Ghost-hunters and psychical research in interwar England

Timms, Joanna (2012) Ghost-hunters and psychical research in interwar England. History Workshop Journal, 74 1: 89-104. doi:10.1093/hwj/dbs016


Author Timms, Joanna
Title Ghost-hunters and psychical research in interwar England
Journal name History Workshop Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1363-3554
1477-4569
Publication date 2012-01-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/hwj/dbs016
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 74
Issue 1
Start page 89
End page 104
Total pages 16
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Subject 1202 History
1207 History and Philosophy of Science
Abstract This article, by the late Joanna Timms, examines the relation between popular 'ghost-hunting' - typically the pursuit of eccentric aristocrats and opportunistic journalists - and scientific psychical research in interwar England. Scholars of the history of English hauntings have demonstrated that belief in ghosts often mirrors social values and reflects the cultural trends of the age in which it arises. Scholars of the history of psychical research, in contrast, have focused upon the intellectual nature of the discipline, overlooking the important dynamic between psychical research and popular ghost-hunting. The present account builds upon the work of scholars from both fields to elucidate the practice of popular ghost-hunting in interwar England and to highlight its largely unexplored intersection with psychical research.It focuses on the way in which psychical researcher Harry Price persevered in trying to establish ghost-hunting as a legitimate science while at the same time playing to its popular appeal. Price's efforts allow historians to trace some preliminary connections between the ideas and practices of the 'occult' in the period and broader themes such as the relation between heritage and modernization and the public perception of science and the supernatural.
Formatted abstract
This article, by the late Joanna Timms, examines the relation between popular ‘ghost-hunting’ – typically the pursuit of eccentric aristocrats and opportunistic journalists – and scientific psychical research in interwar England. Scholars of the history of English hauntings have demonstrated that belief in ghosts often mirrors social values and reflects the cultural trends of the age in which it arises. Scholars of the history of psychical research, in contrast, have focused upon the intellectual nature of the discipline, overlooking the important dynamic between psychical research and popular ghost-hunting. The present account builds upon the work of scholars from both fields to elucidate the practice of popular ghost-hunting in interwar England and to highlight its largely unexplored intersection with psychical research.

It focuses on the way in which psychical researcher Harry Price persevered in trying to establish ghost-hunting as a legitimate science while at the same time playing to its popular appeal. Price’s efforts allow historians to trace some preliminary connections between the ideas and practices of the ‘occult’ in the period and broader themes such as the relation between heritage and modernization and the public perception of science and the supernatural.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2013 Collection
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
 
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