In the little port of Stromness in the Orkney Islands, there is a memorial to Sir John Franklin and his expedition. Stromness was the last stop in the British Isles for Franklin's two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, before they headed northwest towards Greenland and northern Canada - there to search for the Northwest Passage. The basic facts of the Franklin tragedy are well known. The two ships sailed down the Thames in May 1845 and, after stops in Orkney and at various points around the coast of Greenland, had their last contact with Europeans when they were sighted by two English whalers in Baffin Bay in August 1845.
The appetite of London's public for any information on Franklin's fate meant that enormous credence was given to even the most ill substantiated snippet of news or rumour. So no surprise perhaps that mesmerists, clairvoyants and mediums found a ready trade in the Franklin search - and they were not just consulted by newspaper editors in search of a good story, but also by the authorities intent on finding the two lost ships.
Parisian society had been beguiled by mesmerism imported from Germany, and it was not long before interest in the paranormal was being discussed in England.