Ghosts pp 1-20 | Cite as

Introduction: A Future for Haunting

  • Peter Buse
  • Andrew Stott


Chances are, ghosts will make another comeback. For the time being, however, spectres, apparitions, phantoms and revenants have been eclipsed in the popular imagination by a rage for aliens, extra-terrestrials, conspiracy theories, Martian landings and all manner of paranormal occurrences apposite to millennial fever. In contrast, ghosts seem a little dated, paling in comparison with such sophisticated other-worldly phenomena. A solid core of psychical researchers, ghost-layers and ghost-hunters may remain, but the most dedicated enthusiasts are probably those who make their livings conducting ghost tours in medieval towns, and hosting guests in ‘haunted’ hotels. It is safe to say that to be interested in ghosts these days is decidedly anachronistic. Perhaps the nineteenth century, with its spiritualists, mediums, table-tilting séances, spirit-rapping, Ghost Club and Society for Psychical Research, was the most accommodating historical period for the ghosts which have fallen on hard times in the late twentieth century. And yet, it could also be argued that the nineteenth-century craze for ghosts was already an anachronism. If we follow Keith Thomas’s compelling thesis in Religion and the Decline of Magic, we should properly view as anachronistic any belief in ghosts after the Reformation, which, theologically speaking (for Protestants at least), put paid to the possibility of the return of the dead by dispensing with the concept of purgatory.1


Conspiracy Theory Popular Imagination Freudian Psychoanalysis Medieval Town Symbolic Practice 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Buse
  • Andrew Stott

There are no affiliations available

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