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However, the work of groups such as the Society for Psychical Research aside, secular scientific thought did not easily accommodate the idea of a world beyond our own populated by the departed. Nor did it entertain amulets, charms, astrology or belief in luck. Science had now relegated these to superstition and folklore. A Supernatural War commences with a discussion of how sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists considered the battlefields of French and Belgium to be a unique laboratory for research.

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American psychologists such as George Washington Crile jumped at the chance to take charge of an ambulance unit, not least because it offered important opportunities to research the emerging concept of stress. Of more relevance, anthropologists and folklorists eagerly collected widespread evidence of magic, witchcraft, omens and ghosts. Back at home across Europe, grieving relatives sought solace in spiritualism, astrology was used to try to predict the end of the war and fortune tellers were widely consulted for news of the potential fate of fighting soldiers. For instance, Davies provides an insightful chapter on prophecies immediately before and during the war.

Between and , European war seemed inevitable. On the Continent, interest in Nostradamus soared. In addition to a re-awakening of interest in historical prophecies, new prophets emerged including Australian medium Mrs Foster Turner who, in , supposedly channelled the spirit of 19th-century journalist and spiritualist W.

Stead who announced to an audience including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that by the end of the year Europe would be deluged in blood.

Some prematurely prophesised that the end of the world had finally arrived. However, generally speaking prophets tended to foresee the military success of their own respective countries, in some ways providing pleasing wartime narratives to receptive audiences. As the war dragged on, prophets were placed under increasing pressure to accurately tell the public when conflict was to end.

Of particular interest is a compelling chapter on visions, spirits and psychics. On the battlefields, soldiers reported numerous strange visions and sensations including crosses appearing in the sky, visitations from angels, visions of the Virgin Mary and other heavenly signs.

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Churches across Europe eagerly reported on such spiritual phenomenon but took a warier stance towards stories of apparitions of deceased family members. Regardless, spiritualism flourished as an alternative to organised religion although Davies argues that spiritualism was not quite as popular during the war as many historians have previously claimed. Interestingly, spiritualists considered themselves highly suitable soldiers as they were not afraid of death, having a strong belief in an afterlife.

Although too busy to be holding seances and spreading the word about their faith in the trenches, spiritualist soldiers reassured themselves that they were surrounded, and often aided, by the countless dead spirits around them. Copyright of Journal of Military History is the property of Society for Military History and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged.

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