The Mistletoe Bough, 1904

Screenshot from "The Mistletoe Bough"
Screenshot from “The Mistletoe Bough”

With the holiday season in full swing and Christmas just around the corner, this week’s addition to Historic Occult is the 1904 short film The Mistletoe Bough.

This short film is based on a holiday ghost story (which you can read about here and here), which has also inspired songs (a write-up here, and a performance of the song itself here) and other visual representations such as illustrations and paintings.  Like other seasonal favourites – the first coming to my mind being A Christmas Carol – The Mistletoe Bough explores themes of loss and regret with a healthy dose of the macabre.

Happy holidays!


Dublin Core Metadata

Title: The Mistletoe Bough
Creator: Stow, Percy
Subject: “Christmas in art” “Weddings in motion pictures” “Ghosts”
Description: A macabre short film about a game of hide-and-go-seek gone wrong
Publisher: Clarendon Film Company
Date: 1904
Type: Film
Format: mp4
Language: English
Rights: Public Domain


“The Coming of the Fairies” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1922

Elsie and the Gnome from "The Coming of the Fairies"
Elsie and the Gnome from “The Coming of the Fairies”

Building upon Historic Occult’s previous post regarding Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s belief in spiritualism and spirit photography it is no wonder that Doyle was a believer in the Cottingley Fairies.

Today’s post is sharing Doyle’s investigative tale of the fairies and the girls who swore they interacted with them.  Though it has been confirmed that the photos – like the one on the right – were a hoax, Doyle’s analysis of the validity of these images is an interesting peek into historic spiritualism and the willingness for people to believe in something good during a dark time.

Because the book is out of copyright and therefore in the Public Domain, there are many versions, both physical and digital.  Of the digital copies I have come across, the copy I am linking today – from the University of Adelaide – is the most visually pleasing and well put together.

Dublin Core Metadata

Title: The Coming of the Fairies

Creator: Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859-1930

Subject: “Fairies” “Hoaxes” “Spiritualism”

Description: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1922 book investigating the Cottingley Fairies

Publisher: University of Adelaide

Date: originally published 1922; e-book 2005

Type: text

Format: website


Language: English

Relation: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Spirit

Rights: text is within the Public Domain

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Spirit

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Spirit
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Spirit

As shown by a number of Historic Occult posts, high-profile individuals and famous entertainers were not immune to spiritualists beliefs.  Alongside the likes of Harry Houdini and William Lyon Mackenzie King was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – perhaps best known as the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Though Doyle’s most famous character is well versed in the art of logical deductive reasoning, Doyle was a Spiritualist who also wrote on occult topics.

Today’s Historic Occult resource is the image of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a spirit, taken by Ada Deane a famous spirit photographer, which was originally found on the Wikimedia Commons.

Future Historic Occult posts will focus on resources by both Doyle and Deane, but until then here a few online resources for further reading:

Ada Emma Deane’s Armistice Day Series [Web page] (n.d.). Retrieved from

Arthur Conan Doyle [Web page] (2006). Retrieved from

Roden, Christopher. Arthur Conan Doyle: A brief biographical study [Web page] (2003). Retrieved from

Dublin Core Metadata

Title: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Spirit

Creator: Deane, Ada Emma.

Subject: “Spirit photographs” “Spiritualism” “Mediums” “Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859-1930”

Description: Image of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a spirit

Date: 1922

Type: Image

Format: jpeg


Rights: Public Domain



Ghost Towns of Western Canada

Reco Hotel, Sandon, British Columbia
Reco Hotel, Sandon, British Columbia

In celebration of Canada Day (July 1), this week’s post is a little different – or lazy.

What’s creepier than a ghost town? In my honest opinion, not a whole lot.  Who knows what could be lurking in the buildings of an entire town completely abandoned by those who lived there.

In the spirit of patriotism, I am sharing the black and white photos of Western Canadian ghost towns from the Glenbow Museum‘s image collection.

Find the images here.  If you are having a hard time accessing the images through that link, try searching “ghost town” /”ghost towns” on the museum’s image collection search page.

And of course, don’t forget to check out Historic Occult’s earlier post about the diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King.


A Manual of Occultism

Cover page for "A Manual of Occultism"
Cover page for “A Manual of Occultism”

There were many informational books about the occult published in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Quite a few of these books were about how to perform occult activities, such as stage hypnotism, tarot readings and this week’s more general text “A Manual of Occultism.”  With chapters on astrology, palmistry, occult arts, and alchemy this 300 page book is a relatively comprehensive resource on the discussed activities.


Dublin Core Metadata

Title: A manual of occultism

Creator: Sepharial, 1864-1929

Subject: “Astrology” “Palmistry” “Hypnotism” “Alchemy”

Description: An early 20th century manual on astrology, palmistry, hypnotism and alchemy.

Publisher: William Rider & Son, Ltd.

Date: 1914

Type: text

Format: pdf

Source: Internet Archive.

Language: English

Rights: No copyright page found


Screenshot from Nosferatu.
Screenshot from Nosferatu.

Much like the diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, a collection of occult resources that impacted North America wouldn’t be complete without including Nosferatu.  Though not created in North America, it is arguably the most influential silent horror film.

One can easily search ‘Nosferatu’ on Google and find many, many critiques of the film, and therefore I’m not going to jump into that.  What I will say is that as the film is considered a classic.  Part of that would be in its subject matter, and its representation of the occult.

Because the film is in the public domain it can be found all over the internet for viewing, but the copy that I am sharing today can be found on the Internet Archive.


Dublin Core Metadata

Title: Nosferatu

Creator: Murnau, F. W. (Friedrich Wilhelm), 1888-1931

Subject: “Vampires” “Dracula films” “Horror films”

Description: Classic silent horror film.

Publisher: Dieckmann, Erich

Date: 1922

Type: Film

Format: mp4

Source: Internet Archive.

Language: English subtitles

Rights: Public Domain

Stage Hypnotism: A Text Book of Occult Entertainments by Leondias

Stage Hypnotism: A Text Book of Occult Entertainments
Stage Hypnotism: A Text Book of Occult Entertainments Title Page

With the few previous posts highlighting stage magicians and their preoccupation with the occult, it’s not surprising to find that there were books on how to perform tricks, illusions and feats similar to those of Harry Houdini and Thurston the Great Magician.

This week’s document is “Stage Hypnotism: A Text Book of Occult Entertainment” written by Leonidas (a pseudonym for John Lowell). At only 162 pages, it is a quick yet informative introduction to the act of stage hypnotism and “the art of entertaining in the fields of psychology” (Leonidas, 1901, Preface).

Dublin Core Metadata

Title: Stage hypnotism: A text book of occult entertainments

Creator: Lowell, John, 1769-1840

Subject: “Hypnotism”

Description: A non-fiction introduction to hypnosis for entertainment.

Publisher: Bureau of Stage Hypnotism

Date: 1901

Type: text

Format: PDF

Source: Internet Archive.

Language: English

Rights: Public Domain