Kevin Dann’s Enchanted New York is a historical walk down Manhattan’s magical memory lane.
Revealing Manhattan to be a site of protracted enchantment, the book’s eight chapters are named for the type of magic and spiritual ideology that dominated their historical periods. Beginning with the presidential inauguration of 1789 (“inauguration” is traced to its Latin roots as an “installment under good omens;” Washington was sworn in with a Bible supplied by the Freemasons, and delivered a speech imbued with “the belief that God acted directly in human affairs”), what follows is a trail of magical tales involving the doctrine of providence, Freemasonry, animal magnetism, parapsychology, hauntings, the New Age movement, and the invention of the atomic bomb.
Among the examples are the fact that, in the early 1800s, Thomas Paine (known for The Rights of Man, which was said to make a mockery of religion) published The Age of Reason, which gained popularity among Manhattan’s skeptics. Then, Manhattan became the birthplace of technological developments in 1836, but was also synonymous with spiritual, psychological, and magical experimentation. Included is the story of a blind woman who became clairvoyant after being treated with animal magnetism.
During Manhattan’s 1890s occult revival, Houdini began his quest to debunk all spirit mediums; the investigation of mediums and magic found its way into esteemed universities like Columbia, culminating in the invention of parapsychology. Further, even after the atomic bomb was invented, Manhattan’s relationship with magic continued. Dann projects that it is likely to continue into the future, nodding to its inhabitants as they seek to live more consciously and harmoniously with the earth.
There are no ancient monuments to mark New York City’s magical history; in their place, Dann’s historical guide chronicles the city’s lesser-known magical past.
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