Books on hauntings, folklore, spooky stories are my jam. I can't get enough of them when the fall comes round.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places is a bit different than your average "scary stories that are true" book. Colin Dickey gets deep into the psychology of some of the most popular ghost stories in American history. He takes readers on a haunted tour of his own, moving from state to state, from private home, to public building, park, graveyard, prison, and other important structures. He explores the cultural and historical context of the era these stories appeared and looks at why we still tell them today. Often these tales are born of guilt, are reminders of injustice, or provide a lesson.
The stories he features are about real people and events; it's important to keep that in mind. These were the real sufferings of human beings. Colin Dickey reaches into the darkest parts in the past to put these tales into perspective. It was sometimes a bummer to read. Reading about slavery, war, and tragic death usually isn't a happy experience anyway. I feel that I learned a lot, and was even surprised by the truth behind the stories. Take, for example, the Winchester House in California. I believed it was a story about a superstitious old woman. The truth reveals more about the economic and misogynistic values at that time.
Colin Dickey doesn't set out to debunk the stories he highlights, but to lay them out for the reader within the historical context. He does ask questions about how we tell these stories. When is it okay to embellish a story for effect? Is it okay to profit off the suffering of others even long after their deaths? (He has a lot to say about dark tourism and reality TV ghost hunters.)
Finally, he looks to the future of hauntings and ghost stories. Will the Internet of Things play a part? Is the appearance of a deceased person's Facebook page a type of haunting? I thought that was an interesting question!
If you are a reader who enjoys history, folklore, and a bit of creepiness, then you should pick up Ghostland. Plus, there are a number of literary references, just to put the cherry on the top! (also, that cover is awesome!)
About the Audio: Jon Lindstrom narrates. He had an authoritative voice. I almost felt he had done the research!Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.