The haunting of Alma Fielding A true ghost story

Kate Summerscale, 1965-

Book - 2021

"London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, a young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding's modest home, china flies off the shelves and eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a turtle materializes on her lap. The culprit is incorporeal. As Alma cannot call the police, she calls the papers instead. After the sensational story... headlines the news, Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrives to investigate the poltergeist. But when he embarks on his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems. By unravelling Alma's peculiar history, Fodor finds a different and darker type of haunting, a tale of trauma, alienation, loss and revenge. He comes to believe that Alma's past has bled into her present, her mind into her body. There are no words for processing her experience, so it comes to possess her. As the threat of a world war looms, and as Fodor's obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed. With characteristic rigor and insight, Kate Summerscale brilliantly captures the rich atmosphere of a haunting that transforms into a very modern battle between the supernatural and the subconscious"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Penguin Press 2021.
Language
English
Physical Description
xv, 349 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780525557920
052555792X
Main Author
Kate Summerscale, 1965- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

In 1938, while London was terrorized by the looming threat of another world war, one suburban housewife began a public battle against an alleged supernatural enemy. Alma Fielding's account of flying crockery and mysteriously overturned furniture attracted ambitious ghost hunters from across the country who were hungry for a prominent case. None were hungrier than Nandor Fodor. Labeled cynical by the spiritualist press, Fodor was determined to prove the validity of Mrs. Fielding's pesky poltergeist and protect his precarious position at the International Institute of Psychical Research so he secured exclusive access to Fielding. Throughout the investigation, Fodor and others witnessed compelling evidence of a true haunting: jewelry would appear on Fielding's fingers, animals would materialize from nowhere, and inexplicable scratch marks would spring up on her body. Fodor observed each instance with a critical eye as Fielding's condition became increasingly disturbing. His intense scrutiny brought him closer to a truth that jeopardized them both. Using Fodor's original papers, Summerscale (The Wicked Boy, 2016) has produced a thoroughly engrossing tale about the power of trauma and how the past can haunt us all. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

In 1938, while London was terrorized by the looming threat of another world war, one suburban housewife began a public battle against an alleged supernatural enemy. Alma Fielding's account of flying crockery and mysteriously overturned furniture attracted ambitious ghost hunters from across the country who were hungry for a prominent case. None were hungrier than Nandor Fodor. Labeled cynical by the spiritualist press, Fodor was determined to prove the validity of Mrs. Fielding's pesky poltergeist and protect his precarious position at the International Institute of Psychical Research so he secured exclusive access to Fielding. Throughout the investigation, Fodor and others witnessed compelling evidence of a true haunting: jewelry would appear on Fielding's fingers, animals would materialize from nowhere, and inexplicable scratch marks would spring up on her body. Fodor observed each instance with a critical eye as Fielding's condition became increasingly disturbing. His intense scrutiny brought him closer to a truth that jeopardized them both. Using Fodor's original papers, Summerscale (The Wicked Boy, 2016) has produced a thoroughly engrossing tale about the power of trauma and how the past can haunt us all. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

What begins with the supernatural becomes a haunting of the subconscious in Summerscale's (The Wicked Boy) account of Nandor Fodor's 1938 investigation of paranormal events surrounding Alma Fielding. In an England on the brink of World War II, emotions (and spiritual disturbances) are running high. Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter with the International Institute for Psychical Research, sees the headlines in the Sunday paper and decides that Alma's experiences may be just what he needs to help him earn back his shaken credibility within the spiritualist community. As he investigates disappearing light bulbs, flying eggs, and more shattered crockery than you could possibly count, Fodor uncovers Alma's internal trauma a little at a time. It is ultimately left up to the reader to determine their own stance on Fodor's theory-that "repressed traumatic experiences could generate terrifying physical events." VERDICT Likely to appeal to readers of ghost stories and psychology alike, this well-researched chronicle pulls directly from firsthand accounts, interviews, news articles, séances, photographs, and other sources to provide as comprehensive a view as possible from this side of history.—Marissa Mace, Cumberland County P.L. & Information Ctr., Fayetteville, NC Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Edgar winner Summerscale (The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer) illuminates the bizarre events that afflicted Alma Fielding, a suburban London housewife, in 1938, in this mind-bending historical investigation. In February of that year, the British press began covering the activities of an alleged poltergeist in the Fielding home. The spirit reportedly broke glasses, threw pots and coins, and even transported an unbroken light bulb from one part of a room to another. The occurrences attracted the interest of Nandor Fodor, the chief ghost-hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research. Fodor gained the confidence of the Fieldings and spent months observing oddities and exploring rational explanations for them. Fodor's experiments and tests led him to conclude that Alma, who suffered from repressed trauma, faked the incidents. Fodor's analysis won the support of Sigmund Freud and his experiences influenced Shirley Jackson's writing of The Haunting of Hill House. Summerscale vividly recreates the four months in 1938 that fascinated a Britain seeking distraction from Hitler's ominous aggressions, and reconstructs the events and the secret inner torment that led to Alma's brief appearance in the spotlight with sensitivity and a novelist's gift for narrative. Readers will be riveted. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The Edgar Award-winning author of The Wicked Boy documents the story of 1930s Hungarian ghost hunter Nandor Fodor and the traumatic details surrounding the case of a London housewife’s bizarre supernatural experiences.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, a young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding's modest home, china flies off the shelves and eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a turtle materializes on her lap. The culprit is incorporeal. As Alma cannot call the police, she calls the papers instead. After the sensational story headlines the news, Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrives to investigate the poltergeist. But when he embarks on his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems. By unravelling Alma's peculiar history, Fodor finds a different and darker type of haunting, a tale of trauma, alienation, loss and revenge. He comes to believe that Alma's past has bled into her present, her mind into her body. There are no words for processing her experience, so it comes to possess her. As the threat of a world war looms, and as Fodor's obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed. With characteristic rigor and insight, Kate Summerscale brilliantly captures the rich atmosphere of a haunting that transforms into a very modern battle between the supernatural and the subconscious"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR • The Sunday Times • The New Statesman • The Times • The Spectator • The TelegraphShortlisted for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize * A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice * A New York Times Book Review Paperback Row Selection “Prepare not to see much broad daylight, literal or metaphorical, for days if you read this.... The atmosphere evoked is something I will never forget.”—The Times (London) London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, a young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves and eggs fly through the air; stolen jewelry appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a turtle materializes on her lap. The culprit is incorporeal. As Alma cannot call the police, she calls the papers instead. After the sensational story headlines the news, Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrives to investigate the poltergeist. But when he embarks on his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems.By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, Fodor finds a different and darker type of haunting, a tale of trauma, alienation, loss and revenge. He comes to believe that Alma’s past has bled into her present, her mind into her body. There are no words for processing her experience, so it comes to possess her. As the threat of a world war looms, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed. With characteristic rigor and insight, Kate Summerscale brilliantly captures the rich atmosphere of a haunting that transforms into a very modern battle between the supernatural and the subconscious.