A Long History

Rise of Spiritualism

Industrial Revolution

Industrialism and Ghosts

Post-bellum America

Supernatural and Hope

Supernatural Restores Faith

Ghosts Build Communities

Comfort to Bereaved

Why the Supernatural was Entertaining

Transcending the Real

Ghosts and Mystery

Ghosts and Thrills

Entertainers Cash In

Laughing at Ghosts 

Anthony Hopper






















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Why Were Americans Interested in the Supernatural?

Industrialism Fuels Americans' Interest in Ghosts (continued)

Harry Houdini--known for his great escapes and for his ability to uncover fraudulent mediums; the image is located in the Public Radio website: http://www.njn.net/television/highlights/december01/houdini.html (accessed 7/26/04). Many Americans believed in the supernatural world because this faith helped buttress religious beliefs that were being challenged by the growth of materialism and by advances in technology. Others went further and attempted to prove the existence of ghosts using empirical processes; they were enthusiasts who believed that science could once and for all determine the existence (or non-existence) of the spiritual world. In an age that witnessed the invention of electricity and the airplane among other marvels, these men and women believed that it might be possible to provide hard evidence or lack thereof for the existence of an afterlife. One other group was also keenly interested in the paranormal. They were the skeptics who made a life's work out of debunking the claims of mediums and psychical researchers. Driven by these goals, ghost enthusiasts of all stripes in post-bellum America created a large, consumption community centered around things that went bump in the night.






Last update 

September 8, 2004











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