To the uninitiated, it may be surprising to learn that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Butler Yeats, and Harry Houdini were all once members of The Ghost Club, an exclusive club dedicated to the pursuit—and occasional debunking—of supernatural phenomena. Ghost hunting in the early 20th century was serious business, and few were more dedicated to the pursuit than psychic researcher and Ghost Club chairman Harry Price. Who was Harry Price, and how did his experiences at the infamous Borley Rectory forever change the very nature of ghost hunting?
There is no one better to tell this tale than author and true-crime podcast host Kate Winkler Dawson, whose new audiobook orginal The Ghost Club (an Apple Books Must-Listen for March) takes listeners into the darkest, creakiest corners of this famous club and its members. We sat down with Kate to learn more.
PRH Audio: Kate! Thank you for taking a minute to talk all things ghostly. Before we dive in, could you tell us a little about what led you to write The Ghost Club, and what about the story made you think about it as an audiobook original?
Kate: Sure! I love a good ghost story and I grew up in rural Texas listening to spooky tales by campfires after long trail rides. Thereâ€™s no better way to hear a ghost story, so when I discovered the history of the Ghost Club, I decided that re-telling that history would only work well as an audiobook original. As I sat in my home audio booth in Austin, I just visualized myself by one of those campfires, unspooling this incredible bit of history for my friends.
PRH Audio: You are someone who is very well-acquainted with the recording process, both through your podcasts (Buried Bones, Tenfold More Wicked, and Wicked Words) and previous two audiobooks (American Sherlock and All That Is Wicked). Was there anything that surprised you about recording The Ghost Club, or unique to the audiobook original process?
Kate: It was a wonderful process—an audiobook is much longer than one of my seasons of Tenfold More Wicked, so Iâ€™m able to go even deeper into a story. And because The Ghost Club was written specifically as an audiobook, I composed the text in a way that would make it easy to read aloud. When Iâ€™m writing a traditional book, I often forget that Iâ€™ll have to read it later for the audio version and then Iâ€™m stuck with very long sentences. This was a nice change.
PRH Audio: Somewhat related, is there something specific youâ€™re excited for listeners to hear, or a section of the story that was particularly gratifying to record?
Kate: I loved recording all of it, of course, but my favorite section is when Harry Price, the worldâ€™s most famous ghost hunter, visits the haunted Borley Rectory in England. The ghosts in the rectory really did a number on him and it was fun to recount.
PRH Audio: This story revolves around the idea of haunted places, and as you say, particularly the Borley Rectory in England. You also begin the audiobook with your own experience of haunted places. What do you think it is about ghost stories that keep people coming back for more, even when it scares them?
Kate: I love being scared, truly I do. I think that ghost stories are very mysterious, and I also love a good mystery. Do spirits really exist? And if they do, what do they need from the living? If they donâ€™t exist, were hundreds of thousands of spiritualists throughout history really wrong? Solving the mystery of what happens after you die will never stop fascinating us.
PRH Audio: Now, to sate our behind-the-scenes curiosity: when recording this audiobook, what did you bring with you into the studio that you couldn’t do without?
Kate: Oh, thatâ€™s easy. I take a sip of hot, decaf vanilla tea with lemon in between each paragraph. I also use ChapStick A LOT.
PRH Audio: And last but not least, since weâ€™re all listening fiends here—what is the last great thing you listened to (a song, a radio piece, a podcast, an audiobook)?
Kate: I love music—I probably spend at least an hour a day driving around with my 13-year-old daughter listening to music so we can both decompress. Weâ€™ve been listening to a lot of Cher, which has been wonderful. Good writing is important to me, especially in music and lyrics. Itâ€™s hard to beat Cher.
Listen to a clip of The Ghost Club:
More from Kate Winkler Dawson:
The chilling story of Edward Rulloff—a serial murderer who was called â€śtoo intelligent to be killedâ€ť—and the array of 19th century investigators who were convinced his brain held the key to finally understanding the criminal mind.
Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon—as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.