Science & seance

The original female ghostbuster was 19th century scholar Eleanor Sidgwick

Way before the current pop-culture debate over the all-female Ghostbusters, there was the OG female ghostbuster, Eleanor Sidgwick. Sidgwick was a trained mathematician and scientist who, together with her husband, devoted much of her professional life to finding evidence of the paranormal.

Sidgwick, who was born in 1845 to a prominent political British family, made a living as the vice principal of Newnham College in Cambridge. But she also hunted ghosts as a member of the Society for Psychical Research, penning articles with titles such as “Ghosts and Poltergeists” and “Phantasms of the Dead,” according to a new profile on the ghost-hunter in Seeker.

Sidgwick investigated reported sightings of ghosts and attended seances, developing her theories of why people believed they saw ghosts, when ghosts seemed to appear, and what they looked like and when they did appear. She denied that ghosts haunt old houses, are connected to crimes or tragedies, appear during special occasions, or dress in old clothing. But she did say they may be seen in daylight, dawn, and dusk, and inside and outside a home.

Sidgwick was by turns skeptical and spiritual about the possibility of ghosts, according to the report.

“On the whole, I think that the evidence before us does constitute a reasonable prima facie case for belief in clairvoyance,” she wrote.

Read the full story at Seeker.

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