Many Victorians were fascinated with the supernatural, so it is hardly surprising to find a book describing ways to see ghosts. The only thing unusual about this volume is that it works!
I was immediately attracted to the title, Spectropia or, Surprising Spectral Illusions. Ghosts Everywhere, and of Any Colour.
The book attacks ‘modern’ superstitions.
It is a curious fact that, in this age of scientific research, the absurd follies of spiritualism should find an increase of supporters; but mental epidemics seem at certain seasons to affect our minds, and one of the oldest of these moral afflictions — witchcraft — is once more prevalent in this nineteenth century, under the contemptible forms of spirit-rapping and table-turning. The modern professor of these impostures, like his predecessors in all such disreputable arts, is bent only on raising the contents of the pockets of the most gullible portion of humanity, and not the spirits of the departed, over which, as he well knows, notwithstanding his profane assumption, he can have no power.
One thing we hope in some measure to further in the following pages, is the extinction of the superstitious belief that apparitions are actual spirits, by showing some of the many ways in which our senses may be deceived.
After a very interesting discussion of the physiology of the eye, as understood in 1865, it describes the phenomenon of Afterimage, and how it can produce ghosts.
To see the spectres, it is only necessary to look steadily at the dot, or asterisk, which is to be found on each of the plates, for about a quarter of a minute, or while counting about twenty, the plate being well illuminated by either artificial or day light. Then turning the eyes to the ceiling, the wall, the sky, or better still to a white sheet hung on the wall of a darkened room (not totally dark), and looking rather steadily at any one point, the spectre will soon begin to make its appearance, increasing in intensity, and then gradually vanishing, to reappear and again vanish; it will continue to do so several times in succession, each reappearance being fainter than the one preceding. Winking the eyes, or passing a finger rapidly to and fro before them, will frequently hasten the appearance of the spectre, especially if the plate has been strongly illuminated.
The colours in the plate will be found to reverse themselves in the spectres, the spectres always appearing of the complementary colour to that of the plate from which it is obtained. Thus, blue will appear orange, and orange blue, &c.
Many persons will see one coloured spectre better than the others, in consequence of their eyes not being equally sensitive to all colours.
Now for some pictures.
As an apology for the apparent disregard of taste and fine art in the plates, such figures are selected as best serve the purpose for which they are intended.