Technology added a new element to the occult revival of the late nineteenth century and was embraced by supporters and critics alike. In his article in the Fortnightly Review from January 1893, H.R Haweis discusses the history of ghosts and the enduring popularity of ghost stories in late Victorian Britain, arguing that the new medium of photography could help decided whether ghosts were real or not.
Spring Heeled Jack was one of the most infamous of Victorian bugaboos. Although first allegedly encountered in 1837 in London, sightings continued to be reported throughout the nineteenth century. This article, published in ALL Year Round London in August 1884 gives a short history.
First appearing in 1893, the quarterly periodical Borderland was published and edited by noted journalist William Thomas Stead. Stead, a one-time skeptic of the paranormal, turned to spiritualism in the 1890s and sought to create, in Borderland, a periodical about the paranormal for both the general public and believers.
Before publishing this first issue of Borderland, Stead contacted a wide range of notable people of the day—including clergy, psychical researchers, scientists, academics, fellow journalists, and many others—to ask their opinion about the need for such a periodical. The fascinating responses are located in section III, pages 10-23.
The Occult Review quickly established itself as the "gold standard" of occult periodicals. Hermetic in approach, it featured a wide variety of articles on such topics as astrology, magic, tarot and spiritualism. Published by William Rider and Son in London, the journal reached a global circulation.
Storming onto the esoteric scene in the late 1890s, Aleister Crowley’s life and writings left an undeniable mark on occultism. In 1909, he began publishing The Equinox, the periodical of Crowley’s religious order, A∴A∴ The first issue is linked. Copy courtesy of IAPSOP.
As much as there was an occult revival of the late ninetieth century, there was also accompanying skepticism. Linked is an article from The Speaker: The Liberal Review from May 1894, reacting to the upsurge for all things supernatural from crystals, Ouija boards, spiritualism and more.
.The belief in astral projection was a core part of some of the most influential occult societies of the late-nineteenth century including the Theosophists and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Linked is an article from the American spiritualist newspaper The Progressive Thinker in February 1891 discussing the existence of the “astral” body.
The Theosophical Society, founded by Helena Blavatsky, is one of the most important and influential esoteric groups of all time. The society’s journal, Lucifer, although published in London reached a global circulation and served as both a forum to discuss theosophical ideas and concepts but also to defend those ideas against skeptics and critics. Linked is a copy of the first edition, which published in September 1887.
Though not as ubiquitous as present-day pop culture would have us believe, the Victorians did have an interest in Werewolf-lore. Linked is an article on the subject by Lewis Spence from the October 1921 issue of the Occult Review.
In 1917, teenage cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright revealed photographic evidence of having seen, and played with, fairies in a forest near Cottingley village in Yorkshire. The photographs soon became a sensation, catching the eye of famed Sherlock Holmes creator and spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle who visited with the girls and investigated the incident in 1920. Linked is an article written by Doyle courtesy of the Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.
William Rider & Sons was one of the most popular occult publishers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known for publishing the Rider-Waite Tarot, Rider and Sons also published the novels of Bram Stoker and a wide variety of both fiction and nonfiction titles. Linked is the company’s catalog from 1911.
The iconic Rider-Waite Tarot was first published in 1910 by William Rider and Sons. The deck was created by well-known occultist A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith. Waite’s The Pictorial Key to the Tarot was sold with each deck starting in 1911. Linked is a review of Waite’s book from the periodical The Academy in March 1911.