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?

Entertainers Cash in on the Supernatural

Booksellers and newspaper publishers were not the only ones who tried to entertain people via supernatural themes. Mediums were doing a booming business in the post-bellum era. Part of these people’s appeal lay in their supposed abilities to contact dead relatives or friends; however, séances and other events connected with the supernatural also provided Americans with a form of entertainment.

Many mediums catered to Americans’ desire for amusement. Whether in a house or in an auditorium, a séance could take on a circus like atmosphere with the individual in charge producing a range of logic defying effects. Men and women could escape from their mundane world, for at least a while, and revel in the thrill of seeing a phantasm fly across the room or a "Psychic researchers investigating a female medium, July 1897", located in Anne Harney and Leigh McCuen 'Beyond the Grave: A Brief History of Spirit Photography:' http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/exhibits/spirits/index.htm (accessed 7/28/04). voice seemingly come out of nowhere. An 1865 New York Times news piece referred to séances as sources of “amusement (1).” The November 27, 1904 issue of The Washington Post knew exactly where to put an article on an upcoming “entertaining” séance—in the Entertainment Section (2). Advertisements for these events trumpeted their entertainment value. One such newspaper ad emphasized the special effects that the spirit conjurer would use (or perhaps call into existence). A testimonial on the bottom of this document resembled a movie review: “’Miss Fay’s séance at Hooley’s Theatre last night was the best we ever saw on any public stage.’—Chicago Times(3).






Last update 

September 8, 2004










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