that it is so much more powerful to hear the person’s voice or to retell it. It’s exactly what you said. That’s exactly right.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Yeah.
JIM HAROLD: Another person I want to talk about a little bit in context of this is Charles Dickens. Of course, as I said before, wrote what I think is probably the most famous ghost story of all time, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge. Was he the one who that came into his writing because he believed that maybe a Scrooge situation was actually something that was possible? Was he a big believer in spirits and the other side?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Despite A Christmas Carol, which is one of my favorite books, Dickens was much more of a skeptic than you might think. He really struggled to discover evidence of a spirit. He told a friend – and this is mentioned in the Ghost Club book – of course, this is not in 1800s speak, but he said, “Boy, I really would love somebody to present hard, solid evidence of the spirit world, and I just haven’t had it yet.”
He believed in a type of hypnosis that was popular in the 1800s, and he really felt like something was happening out there, but he just didn’t have the proof. He felt like there was enough mystery where he could include it in A Christmas Carol, but he was always struggling to overcome the skepticism that was inherent with him. And I’m not sure he ever really achieved that by the time he died.
There are not a lot of details about that version of the Ghost Club. There were several iterations of this club over the years, where it was Dickens and this group of men who were looking at investigations, like the Davenport Brothers, who are very famous for tying themselves up in a wooden cabinet and performing all of these amazing feats like playing different instruments. So his version of the Club tried to debunk these people. Then there was a later version after that Club shuttered, another version that was all true believers, no skeptics. Just ardent true believers in spiritualism.
And then eventually that waned, and then we have this sort of hybrid that happens, which is what we have – I just went to a Ghost Club meeting two years ago. I’m one of their international members. They meet once a month in London, and it’s a wonderful club. They do their own investigations – not as often as they used to. But starting with Charles Dickens, there was an earlier club that started at Cambridge University in the 1850s and then was shuttered. So I think you see a real ebb and flow of interest in this particular club.
JIM HAROLD: So essentially, it continues in some form to this day.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Oh yeah, you can join it, yes. [laughs]
JIM HAROLD: I might do that.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: You can go to their meetings, and actually, there was a Professor of Paranormal Research, essentially, is what his title would be – I think he was from Oxford or Cambridge – who came and visited the Ghost Club when I went, and he did a presentation on how these mediums would use slate writing, which is you put two chalkboards together and you pull them apart and there’s this amazing writing on it or message from the afterlife. He would give us demonstrations on how fake mediums would pull that off.
He said something – it’s in the book – that I found so interesting. In the time period, in the early 1900s, they would have blue books that mediums could sell to each other. I would have you, Jim, come to me, and I would get information from you that you had a great uncle that passed away 10 years ago, and this was his name, and this is the message you were hoping to get. I couldn’t deliver that message, but when you said to me, “Hey Kate, where can I go to get even more information about my great uncle?”, I would say, “Go to Eric.” And then I would call Eric and say, “Hey, here’s information on Jim. He’s going to be coming to you.” So they would sell information to each other.
This man who came and talked to the Ghost Club said they do that now, except they can find information on you on social media. If they know your first and last name, they can look you up, they can find out all about you if possible. We unknowingly put a lot of information out there for people to prey on us, if they are not authentic. Again, the argument is, what do you think? Do you think that there are authentic people out there? And as I said, I go back and forth. I’m a little bit like Dickens. I want evidence; I don’t know if I have it yet.
But the Ghost Club research that I’ve done certainly gets me a few steps closer because I just cannot believe that this many people, hundreds of thousands of people, can collude to all say, “I’ve had this experience,” and other people believe it, and it not be real to a certain extent.
JIM HAROLD: I equate it to car mechanics. There are a lot of bad car mechanics out there, and there are a lot of good car mechanics. I could probably do a book and fill it up, like a 600-page book, easily, talking about all the bad car mechanics and tricks they use to cheat you. But that doesn’t mean that all car mechanics are bad. But I definitely believe there are bad car mechanics and there are bad “psychics.”
The other thing I’ve always wondered about psychic phenomena – and I’ve asked psychics about this, as recently as last week – is it possible that at times, you think you’re reading the person’s loved one, but you’re actually somehow telepathically reading the mind of your subject?
This is actually a relatively well-known theory in parapsychology, or something that has been discussed, this idea that if you come to me and you say, “I want to know about my uncle Fred,” and I’m a psychic, and I really think I’m a psychic and I really believe I have this ability, and I get all this stuff about Uncle Fred, he always used to really love Christmas and he used to always dress up as Santa Claus and stuff – you’re thinking about all this stuff, and I’m talking to you, and I’m thinking that Fred is showing me a Santa Claus suit, and I tell you that and you’re like, “Oh my God, Jim’s psychic!” – but I didn’t get it from the other side, I got it from you. I also wonder about that. Is that a possibility? Sometimes, I’m not saying all the time. Sometimes.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: What did they say? Did they say it’s easy to get your wires crossed?
JIM HAROLD: The most recent person I spoke to about this, psychic, said you know the difference. You can tell the difference. Which, okay. But I do wonder if that could sometimes be the case – which is also interesting if you can actually read people’s minds. That’s pretty remarkable too.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Yeah.
JIM HAROLD: We had a situation – this was quite early on in the show, and I had a psychic on. I was taking callers, and one of those callers was my wife, but the psychic didn’t know it. My wife does nothing on social media. She’s doing a little bit now, but she hates social media in general, as a rule.
She really hoped that her late mother came through, and what happened is really nothing about her mother. The psychic said, “There’s a friend of yours, very young, that you were very close to who died a very violent death or very tragic death, and his name is Bob or Robert, and he wants you to know that he said hi.” Her best friend in high school was named Bob and committed suicide.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Oh wow. That’s specific.
JIM HAROLD: I mean, there was literally no way for her to know that. No way. None, zip. Now, again, I know what the skeptics say – “You remember the hits, you forget the misses.” But there it is. I thought that was pretty interesting.
So getting back to the Ghost Club, you talked about some of the things they did; did they actually perform séances themselves? I know you talked about Price and investigations and so forth, but I almost see them with cigars and snifters and saying, “Now it’s time for the séance.” Was it kind of like that?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: They did, but it wasn’t like the entire club and they would have dinner at a restaurant and perform right then and there. They had circles that were very private. Doyle really enjoyed being with his wife, who he said he was training as an automatic writer. She did some table tilting, which was interesting. He felt like Lady Doyle was developing into an excellent medium.
The members of the Ghost Club would break apart into different circles, and one iteration in particular of the Club which was happening – this was at the turn of the century, and there were two people who were excellent mediums, they claimed, and they were the leaders of the Ghost Club. They were in a very small psychic circle where they would perform séances just with each other. That felt a little bit like collusion because of the people in the circle – there were maybe five or six – these two members of the Ghost Club were the only ones who were experiencing the phenomena at the time. It was very hard to refute when you have two people who are agreeing that this is happening.
One thing I wanted to point out that was interesting is Arthur Conan Doyle had recounted a time where his wife had identified an editor, I believe, of the Times of London newspaper, who had died like a hundred years earlier. He was speaking through her during this séance, and Doyle said, “I want to ask this editor some questions.” When I was reading the notes, I was bracing myself for some sort of incredible question, and he said, “Are there newspapers in the afterlife?” I just thought, what the hell? [laughs] Is that really what you’re going to ask somebody? “Are there newspapers?”
JIM HAROLD: [laughs] “Do they have that flavor of potato crisps that I like?”
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: I mean, it was odd. They were all really vague questions. So then you think to yourself – and you can’t refute that, of course. What is she going to say? Well, actually, I think her answer was, “We don’t need – we’re kept abreast in a different way of the news.” [laughs]
JIM HAROLD: They have the internet. No. [laughs]
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: “We can actually see you. We don’t have to read about it.” So the editor, through Lady Doyle, essentially said, “No, we don’t have newspapers.” But I just thought, what an odd question. And he continued to ask sort of weird questions that were impossible to refute. So then you think, is Doyle questioning Lady Doyle and whether she’s a true medium? Or does he legitimately want to know if he can pick up a copy of the Times after he dies? It was very odd.
JIM HAROLD: “Do they have that pipe tobacco that I enjoy?” [laughs]
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: I guess that would be a concern for a man in the early 1900s in England, yes.
JIM HAROLD: That’s what I was thinking. So you talked about ghost stories, and we love stories here. Do you have – it doesn’t have to be the favorite story, but do you have a favorite story that you could share with us from the book?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: There are some very short ones. There are what I think are very creepy ones. There’s a woman who said that she was staying – she had a royal title, and now I can’t remember, of course, what title that was. But she had essentially rented a palace and she was staying in it, and she had a baby in a bassinet. She and her nanny spotted a woman who was clearly a ghost hovering over her child’s bassinet, and she found out later on that a woman’s child had died in the castle or in the palace. So this was very creepy, of course, to her.
There was a man who was very high up in the military who told a story about being a young boy and he’s writing on his drawing table, and the only thing in the room is a cat. It was alive. He leaves the room and he comes back; the cat’s still there, asleep, everything’s fine, and there’s blood that looked like it had been poured like paint from a paint can all over the drawing board. Now, this is someone very high in the British military saying this story.
One thing that is really important about this club that was different from some of the other more scientific clubs that were starting to pop up in England was that they operated in secrecy. They were not taking out an ad in the newspapers in London saying, “Hey, we’re interested in getting more members.” You had to have a unanimous vote. You had to be put up for membership. It was like an exclusive country club. They really operated in secrecy. It was important that these stories not be made public because these were very important men – and eventually they let women into the club.
So when this military officer told this story, if it had gotten out, it could have undermined his authority in his job. And this was very important. One of the special things about this club is how much they respected each other’s privacy with these stories.
Probably one of the weirdest stories, I think, was someone retold a story about a man who was packing up for a trip – this is in the early 1900s – for a Transatlantic trip, and his little daughter comes to him, who is under 10, and says, “I don’t want you to go. Please don’t go on this trip.” He says, “I travel for my job. I have to. This is a really amazing opportunity. I have to do it.” She said, “No, I don’t want you to. I see you dying on this trip.” He essentially blew her off, and then soon after stepped onto the Titanic.
JIM HAROLD: Oh my.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Yeah. And I’ll tell you, when the Titanic happened, boy, do we see a flood of Titanic stories. One of the members said, “I foresaw what happened with the Titanic. I actually got in touch with” – I think it was the White Line. They were the operator of the Titanic.
JIM HAROLD: The White Star Line, I think it was.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: The White Star Line, yeah. “I got in touch with them and said, ‘This is going to happen,’ and they said, ‘Whatever, you’re crazy.’” So there were a lot of Titanic stories happening.
But there were also – there was a story of a man who was playing the sport cricket. He had a particularly tough shot, and he heard the voice of a friend of his who was a professional cricket player who was dead. He said, “Let me help you.” [laughs] “Let me give you some guidance. I’m going to give you some advice about how to pull off this shot.” I just thought, is this a ghost story or is he – those innocuous little stories lend to the credibility. They don’t all have to be spooky and scary or profound. They can just be somebody reaching out with a little nugget of something.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah. I totally believe that. On our Campfire show, there’s a good percentage that are spooky-ooky stories, but there’s just as many that are either sweet or they’re kind of innocuous, but it’s some kind of little thing.
And I have to mention this – I’m sure you’re familiar with it – it doesn’t pertain to this book specifically, but one of the amazing things to me about the Titanic was in 1898, there was a book written called The Wreck of the Titan. Are you familiar with this?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Mm-mm.
JIM HAROLD: Look it up, because it presaged almost everything about the Titanic. It was about this huge ship that was the biggest ever built, and it was all this luxury, and there were all these things that lined up with what actually happened in the Titanic, but it was written in 1898. Of course, the Titanic sunk in 1912. It’s really one of those things that – it’s like you said; it’s something that bolsters the idea that reality is strange. It’s like it was floating around in the ether, and somebody channeled what was going to happen and wrote it in a book. It wasn’t exactly right, but there were a lot of parallels. It’s really freaky when you read it. Again, could’ve been a total coincidence, but even the title, The Wreck of the Titan, makes you think. And that’s what we like to do on these shows.
I guess that’s where we can close out. I believe when somebody does a major project like this, somehow they learn something, they take a lesson from it, maybe something surprises them. For you, what was that in this book?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: Well, I had never really believed in ghosts and spirits and, to a certain extent, the afterlife – the afterlife that we’re discussing right now, that there are different realms. There was a group of Christians who were also spiritualists who really believed that there was a group of spirits that needed to be saved, and then they would be allowed to usher their way through, full on into the afterlife, because they were just sort of walking Earth or the middle ground without any kind of a purpose.
When I was reading this archive, again, it had never occurred to me just how many people believed in mediums and being a conduit to the dead and why that was important. I really found myself, throughout this whole process, reading these letters, reading these testimonials, and just thinking, could they all be wrong? This cannot be a collusion of this many people. I just don’t believe – and with the case of Harry Price at the Borley Rectory, again, we’re talking about 150 years’ worth of spottings of dead nuns and headless horsemen and carriages rumbling through the night that don’t exist there and people who are harassed throughout this rectory. I just thought, boy, you cannot make all of that up. It just seems impossible. And I’d never thought that before.
So either this is the greatest conspiracy ever, or there are people who can connect to the dead. And there are dead who don’t need anybody to use as a conduit. They can reach you directly, which is scary. It makes me think, well, I hope – as I say, kind of the last line of this book is, if spirits are around, let’s hope they’re all benevolent ones for our sake. If they reach out to you, let’s hope it’s out of kindness and not out of some sort of evil intent, because in this book there are both, as you can tell.
JIM HAROLD: Well, it’s a great conversation, a great subject. Don’t think that the study of the paranormal started with your favorite paranormal TV show. It goes back way further than that. Kate, where can people find this book and really everything you do? How can they connect?
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: The Ghost Club is available anywhere you get your audiobooks. For the podcasts, there’s the Exactly Right Network, which is where all three shows of mine live. The My Favorite Murder network, essentially. And then my books are wherever you buy books. I’m a big fan of local bookstores, so that’s my recommendation. Just check it all out. I’m very excited about The Ghost Club. I think it’s unique, it’s different. It’s true crime but not. There are crimes from the past, but really it is just this idea of, man, is this real? I think I know your answer, but I’m interested in hearing everybody else’s answer too. [laughs]
JIM HAROLD: I think it’s not all real, but I definitely think some of it’s real. Thanks so much, Kate. I appreciate it. Thank you for being a part of the show today, or being the show, actually, today.
KATE WINKLER DAWSON: [laughs] Thank you for making me the show, Jim. I appreciate it.
JIM HAROLD: And thank you for tuning in; we appreciate it. We hope you have a great week. We’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
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