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?

The Supernatural World Offers Hope to Those in Doubt (con.)

Robert J. Thompson, in his introduction to The Proofs of Life After Death, affirmed this goal: “So a realization of the purport and value or necessity of this life must come from the final demonstration that there is continued life after this” (5). N.S. Shaler was a scientist and a professor at Harvard during the early 20th century; he did not necessarily agree with the findings of paranormal researchers. Nevertheless, he concurred with Thompson’s opinions on the value of the knowledge of the otherworldly in a chapter he wrote on the subject:

Nathaniel Shaler; the image is located in John H. Lienhard, “No. 712: Shaler and James,” Engines of Our Ingenuity website: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi712.htm (accessed 7/27/04).
Looking as we must do for a purpose that justifies to our understanding all this doing of Nature, is it not reasonable to suppose that one at least of the designed results is attained in the creation of these historic personalities? May we not fairly regard these persons as containing and preserving the permanent gain which comes from the work of the visible universe: as the indestructible profit of a work which otherwise would offend us by its apparent resultedness? (6).

Many of these people had even higher expectations. They argued that people who believed in the existence of the supernatural world make better citizens.






Last update 

September 8, 2004










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