3 December 2012


I have just uploaded a new piece onto the Magonia Archive website, The Manchester Ghosts of 1861. This is a further examination of nineteenth century ghost accounts from the original newspaper sources, compiled by Peter Rogerson. It gives accounts of two hauntings in the Manchester area in 1861. One is an early example of the 'haunted inn' stereotype, which gave rise to what Roger Clarke in the latest Fortean Times (296) describes as a 'ghost mob' with huge crowds of people descending onto the haunted location, often leading to near-riots.

In that article Clarke suggests that these 'flash-mobs' were largely a feature of poor working class areas, and notes examples in Bermondsey and the St Giles rookery in London. He points out that there has always been an element of class-consciousness about alleged hauntings, with them being more accepted by the lower and upper classes of society, rather than the middle classes - "professional sceptics are usually drawn from this stratum of society". This division manifests itself in the nature of haunted locations - the stately home or castle at one extreme, the pub and council house at the other.
I'm not sure this is altogether the case, as in the Victorian era there was a distinctly middle-class genre of haunted house, the short-term let to a professional family. Peter has described one such case in his piece Images of Imogen. Here the family is a temporary intrusion into the house, they are as transient as the ghosts themselves:
The anonymous Victorian ghost flitting through the house reflected the breakup of the traditional home held for generations. The Victorian family, drifting from one leased house to another, were strangers in their own residences. The servants often had far more intimate connection with the house than their masters; they were part of the local community and its repository of folk history. Ghost Writers, Magonia 11, 1982
 Roger Clarke's interesting article is an extract form his forthcoming book A Natural History of Ghosts, 500 Years of Hunting for Proof, which we hope to be reviewing in the near future. Peter has one or two more pieces in preparation, digging through the haunted wing of the newspaper archives, which I shall post on the Magonia Archive, and give notice on this Blog when they are ready -- John Rimmer

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