Sunday, May 7, 2023

Hans Holzer & hot pink:
"The Psychic World of Bishop Pike"

I've been on another Hans Holzer kick lately, mostly due to childhood nostalgia and the urgent necessity for some escapism, but also partly to uncover some of his really obscure 1970s stuff, including some books that aren't about spooks and spirits. (Stuff like The Vegetarian Way of Life, which I wrote about in 2020.) Here's a paranormal one by Holzer that doesn't get as much mention as his ghost books, perhaps for good reason.

  • Title: The Psychic World of Bishop Pike
  • Cover subtitle: His startling new message from the Other Side
  • Author: Hans Holzer (1920-2009)
  • Publication date: December 1971
  • Publisher: Pyramid Communications, under the Pyramid Books brand. (The book was first published in 1970 by Crown Publishers.)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 223
  • Cover price: $1.25 
  • Back cover excerpt: "The name of Bishop James Pike also needs no introduction. Bishop Pike's communication with his dead son, his famous séance on television, his conversion from a psychic skeptic to a believer, his expanding revelations, and his strange and mysterious death in the desert, all made world headlines. ... Here told for the first time is the whole amazing, authentic, and vitally important story.
  • About Pike: Wikipedia describes James Albert Pike (1913-1969) as "an American Episcopal bishop, accused heretic, iconoclast, prolific writer, and one of the first mainline, charismatic religious figures to appear regularly on television. ... He was an early proponent of ordination of women and racial desegregation within mainline churches. The chain smoking Pike was the fifth Bishop of California and, a few years before he began to explore spiritualism and psychic phenomena in an effort to contact his deceased son, became a recovering alcoholic."
  • Was his death "strange and mysterious"? Strange, yes. Mysterious, not really. Wikipedia does a good job of detailing the sad story. Pike got lost in the Israeli desert, dehydrated, disoriented and died in a fall while trying to climb a steep cliff.
  • Dedication: "In memory of a friend who lives on."
  • Curated excerpt #1: "The purpose of the visit to Christ Church, Poughkeepsie, had been not so much to contact and free the restless spirit of the late rector as to follow up and, if possible, verify Bishop Pike's experiences. In the process we also succeeded in freeing the late rector from his earthbound status, by allowing him to express himself through Mrs. Meyers and thus relieving himself of the pent-up anxieties and remorsefulness from his incarnate period."
  • Curated excerpt #2: "I thanked the Canon and set out for Ena Twigg's rose-entwined cottage. Ena and I had talked on the telephone before, and I had found her a vivacious, slightly opinionated but overall extremely likable person, a far cry from the traditional misconcept of what a medium is and sounds like."
  • Curated excerpt #3: "Bishop Pike made friends easily, perhaps too easily, and he took into his confidence people whom he scarcely knew."
  • Online reviews: There's really nothing of substance in the Amazon or Goodreads reviews. One Amazon review states, "Well worth reading."
  • Criticism: In fact, the only review of The Psychic World of Bishop Pike I could find was within the 1976 book The Death and Life of Bishop Pike: An Utterly Candid Biography of America's Most Controversial Clergyman, by William Stringfellow. He pulls no punches (the bold is mine):
"The exploitation of Bishop Pike by smallness and meanness did not terminate with his death. He had no more than stretched out in his grave hard by the Mediterranean Sea than Crown Publishers of New York saw fit to publish (1970) The Psychic World of Bishop Pike by Hans Holzer, who was identified on the jacket as the 'the country's most notable parapsychologist.' The book is truly without redeeming social value. Unfortunately, Bishop Pike was partially responsible for this posthumous insult. Holzer, who seems to have made a career out of flitting from poltergeist to poltergeist, turned up on the bishop's doorstep one day with the proposal that he make a documentary film about him. Was he told to go fly a kite? No. He was warmly received and in no time the bishop was a captive of Holzer's tape recorder. ... Holzer's talent for invention is considerable but he did not invent his conversation with Bishop Pike. That conversation is reproduced in the book verbatim."
So there you have it. Holzer seems to have crossed a line with this book, especially with his irresponsible speculations (aided by "mediums") about mysteries and even foul play surrounding Pike's tragic and entirely accidental death. Holzer was better off when he was writing about ghosts, bumps in the night and haunted houses — harmless storytelling and modern folklore — than when he was trying to mix parapsychology and bad journalism to write about real people.

But wait, there's more

Many 1970s paperbacks had advertisements on thicker paper stock in the middle. Sometimes they were for book clubs or encyclopedia sets. Many of the advertisements were for cigarettes. The Psychic World of Bishop Pike has a page in the middle featuring advertising for Smirnoff vodka on one side and Eastern Air Lines on the other side.

1 comment:

  1. I've been on a bit of a tear through obscure 1970s stuff myself, Chris. My current read is The Man From Krypton: The Gospel According to Superman (1978) by evangelist John Wesley White. Billy Graham provides the foreword. I've read and reviewed three other books by Reverend Doctor White. The Man From Krypton disappoints only in that it has the fewest factual errors.

    Though an Anglican, I knew nothing of Bishop Pike until I read John Wesley White's Re-entry (1970), which deals with "striking parallels between today's news events and CHRIST'S SECOND COMING." White goes after Bishop Pike, not one year in the grave, on the very first page. I don't think that's right, but will not cast the first stone.

    If interested, here's my review:

    The Oxford PhD Rambles On .