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Why did the Victorians excel at ghost stories?


Posted on Thursday, 26 December, 2013 | Comment icon 6 comments

A 19th century drawing room seance. Image Credit: H. Mairet - 1898
The 19th century was a golden age for spooky stories and ghostly tales, but why was this the case ?
The Victorian era was ripe with spiritualism, ghost stories around the fire and tales that could chill the soul of even the most ardent of skeptics.

Christmas Eve was traditionally a time when people would gather for this purpose, during a period when lamp-lit fog-filled streets and flickering candles were the norm and belief in ghosts, mediums and communication with the dead was commonplace.

Ghost stories were proliferated in the media, too, with the release of the Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" in 1843 helping to cement the phenomenon even further in the public consciousness. A rise in the periodical press also meant that ghost stories and reports of drawing room seances need no longer be restricted to word of mouth. Even ghost photographs came to prominence in the late 19th century thanks to the advent of effective hoaxing techniques.

But it was the seances themselves that are perhaps the best known example of the rise in Victorian paranormal beliefs. "There are floating tables, floating musical instruments, and at some point you get full-form materialisation of ghosts, dressed in white," said author Peter Lamont.

Despite the widespread occurrence of such seances however, fakery was rampant and the 'ghosts' manifested in front of the bewildered onlookers were most commonly either dolls, people in costumes or 'apparitions' made out of cheesecloth and other materials.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (6)

Tags: Victorian, Ghost

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Frank Merton on 25 December, 2013, 3:37
Now we have computer games and TV.
Comment icon #2 Posted by susieice on 25 December, 2013, 4:28
I watch A Christmas Carol every year. Just watched it tonight in fact. It's one of my favorite Christmas movies.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Rogue Suga on 25 December, 2013, 7:36
They didn't have television in those days and during the winter, it was a setting for ghost stories. Like today when people tell ghost stories around a campfire at night. Victorians started off with regular books and magazines getting published, and the imagination was fueled by just life.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Erowin on 26 December, 2013, 20:35
Same thing happening now, only this time it's an alien craze.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ryu on 26 December, 2013, 22:36
People were just as gullible and superstitious then as they are today. It's nothing all that extraordinary really. Of course rampant ignorance helps too.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Jyre Cayce on 27 December, 2013, 6:44
because t.v wasn't invented yet, duh!


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