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 (con.)

Title page from 'The Haunted School-House at Newburyport, Mass.' (Boston: Loring, 1873) in Indiana University’s Library Text Resource Service: http://www.letrs.indiana.edu. Non-fiction, ghost stories were popular in part because they presented readers with an improvable reality. The uncertainty that Americans’ felt about the supernatural realm heightened the satisfaction that they derived from reading these tales, if for no other reason than this ambiguity contrasted with the often routine, mundane world that they lived in (3). The preface to The Haunted School-house at Newburyport, Mass., published in 1873, alluded to this tension:
“There are few matters relating to supernatural appearances of which one can write temperately or fairly, so strongly does the love of the marvelous or the hatred of the sham enter into the composition of the mind...” The writer then goes on to explain that he or she has transcribe the details of this haunting faithfully; however, the reader’s doubts have already been stoked (4). It is this fact, among other things, which heightened the curiosity of Victorian Americans concerning the spirit world.






Last update 

September 8, 2004











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