>The Guardian and Observer newspapers have made their entire archive available to the general public this month. It costs money, of course, but until the end of the week, one can search for free, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Previously, I have accessed The Times newspaper archive and been able to download some interesting accounts of hauntings from the 19th century. The searchability of these sources is quite extraordinary: typing in a word like ‘ghost’ and finding it highlighted in a news article from 1851, for example. Searching can be hard work, though, because the word ‘ghost’ can have several meanings and is used in unrelated terms like ‘ghost town’. One has to be more cunning than that.
So far, my Guardian searches haven’t proved as fruitful as those I made in The Times. Mainly, I’ve been coming across reviews of books and radio broadcasts. For example, I have seen several rather lukewarm reviews of a 1934 BBC Radio broadcast from an alleged haunted house in which little was recorded other than the whining of the owner’s dog and lots of setting up of equipment. What’s interesting, though, is that Psychic Investigator Harry Price was there to lend a hand and to keep his publicity machine going. With him was Dr C E M Joad, who later joined Price on his investigations at infamous Borley Rectory.
Seeing names like Harry Price cropping up in contemporary news reports is fascinating. These archives are windows on a vanished world.
In earlier records, Arthur Conan Doyle crops up regularly, too. It appears he put in a great deal of effort promoting the study of psychic phenomena around the world. I was amused by one story of a tour he made of the British Commonwealth countries in Africa. As part of his presentation, he showed a slide of a ghost photographed in a mansion in Nottinghamshire. Imagine his dismay when a man in the audience stood up and announced: ‘That’s me! It’s a trick photograph.’
It still seems extraordinary that the man who created Sherlock Holmes, that exemplary proponent of the rational and logical, should himself sbeen so gullible, far too keen to accept the truth of the Cottingley fairy photographs and the claims of fraudulent mediums.
(Visit www.guardian.co.uk/archive to make your own investigations).