Science and Spiritualism: Why were ghost stories so popular in the 1800s?

A ghost train at a Halloween event at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway. Ben Salter (Flickr)

<p>Nowadays western historians tend to regard the scientific progress of the 19th century as a linear, indelible line from one breakthrough to the next. Yet these astonishing innovations in science occurred in step with a resurrection of paranormal belief. Why were ghost stories so prolific in this age?</p>