In the Victorian era, scientists wanted to study what ghosts are, but it was taboo. The true believers in the spiritual realm looking for answers ended in ridicule by others.
For science, the empirical like what can be seen, touched, and understood with unconventional notions like spirits and magic were not believable. Sir Isaac Newton had an interest in alchemy, how things can be turned from lead to gold. But, he did not dabble in being seen as a legitimate scientist too.
As a result of the taboo of such subjects, they were left to charlatans and con-men. Who made parlor tricks that convinced people spirits do exist.
In Britain, the prevalence of the supernatural fascinated the public and made them believe in non-scientific explanations. In the middle of the mania to that was about spirits. Two researchers decided to explain phantasms often connect to the manifestation of the afterlife. John Ferriar and Samuel Hibbert strove to clear up the phenomena.
They saw spirits, not as the disembodied bits of those formerly alive, but some malfunction in the brain they call glitches. What they are essentially is after images caused by optic nerves that are firing too much! Theorists often would refer to the supernatural as delusions in the darkest recesses of the mind. One result is that it will result in self-delusions, noted The Conversation.
The human psyche is unpredictable, especially when stressed out and suffering ill health makes a living see dead people. One of these examples is Ebenezer Scrooge; his dead business partner was one of the spirits haunting him. Victorian scientists like John Ferriar and Samuel Hibbert called out the perception of spirits as self-delusions.
Like today's entertainment, the tricks of these mediums making sounds and other effects made it believable for those who believed. Performing seances was just that a pure performance powered by ingenious tricks by mediums. They know their clientele would buy it too.
Physicist Michael Faraday decides to put things to right and debunk these con-men finally.
Faraday developed the ideomotor effect that it was not phantoms, but people creating movement. It happens when participants have unconscious muscle movements as part of the séance.
Soon other scientists were quick to say that everything experienced with perceptions of once-living consciousness is mental tricks and quirks of how people see things. Despite these explanations, Victorians choose the supernatural and unexplainable over science.
One of the proponents of the study of the supernatural is the Society for Psychical Research, established in 1882. They devoted time to study the supernatural despite its taboo status. Their members are scholars who brought light to an unknown phenomenon.
They studied unconventional topics like hypnotism, telepathy, seances, and hauntings that were capitalized on by fraudsters. More than one phony was exposed by their efforts, using scientific disciple in their investigations. But scientific peers criticized them as Victorian Scientists only reinforce the existence of ghosts.