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Life after Spiritualism: Victorian Women’s Ghost Stories

  • Diana Basham
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Abstract

The Victorians not only loved ghost stories, they specialised in the production of a specific kind of ghost. This was not the materialising spirit of the seance with its ready availability and its easy chatter. Instead, accounts emerging from notoriously haunted sites such as Borley Rectory, Willington Mill, and Pittsville in Cheltenham repeatedly testify to the presence of a ghostly lady wearing a drab-coloured costume and generally exhibiting symptoms of an inarticulate distress. Edmund Drury, the skeptical investigator of Willington Mill, described his intense horror at encountering a manifestation of this kind. He saw, emerging from a closet, ‘the figure of a female attired in greyish garments, with the head inclining downwards, and one hand pressed upon the chest, as if in pain, and the other … extending towards the floor, with the index finger pointing downwards’.3 Others spoke of similar encounters. The ghost was ‘sometimes seen sitting wrapt in a sort of mantle, with her head depressed, and her hands crossed on her lap. The most terrible fact is that she is without eyes’.4

Keywords

Open Door Woman Question Conscious Personality Dead Mother Psychic Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 6.
    J. S. Mill, The Subjection of Women (Virago, 1983), p. 128.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    See Cathrine Crowe, The Night-Side of Nature; or, Ghosts and Ghost-Seers 1848 (Aquarian Press; 1986), p. 190–4.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    W. T. Stead, Real Ghost Stories (London: Grant Richards,. 1897), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    See Hester Burton, Barbara Bodichon (John Murray, 1949), pp. 44–7.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    Margaret Oliphant, ‘The Open door’, in A Century of Thrillers (London, 1934), p. 1038.Google Scholar
  6. 29.
    Amelia B. Edwards, ‘The Phantom Coach’, in Montague Summers (ed.), The Supernatural Omnibus (Victor Gollancz, 1956), p. 133.Google Scholar
  7. 35.
    Amelia B. Edwards, Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: a midsummer ramble in the Dolomites (London, 1873).Google Scholar
  8. 41.
    See Merryn Williams, Margaret Oliphant: A Critical Biography (Macmillan, 1986), p. 46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 52.
    Margaret Oliphant, A Beleaguered City (London: Macmillan, 1892), pp. 74–5.Google Scholar
  10. 63.
    Margaret Oliphant, ‘The Open Door’, in James Agate (ed.), A Century of Thrillers (London, 1934), p. 997.Google Scholar
  11. 75.
    Peter Gunn, Vernon Lee (Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 129.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Diana Basham 1992

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  • Diana Basham

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