Google, Ghosts, and the Victorians!

December 12, 2010 at 11:09 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

This morning, I’m feeling decidedly lethargic; I was up until the wee hours of the morning learning new bread-making techniques! (And very good bread it is, too!) To be quite honest, my dissertation isn’t moving as quickly as I’d like today, and so I decided to Google “Victorian and ghost” as a matter of scientific experiment.  Little did I know that Google itself played a key role in the documentation of Victorian ghosts!

According to this article from The Telegraph of 26 March 2009, a “woman dressed in long skirt, crisp blouse, bow tie, blue boater hat and scarf appears to be shimmering above the pavement” appeared in a Google Street View image of old Victorian dockyards, thus generating quite a sensation. (Really, I hadn’t realized that Google Street View had so many applications; the “related articles” section on The Telegraph website informs me that this useful feature also recorded the presence of a cheating husband at the home of a lady other than his wife.)  The article also records that “She was captured by the Google Street View cameras in Tiger Bay, Cardiff – the scene of murders and unsolved mysteries going back 200 years.”  The experts called in to analyze the apparition report that the strangest aspect of the figure is her incomplete materialization.

I’m reproducing the image for your enjoyment:

Just to clarify, I have much interest in recording these issues as a cultural phenomenon, and none whatsoever in determining their accuracy or truth.  I do think that there’s something about the nineteenth century that lends itself to reported ghostly sitings; it’s historically present enough to seem accessible and tangible to us, and yet distant enough to lose some of it’s materiality.  Rather like the figure in the image, in fact . . .

This story, by the way, wasn’t precisely viral on the internet, but  it was reproduced on several websites and in a number of UK newspapers.  We don’t seem to  want to let the Victorians go entirely, however our culture may revile their mores!


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