The Ghost Census of 1894

The Ghost Bureau

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently researching the life and times of William Thomas Stead. I must say it is proving quite the impossible task, simply because of the scope of this man’s interests and fads, and the marriage of such diverse genres of pursuit. His communications with the ghost of William Gladstone, and other distinguished politicians of the era, via Julia’s Bureau – an agency he established for communicant spirits – at the time attracted much curiosity, ridicule and even indignation. Newspapers of the day were as fascinated as they were scornful of his endeavours but still they faithfully scrutinised and hung upon his every word.

My recent communication with Lenora, the author of the outstanding blog The Haunted Palace (where the macabre and the supernatural are expertly researched and documented), expands on these incongruent and eccentric pursuits:- ‘WT Stead is a great character – my best friend’s father was for years the ‘official biographer’ of WT Stead, endorsed by the Stead family. Unfortunately he died before he could finish is biography. As a journalist in the late 19th/early 20th Century Stead was well placed to be in the centre of everything interesting going on. He was always viewed as a bit of a maverick, and his spiritual beliefs including his Julia’s Bureau work (messages transcribed from the dead Julia) did make some people think of him as a bit of a crackpot. He was fascinating man though.’

Below is an article from 1894 which outlines Stead’s proposal for the establishment of an ‘official’ Ghost Census, backed by evidence from his fellow researchers and supporters at the Psychical Research Society. It is the concept of the ‘Ghost Census Enumerators’, staff hired to collect and collate data on incidents of supernatural encounter that, for me, would make such fascinating and enthralling material for a radio play – perhaps even a television series! (Once again, my usual disclaimer applies: the article has been hand-typed by yours truly, and thus is prone to typo! Unfortunately I did not have a legion of Stead-esque staff to rely upon….:)) Continue reading