Best known for his poignant portraits of Victorian England, Charles Dickens was a person full of contradictions.
He could be harsh and demanding, but he was also notoriously charitable. He was meticulous to the point of being obsessive and scientifically inclined, but he also surrounded himself with artistic people and devoted himself to writing fiction.
His fascination with the spiritual may not be surprising considering that Dickens was the one who popularized the Christmas ghost story. But for him it was not the spirits of the dead that haunted the living, but his own mind.
Dickens maintained throughout his life a fascination with the concept of magical technology popular in spiritualism. Not that he particularly believed in spirits or crossing some invisible veil into the afterlife; Dickens did believe in an energy that emanates from the mind that could be related to what was understood as paranormal and even touch the minds of other people.
This kind of belief led Dickens to become interested in and experiment with hypnotism, and it is visible in his stories. In the end, the three ghosts in “A Christmas Carol” have psychological origins.
Although Dickens died in 1870, aged 58, he had a brush with death just five years earlier, when he survived the terrible Staplehurst train crash.
Despite having lived surrounded by them, perhaps the biggest ghost he left behind was his incomplete novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Without a resolution for his fifteenth novel, Dickens was buried along with other great writers at Westminster, even though his wish had been to rest in a small churchyard close to home.