Famous Ghostly Incidents from the 1920s: A Haunting Look Back

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 30 January 2024
  • Time to read: 9 min.

In the 1920s, the world was still reeling from the aftermath of World War I, and the Roaring Twenties were in full swing. However, amidst the glitz and glamour of the era, there were also some eerie and unexplained events that occurred. Ghostly incidents were reported in various parts of the world, and some of these cases became famous due to their bizarre nature.

One such famous incident was the case of the Winchester Mystery House in California. Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms magnate William Wirt Winchester, claimed that she was haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. She believed that the only way to appease these spirits was to continuously build and renovate her mansion in a confusing and labyrinthine manner. The house has since become a popular tourist destination and is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Sarah Winchester and her victims.

Another famous ghostly incident from the 1920s was the case of the Amityville Horror. In 1924, a family was murdered in their home in Amityville, New York. Decades later, in 1974, the Lutz family moved into the same house and claimed to experience paranormal activity, including seeing apparitions and hearing voices. The case became the subject of numerous books and movies, and the Amityville Horror remains one of the most well-known ghost stories of all time.

Historical Context of Ghostly Incidents in the 1920s

The 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was a decade of prosperity and cultural change in the United States. However, it was also a time when many people reported experiencing ghostly encounters.

One possible explanation for this increase in ghostly incidents was the aftermath of World War I. The war had left many people traumatized and grieving for loved ones who had died in battle. This emotional turmoil may have made people more susceptible to believing in ghosts and other supernatural phenomena.

Another factor that may have contributed to the rise in ghostly encounters was the growing popularity of spiritualism. Spiritualism was a movement that began in the late 19th century and involved the belief in communication with the dead. Many people in the 1920s attended seances and other spiritualist gatherings in an attempt to contact deceased loved ones.

In addition, the 1920s saw a rise in interest in the occult and supernatural. This was reflected in popular culture, with books and movies featuring ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural beings becoming increasingly popular.

Overall, the historical context of the 1920s provides some insight into why so many people reported experiencing ghostly encounters during this time. Whether due to the trauma of war, the popularity of spiritualism, or the fascination with the supernatural, the 1920s was a decade marked by a heightened interest in the paranormal.

Famous Hauntings of the 1920s

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

One of the most famous ghostly incidents of the 1920s is the sighting of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. This ghostly apparition is said to be the spirit of Lady Dorothy Walpole, who died in 1726. The first sighting of the Brown Lady was in 1835, but it was in the 1920s that the ghost gained widespread notoriety. In 1926, two photographers captured a photograph of what they claimed was the Brown Lady on the main staircase of Raynham Hall. The photograph has been widely circulated and is still considered to be one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of a ghostly apparition.

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall: A Haunting Presence.
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall: A Haunting Presence.

The Ghosts of the SS Watertown

In 1924, the crew of the SS Watertown reported a series of strange occurrences while sailing off the coast of California. Two crew members had died and were buried at sea. Shortly after, the remaining crew members reported seeing the ghosts of their deceased colleagues on the deck of the ship. The sightings continued for several days, and the crew even captured photographs of the ghostly apparitions. The incident was widely reported in the media and is still considered to be one of the most well-documented cases of ghostly activity on a ship.

The Phantom of the Great War

The Phantom of the Great War, also known as the Angel of Mons, is a ghostly figure that was reportedly seen by British soldiers during World War I. The phantom was said to have appeared during the Battle of Mons in 1914, where it is said to have helped the British army to victory. In the 1920s, several books were published about the incident, and the phantom became a popular subject in the media. While some skeptics have dismissed the story as a myth, many people still believe in the existence of the Phantom of the Great War.

Notable Mediums and Spiritualists

Mina Crandon and the Margery Sessions

Mina Crandon, also known as “Margery,” was a famous American medium who gained notoriety in the 1920s. She claimed to have the ability to communicate with the dead and perform various supernatural feats, including levitation and materialization. Her most famous demonstration was the “Margery Sessions,” in which she was tested by a panel of scientists and skeptics, including the famous magician Harry Houdini.

Mina Crandon and the Margery Sessions
Mina Crandon and the Margery Sessions

Despite her claims, Margery was exposed as a fraud by Houdini and other investigators. They discovered that she had used various tricks and techniques to deceive her audience, such as hiding objects in her clothing and using accomplices to assist her in her demonstrations. However, Margery continued to maintain her innocence and her followers remained loyal to her until her death in 1941.

Harry Houdini’s Debunking Campaign

Harry Houdini was not only a famous magician but also a prominent skeptic and debunker of paranormal claims. In the 1920s, he launched a campaign to expose fraudulent mediums and spiritualists, including Mina Crandon. He believed that these individuals were preying on the grief and vulnerability of people who had lost loved ones and were in search of comfort and closure.

Houdini used his knowledge of magic and illusion to uncover the tricks and techniques used by these mediums, and he published his findings in a book called “A Magician Among the Spirits.” He also testified before Congress in support of a bill that would prohibit the use of the mail for fraudulent spiritualist practices.

Houdini’s campaign was controversial and made him many enemies among the spiritualist community. However, he remained committed to his mission and continued to expose frauds until his death in 1926.

Significant Paranormal Investigations

The Scientific American Prize Contests

In the 1920s, the Scientific American magazine offered a series of cash prizes for anyone who could prove the existence of paranormal phenomena. The contests were designed to be rigorous and scientific, with strict rules and protocols for testing. Despite many entries, none of the contestants were able to demonstrate any paranormal abilities or phenomena that could not be explained by natural means.

The Ghost Club and Harry Price

Founded in the 1860s, the Ghost Club was a society dedicated to investigating paranormal phenomena. In the 1920s, the club’s most prominent member was Harry Price, a well-known paranormal investigator. Price was involved in several high-profile investigations during the decade, including the famous Borley Rectory case.

Borley Rectory was a house in England that was reputed to be haunted. Price conducted a thorough investigation of the property and claimed to have gathered evidence of paranormal activity, including photographs, recordings, and eyewitness accounts. However, his methods and findings were heavily criticized by skeptics and other investigators, and the case remains controversial to this day.

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, the investigations of the Scientific American Prize Contests and the Ghost Club with Harry Price helped to popularize the idea of paranormal phenomena and sparked public interest in the field of paranormal investigation.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

Literature and the Supernatural

The 1920s was a decade that saw a surge in the popularity of supernatural and paranormal literature. Authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, and Arthur Machen wrote stories that explored the unknown and unexplainable. These works of fiction often featured ghosts, demons, and other supernatural entities that captured the imagination of readers.

One of the most famous works of supernatural fiction from the 1920s was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” While not a traditional ghost story, the novel’s themes of lost love, regret, and the haunting nature of the past have made it a timeless classic.

The Rise of Paranormal Popularity

The 1920s was also a time of increased interest in the paranormal and supernatural. Spiritualism, a belief in the ability to communicate with the dead, had been popular since the late 19th century, but it experienced a resurgence in the 1920s.

This renewed interest in the paranormal was fueled by events such as the alleged haunting of the Amityville house and the rise of mediums such as Margery Crandon, who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. The popularity of spiritualism even extended to mainstream culture, with celebrities such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini becoming involved in the movement.

Overall, the cultural impact and legacy of the ghostly incidents from the 1920s can still be felt today. The popularity of supernatural literature and the continued interest in the paranormal are a testament to the enduring fascination with the unknown and unexplainable.

Skeptical and Rational Explanations

Despite the various ghostly incidents that occurred in the 1920s, not everyone believed in the paranormal. Some individuals offered rational explanations for the supposed hauntings.

One explanation was that the sightings were simply a result of people’s imagination. For example, the famous ghostly apparition seen at the Tower of London could have been a trick of the light or a hallucination caused by the stress of being in a prison.

Another explanation was that the sightings were the result of hoaxes. People could have dressed up as ghosts to scare others or gain attention. This was a common tactic used by criminals to commit crimes without being detected.

There were also those who believed that the ghostly incidents were the result of natural phenomena. For example, strange noises and movements could have been caused by wind or other environmental factors.

Despite these explanations, many people still believe in the supernatural and continue to be fascinated by ghostly sightings. While it’s important to remain skeptical and rational, it’s also important to keep an open mind and consider all possibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some notable haunted locations from the 1920s?

The 1920s saw a rise in reports of haunted locations across the world. Some of the most notable include the Tower of London in England, the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, and the Winchester Mystery House in California.

Which infamous ghost sightings occurred during the 1920s?

One of the most famous ghost sightings of the 1920s was the appearance of the “Brown Lady” at Raynham Hall in England. Other notable sightings include the “White Lady” of Avenel in Scotland and the “Lady in White” at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in California.

Are there any documented paranormal events from the 1920s that have historical significance?

One documented paranormal event from the 1920s that has historical significance is the “Amherst Mystery” in Nova Scotia, Canada. This involved a young woman named Esther Cox who claimed to be haunted by a malevolent spirit. The case gained widespread attention and was even investigated by a local magistrate.

What are the most compelling ghost stories that originated in the 1920s?

Some of the most compelling ghost stories from the 1920s include the legend of the “Vanishing Hitchhiker,” the “Phantom Monk” of Newby Church in England, and the “Greenbrier Ghost” in West Virginia.

How did the spiritualism movement in the 1920s influence ghostly incidents?

The spiritualism movement of the 1920s, which focused on communicating with the dead, likely influenced the prevalence of ghostly incidents during this time. Many people became interested in contacting their deceased loved ones, leading to an increase in reports of paranormal activity.

What evidence exists of supernatural occurrences from the 1920s?

Most reports of supernatural occurrences from the 1920s rely on eyewitness accounts and anecdotal evidence. However, some cases, such as the Amherst Mystery, were investigated by authorities and documented in official records. Despite this, the existence of supernatural occurrences remains a subject of debate and skepticism.

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