Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Download Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts for free

The book of this blog is available now: Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Spiritualism normally retails for US$2.99 in most online stores, but you can find details on the My Shout page of my website, Michael Gallagher Writes, which will allow you to download it for free.

Michael Gallagher is the author of The Bridge of Dead Things and The Scarab Heart.

Summer vacation

The Victorians Unveiled is taking a well-deserved vacation this summer, and will return in December with a new set of posts, How the Victorians Stole Egypt – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Egyptology.

In the meantime I’ll be launching an exciting (or from my perspective, terrifying) new project this summer. I recently read Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, originally written as a serial for Charles Dickens’s weekly magazine All the Year Round. I was particularly struck by one of the minor characters who appears towards the end of the book, Mr Bruff the lawyer’s office boy, Octavius Guy, also known as Gooseberry. Collins gives Gooseberry a small but important role, and highlights his character by having the retired Sergeant Cuff (formerly of Scotland Yard) lavish praise on him:

‘One of these days,’ said the Sergeant, pointing through the front window of the cab, ‘that boy will do great things in my late profession. He is the brightest and cleverest little chap I have met with, for many a long year past…’

As I was reading I began to realise that Gooseberry would make a perfect protagonist for a novel, so this summer I’m going to try writing and publishing one chapter involving Gooseberry per week. Utilising many of its characters—though not in any way a sequel to The MoonstoneGooseberry can be found serialized on my author blog at Goodreads starting in July. Wish me luck. I’ll need it!

Michael Gallagher is the author of The Bridge of Dead Things and The Scarab Heart.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The end of an era—a brave new century dawns

Why the Victorians saw ghosts: twelve

On the 23rd of September 2004 I was lucky enough to attend a recreation of a Victorian séance organized by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman at the Dana Center in London, a venue dedicated to encouraging ordinary people to think and talk about science. Approximately fifty of us sat around an enormous round table holding hands, and, as the lights dimmed, we were treated to an orchestrated evening of raps and knocks, and at one point a thump from the middle of the table which was so unexpected that many of us jumped in our seats. But the event was only ever partially successful because we all expected something to happen, and, armed with our noughties skepticism, nobody imagined for one instant that the sounds were produced by any supernatural agency. We were a particularly tough audience.

Twelve years prior to this in 1992, Wiseman had made a study of the last of the great Victorian mediums, Eusapia Palladino. Born of Italian peasant stock, her first husband was a conjurer, and the second a wine merchant. Yet it is the second husband who is fingered as her accomplice, entering the darkened séance room via a secret panel and assisting Palladino in her catalog of tricks: levitating tables, making objects appear to move, partial materializations of hands and faces, plus the normal gamut of ghostly pinching, touching and kicks.