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?

A New, Scary World: Post-bellum America (con.)

According to historian Alan Trachtenberg, “…[E]conomic incorporation wrenched American society from the moorings of familiar values,…the process proceeded by contradiction and conflict” (6). Within three generations, the vast majority of Americans went from producing their own goods to buying most of what they needed from others (7). Millions, whether foreign or domestic born, left their farms and moved to the cities where they toiled at low paying jobs in factories and in related industries (8). They had to deal with significant changes in their daily lives brought about by altered communication and transportation structures (9). Most importantly, new materialist ideologies began to challenge deeply rooted Christian beliefs in God and the afterlife, which had provided generations of Americans with a purpose for living and dying. While many individuals took these changes in stride, others did not (10). They worried about their place in a world that had grown beyond their comprehension, and about their chances of surviving in some form after the demise of their physical bodies (11).






Last update 

September 8, 2004












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