Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book cover plus a little more:
"The Ghosts About Us"

I was originally going to write about this book cover two days ago, but I found some interesting material that deserved more time and research. So I zig-zagged and posted the football book on Sunday, and here is the ghost book today...

  • Title: The Ghosts About Us
  • Author: Clara Baker Burke (who died April 9, 1979, at age 90)
  • Cover design: Betsy Roosen Sheppard (who died April 6, 1979, three days before Burke, but at age 39)
  • Publisher: Dorrance & Company, Philadelphia, which I strongly suspect is related to Dorrance Publishing Co., a vanity publisher founded in 1920 and based out of Pittsburgh.
  • Publication date: 1969
  • Original price: $2.95
  • Provenance: No ownership marks inside. Purchased used for $3.50 in 2018 at The York Emporium.
  • Pages: 42
  • Format: Hardcover. (A revised, 60-page paperback edition was published in 1971.)
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "The question of life after death and, in particular, the question of whether the spirits of the dead can communicate with the living, has always been a controversial and intriguing subject. This unusual book documents the author's personal experiences, and those of many others, of communication with the souls of departed friends and loved ones."
  • First paragraph: "I am writing from a nonsectarian standpoint, to favor no religious denomination, to advocate the tenets of no religious sect. However, I do believe the time has come when our religious leaders and scientists must unite in attempting to solve the mystery of life."
  • Last sentence: "We must have a greater sense of life, we must see more clearly the unreality of death, we must think of the departed as living and progressing."
  • Random sentence from middle: "The only thing I could say was that her aunt's spirit, or ghost, must have been present with her at the time the picture was taken and the sensitive film in the camera was able to catch her reflection." (Note: The Norristown High School photograph mentioned in this sentence is included in the book.)
  • Review excerpt: On December 23, 1969, a review by Dorthea Reynolds appeared in the Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) under the headline "Ghost Book Hopes to Help The Recently Bereaved." Here's a lengthy excerpt:
    "If you are looking for a spooky ghost story, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, it might be just right for a recently bereaved person or in helping to destroy one's fear of death, since the book is a nonsectarian treatise on the continuity of life. ... The author dwells page after page on the theme of everlasting life. In fact, she prefers most any other description than the word death. ... Accounts of her own and those of her friends' experiences with ghosts are put forth with soft-spoken sincerity. ... Mrs. Burke points out how disappointing it must be to those who have passed on to find their loved ones, who are still living in the flesh, do not recognize their ghost identities."
  • Who was Clara Burke? To me, the rest of Burke's life is more interesting than her 42-page self-published book about the 1960s/1970s fad of ghosts and the afterlife. (She published the book about four years after the death of her husband, Clarence Baldwin Burke, so it's only natural that she might have been especially preoccupied with life after death.) The dust jacket, meanwhile, notes that she was a 1915 graduate of Philadelphia Metaphysical College. I can't find any other references to that college, but I suspect that it was similar to the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, which was founded in 1881 to teach the precepts of Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science.

    But what about the rest of her life? Her April 10, 1979, obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer notes the following:
    • Early in her married life, she helped found a local chapter of a women's suffrage organization, which later became the Whitemarsh Township Women's Citizen Committee in 1919.
    • She helped to establish the public library in Plymouth Township and, according to the Inquirer, "played a major role in persuading township fathers to recognize the need for a paid police force."
    • She and her aforementioned husband, who was an insurance executive, "entertained" an estimated 5,000 convalescing World War II soldiers and veterans at their own home and at Overlea, a Chestnut Hill recreational home.
    • She was once lauded by Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Bliss, who served as Surgeon General of the Army from 1947 to 1951, for her dedication to re-introducing injured soldiers to the community.
    • She operated the 55-bed Clara B. Burke Nursing Home in Plymouth Meeting from 1947 until the time of her death. (The facility, under different management, is now called the Fox Subacute at Clara Burke, Inc.)
    • In 1966, she became involved in the Shin Seng Children's Home in Ansung, Korea, [possibly a misspelling of Anseong] and established the Clara B. Burke Korean Orphans Fund.

    I think some of the above accolades might be taken with a slight grain of salt; it appears Burke handled most of her own publicity. But it's undeniable that she and her husband did a lot of good, especially for wounded soldiers returning from the battlefronts of World War II. And it's notable, I think, that she got George C. Corson, a retired judge from the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, to write the foreword to her 1969 ghost book. He wrote: "I have been acquainted with Mrs. Burke and her many projects for 50 years and have helped with some of them. I have spent a number of weekends with her and her late husband aboard their cruiser in the Chesapeake Bay area, and I have the highest regard for her."

    A final note: The dust jacket states that Burke was working on her next book, to be titled Ghosts and Haunted Houses. I can't find any evidence, however, that it was ever published.

1 comment:

  1. I was adopted from Shin Seng Orphange in Anseong Korea