Ghost Writer
September 14, 2010 4:38 PM   Subscribe

One of the hottest authors of the 1910s had been dead for over 200 years before she ever published a word. Patience Worth, as channeled through the ouija board of St. Louis housewife Pearl Curran, published several novels and scores of poems before the death of her link to the material world in 1937.
posted by Horace Rumpole (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I read that article and considered making a FPP about it, but never did. It's a fascinating subject, and the article is thoughtful and interesting. It really digs into not only ideas like automatic writing and communicating with the spirit world (which were popular during the era), but also tries to get into less supernatural explanations for Patience Worth's body of work. After reading, I was left to contemplate a great many things.
posted by hippybear at 4:42 PM on September 14, 2010

I had heard about "channeling," of course, but I didn't realize that there was someone who had done it for so long and in such depth. It seems that Pearl Curran was what is gently called a "fantasy-prone personality," and one with talents that no one expected or looked for in a person of her time and place. I bet she at least half believed herself. But what floral, fake English!
posted by Countess Elena at 5:07 PM on September 14, 2010

See also James Merrill and The Changing Light at Sandover, although Merrill was already an accomplished poet before he started dictating from otherworldly sources . . . it seems to me that maybe when the cultural moment gives someone permission to access the unconscious in the guise of an Other Being without condemning them as crazy, you have the opportunity for this kind of eruption of powerful subconscious creativity. The annals of literature are full of writers' daemons and such.
posted by chaff at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2010

I have sometimes wondered about people who say things like this:
"The Red and the Black is a book I actually want to read. " And have the time to tell us what someday they want to read but somehow have never gotten around to beginning the book mentioned.
posted by Postroad at 5:33 PM on September 14, 2010

Postroad, the spirits are telling me that you actually want the next post down.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:39 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Back in the mid-eighties, I was involved in the experimental, cassette culture movement. I released 3 or 4 cassettes on a couple different labels under the name "Patience Worth". My last tape is still actually available from Sound of Pig.

I found the name in an old supernatural encyclopedia I had as a kid.
posted by davebush at 5:56 PM on September 14, 2010

I read about her in a Bathroom Reader! Fascinating story.
posted by ORthey at 6:53 PM on September 14, 2010

I still want to read those Abraham Lincoln memoirs written (post-mortem) through spiritualists...
posted by cinemafiend at 7:33 PM on September 14, 2010

Mmmmm. Stagger Lee, William Burroughs' grave, the events chronicled in The Exorcist and now this.

I smell theme meetup!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2010

Weird, I have the same surname and lived for nearly 20 years in Saint Louis. I'm blaming any long-winded comments on automatic writing, retroactive to 1910.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2010

Did not expect this topic to be such a wonderful post. Fascinating story and exceptionally fine writing. Thanks Horace Rumpole.
posted by nickyskye at 8:47 PM on September 14, 2010

In the days before I was cured of librarianship, one of the things that I found neat about the psyche of cataloggers was that they had carefully worked out how to deal with things like the authorship of a novel as channelled through a medium: 100 1_ |a Worth, Patience, |e imputed author.

For some reason I find the concept of an imputed author charmingly droll.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:13 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the days before I was cured of librarianship

You can't be cured of librarianship. That's a lie put forth by conservative religions and culture warriors. Sure, there are camps and retreats they send you to, and organizations which claim they can "cure the librarianz", but there is overwhelming evidence that many who claim to be cured are deeply unhappy and feel they are living a lie. Just look online for the many blogs of "former ex-librarians" to read personal testimonials from those who bought into this lie and who have finally come to terms with the fact that they simply ARE librarians, and have even found happiness living a true-to-self librarian lifestyle.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 PM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am a recovering librarian. I am neither a conservative or a culture warrior. I am, however, happier and significantly better-compensated as a non-librarian.

On topic: this is a great post and I love it. Thank you.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 11:45 PM on September 14, 2010


If I weren't a skeptic, maybe I could manage to channel somebody who can write.
posted by The Confessor at 11:58 PM on September 14, 2010

More proof that people do all kinds of crazy things when you make them wear corsets. However, if it produces good art, maybe we should strap everyone into one?
posted by Mooseli at 3:36 AM on September 15, 2010

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