Disgust, or Deathly Terror? Ghost Pranks Past and Present

Richard Suggs on the history of ghoulish impersonations.

Richard Sugg | Published in 12 Aug 2014

A graveyard in Abney Park, north LondonRecently Anthony Stallard, 24, was fined for 'pretending to be a ghost… in a cemetery' in Portsmouth. It seems fair to assume that the witnesses, who reported a group 'engaging in rowdy behaviour and one of them throwing their arms in the air and saying "woooooo"', after an evening’s drinking, found the imitation more distasteful than terrifying. And it also seems reasonable to imagine that, had Stallard been alone, and cloaked in a white sheet for his imitation, few people would have been frightened by the sight. By contrast, throughout the 19th century, most people believed in ghosts. And when somebody decided to imitate one, a white sheet and some dark shadows were sometimes quite enough to frighten their victim to death.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.