Father of the Ghost of Christmas Past Had Varied Beliefs

Charles Dickens, the father of the legendary Christmas Story about an elderly man who is haunted by ghosts from the past, and representatives of the past present and future, was himself a believer in the scholarly pursuit of the paranormal.  Of course this was coupled with a healthy dose of skepticism over the powers many of the mediums of the time claimed to have.  In the end Dickens became most inclined to believe that the mind itself was a powerful gateway to realms that remain to this day unknown.  And his ghosts in a Christmas Carol reflected the philosophy.

Dickens, who was recently featured at an expose on the writer’s paranormal dealings and a claim by another writer that a few uncanny similarities arose in his own story and a small booklet by the name, “A Wonderful Ghost Story.”  Of course the presence of the ghosts in Dickens’ story should come as no surprise to fans of his work as he often included in his stories an element of what we would consider today to be classic paranormal activity.  everything from the mysteries of the mind to speaking with the dead and even the phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion were present in Dickens’ lexicon.  In The Bleak House, the character Krook dies while waiting at the door when suddenly his body bursts into flames unexplainably.  This is particularly strange for a story with very few supernatural elements and themes during a time when the supernatural and spiritualism were at the forefront of modern consciousness.

But it was often noted that Dickens attempted to grasp as much realism as possible in his stories as well.  It is often taken for granted that ghosts, which Dickens was not entirely convinced of, were not explicitly proven in A Christmas Carol.  Even the protagonist, the miserable Scrooge decidedly declares that the ghosts could be nothing more than a hallucination brought on by something he ate.  Actually, Scrooge in this case is referring to food made with fungi such as Claviceps purpurea, which is often blamed for a series of hallucinations resulting in the Salem Witch Trials.  Given that this was not common knowledge at the time, Dickens was demonstrating a level of biological and psychological understanding years ahead of his time.  Additionally, the attention Dickens paid to possibilities such as the inclusion of mesmerism, which later became hypnosis demonstrated a careful culling of things that would soon become established scientific fact from the more fantastic spiritualist movement -much of which would remain a mystery even today.

But Dickens was haunted by more than the paranormal, plagued by the paranormal claims of charlatans at the time reporting that they could conjure ghosts at will.  While many of the spiritualists were sincere advocates of spiritual communication, there were quite a few who made names for themselves by hoaxing their seances.  As a result, Dickens also spent much of his time as a skeptic deconstructing the more negative spiritualists in newspaper editorials.