An American History in Haunted Places

eBook - 2016
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Dickey, piqued by a house hunt in LA that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie houses", embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living -- how do we deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes are made to those facts and why, Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone and crimes left unsolved.
Publisher: 2016
ISBN: 9781101980217
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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May 09, 2019

Fans of Aaron Mahnke's "Lore" podcast would do well to graduate to this far more sophisticated and academically sound foray into the intersection between legendry and sociology. Colin Dickey is clearly more qualified as a PhD in Comparative Studies than Mahnke (who, as a journalist with no credible background, stays in the shallow end of the folklore pool) to both summarize and expound on what our most meaningful stories are and why. I've read this book twice already in a two year period and have it lovingly placed on the shelf next to classics such as "The Terror that Comes in the Night" by David Hufford, and "Haunting Experiences" by Diane Goldstein.

VaughanPLMichael Nov 04, 2018

This book followed the trend I noticed with The Toronto Book of the Dead. Although it talks about hauntings and Ghosts across America, its real goal is to dispel the mystical and introduce the cultural and historical realities of the landscape. In some ways, this works, in that it provides context to the myths and legends of these places, but in other ways this also becomes a bit of a bore to read.

Picture this: You're at a party and you're telling the story of this haunted house you heard about as a kid. You've got a captive audience, many of whom have even heard of the house themselves, and once you're done the story you're ready to hear other people's experience with the house. Before anyone can add their own two cents about the house and their experience with it, this guy comes over and tells you how you're wrong about the house, how the house never even really existed, and how he's done all this research to show how the tale was made up because of a racist family.

It's important information, and makes for an interesting point, but when I came into the conversation, I was hoping to talk about Ghosts and Hauntings. Not to be 'well, actually'ed to death.

So overall, I would have given this book a much lower score than 2 stars, but because the information was interesting, and it was fun to see how many of these stories came to be, I feel the author was too set on showing his own grey mater than really talking about the origin of the story. I would have liked a bit more on the mythos of these stories and how they grew, instead of how they're inaccurate.

Skip if you're hoping for a spooky romp through America's history or their haunted places. Definitely read if you love conversations that get interrupted with an 'Well, Actually..."

Dec 07, 2017

If you are looking for a series of ghost stories, this is probably not the book for you. I found it fascinating, an informative blend of the ghost story itself combined with historical context on why these stories become such an ingrained part of our culture. I love the history, made of people just like us, only from a different age. Their stories stay with us and live on, whether you believe in spirits and hauntings or not. I think in so many instances, ghost stories come from an injustice or terrible crime that we have a hard time reconciling and this is a way to make sense or peace from a situation that we cannot control or change. I am not discounting "ghosts" at all, I firmly believe in them and that they can and do exist in some capacity. I think the most famous hauntings are staged or done for revenue, not for the revenants trying to reach out to us.

AnnabelleLee27 Nov 15, 2017

An intriguing & intelligent look at how American ghost stories not only come to inhabit particular places but how they continue to reflect broader unresolved anxieties in our society. Dickey deftly pulls together architecture, history, etymology, psychology, and technology in his lively discussion. A fun and smart read.

lindab1111 Mar 23, 2017

"When is a creaking floorboard more than just a creaking floorboard? And what is behind the ghost stories that we tell? A spinster locked in a decaying mansion, a slave on a plantation whose soul won't rest - what are they trying to say to us from beyond the grave?"
Read this book with the lights on.

ArapahoeHannahS Mar 01, 2017

This book discusses how places such as historic homes, public parks and buildings, hotels, asylums, etc., across America have come to be haunted not only by ghosts, but by their history and the communal feelings we have about our past. Thoroughly researched and eloquently written, this was the most intriguing book I read from 2016.

EvaELPL Feb 02, 2017

As a lifelong fan of "true" ghost stories and haunted histories, when I picked up this book I suspected it wouldn't be telling me much I hadn't heard before. I was pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was! This book is less so about the haunted locations of America that are featured (of which most paranormal fans will already be aware of -- your Winchester Mystery Houses and Moundsville Penitentiaries, etc.), but rather what the myths and truths of those stories tell us about our history and society. Dickey ties our hauntings to issues of race, class, gender, and more, and the result is more insightful than you'd expect.

ehbooklover Dec 16, 2016

3.5 stars. I admit it. I love ghost stories. Some might call me obsessed. I own several books on the topic.

I borrowed this thinking that it would be another "typical" collection of ghost stories. It was more than that. It was an examination of why these stories exist and why we as a society enjoy hearing/telling them. I enjoyed this book and I especially liked learning about how some of the stories I have read/heard about actually evolved over time.


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Mar 12, 2017

"The legend of Sarah Winchester depends on a cultural uneasiness to which we don't always like to admit. An uneasiness about women living alone, withdrawn from society, for one."

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