Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places
By Colin Dickey
Viking, 2016. 320 pages.
Author Colin Dickey was in the market to buy a house after the housing market crash of 2008. His tour of foreclosed and empty homes (or “zombie homes”) inspired him to write about American history in terms of his haunted houses, cemeteries, prisons, and asylums. Ghost fans will recognize such beloved favorites as the Winchester Mystery House, The Stanley Hotel, and Amityville, as well as many others.
This book is by no means a scary read, but instead invokes elements of history and American folklore. Everyone knows about Sarah Winchester’s supernatural visitors urging her to build her sprawling mansion, but is that the whole story? Dickey not only explores the veracity of ghost stories, but delves into historical explanations as well. Why do some ghosts haunt places that they visited instead of places where they died? What causes a ghost story to live on in oral tradition and lore? Does racial bias have anything to do with the types of ghost stories told (and experienced) in an area with a history of slavery? Dickey explores these questions and more in this volume of America’s more supernatural history.