John Benedict Buescher



A | vocations Co-director, International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals (IAPSOP); former researcher for the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (George Mason University); former Chief of the Tibetan Broadcast Service of the Voice of America; former Program Officer in the Division of Education Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities; former Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Ph.D., University of Virginia, Department of Religious Studies.


Longstanding Research Interests History of Tibetan and Indian Buddhism; history of American interest in Asian religions; 19th- and early 20th-century American Spiritualism and related para-sciences (mesmerism, phrenology, etc.); psychic eccentrics and frauds; history of professional magic; 19th-century newspaper reportage; early radio broadcasting


Some Online Essays Sister Onfa: Uranian Missionary to Mesilla Southern New Mexico Historical Review 28 (January 2021): 33-47

Aquarian Evangelist: The Age of Aquarius as it Dawned in the Mind of Levi Dowling (2020): a revised edition of my 2008 Theosophical History essay uncovering the hidden life of the author of The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ and commenting on his work.

The Miner's Dream: Magicians and Mystagogues in Gold Rush California (2020): an extended essay on stage magic and mysticism in gold-rush era California culture, occasioned by a self-imposed challenge to see if I could discover who was the first magician to have performed in California.

Paradise in a Breakfast Bowl: Albert Webster Edgerly and the Gospel of Glame (2020): Looks at the religious motives behind 19th-century health food reformers and, in particular, at the life and cult of Albert Webster Edgerly, aka "Edmund Shaftesbury" and "Dr. Ralston."

The Notebooks of Joseph D. Stiles (2015): Compares a rare notebook manuscript of letters allegedly dictated by the postmortem spirit of John Quincy Adams via the spirit medium Joseph Stiles with the edited version published in 1859.

The President's Medium: John Conklin, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation (2015): Sifts the rumors of, and evidence for, Lincoln's involvement with Spiritualist mediums, especially with John Benjamin Conklin. (A revised, paperback edition is available from Amazon.)

Across The Dead Line: Lincoln and the Spirits during the War and Reconstruction Era Washington (2010): Looks at the influence on political leaders of several spirit mediums active in wartime and Reconstruction-era Washington.


Some Books Radio Psychics: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling in American Broadcasting, 1920-1940 (forthcoming, McFarland and Company, 2021) A history of the mentalists from vaudeville and elsewhere who became wealthy by plying their trade on the radio until the FCC forced them off the air. Available for pre-order from Amazon.

Empress of Swindle: The Life of Ann Odelia Diss Debar (2014): The life and many frauds of the most notorious international Spiritualist and Occult swindler of the late nineteenth century. Available from Amazon.

The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear: Agitator for the Spirit Land (2006): The life of the nineteenth-century Spiritualist medium and radical social reformer whose many spirit-inspired projects included building "The New Motor," a mechanical Messiah, "God's last, best gift to Mankind." Available from Amazon, Abebooks.

The Other Side of Salvation: Spiritualism and the Ninteenth-Century Religious Experience (2004): A study of the involvement of Universalist and Unitarian ministers in the founding of the Spiritualist movement in the late 1840s and beyond. Available from Amazon, Abebooks.


All original materials © 2000-2020 by John Benedict Buescher.
Archival material rights reserved under Creative Commons license.