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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 historyColin 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 piued 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 uestions 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 From the Hardcover edition


10 thoughts on “Ghostland An American History in Haunted Places

  1. says:

    Ghostland gives us a look at some of America's most haunted places It often brings in the receipts and demolishes several rumors surrounding these places For the most part I found this book entertaining It was cool to see him debunk several myths surrounding stories I'd heard before The narrator definitely makes you look at these ghost stories from a different angle I'll admit that I found a few sections a bit bland but for the most part this was a pleasant read I thought going in that it would be one that SPOOKED me but I'm leaving it having not been spooked at all


  2. says:

    “Do I believe in ghosts? No but I am afraid of them” Marie Anne de Vichy Chamrond Maruise du DeffandOne summer around the time I was in middle school I spent a week at a friend’s family farm in central Minnesota The farmhouse was a familiar type nestled in a copse of trees and surrounded by otherwise treeless fields The house was old and sprawling and had been subjected to several additions over the years so that the interior was filled with odd nooks and corners with shadows and strange sounds And it was haunted Or so I was told before even setting a foot inside The ghost was a woman who – I believe; vagueness is essential to ghost stories – would have been my friend’s great grandma She’d died many years before In the living room she had a tchotchke cabinet with glass doors that locked with a key The key had disappeared at some point and the doors were eternally locked No one had touched those knickknacks in decades They were as they’d been when the great grandma died frozen in time like Miss Havisham’s furniture ButSometimes at night cue a flash of lighting a peal of thunder if you listened closely you could hear the metallic click of a key entering a lock and the slow thin sueal of the locking mechanism as it turnedI’d like to say I felt some otherworldly presence that night That perhaps I heard a sound that might have could have been a key from a different dimension turning a lock on a cabinet filled with ridiculous figurines I didn't though Never heard a thing That didn't stop me from being terrified I didn’t leave my room all night afraid I’d see something in that living room as I made my way to the bathroom I came very near to peeing my pants I’m sure most people whether open to the supernatural or not have a story like this We live in a haunted world and ghosts – or at least their stories – surround us Colin Dickey wanted to know why In Ghostland he embarks on a journey across the United States to give us “an American history in haunted places” In doing so he expounds on the reasons these stories exist and why they have endured Dickey divides the book into four uadrants The first covers haunted homes; the second haunted businesses such hotels restaurants and brothels; the third haunted public places such as prisons and cemeteries; and finally haunted towns where Dickey eschews classic ghost towns in favor of major metropolises He explores places that are both well known such as the “House of Seven Gables” in Salem Massachusetts and the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles as well as others that are less famous like Cathedral Park in Portland Oregon I venture that most readers will be familiar with many of the places Dickey visits The restless spirits of the Stanley Hotel aka the Overlook from Stephen King’s The Shining and the ueen Mary are no secret especially if you have ever spent five minutes watching The Travel Channel For the record I have spent than five minutes while drinking than five wines Dickey however is not out to give you a typical ghost tour He is – uite frankly – almost disinterested in the purported ghostly occurrences that drew him in the first place There are times when he introduces a location without even bothering to relate the predicate ghostly tale If you are fascinated by the supernatural I suspect this might be a disappointment Dickey is clearly a skeptic – by the end that skepticism has almost become impatience – but proving or disproving the paranormal in any methodical way is not his purpose In other words this is not a literary version of Ghost Adventures Instead Dickey has a cerebral goal He is out to interpret the meanings behind each tale To do so he utilizes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses history psychology sociology architecture and literature Taken on these terms this is a fascinating book Dickey deftly segues between fields mining insight and significance from anything from the construction of a house to the factual contours of an alleged haunting Ghostland reads very smoothly Dickey’s fluid prose coupled with his boundless curiosity makes this very engaging from beginning to end At less than 300 pages of text it is not a huge investment of time in the first placeThere are weighty topics here weightier than I expected from a book called Ghostland In one chapter he talks about spiritualism and its role as a religion in which women were not placed in a subservient position In another he discusses the role of race specifically the absence of black ghosts in the spook stories of the south I enjoyed his handling of this material which he presents briskly but intelligently I also appreciated his look at a familiar topic from a fresh viewpoint That said I did not love this Ghostland belongs to a genre I call the Historical Road Trip The success of a book in this genre like the success of an actual road trip rests largely with the driver Like any road trip there are good stops and bad Dickey’s literary visit to Binghamton NY is as dispiriting to read as a literal visit to Binghamton NY As the driver Dickey disappears for large stretches writing mostly in an objective third person manner That’s a shame because some of the best parts such as his visit to the Lemp Mansion in St Louis come when he relates his experiences in the first person Dickey comes across as a bit of a pedant He states that he’s not out to disprove paranormal activity which is strictly true However he is out to undercut the historical premises that underlie the ghost stories themselves This has the same effect and sort of kneecaps his own topic By the end I thought of Dickey as that friend we all have the one who is constantly correcting everyone else by saying “Well actually that’s not true” For the record I’m that friend in my friend group This book is missing the vital element of fun I like how Dickey engages some heavy topical issues but that engagement doesn’t necessarily reuire the utter absence of joy I mean this is a book about ghosts Reading this is a bit like signing up for a cakewalk college course say Intro to Schwarzenegger Action Films and then showing up to find out you’re in Organic Chemistry Okay this isn’t exactly Organic Chemistry Still there should be humor here There should be interesting characters Instead everyone he interviews is dead pun intended; this book could’ve used some puns serious about whatever they’re saying I can only imagine how a different writer such as Sarah Vowell might have handled this subjectBecause this book is so grave another pun again intended Dickey’s conclusions as to why people believe in ghosts run the gamut from snarky he posits that some folks have too much time on their hands to farfetched such as lingering guilt over taking this land from American Indians The easy answer and I think the right answer is that belief in ghosts comes from the same place as faith in a god It is the hope in life after death Evidence of a ghost means there’s evidence that things don’t just end with our last gasping breath That’s both comforting and terrifying We live in an old house with creaky wood floors and doors that don’t uite fit into their frames any Thus as day settles into night there are noises galore I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve been sent downstairs by my wife weapon free mind you to see if anyone is breaking in It’s never been fully explained what I’m supposed to do if someone actually is breaking in Being something of a storytellerbullshitter I am fond of telling people that the house is haunted by the ghost of Charlie Charlie lived in the house before us I know this because we still get his mail I also know that he died though in a hospital Like any good ghost story this one combines a single thread of truth with a lot of outright fabrications Sometimes though when I’m sent downstairs to make sure the front door is locked and it’s late at night and the lights are off and the house is sighing and slouching in its foundation I start to wonder if I’m going to run into Charlie in the hall going about his business as he had in life I never do because Charlie’s ghost is something that doesn’t exist Just as ghosts don’t exist I know this with my head My heart though is giving me a complicated message One that despite their nonexistence ghosts are scary And two that part of me hopes my head is completely wrong That ghosts are real That life goes on even after death


  3. says:

    A fascinating analysis of ghost stories their lore and cultural significance The book isn't cheesy and doesn't try to prove or disprove the spirit realm On the contrary it is a historical literary and sometimes personal analysis of hauntings iconic haunted locations and noteworthy spectersOverall I enjoyed it uite a bit A well written cross country tour of haunted places some I have heard of and others that were new that spans over time and even projects us into the future Dickey discusses colonial ghosts all the way to the ghosts of once thriving Detroit the 2008 housing crisis and how haunted houses might look in the era of Alexa Thoroughly fascinating and a great read during this spooky time of year


  4. says:

    35 An overview of some of the places in America that are said to be haunted and the stories behind them Often debunking some of what we think we know about them such as the myth behind the Winchester House Amityville and Danvers asylum all well known Different movements such as spiritualism and the notorious Fox sisters Haunted graveyards battle grounds plantations and other places where spirits are said to be restless appear to visitors This book is not so much scary though if I saw any of these apparitions I would probably be terrified as it is an explanation for why these things may happen He never really states whether be does or does not believe in ghosts haunting or spirits he just presents both sides and does it very well Interesting read for October and for those who have a fascination for such things as I do


  5. says:

    Ghostland is a not spooky but thoroughly entertaining examination of ghost stories and haunted locales throughout America with the express intent of debunking the paranormal and better understanding how ghost stories reflect on our past and present Given the book's dark cover and the timing of its release it seems necessary to reiterate that there's nothing particularly creepy about this book The author dug through family trees and historic records until he unearthed every inconsistency or blatant lie associated with famous ghost stories or well known haunted locations He actively debunks one ghost story after anotherThe author posits that ghost stories are malleable changing throughout the years to accommodate society's various needs Paying attention to the way ghost stories change through the years and why those changes are made can tell us a great deal about how we face our fears and our anxieties Even when these stories have a basis in fact and history there's often significant embellishment and fabrication before they catch on in our imagination and teasing out these alterations is key to understanding how ghosts shape our relationship to the past In addition to stories of ghosts the author examines several haunted locations revealing details spanning from the evolution of their sometimes bizarre construction to their rise in popularity as a notorious haunt The unusual the house the author states the likely it'll cause unease among its neighbors and the we seem to reuire some kind of story to explain its construction Additional locations explored include haunted bars and brothels hotels and restaurants asylums graveyards and Though it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the book it sometimes feels as though the author drifts off on a tangent For example a chapter that begins by introducing a notoriously haunted house eventually segues to a discussion of Spiritualism which ultimately leads to an examination of a woman's right to vote These shifts in narrative are never a point of contention for the reader because all of the information is well researched and tied together seamlessly This is how ghost stories are born after all not from a complete story so much as from bits and pieces that don't uite add up a kaleidoscope of menace and unease that coalesce in unpredictable ways Ghostland An American History in Haunted Places is a skilfully crafted and compelling book that will appeal to fans of American history trivia haunted locales and ghosts


  6. says:

    Ghostland by Colin Dickey is a 2016 Viking publication I picked this one out on audio but the way my mind wanders when an audiobook plays I was worried I would lose interest uickly with this one but surprisingly I enjoyed listening to this book while I worked around the house Before you decided to check this book out please be aware this work of non fiction is not scary in the way the title might suggest although I did love hearing those deliciously chilling ghost stories some of which I had not heard of before Until the author takes great pleasure in debunking them However I enjoyed the history behind these myths and urban legends the architecture the locations and on occasion I agreed with some of the psychological musings the author offered up for why we love these stories why we are drawn to paranormal activity and why we feel compelled to believe in ghosts but mostly I felt the urge to de bunk HIS theories Right now there is a plethora of ‘reality’ shows that feature paranormal activities hauntings and ghost hunters Ghosts are highly sought after and are endlessly fascinatingThe author is very thorough covering every possible location for hauntings including houses hotels hospitals notoriously haunted cites prisons tragedy markers and Indian burial grounds among many others The legendary haunts explored in the book cover the Myrtle Plantation The Winchester Mansion and Amityville as well as the notorious LaLaurie House and a few off the beaten path as well The author often pauses after setting up the story he is about to teach us about to explain the era of time the history behind the story the people at the heart of it and the real logical explanation for the hauntings which of course takes the fun out of it a little But the true story was also interestingAt times the author’s tone takes on a chastising note as he admonishes the reader for believing in these stories having fun with them while a family has suffered a loss There are modern day legends and I suppose the author is right about how a family may feel if their loved one becomes the subject of these modern day ghost hunters or if they become an urban legend with people ‘having fun’ retelling the story of a murder or suicide for kicks and giggles On the other hand I personally think these stories true or not help to preserve history maybe even preserve a memory so that a person is remembered and sometimes they are a cautionary tale and sometimes they seek justice for those denied it in life or sometimes it can be a tender story that brings peace to a grieving loved one and frankly I don’t see the harm in it The author obviously is not a believer although at times he grudgingly admits he has found himself in a place that seemed to have an aura around it although he seems unable to call it a haunting On a personal note I don’t discount the possibility of ghosts and I don’t suffer from a conscience prick if I share a ghost story around a campfire I’ve never encountered a ghost and probably never will and like the author I’m of a skeptic than a believer But these stories are interesting and okay they are entertaining too So while the author does slap our wrist for enjoying them he doesn’t seem to mind making of a buck off them himself Touche’?Overall I found this book fascinating and interesting for the most part and enjoyed hearing my favorite haunted stories and the history behind them and even enjoyed hearing the truth or the plausible and logical explanation for them but the author’s personal take on why people relate to these stories didn’t appeal to me most of the time and his attitude was a little over the top So if you are looking for a scary chilling group of ghost stories to enjoy at Halloween this may not be the book you are looking for But if you are interested in learning the history behind these alleged hauntings and seeing how the author discovered the truth about them then you will find this book to be uite interesting indeed 35 stars


  7. says:

    Incredibly scary and a perfect read for the month of October Colin Dickey examines ghosts haunted buildings and other urban legends throughout the United States But it's not just about ghost stories he also delves into the true histories of everything from cemeteries to asylums When I picked up Ghostland I thought how creepy can the US be it hasn't been around all that long comparatively speaking And I found out really really creepyYou don't have to believe in ghosts to enjoy this book Here's what the author had to say in the intro Even if you don't believe in the paranormal ghost stories and legends of haunted places are a vital dynamic means of confronting the past and those who have gone before us Ultimately this book is about the relationship between place and story how the two depend on each other and how they bring each other alive loc 23 ebookI learned a lot of uirky historical details about the United States For example did you know that Spiritualists were a huge part of the suffrage movement? Early suffrage meetings were heavily populated with mediums and trance speakers; in some places it was difficult to find suffragists who weren't also Spiritualists Spiritualism had given many of these women practice and confidence in speaking to groups with authority; by allowing others the dead to speak through them American women began to speak for themselves in greater numbers Spiritualism was only one of many factors and social movements that drove women's suffrage but it was a vital and important one loc 961 978 ebookOne night my ride home from work was late and I found myself alone in the library with all of the lights off and it was so spooky I felt like I was being watched and jumped at every little creak in the stacks In this passage Dickey explains why Few things are unsettling than being somewhere emptied out after everyone else has left If you've ever worked a closing shift or as a security guard you know the way a place can change after the doors are locked and the lights are dimmed when the lighting so carefully designed to spotlight the latest gadgets goes slack when the mood lighting gets moodier It's as though you don't belong there loc 1250 ebookThe most disturbing moments for me were the true history portions of the narrative Early madhouses were often revealed to be nightmares of abuse and neglect Reports of incontinent patients hosed down with icy water naked women chained haphazardly to the walls fleas and rats rampant and other horrors gradually prompted a desire for something sanitary and humane loc 2205 ebook Eeeek Is it any wonder that these places are haunted?Dickey includes a poem by Goethe in his examination of the ruins of Detroit Goethe wrote in 1827 America you have it better Than our old continent You have no ruined castles And no ancient basalt Your inner life remains untroubled By useless memory And futile strife That was then Now almost two hundred years later we've started to catch up to old Europe We have plenty of ruined castles now plenty of wasted strife to call our own loc 3217 ebook I would have disagreed with that sentiment but then I read Ghostland Now I know betterRecommended for folks who are looking for a spooky non fiction read for Halloween or any other time that you're looking for a good scare Pick this one up with a hot drink and a warm blanket you're going to need it Some read alikes Hunt for the Skinwalker Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah by Colm A Kelleher one of the scariest books I've ever read or Mysteries and Monsters of the Sea by Fate Magazine similar to Ghostland but nautically themedThank you to Viking Publishing and NetGalley for a digital copy of this book for review purposes


  8. says:

    GHOSTLAND is a stirring and expertly written historical account of our ghosts the ones we celebrate and the ones we hide This is not a cheesy ghost hunters TV show in book form Dickey deconstructs the folklore and myth surrounding the US's most famousnotorious hauntings This is a book about how ghost stories happen how they are created how they evolve how they reflect our history and how they often bury the history we don't want to face His chapteressay on Salem is one of the most astute I've ever read I cannot recommend this book highly enough


  9. says:

    Ghostland is a thoughtful in depth look at not only some of the most famous haunted places in the US but also why we have the need for ghosts in the first place The history of ghosts in the United States also leaves out a lot of actual history and tends to be the story of white ghosts There are very few ghosts of color on hand Some times Native Americans show up because of development on their burial groundsOverwhelmingly the ghost stories that have to do with real people tend to have a lot of made up stuff added to their stories Time and time again the true story of a person's demise has been exaggerated to create interest for ghost hunters One thing that would have made the book interesting for me would have been some photos I spent a great deal of time looking up pictures on the internet to get a feel for these places


  10. says:

    I tried but I really couldn't stand this one For me personally it was the tone that the author took The chapters are divided by different famous ghost stories and the author proceeds to debunk them all In that vein there really is only so much of a 'people capitalizing on someone's tragedy for fun' 'smearing an innocent person's name' or 'no proof of said event ever happened' refrain that is repeated before the reading gets dullThe author doesn't believe in ghosts and does pretty much everything in his power to explain every single case That's cool but I didn't pick up a book like that I wanted a history and something a bit vagueThis is written as a history but the history is uite weak and upsupported The conclusions are very narrow in scope Such like the author posets that the reason why we love ghost stories is because dead relatives don't say in our houses for three or four days after their deaths any This is the only reason why and he never shows any proofOn the other hand humans have always had a very strong interest in this subject matter Hello Religions I do believe these were created for this He doesn't even bother with things such as the Black Plague or any of the other plagues I realize that the Black Plague was before the time of the US but that truly sparked much of the macabre in Europe and the first colonies weren't far removed for that timeThis narrow minded reasoning and no depth left other areas a bit annoying Such like the author states that people state that ghosts are created via suffering of the individual or guilt or feelings of wrong doing So says the author why no black ghosts in the South? It must be because Southerners didn't see blacks as humans and he leaves it there And I'm thinking 'expound on this further' White people don't think they did anything wrong and the South is full of people who still believe the North is a vile place I just got into an argument with a Southerner over how he felt Lincoln was worse than Hitler I know these are petty It was just the repetition and vague histories plus disappointment I was looking forward to this book