With the Victorians’ fascination with death and mourning, ghosts blend in so well with Steampunk stories. When I think of ghost, I often think of a haunted Victorian mansion, lit by candlelight or flickering gas lights, secret passage ways draped with cobwebs, slits cut in the eyes of a potrait where someone or something spies on the gents and ladies in the grand manor.
The first thing all ghost hunters do is try to find logical causes for reported paranormal activity.
Look for small, furry, scurrying creatures. Sneaky varmints like mice are good at hiding. They cause strange noises and knock things down without being seen. Victorian London had a lot of mice and rats and such. Also ghostly noises in walls, attics, and basements are often caused by varmits of some type.
Victorian homes had hardwood floors which cause house popping noises to often sound like phantom footsteps. Also air trapped in water pipes cause loud banging at random times. Doors opening or closing by themselves can be attributed to a house which has a good seal. Opening or closing an exterior door can create suction, so an interior door will move when the exterior door moves. Having two or more windows open can have the same effect on interior doors. Also if a gush of wind enters through one window and exits through another, the reduced air pressure may cause doors to open or close.
- Food, Drink…Sunspot:
Cynical or logical Victorians often cited sunspot and strong drink as causes of ghost sightings. In Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, Scrooge questioned if the ghostly vissage of Jacob Marley was caused by what he’d eaten earlier that day. “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”
Compass - The simplest piece, which fits in perfectly with Steampunk. During any type of paranormal activity, a compass will spin wildly.
KII Meters – read electromagnetic fields. If the meter spikes on these small, handheld devices, it reflects a change in the magnetic field, which along with other evidence can give proof to paranormal activity.
Mel Meters – measure both EMF and temperature. They allow paranormal investigators to record the temperature right where it’s at. After Gary Galka lost his oldest daughter Melisa, in a car accident, he created the Mel meter, named after her, to communicate with her after death as it helped his healing process. The model numbers in the Mel-8704 are the year of her birth and the year of her passing.
Recording Devices – to pick up EVP, electronic voice phenomena (White Noise). EVP began in the 1950’s when Fredrich Jurgenson, a bird watcher and retired opera singer, recorded bird calls near his home in Switzerland on a reel to reel. When he listened to the tapes he heard voices on them, though no one else had been there. An ancient Viking burial ground happened to exist in the area he recorded at. After discovering this he continued EVP research and wrote the book, Voices From the Universe.
- Victorian & Steampunk Alternatives:
Recording Devices – to pick up EVP prior to 1950:
Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville – invented the phonautograph in 1860 –Records Sound, but Doesn’t Reproduce It – you’d have to fix that in your story.
Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph, 1877 when he made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. In 1888, he developed a solid wax cylinder record.
Victorian Ghost Hunting Gear:
Ectoplasm Kit – In the Victorian era, ectoplasm was defined as a substance exuded from a medium while in a trance. Ectoplasm formulated into the shape of the spirit the medium was in touch with at the time. Ghost hunters carried a collecting set and chemistry equipment to gather and test any ectoplasm.
Electroscope – Electroscopes, which pick up static electricity have been around for centuries and could have been used in placce of an EMF meter, which along with other evidence could prove paranormal activity.
Victorian alternatives to communicating with the dead:
Seances – Engrossed in spiritualism and Gothic novels, many Victorians, haunted by ghost, held table rapping séances
Ouija Board – a popular board game, patened in 1890 http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/WebOuija.html
Steampunk Ghost Hunting:
Steampunk Ghost Hunting Gear
Steampunk Ghostly Tales
And last but not least – GHOSTLY STEAMPUNK READS:
There is no unusual machinery in the story so I would not call it steampunk but still if you like steampunk you will like it. It’s set in Victoria England in London and involves ghost and gods. The characters are strong and haunting. It is a strangley beautiful paranormal/romance that I loved and I highly recommend it.
This collection of seventeen Steampunk ghost stories, one has mummies, is outstanding. The authors are representative of some of the best speculative fiction authors of our modern time. It offers quite a variety of superb steampunk ghost stores. There is something for everyone in this anthology and you will be sure to claim a few as your favorite steampunk short stories. I loved it.
When Queen Victoria orders Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, to track down England’s missing ghost he stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. Though they both burn with desire, it’s difficult to quench their fiery passion since Ceridwen is so translucent. Every time Sexton touches her, his hands pass through her misty body. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.
If you live in Houston Texas, I wanted to share that I will be at one of my favorite haunts this weekend, Space City Con. Friday night, 08/02/13, I’m presenting a Steampunk Ghost Hunting panel from 7pm – 8:30pm. Please drop by if you can.
Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.