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?

Industrialism Fuels Americans' Interest in Ghosts

The Industrial Revolution contributed to the increased popularity of the otherworldly. For one thing, the growth of consumption communities provided large markets for a variety of goods, including books on ghosts, especially inexpensive dime novels (1). New, speedier forms of transportation and communication which came into their own after the Photograph of a ouija board from the 1890s. The image is located in The Museum of Talking Boards website: http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/gal1.html. Civil War allowed mediums and others interested in the the spirit realm to disseminate their ideas to a wider audience than in previous generations (2). Traditional newspapers and magazines, which “flooded homes and newsstands...by 1905,” carried thousands of stories dealing with ghosts, séances, and other aspects of the paranormal (3). These stories, regardless of their biases, “[brought] ghosts to public attention...” (4). Corporations contributed to this trend by mass producing games, such as the ouija board (pictured on the right) that had supernatural themes (5).

An ad for medium, Eva Fay,from “Miss Anna Eva Fay,” 'The Washington Post,' December 19, 1886, 5.Mediums and others whose livelihoods were dependent on public enthusiasm for things that went bump in the night took advantage of the growing power of the print media by advertising in newspapers (6). These people also used relatively time worn methods of spreading their otherworldly wares such as “pamphlets, tracts,...and handbills” (7). They joined with Spiritualists to found churches based around the idea that communication with the dead was possible, and they created periodicals which were dedicated solely to exploring supernatural themes (8). Both its proponents and skeptics offered lectures and demonstrations, often to large crowds (9).








Last update 

September 8, 2004










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apparition, gothic, post-bellum, phantom, paranormal, 1800s, 1900s, Anthony Hopper, literature, growth,
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