Victorian Ghost Stories

Sally Painter
Contributor: Heather Long

Victorian Ghost Stories

Victorian ghost stories reflect a golden age of the paranormal. In fact, Victorian society loved spooky stories and devoured stories of darkness and light as quickly as they were published. The greatest ghost story of this age was penned by Charles Dickens. His tale, A Christmas Carol, remains one of the most retold Victorian ghost stories of all time.

The White Lady

The tale of the White Lady is found throughout the regions of Great Britain and the United States. It's said that sometime during the 1800s, the White Lady lost her children. Different versions claim it was due to a disaster, a murder or that the children simply disappeared.

In all cases, she wandered the rest of her life in search of her children. In nearly all versions of this Victorian ghost story, she either died from a broken heart or committed suicide. After death, the White Lady continued her search in spirit form. She's reported to be kind to women and children, but vengeful towards men.

The Bell Witch

The Bell Witch was one of the most famous Victorian ghost stories. This 1817 Tennessee folklore pre-dates the Victorian Era.

The tale is so pervasive that several films have been made about the Bell family and their encounters with the witch.

Every family member was affected, including the Bell children, who had various communications from the spirit. The property that the family owned continues to receive visitors to this day; all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Bell Witch.

Marie Laveau

In the 1800s, Marie Laveau was a well-known Creole voodou (also voodoo) practitioner from New Orleans. Marie and her daughter (also known as Marie Laveau) were held in high regard within the Cajun and Creole communities. Their magic and their spectacles were a sight to behold, but the legend of Marie Laveau took on a new layer after her death in 1881 at the age of 98 (or so it is believed). Many residents, friends, acquaintances, and even those who only knew of her reputation, swore they saw the Voodou Queen strolling through New Orleans. Bad men and women were well-advised to stay out of her path.

Ghost of Drury Lane

Ever since it was built in the early 1800s, Drury Lane has been known as London's most haunted theater. It's said that many ghostly figures are permanent residents. Many buildings, homes and theaters once stood on the same ground, but Drury Lane has survived the longest. Among some of its most prominent ghosts is the Man in Grey who appears dressed in eighteenth century clothing. Other ghosts seen in the theater include those of actors who died while performing in or around the theater itself.

The Lincoln Bedroom

This favorite Victorian ghost story continues into the twenty-first century. The room in the White House known as the Lincoln Bedroom was actually President Lincoln's office during his presidency. After his death, it was rumored that his ghost could be felt pacing the room and even seen in other areas of the White House. In more recent history, people who've reported seeing him include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and First Ladies Grace Coolidge and Eleanor Roosevelt. To this day, the sense of Lincoln's presence is so strong that many who visit the Lincoln Bedroom leave as believers in ghosts.

Ghosts of Spirit Cabinet Séances

One of the strangest ghostly phenomena to come out of the Victorian Era of Spiritualism was spirit cabinet séances. All types of ghost stories surrounded this odd form of medium showmanship. The original creation of the famous magicians, the Davenport Brothers, was eagerly adapted by mediums for spirit cabinet séances. The medium was tied up and restrained inside the cabinet, while all manner of paranormal activity ensued from ghost faces emerging from the cabinet, to ghost hands, ectoplasm, and disembodied voices. Those in attendance swore they'd witnessed ghosts and spirits, while much of the performance was done in the dark by cabinet attendants who used all manner of props.

Headless Woman at Crossroads

One night in January 1898, the ghost of a headless woman was encountered by two local men. Olivia Thomson was exploring British newspaper articles when she came upon the report. The men were riding in a horse-drawn trap when a headless woman dressed in black appeared, blocking their path along a deserted crossroads near Buckingham. The startled horse halted and backed up, pushing the trap into the ditch. The ghost disappeared, but as the men righted the trap and resumed their journey, the dark haunting figure once more blocked their path. Eventually, the ghost appeared to float away from the road and vanished. Olivia writes that section of the road was avoided by the locals for some time after the incident.

Dancing Ghost of Benjamin Franklin

In the late 1800s, the first sightings of Benjamin Franklin's ghost wandering about the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were reported. The many sightings varied in detail. One report declared that Franklin's toga wearing statue high above the arched doorway suddenly came to life, jumped down from its perch and proceeded to dance about the streets.

Victorian Ghost Stories: Fact or Fiction?

Victorian ghost stories come in all shapes and sizes that include tales of loss, murder, hauntings, and terror. The Victorian era was at the height of spiritualism both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Many searched for answers through literature (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula), the occult, and mediums who claimed to communicate with those in the afterlife.

Sally Painter
Contributor: Heather Long
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Victorian Ghost Stories