I - A Welcome to the Supernatural

If you look at the history of the supernatural fiction, from recorded beginning to the current day, it becomes clear that there was a peak of some magnitude during the Victorian era. This stretches from A Christmas Carol in the 1840s, until beyond the death of Edward VIII. In this eighty-year time period, supernatural fiction sold like hot cakes. The people lapped them up. Every writer known to the language tried their hand at one: some, like

Dickens, tried often, and some, like Le Fanu, were genre specialists. And they sold, and they were highly regarded for their craft, and the subject was frequently a best seller. All of the greatest writers of the supernatural all come from within this time period of 1840-1920.

Some of these writers were legends in their own fields. Of M.R. James, A.F. Schofield notes that “he was the first scholar in England to cultivate [Apocrypha]; he brought it out of the category of literary lumber into being

a comprehensible documentation of human thought and life for the modern educated reader.”[1]

Although it is only fair to point that even the most successful were not universally loved. Again writing to James, Ronald Norman claimed: “I hear you have published a book of ghost stories which I must procure. They must be a pleasant change from Apocryphal gospels, and both alike are children of your fantasy.”[2]


So comes the Age of Realism (circa 1914 onwards) and the lore died down. The steady deluge of writers plying away at the supernatural faded away, the books and stories no longer seemed to have the demand any more.

The point here is not to ask why supernatural fiction was so popular in the time period, for asking why suggests there was something wrong with that. The “why” is: why did the popularity peak end? Was it just another case, that every peak has an