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?

Ghost Stories Appeal to Americans' Love of Mystery

Authors of both fiction and non-fiction works took advantage of the supernatural world’s ability to transcend the real to create an air of uncertainty. Their ghostly characters often harbored secrets that had gone undetected by those in the material realm. Other books left readers in doubt as to whether or not the phantom actually existed or was simply Title page from J. R. Robertson, 'The Brinkley Female College Ghost Story: The Finding of the Mysterious Jar It’s Opening and Contents, A Thrilling Narrative, Based Upon Facts' (Memphis: R.C. Floyd, 1871) the product of the human mind. Writers used these aspects of the supernatural to craft stories which satisfied Americans’ craving for excitement.

Sometimes in these novels the spirits of the dead alone held the key to solving murders or other vile deeds occurring in the long forgotten past. Their ghostly secrets were the key mechanism driving the readers' suspense. “The Ghost of Morcar’s Tower,” which first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine and was reprinted by the New York Times, represented one such case. In this story, the ghost tried to inform the protagonist about a murder that occurred many years before (1). The tales made use of the unknown, in this case the knowledge that the apparition might possess, to help it build the suspense. The Brinkley Female College Ghost Story relied on a similar method for keeping its audience interested. The phantom first appeared to the young college student seemingly out of nowhere. The materialization creates a number of unanswered questions, which would not have arisen had the young woman come into contact with a living human being (2).







Last update 

September 8, 2004










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