A Ghost Report from the Memphis Daily Appeal on January 18, 1888

Spectral EditionA tenement house in Concord, New Hampshire, is riddled with inexplicable sounds: raps, whistles, groans, rattlings, and more.

More than one team of ghost hunters have spent the night at the house. But no physical cause for the disturbances could be found.

1884-1-18 p1 Memphis Daily Appeal [Tennessee]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

A Study in Head Scratching: Arthur Conan Doyle’s First Ghost Hunt

Ghostology 101aFor a while now, I’ve been interested in the ghost hunts conducted by Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Lately I’ve been focusing on his first investigation, probably conducted in 1894, but trying to sort out the facts has left me scratching my head. There are a few different, incompatible versions of the ghost hunt.

Let’s start with Doyle himself. In a book titled The New Revelation (1918), he prefaces a personal anecdote by saying, “About 1891, I had joined the Psychical Research Society. . . . ” He then reminisces:

It was about this time I had an interesting experience, for I was one of three delegates sent by the Psychical Research Society to sit up in a haunted house in Dorsetshire. It was one of these poltergeist cases, where noises and foolish tricks had gone on for some years. . . . On the first night nothing occurred. On the second, there were tremendous noises, sounds like someone beating a table with a stick. We had, of course, taken every precaution, and could not explain the noises; but at the same time we could not swear that some ingenious practical joke had not been played upon us.

Continue reading “A Study in Head Scratching: Arthur Conan Doyle’s First Ghost Hunt”

A Ghost Report from the Daily Capital Journal on April 21, 1910

Spectral EditionThe devastating 1906 earthquake in the Bay Area of San Fransisco destroyed the library at Stanford University.

Four years later, odd noises — clankings and groanings — were reported to be rising from the library’s ruins.

University officials took the reports seriously enough that they posted a night watchman.

1910-04-21 p2 Daily Captial Journal [Salem, Oregon]

Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

I’m Haunted by the Dickens – Howitt Ghost Debate

Ghostology 101a

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a feisty exchange between Charles Dickens and William Howitt that was intermingled with Dickens’s far-from-productive ghost hunt. Although it’s really no more than a footnote in Dickens’s life, I’ve become fascinated by trying to document what led up to the public skirmish. Here’s what I’ve found.

It seem that the trouble began in 1859, when Dickens published a series of anonymous articles in All the Year Round, his new journal following Household Words. That series was titled “A Physician’s Ghosts,” and Parts I and II appeared on August 6, Part III on August 13, and Part IV on August 27. Previously, Dickens had had a cordial relationship with Howitt, having published his writing in Household Worlds. Howitt was not pleased with “A Physician’s Ghosts,” however.

Continue reading “I’m Haunted by the Dickens – Howitt Ghost Debate”

A Ghost Report from the Columbia Democrat and Star of the North on November 7, 1866

Spectral Edition

One of the earliest ghost reports in my collection features a haunted house in Massachusetts.

There’s not much information on exactly what kind of manifestations have been witnessed there.

But its reputation for evil persists.

1866-11-07 p1 Columbia Democrat and Star of the North [Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

A Ghost Report from the Holbrook Argus on September 28, 1901

Spectral EditionA New Jersey tenement is reportedly haunted by the spirit of murder victim Pietro Pasquillo.

Among the the strange manifestations is the faucets being turned on throughout the building all at once.

Is Pasquillo trying to wash away the blood?

1901-09-28 p3 Holbrook Argus [Arizonia]

Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

Charles Dickens, Ghost Hunter? Well…

Ghostology 101a

From A Christmas Carol to “The Signal-Man” and beyond, several gripping ghost stories came from the pen of Charles Dickens. Though a steadfast skeptic when it came to real hauntings, he maintained an interest in the possibility. At one point, he even attempted to become a bona fide ghost hunter. Sadly, the adventure was disappointing and short lived.

It seems that, as 1859 came to a close, Dickens had gotten into a public debate over ghosts with a more confirmed ghost hunter named William Howitt. Previously, the two had had a friendly working relationship. Dickens, editor of Household Words, had accepted stories and other kinds of writing by Howitt, but none of this material was related to the supernatural. Their more heated exchange about ghosts took place in a journal called The Critic, which I haven’t been able to locate online. It would be interesting stuff to read, sort of a precursor to the squabbles between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle about fifty years later — and Agents Scully and Mulder long after that. One can find a hint of the debate, though, in an article in The Spiritualist Magazine, published in early 1860. This journal upholds the believers’ position, first challenging Dickens’s skepticism by referring to some of his fiction and ending by reprinting one of Howitt’s letters from The Critic.

Continue reading “Charles Dickens, Ghost Hunter? Well…”

A Ghost Report from the Webster City Freeman on February 20, 1912

Spectral EditionSome ghost reports end with a physical explanation.

This one, for example, provides a convincing — if disappointing — reason for the ghostly lights that appeared in a cemetery in Ireton, Iowa.

I hope the brave investigators slept well that night.

1912-02-20 p6 Webster City Freeman [Iowa]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

A Ghost Report from the Iron Country Register on June 18, 1891

Spectral EditionGhosts are said to be cold.

They can freeze a person right where they are, so it’s said.

But for Mr. and Mrs. Shea of St. Joseph, Missouri, the icy touch of a ghost literally caused their arms to become paralyzed.

1891-06-18 p2 Iron County Register [Ironton, Missouri]Each Wednesday, I post an actual ghost report from a U.S. newspaper published between 1865 and 1918. You can also hear me read the articles on The Big Séance and the History Goes Bump podcasts — or listen to previously released recordings here.

Dents: In the History of Occult Detective Fiction — and in My Poor Heart

Unearthing the Unearthly

It looks as though my Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives might have made a dent in a scholarly treatment of the evolution of this body of fiction. I’ve added a new source to my Critical Histories of Occult Detective Fiction page, and it certainly appears to have been partly shaped by the work that I’ve reported here at The Merry Ghost Hunter.

That source is Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend (Greenwood, 2016), an encyclopedia that covers topics ranging from Animal Ghosts and Blithe Spirit to What Lies Beneath and the Witch of Endor. Though editors June Michele Pulliam and Anthony J. Fonseca have cast a wide net — and inevitably many ghostly topics will slip through the holes of that net — it is certainly a work that’s relevant to the interests of visitors to The Merry Ghost Hunter.

Continue reading “Dents: In the History of Occult Detective Fiction — and in My Poor Heart”