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Visions: True Stories of Spiritualism, Secret Societies and Murder

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Dirk Vander Ploeg's picture

Reviewed by Charles Burkart, Media Bibliographer, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
 

Recommended   
 
 Visions is a very unique documentary by Rochester, New York documentary film maker Michael Keene. The documentary offers three compelling and unusual stories about Western New York State’s past: In Search of White Crows, The Strange Disappearance of Captain William Morgan, and The Murder of William Lyman.

In Search of the White Crows chronicles the strange lives of the Fox Sisters, who founded modern spiritualism. The Strange Disappearance of Captain Morgan covers the anti-Masonic hysteria of the early nineteenth century and the unexplained disappearance of former Mason, Captain Morgan. The Murder of William Lyman traces the first murder in Rochester, New York.

I was vaguely familiar with the Fox sisters as the founders of spiritualism, but really knew nothing about their lives or subsequent careers. Visions gives an excellent overview of their strange and tragic lives. Likewise, the Masons and their influence in early America are little known. Visions chronicles the anti-Mason backlash that accompanied the suspicious disappearance of William Morgan.

Visions uses artist illustrations with voice over, static animation and actors dialog to skillfully tell each story. Helpful cue cards or scene transitions precede most changes of narration. In addition, the second story uses live actors and an old story telling trick, used in many ghost stories, where a group of people stranded by a snow storm listen to a story by a mysterious stranger. Although the style of this documentary can seem static, it works surprisingly well in most cases, particularly in the first story. The music is professionally done, unobtrusive and interesting , and the narration is clear and well modulated. Actors’ voice over for the characters is effective and dramatically appropriate.

I found In Search of White Crows to be the best of the three stories. The live acting in The Strange Disappearance of Captain William Morgan seemed amateurish , and the illustrations in The Murder of William Lyman were the weakest of the three.

Nevertheless, Visions is historically accurate and always maintains your interest. Due to its great regional interest, I strongly recommend Visions for public and secondary school libraries as well as college and university libraries in New York and related Northeastern states. I also give Visions a general recommendation for libraries in other regions but the greatest interest will be in upstate New York, particularly in Western New York.

Awards

 

  • Winner “Best of the Year” The Rochester International Film Festival
  •  Winner “Best Artistic Achievement” Ocean City New Jersey Film Festival 

For more information or to order this book from Amazon.Com simply click on its title: Visions

2007
Distributed by Ad Hoc Productions, PO Box 40805, Rochester, NY 14604; 800-648-8909
Produced by Michael Keene
Directed by Michael Keene
DVD, color, 88 min.
Jr. High - Adult
American Studies, History, Religious Studies, Western New York 

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