Season 1, Episode 2: Hunting Ghosts and Seeing Apparitions

Are ghosts the spirits of the dearly departed communicating from beyond the grave? At least some early modern theologians were skeptical about the idea. In this episode of Historia Mortis, we delve into early modern beliefs around ghost sightings, their connections to one’s mental state, and the “science of the dead” — thanatology!

Released October 27, 2020

Listen to Season 1, Episode 2 on

Episode Guest:

Emily Betz, PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews

Emily’s PhD research explores early modern medical history in Britain, with a particular focus on melancholy and mental illness in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Her thesis investigates the multiplicity of identities associated with melancholia in England, c. 1580-1788.

On this episode:

  • The evolution of ghost belief in early modern Europe
  • Reformed Protestant theology and ghost belief
  • The impact of Ludwig Lavater’s De Spectris (1569)
  • How ghost sightings became linked with madness and melancholy
  • The thanatologists: early modern ghost hunters

Recommended Reading:

Phillipe Ariès, The Hour of Our Death (Knopf, 1981).

Emily Betz, “Melancholy: The Evolution of an English Malady, c.1550-1750” Trinity Postgraduate Review Journal 18 (2019): 95-113.

Peter Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002).

Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (W. W. Norton, 2005).

Erik R. Seeman, Speaking with the Dead in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).

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