The Victorians were simply obsessed by the supernatural; it pervaded all realms of life. People routinely believed in ghosts, fairies, the possibility of psychic phenomena and telepathy. There was also a popular belief that it was possible to communicate with the dead, by the use of such means: as Ouija boards, table knocking, and automatic writing. Many different strange and fanciful occult and spiritual religions took hold during this time period and the idea that a person could have visions and see the future was commonly believed.
Ghost stories were fashionable and a common part of the Victorian culture. Charles Dickens wrote quite a few and so did Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Charles Dickens was deeply fascinated by the occult and mesmerism, and had the idea that he himself could heal the sick if they entered a trace like hypnotic state. Strangely however, Dickens was also in many ways very rational and a skeptic. Another well known author, famous for the logical and a rational character of Sherlock Holmes, was Sir Arthur Conon Doyle. And while Holmes believed in rationality and evidence, his creator, Conon Doyle actually believed in fairies, and that he had the ability to communicate thoughts with his mind.
Life After Death and Fraudsters
The Victorians were consumed and fascinated with death, so it is not surprising, that they were also infatuated with the idea, of proving the existence of life after the physical death of the body. However, as the spiritualism movement and interest in the ability of mediums to communicate with the dead gained momentum, some ridiculous frauds were perpetrated. For example the Fox sisters used "rappings" to convince their older sister and others, that they were communicating with spirits. The sisters, managed to become successful and famous and make a pile of money. However in 1888, one of the sisters Margaret, confessed that the rapping were all a hoax and publicly demonstrated their method. This ruined the reputation of the Fox sisters and brought about their downfall. In five years they all died, in extreme poverty and in disgrace. But spiritualism contined to grow in popularity.
Spiritualism and the Victorian entrancement with the supernatural, paradoxically was probably not only popular as a source of comfort and hope for a life after death, but in part, may have been inspired by the many amazing scientific discoveries of the times. Advances like electricity for example, when you think about it, must have seemed like a form of magic to the impressed, astonished and ultimately hopeful Victorians.
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