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Publishing From Beyond The Grave: The Story Of Patience Worth

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Artist rendition of Patience Worth

Artist rendition of Patience Worth

It is believed a woman who lived during the 1600s was able to publish seven books of literature, write plays, and have five of her poems published in the prestigious Braithwaite anthology hundreds of years after her death. It is the story of Patience Worth. In 1917, the first novel published by Patience Worth was called The Sorry Tale. The New York Times described it as a feat of literary composition. Between 1913 and 1937, it is estimated that Worth's published over four million words. There are two things she used to achieve her impressive writing success from beyond the grave: an Ouija board and Pearl Lenore Curran.

Pearl Lenore Curran

She was born on February 15, 1883, in Mound City, Illinois, and was named Pearl Lenore Pollard. When she was less than a year old, her family moved to Texas. Pearl started school when she was six and was described as an average student. Pearl had few friends and considered herself ugly. She had no ambition other than to succeed at singing. Pearl didn't like to read. At the age of 14, her family moved to St. Louis. It was determined she had low academic skills. During this time she took music lessons. Her musical training involved voice and piano. It was obvious she had no interest in being a student. Pearl dropped out of school after her first year of high school. She later returned to finish her schooling at St. Ignatius Catholic School.

Pearl Curran

Pearl Curran

Musical Talent

Pearl's family moved to Palmer, Missouri. She was eventually sent to Chicago for voice training. Her first job during this time was working at the McKinley Music Company. There she was paid $6 weekly for addressing envelopes. Pearl then got a job at the Thompson Music Company where she sold music. She then worked various jobs in Chicago during the winter months and in the summer, she taught music.


When she was 24 years old, Pearl married John Howard Curran. They weren't wealthy, but they lived a very comfortable lifestyle. It gave Pearl the opportunity to go to movies and play cards in her free time. She owned only a few books and neither she nor her husband traveled extensively. During the first seven years of their marriage, things were considered normal. Then everything changed.

Ouija Board

Ouija Board

Ouija Board Communications

It all started in July of 1912. Pearl Curran went with her friend Emily Grant Hutchings to the home of another friend who had an Ouija board. None of them took the experience very seriously. During this time, a message was given to Mrs. Hutchings from the Ouija board regarding a very close relative. After this experience, the women wanted to continue their communications with the spirit world. Mrs. Hutchings got the Ouija board from their friend and took it to Pearl's home.

The Arrival of Patience Worth

Pearl was indifferent to the Ouija board experience. She felt it was only something to do with her friend Mrs. Hutchings. In the summer of 1913, the Ouija board seemed to have unusual strength. There was a message for Pearl and this is when the communications from Patience Worth started. She described herself as a female who lived between 1649 and 1694. Worth communicated that her home was across the sea. Pearl described Patience as around thirty with dark red hair and brown eyes. Patience later communicated that she had been killed by Indians. She also said she had been searching for three centuries to find an earthly mind to help her with her literary ambitions. She believed she found such a mind in Pearl Curran.

Neighborhood Witnesses

News of using an Ouija board to speak with someone who lived hundreds of years earlier spread quickly. It soon became a hot topic of conversation in Pearl's middle-class neighborhood. She and her husband had more requests than they could handle to witness the communication between Patience Worth and Pearl with the Ouija board. Several people would regularly gather in the Curran's home during the evening house. People brought food, children played and men went to a separate room and smoked cigars. There was no appearance of anything associated with the occult.

Local Celebrity

Visitors would come and sit with Pearl. She would let them ask Patience questions and then read the answers that were provided. Often an impulse to write would take over Patience. This is when she would announce it was time to work on one of her plays or novels. The device used with an Ouija board to point out letters is known as a planchette. When Patience was busy writing, the planchette would quickly move around the board. Words were created at a rate of approximately 1,500 words an hour. Pearl's husband John would keep a record of the words communicated by Patience Worth.

Newspaper Editor

During this time, one of the visitors to the Curran's home was Caspar Yost. He was the editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Yost became convinced that Patience Worth was real. The Globe-Democrat advertised a series of articles that were to appear about Patience Worth in February 1915. The articles were extremely popular and even included poetry by Patience Worth. These articles were the basis for a book written by Caspar Yost and published by the Henry Hold Company in 1916. It was called Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery. It contained, among other things, short stories and poems written by Patience Worth.

The Sorry Tale by Patience Worth

The Sorry Tale by Patience Worth

Literary Success

Soon after the publication of the book written by Yost, poetry written by Patience Worth was published in journals around the country. The first novel written by Patience Worth was called The Sorry Tale. In 1917, another book by Patience Worth called Hope Trueblood was also published. The Sorry Tale was the most successful of Patience Worth's book publications. The book's setting is in the time of Christ. A reviewer called it the most remarkable piece of literature he had ever read. He referred to it as the fifth gospel. Patience Worth wrote and published seven books, voluminous short stories as well as poetry and plays.

Husband's Death

Pearl Curran's husband John passed away on June 1, 1922. He had kept detailed records of the session with Patience Worth. After his death, the records were fragmentary. There were long gaps of time when they were not recorded. Pearl was pregnant at the time of her husband's death and their child was born six months later.

Financial Troubles

With a family to support, Pearl's financial picture was bleak. A devoted family friend started sending money to Pear monthly. This lasted for several years. Pearl went on a lecture circuit and talked about Patience Worth. This earned her some additional money to support her family. She married two times after her husband died. Each of the marriages only lasted a short time. The sessions with Patience Worth continued during all of Pearl's financial troubles.


Pearl continued to communicate regularly with Patience Worth until November 25, 1937. Pearl claimed she received her final communication. This is when Pearl claimed that Patience Worth told her she would soon be dead. Shortly after this last communication, Pearl developed pneumonia. She died on December 3, 1937, seven days after receiving the communication about her death.

The Case of Patience Worth by Walter Franklin Prince

The Case of Patience Worth by Walter Franklin Prince

Supportive Research

A detailed investigation of the case of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth was conducted by Walter Franklin Prince. He was a psychic researcher and had his findings published in a book by the Boston Society for Psychical Research. The book was called The Case of Patience Worth. It was over 500 pages and included a biographical sketch of Pearl Curran. It had reports from eye-witnesses as well as opinions and more. The conclusion stated the possibility of something working through but not originating from Pearl Curran's subconscious. It stated this should be acknowledged.

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Skeptical Research

Daniel Shea works at Washington University and is a professor emeritus of English. He studied the case of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth. His research concluded there may have been a fraud committed by Pearl Curran. He believes Curran could have read books and other materials previous to her sessions with Patience Worth. His findings were published in 2012 in a book titled The Patience of Pearl: Spiritualism and Authorship in the Writings of Pearl Curran.

The case of Patience Worth remains one of the most intriguing literary mysteries of all time. It is difficult to dismiss because so many people at the time believed it was true. There have been many theories, but nobody has been able to prove how Pearl Curran produced Patience Worth's writings. Some believe it was a fraud and others think it an example of the possibilities of the human mind. There are also others who believe it is simply a true event that happened and can't be explained by science.


Smithsonian Magazine

New York Times

St. Louis Post Dispatch

© 2020 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on August 12, 2020:

Dora, thanks. I think this could be a topic of debate for a long time.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 12, 2020:

Thanks for the research and presentation on this literary phenomenon. Interesting, indeed. It'll take some time to conclude on what to accept as the read deal.

Readmikenow (author) on August 07, 2020:

Flourish, you ask a good question. I think only Pearl Curran and her husband knew exactly what was happening.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 06, 2020:

Very interesting. I wonder whether her husband was involved since there was no significant work after his death and no consistent transcriptions of her sessions after his death. You would have thought some may have stepped up to help.

Readmikenow (author) on August 06, 2020:

Pamela, thanks. I think the possibilities it suggests make these events very interesting.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 06, 2020:

Your well-wriitten story of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth is very interesting. I do not know how to begin to explain what happened between these women. It is fascinating to think of messages from the grave.

Readmikenow (author) on August 06, 2020:

Eric, Thanks. It remains a mystery.

Readmikenow (author) on August 06, 2020:

Mr. Awudey, Thanks for your comment.

Readmikenow (author) on August 06, 2020:

Thanks for your insight. There have been many books written about Prentice Worth and if it was or was not true.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 06, 2020:

Fascinating and of course well written. I will go with the last option of just impossible to explain. I must admit that just the two names had me from the beginning.

Ernest Festus Awudey from Ho, Ghana. on August 06, 2020:

Wow such an inspiring story. Have learned a lot from her life. Thanks for sharing.

The Logician on August 06, 2020:

Interesting article Mike. Isn’t this just another example of many called automatic writing or psychography which is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.

There are many examples of automatic writing though usually explained by fraud. There is a 2000 page book called the Urantia Book which is purported to be a collection of papers authored through automatic writing by different spiritual beings through one psychology patient explaining the evolutionary universe and spiritual realms. Said to be the Fifth Epochal Revelation - lol what a joke!

All so called communication with “spirits” is evil spirits getting over on naive people who are ripe to believe anything.

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