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?

Comfort to the Bereaved

The living family (the Hutchinsons). The image is from the 1800s and is located in 'Cider Press: 19th Century American Sheet Music' (Amaranth Publishing, 2003): http://www.nationwide.net/~amaranth/19thCentury.htm. People in all eras have most likely formed strong connections with family and have often suffered mightily when these loved ones passed away. Americans living in the latter half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries were no different. In fact, their suffering was sometimes intensified by their spiritual doubts. In The Dead Have Never Died, Edward Randall echoed these concerns:

In the beginning I looked upon the death change with horror. I recall the casket containing the mortal remains of my mother lowered into a grave on a bleak April day, the pitiless rain, the biting winds, the lowering clouds. After the frozen earth had fallen into the open grave, I, a boy, walked alone, and then and there resolved that I would never rest content until I had solved the problem there presented and come to know,--if it was given man to learn,--something of that great change (1).
A photo of a series of tombstones from the late 1800s. It is from Lynn Rainville, “New England Deathscapes:” http://www.faculty.sbc.edu/lrainville/Hanover%20Cemeteries/introdeath.html (accessed 7/27/04).Randall was not alone either in his suffering or in his desire to ascertain for certain whether or not his mother continued to survive in some form. The popularity of his books and others like it, such as Looking Beyond: A Souvenir of Love to the Bereft of Every Home by J.O Barrett, demonstrated that many, post-bellum Americans’ were anxious about the state of their deceased loved ones (2). These people no longer worried as much about whether the decedents went to Heaven or Hell, they fretted more over whether the departed went anywhere.






Last update 

September 8, 2004










ghost, supernatural, Spiritualism, antebellum, medium, materialization,
apparition, gothic, post-bellum, phantom, paranormal, 1800s, 1900s, Anthony Hopper, literature, growth,
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