Wednesday, June 8, 2022


In The Ghost: A Cultural History, recently released by Tate Publishing, author Susan Owens begins not with the specters of Halloween or some drafty Victorian haunted house, but with this scene where Scrooge is visited by his former partner.

Charles Dickens described Jacob Marley as “transparent,” and laden with “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel”; otherwise he had “the same face” and garb. Ghosts in the late 18th century and into the 19th century became translucent in part due to new optical shows (like phantasmagoria) and lantern-slides that projected luminous images, as well as the increased use of watercolors in art. “When Dickens made Marley’s ghost see-through in A Christmas Carol, he was drawing on a convention that had only relatively recently been established,” she writes.

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Evil Vines Cemetery said...

I never thought about the changing perception of ghosts. That's really interesting.

Rot said...

Same! It had never occurred to me.