Listeners of the show, and readers of this blog, you might appreciate this little story on how to "Cite Works from the Spirit World." I'm not sure how many of you are still in college, or are active journalists, but who knows - this could be of use to you someday. This particular post was suggested via our new Facebook Group from listener Jen K!
We've discussed spirit communication and the craze of interacting with spirits that happened in the late 1800s and early 1900s a few times on the blog (here and here), but never in the realm of publishing before. In fact, spirit dictation was quite common and many people have published on it, both of their own experiences and academically.
Luckily, the internet is chock full of stories that you might otherwise not ever seen. But, it isn't just stories that create interest...it's the questions. On the American Psychological Website there is a Q&A section where members of the site can ask questions to the Style Experts on the website for answers about their toughest APA Style questions.
One user, in particular, wrote in something very interesting. Spooked in Spokane asks...
"I need to cite a book that was dictated by a spirit to a medium. Who’s the author here? I was thinking it would be the spirit, but now that I’ve put it into my reference list, it looks kind of weird."
Jeff Hume-Pratuch, one of the aforementioned style experts, approached this question as if it wasn't a strange thing at all to ask. In fact, he even acknowledges that...
"Noncorporeal beings have dictated a number of bestsellers, yet they never seem to cash their own royalty checks."
He then proceeds with a very simple answer based on the above sentence. For bibliographic purposes, the author is the person who entered the work IN the corporeal realm. But to me, this opens up some questions. Do spirits have no publishing rights? So that means beings that aren't in our "realm" get absolutely no royalties and no benefits except some name recognition. Well...I guess it makes some sense, since we don't know the currency exchange rate for Earth dollars in the spirit world.
It should be noted that not all spiritual communication is non-fiction, in the sense that it is a spirit dictating to a medium or person in the corporeal being quotes, events of their life and death, and other historical "facts" and stories. In fact, there are a few cases of ACTUAL ghost-writing...as in works of fiction dictated by ghosts to those in the corporeal world.
One of the most notorious cases of this strange, literal ghost writing is "Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board", published in 1917. Emily Grant Hutchings was the writer and claimed that this novel had been dictated to her via the ghost of Mark Twain, who had died over 5 years earlier. Sadly, this might have been a bit of a hoax due to the book's poor literary quality, propped up by rejections from Twain's published and estate. It was swiftly put out of print, and most copies were destroyed.
However, not all of this purported ghost writing was a total flop. In fact, a young woman named Pearl Lenore Curran garnered acclaim from The New York Times, and several other notable literary organizations. Curran, like Grant Hutchings, was dictating for a deceased woman named Patience Worth. Curran communicated with Worth via a ouija board and her life story was a sad one - she had set off from England to America in the latter half of the 1600s only to be quickly killed by Native Americans. However, Patience didn't just share her actual life story with Curran. She also shared stories and poetry. To this day, no one has definitively debunked the existence of an actual Patience Worth.
If you're interested in reading more books by ghosts and spirits, you can check out Bustle's list of the 5 Best Books written by ghosts, or click on the source links above!
Oh, and if you're wondering...citing a ghost looks something like this:
"Curran, P. (1917). The sorry tale: A story of the time of Christ. New
York, NY: Holt. Retrieved from..."
Thanks again for listener and FB group member Jen K for sharing the initial source that inspired this post!
The above image is unrelated to the story and is from Flickr user Frederick Rubensson and is liscensed under Creative Commons.