Distributed for
Fullcourte Press

The Afterlife of Leslie Stringfellow
A Nineteenth-Century Southern Family’s Experiences with Spiritualism
Stephen Chism

A family communicates with their dead son

In 1973 a young man finds unusual objects at a yard sale in the historic district of Fayetteville, Arkansas, which lead him through a series of eerie coincidences and twists and turns to the story of Leslie Stringfellow, who was born in Texas just after the conclusion of the Civil War. Leslie’s untimely death at age nineteen resulted in what his well-educated parents regarded as successful attempts to make contact with their dead son through private séances held nightly in their own home.

Once established, contact continued nightly for over fifteen years. With the help of their dead son, Henry Martyn and Alice Stringfellow recovered a lost inheritance, learned immediately the last words of one of their own parents when he died over a thousand miles away, and adopted and raised a two-year-old orphan girl who grew up to become an active suffragist, newspaper editor, and publicity director for the largest women’s organization of the early twentieth century.

During the years of contact with what the Stringfellows believed to be their departed son, they received thousands of séance messages through “automatic writing” in which the young man described his personal afterlife and provided detailed descriptions of the geography of paradise.
When Alice Stringfellow was eighty years old and widowed, she decided to write about her experiences with Leslie with the help of her adopted daughter. In 1919 the two women contacted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who read their manuscript and sent them two letters, one handwritten, encouraging them to publish it. The creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories even proposed an experiment that involved his own deceased son, Kingsley Doyle, who was killed in World War I. These letters are published here for the first time.

This book is the result of years of extensive research by Stephen Chism, associate librarian at the University of Arkansas, who was the young man at the yard sale in 1973. Chism documents the objective facts of the story and provides historical background on the widespread practice of spiritualism in the American South during the close of the nineteenth century.

Stephen Chism is an associate librarian at the University of Arkansas, and is the author of From A to Zotamorf: The Dictionary of Palindromes.


January 2006
140 pages, 18 illustrations
6 3/4" x 8 3/4"
$14.95 Paper
ISBN 0-9635152-5-X
ISBN-13 978-0-9635152-5-4

Distributed for Fullcourte Press