Planning My Poe-grimage and New Documents on the Dickens-Howitt Ghost Debate

Ghostology 101aPartly due to superstition and partly for practical reasons, I’ve been very quiet about a book that I’ve been writing. After working on it in small increments for what has to be at least four years, I’m nearing the end of it.

And this book involves Edgar Allan Poe. To spur the book’s completion, I’m off on a Poe-centered vacation to Richmond, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, in a few days. (Though he lived elsewhere, Poe spent most of his life in Richmond and Baltimore.) I’ve dubbed this journey my “Poe-grimage” because — let’s face it — I’m adorable. I plan to chronicle the trip via Facebook and Instagram. Feel free to follow me there. Continue reading “Planning My Poe-grimage and New Documents on the Dickens-Howitt Ghost Debate”

4-Question Interview: Josh Reynolds

present-tensionsI have a special fondness for the characters and world that Josh Reynolds has created for this Royal Occultist series. Its interplay of history, mystery, supernatural chills, and a good bit of humor, I hope, are key ingredients of my own Vera Van Slyke ghostly mysteries. And while Vera, no doubt, would have much to discuss with Charles St. Cyprian, the spotlighted holder of the position of Royal Occultist, I’d much rather see her share a beer with Ebe Gallowglass, St. Cyprian’s snarly assistant.

But I’ll let Josh clarify what I’m talking about.

Continue reading “4-Question Interview: Josh Reynolds”

An American Ghost Gallery: The Mapleton Ghost

Spectral Edition

Let me begin by stating that the ghost seen by rail passengers leaving Coney Island in August of 1894 proved to be a hoax. A very cruel hoax, too, given that it occurred in the spot where the body of suicide victim Margaret Barning had been found only days earlier. But it was this suicide that spurred people in and around Mapleton, New Jersey, to believe that what they saw was indeed the lingering spirit of a young woman who suffered a tragic death.

On Sunday, August 5th, 1894, Maggie Barning shot herself near the Mapleton railroad station. She was twenty-six years old. An article in New York’s The Evening World explains that her body hadn’t been identified until Wednesday. On Friday, according to The Sun, “scores of people on the Sea Beach train which left Coney Island at 1 o’clock” witnessed an apparition while passing the spot where Barning’s body had been found. A “tall and shadowylike” figure approached, “gesticulating as one would do trying to stop a train.” Blowing the whistle and applying the brakes didn’t stop the ghostly figure from continuing into a nearby woods, all the while moving its arms as if frantically bidding someone to follow.

Continue reading “An American Ghost Gallery: The Mapleton Ghost”

4-Question Interview: Bob Freeman

present-tensionsI do a lot with early occult detectives and ghost hunters here at The Merry Ghost Hunter. I want to make space for new authors, too. Along with reviews of recently published adventures, I plan to include interviews. These interviews will pose the same four questions, which leads to the ingenious title for the series: 4-Question Interview.

It makes perfect sense to start with Bob Freeman. His excellent website, after all, is Bob Freeman: The Occult Detective. There, one can find not only original occult detective fiction, but also a good deal of information about the cross-genre in general. Bob also posts many of his impressive illustrations. And, each year, he gives virtual awards for novels, short stories, comics, television shows, meritorious service, and more. Though he’s created several fictional characters and worlds — including those found in the realm of federal agents, Wolfe & Crowe  — I asked Bob to focus on his other occult detective character, Landon Connors.

Continue reading “4-Question Interview: Bob Freeman”

A Ghost Report from the Iola Register on June 22, 1888

Spectral EditionOn August 13, 1887, Adam Volkavitch and Stanislas Bioski were seen together. The next day, Bioski was found with pistol wounds, lying on the train tracks. He died two days later.

Volkavitch was convicted of murder and then hanged in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on April 3, 1888.

But the man’s wandering spirit was said to linger in the prison.

1888-06-22 p2 Iola Register [Kansas]

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.

William F. Barrett: A Solid Ghost Hunter

Ghostology 101a

By trade, William F. Barrett (1844-1925) was a physicist. He taught the subject at Ireland’s Royal College of Science, and his professional accomplishments earned him places in organizations ranging from the Royal Society and the Institute of Electrical Engineers to the Philosophical Society and the Royal Society of Literature.  If you wish to get a sense of the state of physics at the close of the 1800s, you might take a look at Practical Physics: An Introductory Handbook for the Physical Laboratory (1898), which Barrett co-wrote.

However, Barrett is probably better remembered today for his explorations on the borders of the physical realm: telepathy, Spiritualism, even dowsing. In addition, he was a key figure in the founding of the Society for Psychical Research in both the U.K. and the U.S. Like his fellow scientists on both sides of the psychical pond, he was accused of gullibility — of being too eager to believe in the phenomena he was investigating. Nonetheless, such accusations seemed not to deter his desire to extend scientific study into these fringe subjects.

Continue reading “William F. Barrett: A Solid Ghost Hunter”

Sarah P.E. Hawthorne’s Mr. Curtis: Poster Boy for Novice Occult Detectives

Unearthing the Unearthly

I added yet another character to the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives a few days ago. His name is Mr. Curtis, and he’s one of the fairly few occult detectives who’s also a professional detective (albeit in the crime-solving business).

For a moment, I wondered if he might be the list’s first professional detective. But, no, this honor belongs to Mr. Burton from Seeley Regester’s The Dead Letter, which was published in 1866.  Mr. Curtis appeared in 1888 in Sarah P.E. Hawthorne’s short story “The Ghost of the Grate.” Still, unlike Burton’s use of his daughter’s clairvoyance and his own semi-psychic abilities to conduct a criminal investigation, Curtis confronts a supernatural manifestation — and he accepts the reality of it before solving the mystery. In fact, in the concluding paragraph of his first-person narrative, he says: “I had never been a believer in the supernatural, and this was my first and only experience with the great unexplainable.”

Continue reading “Sarah P.E. Hawthorne’s Mr. Curtis: Poster Boy for Novice Occult Detectives”

A Ghost Report from the Bisbee Daily Review on September 11, 1909

Spectral EditionA ghostly light has been appearing nightly in Northbridge, Massachusetts.

An assembly of 200 people witnessed the phenomenon, and many were terrified by it.

It was seen to vanish into a pond. Does the spirit of an undiscovered drowning victim seek help from the living?

1909-09-11 p3 Bisbee Daily Review [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.

A Ghost Report from the St. Paul Daily Globe on September 24, 1891

Spectral Edition

A Mississippi farmer is the victim of more than just a ghost out for revenge. This ghost is on a rampage.

Livestock and dogs are being killed, and the farmer himself was attacked in the dark.

His little daughter, though, can see the ghost — and she seems safe from it.

1891-09-24 p12 St. Paul Daily Globe [Minnesota]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.