As a paranormal romance and SFR writer, I love a story with a good hook. But what about when the author herself is the hook?
This is the case with the writer known as Patience Worth. Or should I say spirit writer? Patience Worth was supposedly a ghost who wrote through a St. Louis housewife named Pearl Curran in the early 1900’s.
The story goes that Pearl was playing around with a Ouija board in 1913 when she began receiving communications from the spirit of Patience Worth. According to Pearl, Patience was born in the 1600’s in England and sailed to America, where she was killed by the natives during a raid. Although there’s no historical record of her existence, supporters argue that Pearl was too untraveled and uneducated to have invented the places and events described as part of Patience’s life. Taking transcription to the next level, Pearl created poetry and books that were allegedly dictated to her by the spirit.
Does Henry Holt and Company sound familiar? It’s part of the MacMillan group of publishing companies now. In 1916, they published Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery by Casper Yost, which covered the remarkable story of an author who was doing her best work posthumously, as it were. Pearl (and Patience) wrote several novels that were published, including The Sorry Tale, Hope Trueblood, An Elizabethan Mask, and others, not to mention short stories and poems.
The kicker? Patience Worth’s The Sorry Tale made the New York Times bestseller list. There are living, breathing authors who can’t manage that!
While Patience might have been beyond the need for material wealth, Pearl could have used more money. After her husband’s death, she wound up a single mother of four who was just scraping by. She had to rely on the charity of a friend for assistance, and she hit the lecture circuit to try to raise funds. Pearl continued to channel Patience through 1937, when Patience purportedly warned Pearl of her impending death. Pearl died of pneumonia about a week after receiving these ominous tidings.
Maybe Pearl was communicating with a spirit, or maybe she’d just found one of the few ways women of her time could express themselves. Either way, it’s one of the more fascinating stories—one in which the author herself is the hook.
“Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. Wait, I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I.” — message from Patience Worth