It all started with a dinner party. Five young couples coming together for an evening of dinner, drinks, and maybe a seance.
The host was Arthur Pearson, son of a prominent banker in the city, destined to fill his father’s shoes. Throwing such dinner parties was something of a sport for Arthur, who loved throwing his family money and influence around to get others to do what he wished. No one would refuse a dinner invite from a Pearson. Arthur was fascinated by the results of bringing different people together who would normally never find themselves in the same room. He also was fascinated by the trends of the Spiritualism movement and thought a seance would be the perfect way to push everyone outside their comfort zones.
His date was the lovely Viola Miller. Viola was as calculating as she was beautiful, and would happily endure Arthur’s games if they brought her a step closer to all the Pearson money that she coveted.
The first couple Arthur invited for the evening were the young newlyweds – George and Alice Adams. George and Arthur were long-time friends going back to their prep school days. He was always up for a good show, and enjoyed seeing what types of antics and situations Arthur could engineer. Alice loved George, but being around Arthur made her uncomfortable and she worried he brought out the worst in her new husband. Above all else, Alice wanted to be a good wife to her husband, and so she quietly came along and watched as George and Arthur egged each other on.
The next couple on the guest list were James and Helen O’Connell. The O’Connells were a few years older than Arthur, and already had two young children of their own – Margaret (Maggie) and James Jr. The O’Connells had left their home country of Ireland a few years ago, looking for a place where they could see a brighter future for their family. They had faced hard times since arriving in the States. James worked as a clerk at the local grocery store and hoped that the unexpected dinner party invitation was a sign of brighter times to come. Arthur was a frequent customer at the store, but he had never said more than a few words to James. When Arthur came up to James and invited him for a dinner party, James hurried home to tell Helen. He hoped that he could impress Arthur enough to get a job offer. Their young children were being watched by their neighbors for the night, and their entire apartment building hoped that this was the start that the young family needed.
The third couple to be invited were Samuel Cabot and his fiancee Clara Brinley. Samuel was another old prep school friend of Arthur’s who now ran his family’s shipping empire. Samuel was known around the city for his snobbery and elitism. He believed that allowing the lower classes to intermingle with the upper classes would lead to the downfall of society. He believed that the poor were poor because of their poor morals. Clara Brinley’s family had founded the first Anglican Church in the city. She shared her fiancee’s elitism, and believed that their families had found their wealth because they were favored by God.
The final couple to be invited were Benjamin and Pearl Williams. The couple had recently moved to the city from the DC area, after Benjamin graduated from Howard University. He was the first Black employee at the Pearson family bank. His hiring was controversial for the time, but his skill and business acumen were unmatched. He was uneasy about this sudden invitation from the boss’ son , someone he had never met before last week. However, he felt that he had no choice to attend or he worried he could lose the job he had fought so hard for. Pearl was also uneasy and worried what the intentions could be for this dinner party, she tried to suggest ways that they might get out of attending, but she begrudgingly came along with her husband.