Views of the Neighborhood – Guest Post by Mae Clair

I know it is a little odd to see a guest post on the day I usually run a Views of the Neighborhood. I’ve done this for two reasons. 1. My friend Mae Clair is launching a new book and I want to help spread the word. 2. I am in Phoenix this weekend with no opportiunity to capture some sights there. So I am proud to turn my blog over to Mae Clair.

Many thanks for having me as your guest today, John! I’ve been making the rounds with my new mystery/suspense release, Cusp of Night, a book that uses dual timelines and elements of the supernatural.

For the past timelines, I delve into aspects of Spiritualism in the late 19th Century. This was a time when sham mediums were so common many of them advertised their services in the classified ads of local papers. People were intrigued by oddities, flocking to any traveling circus or sideshow, lured by promises of seeing three-legged men, conjoined twins, or bearded women. Is it any wonder they believed someone could breach the Aether and connect with spirits in Summerland?

Some mediums of the day were magicians, others genuine, still others, charlatans. The frauds were deft in plying their trade and used multiple trick to swindle their customers. Below are just a few of the most popular:Victorian woman holding candlestick looking out rainy window.

A medium would research the background of “sitters” who planned to attend their séances. This included visiting cemeteries to learn family ancestry and asking seemingly innocent questions of townspeople to garner inside information.

Mediums often had trap doors and sliding panels installed in the rooms they used for séances. This allowed assistants, made up with costumes and wigs, to appear from the darkness in the guise of spirits summoned from the grave.

Other times, a medium might use balloons, painted with faces. These would bob from the darkness on invisible wires or would be held by assistants cloaked head to toe in black. Sitters would take the ghostly representatives as the embodiment of departed loved ones.

A skilled medium—many had honed their trades as magicians or ventriloquists—could throw their voice to make a disembodied balloon (or other object) seem a spectre from beyond the grave.

Cheesecloth was often used to create “ectoplasm.” Mediums concealed this in their mouth or other body cavity (yes, even intimate ones) to produce ghostly manifestations. In later years, mediums would strip nude, allowing themselves to be probed to make certain nothing was hidden anywhere. The skilled still had a way of getting around these examinations.

A medium easily produced “table tilting”—a common trick spirits employed to announce their presence—through use of a hook attached to a belt or a foot. Invisible wires were common ploys to produce everything from ringing bells and chimes to having objects soar through a dark room.

Charlatans knew what they were doing, but Lucinda Glass, the medium in my book, had to learn the tricks of the trade to rise above the circumstances of her birth. She’s mentored by a man who is determined to make her the toast of society. Unfortunately, not all turns out as planned.

Here’s the blurb:

Banner ad for cusp of Night, a mystery/suspense novel by author, Mae CllairBLURB
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

PURCHASE HERE

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:
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131 comments

  1. Wow…mediums r smart & cunning:)) thx for sharing 👍✌️

    1. Mae is one of the best, Ray. Thanks.

    2. Thanks so much for reading. The mediums of the 19th Century were showmen and performers. It’s amazing what they were able to pull off.

      And,John, you make me blush 🙂

  2. I’d no idea of the history of mediums. I understood them as ‘salespeople’ whose methods were dubious, but wow. They really did exact a a science to duping people.
    You’ve done the seemingly impossible, Mae. For a few minutes, you made us forget that big fella who runs this special place with your post. This book looks like a winner to me.

    Peace, profit and the very best of wishes to you

    1. Thank you, Marc.

      1. I enjoyed this!

    2. Wow! Thank you so much for those kind words, Marc! Researching 19th Century mediums was riveting, I was enthralled by the showmanship that went into their performances–and those were exactly what they were…performances unlike any others. Thanks for reading!

      1. I really enjoyed your post Mae!

  3. Such an interesting history. Thanks for sharing, Mae. Congratulations on your release!

    1. Thank you, Jill. I love history. Learning about the tricks of 19th century mediums was mesmerizing!

  4. Gwen Plano · · Reply

    This is fascinating, Mae: I’m looking forward to reading Cusp of Night. As you researched and wrote, did you ever feel a bit freaked out by what you discovered? I know I would be unsettled – or worse. Heartfelt congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Gwen. 😀

    2. Hi, Gwen! I’m so excited your looking forward to reading Cusp of Night. Thank you!

      The research was utterly compelling. It was an odd mix of unsettling and sham-practical, if that makes sense.I’m besotted by history and researching this book opened a whole new avenue of—wow!!–I was amazed by what mediums of the day did to ply their trade. I’m such a sponge when it comes to learning, LOL.!

  5. Thanks, Mae for this interesting information. 🙂 — Suzanne

    1. Thanks, Suzanne.

    2. Thanks for checking out the post, Suzanne. I’m glad you found it interesting 🙂

  6. Wow. I am clueless in this area. This is very interesting.

    1. I agree, Dan. Thanks.

    2. Hi, Dan! Thanks for checking out my post.When I started researching this era, so much of it was mind boggling to me.I found it so interesting that mediums of the day could pull off shams like this with few people questioning how they did it.They were really quite skilled…the magicians of their day. I love reading about the past and learning! 🙂

      1. It’s always interesting (a little sad) to see that people who take advantage of others have always been among us.

      2. So true, Dan!

    1. Thank you so much.

    2. Thank you, Charles! I truly appreciate the share!

  7. Funny how some of those tricks seem so simple. How do mediums stop a sitter’s eyes from adjusting to the darkness? There has to be some level of disorientation.

    1. I agree. Thanks, Charles.

    2. I was amazed by the research, Charles. Much of what during seances also counted on the sitters expectations…..dark rooms, waiting for ghosts to speak to them….apparently, the mind is able to accept a lot when it “expects’ certain things to happen. The whole thing was so interesting!

      1. We can be our own worst enemy from the sound of things. Although, I’ve noticed how often my mind tricks me. Pretty sure a talented medium would fool me.

  8. I love the research that obviously went into this. Looking forward to reading it.

    1. Thank you, Craig for the visit and comment.

    2. Thanks, Craig.You know me and research—I can’t get enough, LOL.

      1. I’m the same way.

  9. Good luck with your new book, Mae!

    1. Thank you, John

    2. Thanks so much, John.Those well wishes are truly appreciated!

  10. My very first experience in all this was Professor Marvel of the Wizard of Oz. I could not believe he peaked into Dorothy’s bag. I was four at the time and I still remember the disappointment I felt.

    1. Thank you, Bryan.

    2. What a great comparison, LOL. I feel the same way if someone ever discovered Loch Ness 🙂

  11. How awesome to see Mae here on your blog, John! This new book is going to be fantastic! I love the history Mae shared about Mediums. Congrats on the new release, Mae and best wishes!

    1. Thank you, Jan. 🙂

    2. Thanks so much, Jan! I am so excited about this release….the first of a new series, and I got to play in an era (19th century) I love so much. Thanks for commenting and the lovely well wishes!

  12. You have to be devoted to your job to submit to a full cavity search! Interesting post, Mae. Out of curiosity, have you ever visited a medium? I’m too chicken to go, lol

    1. Thanks, Jacquie.

    2. Jacquie, it’s amazing wha the mediums of the day did in order to be judged authentic. In addition to full cavity search, they also allowed themselves to be tied up…but a skilled magician can easily slip knots.

      Did I ever visit a medium? As much as I love reading about the unusual, I’m wuss when it comes to that stuff.I won’t even have my fortune told or go on a ghost tour, LOL!

  13. John, thanks so much for having me as your guest today. I’m late in getting here (weekends are always insane for me), but I’m so delighted by the spotlight and the opportunity to share with your readers. Thank you, thank you! And many thanks to your faithful readers for allowing me to hijack your regular feature 🙂

    1. My readers obviously loved having you as much as I did, Mae. Thank you.

  14. Reblogged this on From the Pen of Mae Clair and commented:
    I’m super jazzed to be visiting my friend John W. Howell today with a post about the practices of mediums in the nineteenth century. I loved the research that factored into my upcoming release, Cusp of Night. And John is a stellar friend, not to mention a great author. I’ve read everything he’s written. I invite you to check out my post and John’s awesome books while you’re on his blog. He’s one of the most entertaining blogger I know!

    1. Aw Mae. This was beautiful. Thank you. It was so much fun having you here today.

  15. The research you undertook for Cusp of Night is outstanding, Mae Clair, and I imagine it was utterly riveting for you during the process. I agree 100% that the mind accepts readily what it’s come to expect. You have encompassed a merging of worlds beautifully in Cusp of Night, my friend. Take a richly deserved bow. The book deserves to go right to the top.
    John, thanks so much for sharing this with us today.

    1. Soooz, I’m honored and humbled by those lovely words. Thank you so much!

      I’m motivated by research in the bulk of books that I write and the history behind this one was so intriguing, it was hard for me to set it aside and actually tell the story.I wanted to keep learning, keeping reading. It’s amazing–and scary–what the mind accepts if we let it.

      Thank you again. I was honored to have you as an ARC reader!:)

      1. My pleasure in every way, Mae Clair. Cusp of Night was a great way to escape.

      2. Thank you, Soooz.

    2. Thank you for the visit, Soooz.

  16. Very interesting history, Mae! I’m looking forward to this new work. Thank you for hosting, John. Safe travels..

    1. Thank you, Linda. The history on this one was riveting, very hard to step away from. I’m so excited you’re looking forward to it. Thank you!!

    2. Thank you for the visit, Linda.

  17. I found this fascinating. Charlatans know their stuff! A long time ago, I read the mystery NEVERMORE by William Hjortsberg. Harry Houdini (who worked hard to oust fake spiritualists) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who supported them) have to work together to solve a mystery based on Edgar Allan Poe’s works. It was a fun book. Yours sounds fun, too.

    1. Thank you for the visit, Judi.

    2. Judi, I wonder if that book is still available. I read a different one with Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur working together to solve a mystery and LOVED it. It was old and I picked it up used (can’t remember the title). Their history together is so unique. Two great men of wildly divergent beliefs. Thanks for visiting me here today!

    3. Judi, I just found Nevermore on Amazon and bought it. I love anything Houdini and anything that plays off spiritualism. Thanks for mentioning this!

      1. Hope you like it as much as I did.

      2. Forgot to tell you, I bought and read Ray Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. He knows how to tell a creepy story! But his writing style kept throwing me. I never quite got used to it.

      3. Oooh, I’m glad you had a chance to experience Something Wicked. I loved that book! I’m a fan of his writing style, but I may have to revisit it after reading your comment. I always considered him the master of magical realism–lyrical, visual and odd.

  18. The lore you presented here (and included in your book) is truly fascinating. I can’t wait for your release; I know you have another hit on your hands.

    1. Thanks, Staci.

    2. Aww, thanks, Staci. It’s always scary starting a new series, but I really love the premise of this book and the research was utterly riveting. I’m enamored of this time period in history and the decades that sandwich it on either side. Thanks, as always, for your support!

  19. D.L Finn, Author · · Reply

    I loved the history of psychics! I am always watching for that, but always hoping I’ve found a “real” one! I’m looking forward to reading this! Thanks for hosting John!

    1. Thank you, Denise. 😀

    2. It’s amazing how skilled mediums of the day were in performing tricks. There was actually a society that investigated them to expose frauds.
      I’m excited you’re looking forward to the book, Denise. Thanks so much for visiting and checking out my post!

  20. Wow, I had no idea the extent these people would go. Amazing research, Mae. Looking forward to the new release!

    1. Joan, I found it mind boggling what they were able to do. Spiritualism was huge in it’s day, and saw a resurgence in the early 1900s. That’s when Harry Houdini took an active role in debunking mediums. I could read about those eras endlessly 🙂

      So happy you’re looking forward to the release!!

    2. Thank you for the visit, Joan

  21. Reblogged this on DSM Publications and commented:
    Check out this guest post from author Mae Claire as featured on John Howell’s Fiction Favorites blog.

    1. Thank you so much for helping me spread the word about Cusp of Night, Don!

      1. You’re welcome.

    2. Thank you, Don

    1. Thank you, Viv. I appreciate the help in spreading the word! 🙂

    2. Thank you for the share, Viv

  22. Mediums, a possible ghost, and a devil-like creature? You must have written this especially for me, Mae. Pre-ordered my copy months ago!

    1. Heeheee. Thank you for the pre-order, Teri.
      I think you will like this one 🙂

    2. Thank you for the visit. Teri

  23. Fascinating research, Mae. I’m not sure I would fall for the painted-balloon-face trick, but the thrown voice and some of the other examples…. maybe! Great to see you holding down the fort at John’s.

    1. I’m amazed at what people fell for, Diana. Psychologists chalk it up to nerves, pitch black rooms and unexpected manifestations. A lot of “sitters” set themselves to be duped!

      Thanks for visiting me here. John is a stellar host 🙂

  24. Another very interesting sounding book, Mae. Congratulations.

    1. Thanks, Robbie. I’m looking forward to kicking off my new series!

  25. Wow, Mae. Fascinating! I bet the research was interesting reading. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sue. 😀

    2. The research was riveting, Sue. I found it hard to break away from to actually start writing, LOL!

  26. Congrats on your new book, Mae. It sounds titillating, a bit frightening, and also very real. I’ve always hoped some of those “mediums” really had some ‘sight,’ but perhaps not. You’ve obviously researched you new book well.

    1. Thank you for the visit, Pamela.

    2. Thank you, Pamela. I think, at time time, many fakes were jumping on the latest craze (Spiritualism) and trying to make a penny off it. Some went to great lengths and put on amazing shows….others were clearly frauds. There was even a society–the SPR (Society for Psychical Research) that investigated and tested mediums to determine if their skills were authentic. Quite fascinating!

      1. Your research has been well-done, and well used in your new book.

      2. Thank you 🙂

  27. So wonderful to see Mae here!
    Mae, cheers to you. Oh. My. Gosh… after reading this and learning the little tricks, I think I’m even more spooked. I’m so fragile when it comes to this stuff. lol. But I love reading your stories. High five to you. So looking forward to the release. Cheering you on all the way! 🙂
    Thanks so much for sharing, John. 🙂

    1. LOL! As unbelievable as it may seem I am also easily spooked. You’ll never find me on a ghost tour, having my fortune read, or attending a seance. I’m a wuss when it comes to that stuff. But I do love illusions (and creatures) and the sham magicians of the late 1800s (and other eras) put on great shows. I think that’s why I found them easy to read and write about! 🙂

  28. It’s nice to see Mae here, John. I have both of you books on my TBR list and look forward to reading! Hugs to both of you! 💕😘

    1. Aw. Thak you Janice. 😀 Hugs right back.

    2. That’s awesome, Janice. I’m honored to be on your list with John! 🙂

  29. Fascinating field. I can’t wait for Cusp. John’s books are also page turners.

    1. Thank you, Flossie.

    2. Thanks so much, Flossie. And I agree with you about John’s writing. He always tells a good tale. Thanks for visiting with us today! 🙂

      1. Thank you, Mae.

  30. Congrats on this book, Mae Clair. It sounds exciting.

    1. Thanks, Cynthia.

    2. Hi, Cynthia! Thanks for checking it out and for the well wishes. I’m very excited about this one!

  31. Fascinating to learn, Mae, and I wish you all the best with your compelling new book!
    ~Lauren

    1. Thank you so much. Baydreamer. I appreciate the well wishes!

  32. Balloons with faces painted on them? Makes you wonder what these folks could have done with a blue screen and some CGI skills, doesn’t it? 😯 SUCH an interesting topic, Mae. Sorry I’m behind on reading, but I loved this post, and am so looking forward to this one! 🙂

    1. Thank you for the visit, Marcia.

      1. It was a great post, John. So glad I found a minute to get over here! 🙂 (I’m almost as far behind on my blog reading as I am on my book reading! 😯 )

    2. I know it was crazy how gullible people could be given the circumstances. Kind of sad too. And you plenty of reason to be behind—congrats again on the new baby granddaughter!

  33. Great guest post, Mae! I always find it interesting the things purported mediums and psychics would do to ply their trade. I’m always curious, though, to meet a real one, but knowing most who advertise the fact are probably grifters, I haven’t gone to see one, either. I’ve thought about it, though, especially after my mom died. I’ve already preordered Cusp. Can’t wait to read it!

    1. Thank you for the visit, Julie.

    2. Thank you for the pre-order, Julie! I greatly appreciate it.
      AndI have to admit for as much as I like writing about odd things, I’m a wuss about them in real life. There is no way I’d ever visit a medium. I won’t even have my fortune told, LOL!

  34. Marvelous to see Mae as your guest, John. Wishing her huge success.
    I hope Phoenix was good. We’re having their temperatures these next several days… but with humidity.
    Mega hugs.

    1. Thank you, Teagan. Phoenix was fine.

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