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?

Ghosts: Transcending the Real

Stories about ghosts and other The cover of J.G. Bradley, “The Haunted Lake,” The Boys of New York, October 16, 1886; it is located in Stanford University’s Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls website: http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/home.html(accessed 7/27/04). supernatural ocurrences were fashionable with post-bellum Americans. Magazines and newspapers published numerous articles as well as works of fiction which dealt with haunted houses and the like. Americans could find a plethora of books dealing with the theme. The otherworldly was a favorite subject of dime novelists, whose inexpensive works of fiction “flourished from the middle to the close of the 19th century” (1).

Authors had any number of goals in mind when dealing with supernatural themes, such as informing the public about the ghosts and using the spirits realm as a way of promulgating a certain moral coda. However, the chief value for much of this literature lay in its ability to entertain. Ghost stories allowed readers to transcend the boundaries imposed by the material world. Living vicariously as spirits, they could do things such as fly through walls, hover above the ground, or become invisible when the need hit them.






Last update 

September 8, 2004











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