How was it possible that numerous nineteenth-century readers believed in the authenticity of a made-up sensational story about a mesmerist experiment that supposedly arrested its subject between life and death? By juxtaposing Edgar Allan Poe’s “Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” with Justinus Kerner’s medical case history “The Seeress of Prevorst,” this essay compares the narrative constructions of verisimilitude in science and fiction. But in exploring the viral dissemination of “Valdemar,” I also analyze how nineteenth-century print media produced content and credence by means of reprinting—a circular feedback reminiscent of our current world of social media, where unfounded or disproven stories gain credibility by being circulated, shared, and retweeted.

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