Of course, like any good history, The Apparitionists also has a distinct air of the present. We’re reading about a religion so new that many Americans worried it was necromancy, but we’re also reading about a time in which new technologies suddenly upended the way people thought about communication, war upended the way people thought about life and death, and unprecedented access to things — newspapers, tourism, “objective” photograph portraits — upended the way people thought about what was true. (Called to the stand to testify about the veracity of his exhibits, Barnum presciently announces a capitalist cri de coeur: “They paid their money, and they had their choice.”) The past makes its eddies into the quaintly out-of-date, but it always brings us back to the present.

NPR.org: ‘The Apparitionists’ Raises The Specters That Haunted America