That time the US Supreme Court almost had to rule on whether there was an afterlife…
Okay that may be overstating things slightly, although there was a lot of hype like that in the press at the time. It was all because of this book, Jap Herron, written in 1917 by Mark Twain… who died in 1910.
It… well it actually started with a woman named Pearl Curran from St Louis who in 1913 was using a Ouija board and made contact with the spirit of a seventeenth century englishwoman named Patience Worth. Pearl moved away from the Ouija board to automatic writing instead and Patience through her wrote over five thousand poems, novels, and a play. This were actually pretty well received by critics resulting in Patience having the most successful writing career anyone has ever had more than two hundred years after they died. Unfortunately, despite her fans best efforts, no one ever found any evidence that Patience actually ever existed and so reluctantly had to admit that maybe Pearl did all the writing on her own.
But anyway, a friend of Pearl’s, Emily Grant Hutchings, tried to one up her friend and channel the spirit of none other than one of the most famous philosophers and humorists of the nineteenth century, Mark Twain. In 1917 she published Jap Herron, which she claimed had been dictated to her by the white suited one himself from the other side.
This book was not well received at all. So much so that the people who owned the rights to Twain’s work from when he was alive attempted legal action as they believed the poor quality of Jap Herron hurt their sales. They also noted that in life Twain had been skeptical about the existence of an afterlife. Sadly, the matter was settled out of court with Hutchings publishing withdrawing the book from sale. It’s a shame, because it would have been hilarious.
Even so, the book is available now to read free from several sites such as the one linked to above. If you have any respect for Twain at all you probably shouldn’t, but if you’re curious go right ahead. Just know that his spirit will haunt you forever.