Certain Nocturnal Disturbances: Ghost Hunting Before the Victorians

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Paranormal investigators of the Victorian era (1837-1901) certainly refined and advanced ghost hunting. But they didn’t invent it. Night-long stakeouts, investigation teams, struggles with skeptics — even the term “ghost hunter” — all appeared before the Victorians.

In Certain Nocturnal Disturbances, historian Tim Prasil narrates and analyzes famous and forgotten cases from the deep roots of ghost hunting. He shares insights into spectral manifestations of centuries ago while making surprising connections to paranormal investigation today.

ISBN-10: 1948084112
ISBN-13: 978-1948084116
$19.00 US
218 pages, trade paperback


Jay Rothermel, who reviews books at Easily Distracted: A Reader’s Diversions, writes:

Certain Nocturnal Disturbances covers a period usually given short shrift in standard histories. It also provides vital context into the period preceding the emergence of Le Fanu, Poe, and Gogol, fathers of supernatural fiction. As such, it is invaluable.

Read the Introduction

To get a sense of Certain Nocturnal Disturbances: Ghost Hunting Before the Victorians, here’s a .pdf version of the introduction:

Certain Nocturnal Disturbances Introduction

(Scholars: despite appearances, the pagination here is different from the actual book, so cite this source as a .pdf retrieved online.)

Listen to My Interview About the Book

Patrick Keller and I discuss Certain Nocturnal Disturbances on his Big Séance Podcast. You can hear by clicking on the image or link below.



How Old Is the Term “Ghost Hunt”?

The hyphenated adjective “ghost-hunting” appears in a 1794 novel.

Learn more about early uses of “ghost hunt,” “ghost hunting,” and “ghost hunter(s)” in novels, newspaper and magazine articles, plays, and more at the Rise of the Term “Ghost Hunt” TARDIS page.

Historical Documents Related
to the Cock Lane Ghost

One of the most famous investigations discussed in Certain Nocturnal Disturbances was focused on the Cock Lane Ghost. This controversial case occurred in London in 1762, and it featured a spirit purportedly communicating (with “one knock for yes and two knocks for no”) to accuse a man of murder! I chronicle the story and link original documents on a page called The Cock Lane TARDIS.

Cock Lane House
An illustration from The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction 34.969 (Sept. 21, 1839) p. 193

Read More Historical Ghostlore

Readers interested in the ghostlore of the past are invited to consider Tim’s other non-fiction books on the subjects:

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