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 as a Means for Restoring Lost Faith

A cemetery marker; the Image is located in “Cemeterio General, San Jose, Costa Rica (2003),” Daniel W. Koon’s homepage: http://it.stlawu.edu/~koon/cr/10%20Cemetery/Cemetery%202.htm (accessed 7/26/04). Many Americans living in the latter half of the 19th and in the early part of the 20th centuries believed in the supernatural because this action helped to reinforce their religious convictions. This prop was especially useful in counteracting the materialist and amoral influences of science and technology (1). J. H. Hyslop, a professor at Columbia University and head of the American Center for Psychical Research in 1909, echoed the sentiments of others when he stated that, "[e]very institution connected with social, moral, and religious life must be profoundly affected, whether for good or ill, by such an assurance as may be given by psychical research of a future life, the doubt about which has turned the aspirations of modern civilization from the moral to the economic ideal" (2).

Academics were not the only ones who held out the hope that people would regain their moral footing if science was able to validate the claims of mediums and of witnesses to hauntings. The Atlantic published articles in its December 1874 and in its January 1875 issues which lauded the claims of Katie King, a medium who supposedly conjured up spirits for her audiences.







Last update 

September 8, 2004










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