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Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (Paperback)

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(US History)

Staff Reviews

This is a fascinating look at how American history can be read through our ghostlore! I came for the spookiness - and there are some great ghosts in here - but Dickey's focus is more on how ghost stories function in our culture. I love how this book is organized (by theme and region), so that a particular story is brought back into context. From this perspective, it seems that the stories we tell ourselves about the dead may say a lot more about us than about historical facts. Bonus points for featuring my favorite spooky place, The Ridges, in Chapter Ten: The Stain. 

— From Kelsey's Picks


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.

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. From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101980200
ISBN-10: 1101980206
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 336
Language: English