This week, I spruced up a page titled The Life and Ghosts of Vera Van Slyke. It’s a timeline of the real history behind the Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries series, and it includes key events in the lives of Vera and her friend (and my great-grandaunt) Lida. It’s a nice introduction to the series for those who haven’t read the books — and there might be several surprises for people who have.
I added a few pictures, too, and this got me thinking about those faces and the faces I’ve neglected. Here, then, is a photo gallery of some of the people who Vera would have recognized, some fondly and a few — well, maybe not so much. (Whether or not she would have remembered their names is anybody’s guess.)
We start with Harry Escott, the man who mentored Vera in ghost hunting. One of the investigations they shared is recounted in “Ghosts and Other Immigrants,” a chronicle in Help for the Haunted. An entire book detailing how Vera met Harry and more of the cases they shared is in the works.
Harvard professor William James shared Vera’s interest in the paranormal. I don’t know how they met, but they were good friends in 1899, when the respected professor brought in Vera to debunk a young Spiritualist medium using the name Ludmila Prášilová. That uneasy clash between Vera and Lida led to their lifelong friendship. Thank you, Professor James!
In Guilt Is a Ghost, we learn that Vera was also friends with Nellie Bly, her colleague in journalism. Of course, Vera never achieved the fame that Bly did.
Certainly, Vera would have at least heard of another famous woman working in Journalism in the late 1800s and early 1900s: Ida Tarbell.
I don’t know about all of Vera’s ghost hunts, but one of her most famous clients was an up-and-coming magician and escape artist with the stage name Harry Houdini. That chronicle is in Help for the Haunted, titled “Houdini Slept Here.” It’s set in 1905, when Houdini would have looked very much like this.
At times, Vera’s ghost hunts brought her into contact with law enforcement officers. Chief Inspector William B. Watts of Boston’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation plays a key role in the investigation recounted in Guilt Is a Ghost. The photo is taken from a book Watts co-wrote, one with the wonderful title Our Rival, the Rascal: A Faithful Portrayal of the Conflict Between the Criminals of This Age and the Defenders of Society — the Police.
And Cook County Coroner Peter M. Hoffman solicits Vera’s expertise in a chronicle titled “Vampire Particles,” found in Help for the Haunted. (Is it just me–or do Watts and Hoffman look like brothers???)
I was very pleased when, after much digging, I managed to find a photo of my great-grandaunt’s husband, Eric “Rick” Bergson. He loved to hear about the ghost hunts Lida shared with Vera, so much so that his loving wife wrote down many of these adventures while Rick was off fighting in World War I. Sadly, Private Bergson never made it back from France.
Many of details associated with these faces can be found on The Life and Ghosts of Vera Van Slyke. Please also check out the pages for Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries and Guilt Is a Ghost: A Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery.