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reader comments: Patience Worth

1 Aug 2012
Dear Skeptic,

It seems that in this day and age we should be talking about data and not opinions. Some are of the opinion that Patience Worth is a spirit and some are not, but what does it matter? Through the use of Stylometrics, I have analyzed frequency of certain three-letter-words in writings attributed to Pearl Curran, Patience Worth, and Mary Johnston (author of To Have and to Hold) and have found reliable and unique patterns (i.e. signatures) for each author. The results lend weight to the theory that Patience Worth is her own entity (e.g. alter ego, splinter personality, spirit, etc.). The results do not lend weight to the “fraud” hypothesis. There is a massive amount of writing attributed to Patience Worth that can be analyzed in a similar fashion. With the data this analysis generates, theories can be tested and rejected. Let’s dispense with opinion and use science to get to the heart of the phenomenon?


reply: Your data may "lend weight to the theory that Patience Worth is her own entity," but they don't transform your opinion into a fact or any other sort of thing. Try as you may, you can't dispense with opinion by applying stylometrics or any other sort of metric to determine whether a ghostly entity authored books. Your notion that we should be talking about data not opinions is a false dichotomy. Using data, even scientific data, is not an alternative to having an opinion; scientific data is used to support opinions. You have your opinion and I have mine. I don't think much of the data resulting from analyzing three-letter words. That seems pretty simplistic and not much of a post to hang your hat on. Your data don't eliminate fraud as a possibility. Curran needn't have written everything in one style. There's also the plausibility issue: how plausible is it that a ghost communicated books through a parlor game?


I noticed in the Gioia Diliberto article in the Smithsonian that "Patience" has a problem with her pronouns:

“Would ye with a blade at thy throat seek the [affiliation] of thine assassin?”


"About me ye would know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past."

'Ye' is plural, 'thy/thine' is singular - nobody who really spoke 17th century English would use them to describe the same subject in these sentences!


Mark Bellis

reply: If the reader doesn't trust Mr. Bellis, see here and here.


Patience Worth


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