A History Of Ghosts


20th-Century Poltergeist20201029Illustration by Seonaid Mackay.

'Once a door is open, it’s difficult to close, even if we try.'

Poltergeists, noisy spirits, have been reported since antiquity. But in the 20th century, the idea of what the poltergeist was changed in collective culture. When, in the past, reported poltergeist activity would be put down to outside, supernatural beings, in the 20th century supposed poltergeist activity was said to come from within a living being: the psyche made physical.

Kirsty tells the story of three famous 20th century poltergeist cases, exploring what happens to the person at the centre, and discovering how the attention from investigators and the media can be more damaging than any ghost.

Kirsty Logan explores how the poltergeist changed in the 20th century.

Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore.

Did You Hear That?20201030Illustration by Seonaid Mackay

'You set up a tape recorder and leave it running, recording silence. You ask your questions into the silence, leaving a sufficient pause for a response. Later, you listen back to the recording. Through the mush and static, if you listen very carefully, you may be able to just about make out people speaking.'

Kirsty Logan explores the modern quest to capture a ghost in a machine, from Telsa and Edison feuding over a spirit phone, to the apparent capture of voices in white noise and on tape. And she discovers that somewhere in the 21st century our wish to contact the dead has changed, we went from wanting to catch the spirit of the dead, to creating ghosts of ourselves.

Kirsty Logan explores the modern quest to capture a ghost in a machine.

Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore.

Omnibus 220201030Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore. In this omnibus edition, she explores discovers how the tourist trade in the Southern United states whitewashes history rather than drawing on African American ghost stories, explores the only known case where the testimony of a ghost secured the conviction of their murderer, dives into the life of one of the most celebrated mediums of the Victorian era, reveals that a spirit is not the most dangerous part of a poltergeist case, and asks if in the 21st century we are less interested in finding ghosts, rather than creating them.
The Spiritualists20201028Illustration by Seonaid Mackay

‘Having seen so much of Katie lately, when she has been illuminated by the electric light, I am enabled to add to the points of difference between her and her medium.

Katie's height varies; in my house I have seen her six inches taller than Miss Cook. Last night, with bare feet and not tip-toeing, she was four and a half inches taller than Miss Cook.

Katie's neck was bare last night; the skin was perfectly smooth both to touch and sight, whilst on Miss Cook's neck is a large blister...
Miss Cook's hair is so dark a brown as almost to appear black; a lock of Katie's, which is now before me, and which she allowed me to cut from her luxuriant tresses,, is a rich golden auburn.’

Kirsty Logan examines the Spiritualist movement, via the life of medium Florence Cook, and her spirit guide, Katie King, and discovers how a career communication with spirits could result in both opportunity and ruin for Victorian women.

Kirsty Logan examines Spiritualism via the life of celebrated medium Florence Cook.

Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore.

The Tell-Tale Ghost20201027Illustration by Seonaid Mackay

‘In Greenbrier County, West Virginia, USA, there is a trail marker with the following emblazoned on it. ‘Interred in nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition's account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to the state prison. Only known case in which testimony from a ghost helped convict a murderer.’

Kirsty tells the story of The Greenbrier ghost, and explores why tales of murder victims coming back to seek justice have always loomed large in the history of ghost lore.

Kirsty Logan tells the story of the only known case in which a ghost convicted a murderer.

Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore.

The Whitewashed Ghost20201026Illustration by Seonaid Mackay

'Ghosts feel hot and smell faintish. Their voices are high and thin. Some ghosts grow very fat if they get plenty to eat. They are very fond of honey. '

If you tour a plantation in the Southern States of the USA, you might hear the tale of a black ghost. Black ghost stories are very popular on tours, generating income not just from tickets, but even from merchandise. You may hear the story Chloe, or Molly, or Virginia. She might be described as a servant (not a slave) who had an affair with (not that she was raped by) the master of the house. Tales of the white owners of historic Southern properties may be linked to real life events, but the stories of the enslaved people have no basis in historical fact. The result, is often a whitewashing of troublesome history, a cover-up of things people in the modern day still do not want to face.

And yet, as Kirsty Logan finds, there is a plethora of under-told black ghost lore, that was rich, complex and vital for the enslaved people who had to endure some of the worst treatment imaginable. Kirsty explores the stories, both the made up and the examples of true folklore, and discovers how a little truth in our tales could have the power to do real good.

Kirsty Logan discovers how the history of slavery is whitewashed in ghost stories.

Kirsty Logan explores the evolution of Ghost Lore.