In the supernatural history of the world there are few things more common than the belief in ghosts. From the earliest recorded writings such as the Epic of Gilgamesh to twenty-first-century ghost-hunting TV shows, ghosts have been part of almost every time and every culture . . . and yet there’s very little evidence to support their existence.
Ghosts: A Supernatural History is a historical and global exploration of these mysterious apparitions. It asks: What exactly is a ghost? Are poltergeists, wraiths and revenants technically ghosts? How does ‘ghost’ relate to ‘soul’? And how many different kinds of ghost are there? It visits the spirits of the classical world, including the Egyptian five-part soul and the first haunted-house comedy play, Mostellaria by Plautus (254–184 BCE). We encounter the frightening phantoms of the Middle Ages – which might incinerate priests or devour children – and the nineteenth-century rise of Spiritualism – essentially a religion devoted to ghosts. Ghosts are everywhere: from India’s bhūta to the Hungry Ghost Festival in China and Mexico’s La Llorona legend, as well as the Bell Witch of the American South and ‘the most haunted house in England’, Borley Rectory.
Ghosts also delves into the history of the spirit on page and screen. How did Horace Walpole’s pioneering Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto of 1764 lead to the 2007 hit film Paranormal Activity? Classic ghost tales, from Ann Radcliffe’s works to the chilling short stories of M. R. James and Stephen King’s The Shining, reveal how the real meaning of ghosts has shifted over the centuries. Wide-ranging, informative and featuring 60 chilling, unearthly images, this book will appeal to the very wide audience for the supernatural.