In Enchanted Ground, Sharon Hatfield brings to life the true story of a nineteenth-century farmer-turned-medium, Jonathan Koons, one of thousands of mediums throughout the antebellum United States. In the hills outside Athens, Ohio, Koons built a house where it was said the dead spoke to the living, and where ancient spirits communicated the wisdom of the ages. Curious believers, in homespun and in city attire, traveled from as far as New Orleans to a remote Appalachian cabin whose marvels would rival any of P. T. Barnum’s attractions.
Yet Koons’s story is much more than showmanship and sleight of hand. His enterprise, not written about in full until now, embodied the excitement and optimism of citizens breaking free from societal norms. Reform-minded dreamers were drawn to Koons’s seances as his progressive brand of religion displaced the gloomy Calvinism of previous generations. As heirs to the Second Great Awakening, which stretched from New York State to the far reaches of the Northwest Territory, the curious, the faithful, and Koons himself were part of a larger, uniquely American moment that still marks the cultural landscape today.