How did I miss learning about Patience Worth (11 cents)

According to a fascinating article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, a turn of the century St. Louis housewife with a ouija board was able to communicate with a 17th century New England colonist and to channel her novels, poetry and short stories, which were published to great acclaim. Pearl Curran, the quiet St. Louisan became enormously famous, and traveled the country performing this remarkable feat for large, and for small audiences. To this day, no one knows how she did it – she herself apparently did not have the background to account for the quality of the writing. Scholars of the time disagreed on the authenticity of her spiritualistic experience, but to this day no one has been able to come up with a good explanation.

There was quite a bit of seance-y activity at this time, but the fact that the Patience Worth situation was apparently so noteworthy, her books best sellers and highly praised, and that it all happened in St. Louis, where I grew up, just makes it seem strange that I have never heard the name.

In addition to the Patience Worth article, there is another article about camel jumping in Yemen. An equally impossible feat, I would think. And another about Rio de Janeiro, one not put out by its PR office – a frightening place (we sort of knew that) and one which has seen much, much better days (and hopes to see them again in the future).

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