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?

Using Ghosts to Build Communities (con.)

“Julia Schlesinger’s 1896 address, titled ‘Practical Spiritualism,’ expressed these...values:”

See that your own life is pure, that your motives are unselfish, that your souls are full of love and charity for all humanity. Never lose an opportunity of saying a kind word, or reaching out a helping hand to any unfortunate struggling in the depths of despair, even though his own wrong-doing may have been the cause of his desolation and distress (15).

An immigrant laborer.  The image is from Donna R. Gabacia, “The Ellis Island Experience,” 'The Journal for Multimedia History' vol. 3 (2000): http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/ellis/ellis.html (accessed 7/27/04).<br>Others Spiritualists echoed similar themes. John Holland’s book, Spiritual or Magnetic Forces, sought to instill in his readership a “direct morality” which emphasized “...good works, friendship, and brotherly love...” (16). These individuals’ egalitarian beliefs often led them to defend the rights of wage earners, most likely increasing their popularity among the lower classes and tying them the communitarian ideals of unions like the Knights of Labor (17).

Many Americans, whether they believed in the supernatural world or not, attended séances, Halloween parties, and Spiritualist churches in part because these institutions and events satisfied their need for fellowship. A desire which only increased with the culture’s growing adherence to materialistic and individualistic doctrines. However, a large percentage of these people put their trust in mediums and Spiritualist preachers because they hoped to communicate with loved ones.






Last update 

September 8, 2004










ghost, supernatural, Spiritualism, antebellum, medium, materialization,
apparition, gothic, post-bellum, phantom, paranormal, 1800s, 1900s, Anthony Hopper, literature, growth,
industrialism, needs, psychical, psychic, afterlife, non-material, spirit, American, United States