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Robert McNamara

The Weird and Spooky 1800s

By October 22, 2012

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Halloween's seasonal focus on the scary and supernatural is a good time to reflect upon the weird and spooky side of the 19th century. Steam locomotives manned by skeletons were seen rolling by in the moonlight with alarming frequency, and famous spirits communicated by rapping on the walls.

The otherwise fearless Andrew Jackson was terrified by one evil spirit, and when Lincoln's wife saw dead presidents, she wasn't talking about money.

Considering how the telegraph was changing everything, it's fun to scoff at the people who thought messages were arriving from the spirit world. But given that even Abraham Lincoln reported seeing weird visions, perhaps it was just a very spooky time.

More: The Supernatural 1800s

Photograph: Detail of a 19th century "spirit photograph"/Library of Congress

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