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New Book Shares True Story of Arthur Conan Doyle and the Paranormal

A new book documenting the extraordinary true story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's belief in spirits is released by publisher Life Is Amazing this month to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creator of Sherlock Holmes going public about his interest in the paranormal.

"Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920" written by Matt Wingett traces the author's story from his earliest psychic experiments while working as a young doctor in Southsea, Portsmouth, to his dedication of the final decade of his life to Spiritualist missionary work, during which he became world leader of the Spiritualist movement.

"The new tv series, Houdini & Doyle, is great fiction," says author Matt Wingett, "but the truth in the book is far stranger - and more moving."

The book, the first of three on the subject projected by Life Is Amazing, reveals how Conan Doyle was fascinated by psychic phenomena throughout his life. He declared himself a Spiritualist as early as 1887, but didn't fully commit to the religion at this time. In the following years, he founded the Hampshire Psychical Society, investigated poltergeist activity, attended séances and was approached to join the mystical cult The Golden Dawn, of which 'the wickedest man in the world' Aleister Crowley was a member. Though Conan Doyle eventually declined this offer, he continued his psychic investigations.

In 1916, after a series of inexplicable psychic events, Conan Doyle finally became convinced of the 'undeniable truth' of Spiritualism and began his missionary phase.

"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle travelled the country tirelessly, addressing hundreds of thousands of people," says author Matt Wingett. "He believed that Spiritualism was a new revelation, sent by God to console the bereaved who were experiencing the terrible grief that swept Europe during World War One. He published books on the subject and because of his great fame, caused deep controversy in the Church, in the Press and among scientists."

His dedication to the cause reached new heights after the death of his son Kingsley in 1918, whose spirit Conan Doyle was convinced spoke to him at a séance in Southsea in 1919. "That was the moment he lost his objectivity," says Matt Wingett. "It left him open to hoaxers and frauds."

Though Harry Houdini later became good friends with Doyle, in the period the book covers, Conan Doyle would have been aware of the controversy around the great escapologist. "Houdini started out as a fake medium," says Matt Wingett. "His fake séances were so convincing that many were adamant he must have real psychic powers. Think of the mystique of Derren Brown today. Their friendship was a double-edged sword to Conan Doyle, who sought to prove to Houdini that though he had faked some spiritual phenomena, not all such phenomena were fake."

"Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920," is published by Life Is Amazing on 11th March, 100 years from the date of publication of Conan Doyle's letter that commenced his Spiritualist missionary phase.

It is available direct from the publisher at, Waterstone's and through Amazon. The hardback is £25, paperback £12.99

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