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Have You Ever Read a Book by a Ghost?

October 15, 2010

Have you ever read a book by a ghost? It is unlikely that many of us have, but at least one author of the late 19th century has presented us with one we can. Being the cataloger of printed items here at the Indiana Historical Society has its advantages. On a regular basis, I get to see interesting items spanning the 18th century and sometimes earlier continuing up through current times. One day, I was a little surprised by what came across my desk.

The book, written in 1890, is Psychopathy, or spirit healing: a series of lessons on the relations of the spirit to its own organism, and the inter-relation of human beings with reference to health, disease and healing. While the title relates to the many spiritualist writings of the late 19th century, what really stood out for me was the author, who was listed as the Spirit of Dr. Benjamin Rush, through the Mediumship of Mrs. Cora L.V. Richmond. For those of you who aren?t familiar with Spiritualism, according to Webster?s 3rd New International Dictionary, it is the belief that departed spirits hold intercourse with mortals usually through a medium or by means of rapping and other physical phenomena or during abnormal mental states (as trances).?

Dr. Rush, one of the founding fathers of the United States and a physician, died in 1813. Cora L.V. Richmond was one of the most famous mediums/spiritualists of her time, traveling extensively beginning in her teen years, going into trances and communicating information on topics of which she supposedly had little knowledge. It was through this type of collaboration with Dr. Rush?s spirit that this book was created. According to the preface, also by Dr. Rush, this work was a more than 20-year process between himself and his medium.

Interestingly enough, another item in our collection was written by Dr. Rush during his lifetime on another type of spirits: An inquiry into the effects of ardent spirits upon the human body and mind with an account of the means of preventing, and of the remedies for curing them. Our copy, the eighth edition, was printed in 1823, 10 years after his death.

So, although you may have never read a book by a ghost before, feel free to stop by the William H. Smith Memorial Library, check that item off of your bucket list, and start a conversation with your friends on this very interesting subject. If nothing else, this book gives a whole new meaning to the term ghost writer, doesn?t it?

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Amy Belcher is a cataloger in Printed Collections at the Indiana Historical Society. She enjoyed going to historic sites when she was a kid, and even now few vacations pass without a visit to a Civil War battlefield or other equally historic site.

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