Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

by Colin Dickey


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One of NPR's Great Reads of 2016

“A lively assemblage and smart analysis of dozens of haunting stories… absorbing…[and] intellectually intriguing.”—The New York Times Book Review

An intellectual feast for fans of offbeat history, Ghostland takes readers on a road trip through some of the country's most infamously haunted places—and deep into the dark side of our history.

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.     
       With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living—how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made—and why those changes are made—Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved.
       Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101980200
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 77,751
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Colin Dickey grew up in San Jose, California, a few miles from the Winchester Mystery House, the most haunted house in America. As a writer, speaker, and academic, he has made a career out of collecting unusual objects and hidden histories all over the country. He's a regular contributor to the LA Review of Books and Lapham's Quarterly, and is the co-editor (with Joanna Ebenstein) of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology. He is also a member of the Order of the Good Death, a collective of artists, writers, and death industry professionals interested in improving the Western world's relationship with mortality. With a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Southern California, he is an associate professor of creative writing at National University.

Read an Excerpt

1933, a summer’s day in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There are children playing outside on East Fourth Street; it is August, and they are wild, they are shouting and running through the street, trying to gather up the last of the season before the fall sets in. There is nothing unusual about any of this. Then the door swings open at 29 East Fourth Street, and an old woman emerges on to the stoop overlooking the street, waving her arms wildly and shouting to the children to be quiet. The children, as well as the adults on the street, all recognize her: Gertrude Tredwell, who’s lived in the house for over ninety years, born there only a few years after her father purchased it in 1935. She is enraged; she tells them they are being far too noisy, they must calm down. The children quiet, turning towards the high staircase that leads to Gertrude’s front door, looking up with fear at the old woman who, satisfied, returns indoors and shuts the door. 

Excerpted from "Ghostland"
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Copyright © 2017 Colin Dickey.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Introduction: Anatomy of a Haunting, New York, NY 1

I The Unhomely houses and mansions 13

1 The Secret Staircase Salem, MA 21

2 Shifting Ground St. Trancisville, LA 37

3 The Endless House San Jose, CA 49

4 The Rathole Revelation Georgetown, NY Bull Valley, IL 69

5 The Family That Would Not live St Louis, MO 81

II After Hours bars, restaurants, hotels, and brothels 93

6 A Devilish Place Richmond, VA 103

7 Baby Reno, NV 119

8 Passing Through LOS Angeles, CA 131

III Civic-Minded Spirits prisons and asylums, graveyards and cemeteries, a park 151

9 Melancholy Contemplation Moundsville, WV 159

10 The Stain Danvers, MA Athens, OH 173

11 Awaiting the Devil's Coming Charleston, SC Douglas County, KS 187

12 Our Illustrious Dead Shiloh, TN 203

13 The Wind Through Cathedral Park Portland, OR 213

IV Useless Memory cities and towns 225

14 The Wet Grave New Orleans, LA 233

15 Among the Ruins Detroit, MI 253

16 Hillsdale, USA 267

Epilogue: Ghosts of a New Machine Allendale, CA 277

Acknowledgments 287

Notes 289

Index 309

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Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is truly interesting. It examines the phenomenon of ghost stories and legends, how they originate and what functions they serve in our society. Everyone likes a good scary story, but it's really interesting to see how these ghost stories develop into a narrative that often has a deeper meaning. A great read, especially now at Halloween!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago