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Brian Topp

How the Ghost Trend Began

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By the end of the Civil War in 1865, half of Americans were ghosts, and Spiritualism went mainstream. Then, just like that, the ghosts were gone. Some of them showed up in England, a few decades later, at the end of the first World War. But in America they silently receded back under the floorboards. In the 1880s, the Fox sisters told the papers that they made the whole thing up. Only nobody would believe them.

Spiritualism really came to a head following the Civil War in the US, with so many families hoping to contact lost loved ones. That's part of why it was so successful in England following WWI and II.

Though the work of skeptics, like the famous Harry Houdini, had a lot to do with why it sort of faded back into the background as many spiritualists were revealed publicly to be scam artists.

Some of their same tricks are used by faith healers today, like Peter Popoff and others, or included in magic acts. Like the spiritualists who claimed to produce ectoplasm from their mouth actually producing cheesecloth, which can be shoved into a small space.

Sort of like modern magicians pulling long strings of cloth apparently from their mouth.

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Interesting. Having moved to that area of NY (I'd call it Central more than Western) in 1995, I was continually amazed at all of the kookiness that went on in the area in the late 1800s. It must have been really interesting to live there back then.

And if you go to Moravia today, don't blink, you'll miss it.

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