A New Ghost Hunter Inducted and a New Occult Detective Listed

George Albert Smith is remembered first and foremost for this contributions to the development of cinema. Before that, he was a stage performer, specializing in mind reading and hypnotism. During the transition between these careers, he was a paranormal investigator for the Society for Psychical Research (which had been studying the validity of his clairvoyance).

He was a pretty routine ghost hunter — except for the fact that he spent over a year living at and recording any strange events occurring in a haunted house in Brighton, England. He also hosted 39 “visiting investigators” at the time. (This long-term, multi-participant investigation happened in 1888-89, about eight years before a comparable one at Ballechin House turned into a far messier affair.) For his tenacity in the face of spookiness, Smith has been inducted into the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame.

Smith
While posing at a cinema gala, did Gina Lollobrigida (center) and Princess Margaret (right) know that George Albert Smith (left) had been a ghost hunter about 70 years earlier?

Meanwhile, a less impressive character — this one fictional and named Dr. Althaus — has been added to the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives. The idea underlying F.C. Philips’ novel The Strange Adventures of Lucy Smith, where Althaus appears, is interesting: a wicked woman tricks Lucy into selling her dreams. Althaus, who knows a thing or two about such matters, is called in to solve the case. This novel was published in 1887, a full decade before Dr. Van Helsing was consulted to put down that snarly dog named Dracula!

Unfortunately, Philips seems interested in anything and everything but the story he’s telling. The core-narrative is barely explored. Why do the villains’ want dreams? They just do! In addition, Althaus’s solving the case is very quick and leans very hard on divination. But — oh my! — there’s a whole lot about Lucy, the damsel-in-distress, finding employment and then about Captain Edwardes’s yacht. (By the way, Edwardes uses that yacht to kidnap Lucy so that he can declare his love, and she’s cool with that. Alas, Mr. Philips, Stockholm syndrome is far from romantic.)

Smith’s entry is toward the bottom of the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame page (with a link to a more detailed account of his spectral adventures). Dr. Althaus’s entry is under 1887 on the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives (with links to Philips’ novel, should one be tempted to read it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

— Tim

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