Just as the present, so was the past. During the Victorian era there were many staunchly religious folks. Just as there were many prudes, that brought about the now common,if inaccurate, stereotype. Such enclaves of society were intermingled with seedy opium dens and numerous unsavory characters. There was a huge interest in the occult, such as the Ouija Board (popularized in the 1890s but based off talking-boards of the 1880s) and other ways to communicate with spirits long since past for closure, advice on the future, and sometimes for truly nefarious means.
Séances, mediums, and other spiritual endeavors caught the public’s attention in the 19th century. At the height of such popularity it was typically seen as a means of entertainment, akin to watching a horror movie or reading an engrossing fantasy novel where belief is suspended for a short period of time. Of course, there are many others who took such practices very seriously as well as the hoards of quacks who were in it for the money.
Modern day obsession with the paranormal, the veil, and psychic-phenomena is not entirely new. Some say it has not been previously “open to the public” quite as it was in the past. However, I disagree. The format, naturally, was different (no television for instance) and consequently did not reach millions in a single moment (they weren’t millions of viewers to a reading). Either way humanity strives to understand and harness the power of the unknown or the newly discovered; millennia after millennia, year after year.
For entertainment’s sake, could you imagine if Ghost Adventures took place in the Victorian London?! Three gentlemen in frock coats and top hats, speaking the Queen’s English going into asylums and provoking the madmen that linger? I bet it would have been a highly rated television show back in the 1800s if such a thing existed.
Dear Readers, do you believe in ghosts? Angels?? Foreknowledge???