The story takes place between October and November 1879 in San Francisco.
Annie’s boarding house is in O’Farrell Street.
This case starts when Annie runs into Lucy Pinehurst in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
One of the places where Annie and Nate meet is Woodward’s Gardens. Woodward’s Gardens was a combination amusement park, museum, art gallery, zoo, and aquarium operating from 1866 to 1891 in the Mission District of San Francisco.
The book’s main topic is spiritualism, and from the advertisements at the beginning of every chapter we can see that this was quite the rage at the time. Annie attends several seances, which are called circles. Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. By 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.
The seance with Evie May is done in a cabinet. “Spirit cabinets” were portable closets into which mediums were placed, often bound with ropes, in order to prevent them from manipulating the various aforementioned tools.
Simon Framton is described as practising mesmerism. Animal magnetism, also known as mesmerism, was the name given by the German doctor Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force exerted by animals. He believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing. The theory attracted numerous followers in Europe and the United States and was popular into the 19th century. Practitioners were often known as magnetizers.
Annie mentions Abraham Lincoln’s wife using mediums to get into contact with her dead son Willie. After Willie’s death in the White House in 1862, Mary often visited the home of the Lauries who were well-known Georgetown mediums. Here a clairvoyant would darken the parlour and arrange the patrons in a circle with their hands on the table. The goal was to attain communication with invisible beings; in Mary’s case, it was Eddie and Willie, her two dead sons. There were possibly as many as eight seances held in the White House itself. Abraham accepted gifts and read books and letters from mediums, but he never became a believer. . Mary was the real spiritualist in the family.
Nate gets in contact with several politicians in this book. Isaac Smith Kalloch (July 10, 1832 – December 9, 1887) was the 18th Mayor of San Francisco serving from December 1, 1879 to December 4, 1881.
Andrew Smith Hallidie (March 16, 1836 – April 24, 1900) was the promoter of the Clay Street Hill Railroad in San Francisco, USA. This was the world’s first practical cable car system, and Hallidie is often therefore regarded as the inventor of the cable car and father of the present day San Francisco cable car system, although both claims are open to dispute.
Charles Crocker (September 16, 1822 – August 14, 1888) was an American railroad executive who founded the Central Pacific Railroad, which constructed the westernmost portion of the first transcontinental railroad, and took control with partners of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
William Alvord (January 3, 1833 – December 21, 1904) was a San Francisco merchant, banker and political leader. He was the 14th Mayor of San Francisco from 1871 to 1873 and served as president of the Bank of California from 1878 until his death.
Annie gets to meet Mrs Gordon, who was an advocate for women’s rights at the time. Laura de Force Gordon ( August 17, 1838, North East, Pennsylvania – April 5, 1907, Lodi, California) was an American lawyer, editor, and a prominent campaigner for women’s rights in the American West. She was the first woman to run a daily newspaper in the United States (the Stockton Daily Leader, 1873). She was a key proponent of the Women’s Lawyers Bill allowing women to practice law in California, and the related language in the California Constitution allowing women to practice any profession in California. On December 6, 1879, Gordon was admitted to the California Bar, and in 1880 established her own firm in San Francisco specializing in general and criminal law.
Vallejo Street is where Nate has his boarding house and where Annie is attacked.
The epilogue of the novel takes place in the Conservatory of Flowers. The Conservatory of Flowers is a greenhouse and botanical garden that houses a collection of rare and exotic plants in Golden Gate Park. With construction having been completed in 1879, it is the oldest building in the park.