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Ghostland

Publisher: Penguin Books

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey seems like the perfect book release as we edge ever closer to Halloween. However, if you go into this book expecting simply a bevy a ghost stories from across America (as I did), you'll be a bit surprised as Mr. Dickey wraps each ghostly tale in exposition, history, philosophy, and sometimes, a little bit of preachiness, especially when something pertains to the Old South, slavery, gentrification, or places having to do with Native Americans.

Ghostland's sections are divided into 1) The Unhomely: houses and mansions; 2) After Hours: bars, restaurants, hotels, and brothels; 3) Civic-Minded Spirits: prisons and asylums, graveyards and cemeteries, a park; and 4) Useless Memory: cities and towns. Scattered throughout these sections are some fairly famous haunted places such as the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, LA, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA and the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA, among many others. As Dickey would unveil the story of the haunted location, he might throw in a personal anecdote about his own odd house-hunting experiences, or meetings he's had with local ghost-hunters, then he'll go into the "ghost stories" surrounding the locale, interspersing these with actual history. All of this is pretty cool and I enjoyed learning some of the actual facts and history behind some of these locations, but I'd often find the information to be a bit circuitous such that by the time I finished a chapter on a haunted place, I didn't really remember what was truth and what was fiction meant to hype the location.

Regardless, he covers a wide variety of locations and there's sure to be specific places of interest for those wanting to know more about haunted areas. From the Mustang Ranch in Vegas, a haunted brothel, to Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, VA, oddly enough, home to only white ghosts, although right next to the second largest slave trading post, aside from New Orleans, and plenty in between, including the Cecil Hotel, the basis for a season of American Horror Story, there's lots of info here. I was keenly interested in his chapter on New Orleans, as I was born there and lived not far from there, and had experienced Hurricane Katrina first hand through my family who did reside there and had to evacuate. There were many ghostly tales based in New Orleans, both old and new since Katrina, but I had personally never heard of any of the tales that were told of Katrina ghosts, although I must admit they were chilling. I've been to the House of the Seven Gables and never realized it was supposedly haunted, and I spent five years living a scant 10 minutes from the Myrtles, although I never darkened the door. Not because I wasn't curious, but because I had a sense there was some very real haunting going on there. So for me, there were enough places of interest covered in the book that I was intrigued and wanted more info on.

Personally, I found Ghostland interesting, but it wasn't the "ghost story" book I was hoping for. It felt more like a primer of haunted places in America, which I suppose was Dickey's intent, but when I want to sit down to a book of scary stories, personally I want scary stories a-plenty, not a bunch of extra discussion in between. If you are a history buff and are looking for haunted history, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places has you covered, but if you are looking for a collection of ghost stories, this probably won't fit the bill.



-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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