Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places
By Colin Dickey
Narrated by Jon Lindstrom
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ISBN13: 9781524703653
Unabridged: 10 hr and 48 min
Genre: Nonfiction/History (Paranormal)


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.

(New) Thoughts

Ghostland is exactly what it claims to be; an exploration of America’s haunted history and places. Colin Dickey treks across the US examining some more infamous haunts and a few lesser known. As someone who spent their childhood in search of the next big ghost story, this promised to be my cup of tea.

“Surely ghosts will follow wherever there is bad record keeping” 

This is the sort of book that understandably piques the curiosity. Sporting a collection of haunted locations, I will admit I found myself slightly disappointed in the lack of actual fear factor I anticipated. Dickey’s approach is admirable though and warrants consideration. Addressing each haunt and history with a skeptical eye, he delves deep into the stories unearthing the often less than stellar realities.

As someone with a deep appreciation and interest in the supernatural I am aware that skepticism is an important part of the search for answers and the truth. The author undertakes the task of exposing the truth behind the provided stories, debunking them one by one.

Perhaps, that is where the connection failed for myself initially. I craved a dark, unexplained tale of horror. What I received was a brief lesson in history. A look at how times alters even the most legendary of stories and the role that human psych  and even spirituality play in such. We are often guilty of subconsciously bending the truth to fit our own needs as a society. Sometimes we are haunted by tragedy, family disputes and lies.

“But this, too, you could say, is part of the American story, as we have always been people who move on, leaving behind wreckage and fragments in our wake.” 

Dickey’s direct methods and examination offer substantial insight. Jon Lindstrom (who I first encountered in Dark Matter) accompanies this with a fluid and effective narration that offers a seamless encounter. Information is delivered in digestible portions that feel well researched.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places may not have delivered the supernatural stories I sought, but it delivered none the less. Well timed execution assure an experience that offers entertainment and solicits thought. But I struggled with what felt like an air of disbelief and biased opinions on the author’s behalf. I personally believe the most effective investigators will keep an open mind and felt that was not exactly the case here. The author felt that of a pure skeptic, but I still enjoyed my time with the book. I recommend exploring this on your own accord and formulating an opinion. It could be a worthy discussion read.

Untitled design Enjoyed with a glass of iced green tea and a hint of spearmint.


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32 thoughts on “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

  1. Interesting! As a skeptic myself, I’m not usually interested in non-fiction books about reported hauntings, but if this is less about ghost sightings, and more about the history, it might be right up my alley… To the TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s great so far. I haven’t made a whole lot of progress because I’m just listening while closing up at work. I need to hurry up and get it done, though. It’s due back in a week!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Nope, I do not like this. I am like the poster in Mulders office: ‘I want to believe’.

    I have good reason to believe.

    I apologize if have mentioned this before, but I work production and act at a haunted house in a real-life haunted facility. Sloss Furnace is consistently in the high rankings for the most haunted site in the U.S. This is a closed blast foundry. It was built in the 1880’s and ran until 1972. It is the site of the worlds largest steam engine. This was to deliver the ‘blast’ of hot air that fired the furnace. It was a very dangerous place to work. There are over a hundred confirmed deaths, and many more unconfirmed. Prisoner labour was used. The guard towers are still there. There are many, many supernatural stories around this place.Ghost hunters that come to the site do it wrong. They sit quietly and hope to see something. We, the actors of the haunt, wake up the site. It is we that experience the paranormal. I have made the observation that girls were more likely to suffer malicious attack from mean, angry ghosts, and guys were more likely to experience mischief from pookahs. There were no women on this site during operation. The men that worked here were some bad-ass dudes. I think they feel that women do not belong there. It is usually the girls that get pushed, scratched, thrown and even burned. The guys just get pranked by the ghosts.

    Sorry, but I do not think I would care for this book at all. If this smarty pants author wants it, I will take him to the room we don’t go.

    Let me know if you want to hear any stories from Sloss Furnace!

    Happy Reading!
    ~Icky. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would love to hear stories! I am actually a believer Icky, due to own personal experiences that I will not go into on the blog. I have a history though. And I appreciate keeping an open eye and debunking as I know no all haunts are reality and it is unfortunately a field that has been taken advantage, but this author did seem very closed minded about. And that is where my struggles lied. I mainly enjoyed the history. Please feel free to share any time!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Danielle.
        The Furnaces have a fascinating history outside of the paranormal, but that is what most folks are interested in. The furnaces closed in 1972. Immediately thereafter, stories began to circulate about vengeful ghosts there; angry foremen, exhorting you to get to work. The haunted house began running there in 1999. Many girls were pushed, scratched, and even burned. I don’t know if it is because the girls are more susceptible to supernatural influence, or what. One poor girl slipped off to squat and pee. a large scary man came at her and just as he was about to run her over, he disappeared. The girl came running back to her crew, crying and hysterical. A good friend of mine, that I know would not lie to me, says that back when he first started, at the age of only fifteen, went into a long tunnel that we have access to. He saw a light coming from a hole in the wall where an old electrical engine is located. When he looked in, he saw a man with a miners helmet light working. He too, immediately disappeared. My friend thinks that his youthfulness is why the ghost showed himself. They seem to prefer women and innocence. I have seen smoke coming from one of the huge, old smokestacks, when there should not be any smoke. I think there are some mean ghosts, and some playful. Many ghost hunter shows have had shows here. One day, out in the middle of an area that we were waling back and forth across, a ‘ghosthunter’ flashlight showed up. We think a pookah stole it from them and gave it to us. 🙂

        Happy Reading & Happy Halloween!
        ~Icky. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh wow! Thank you for this Icky 🙂 I admit, I now have several tabs pulled up with information about the Furnaces. I am a sucker for this sort of thing in a big way. And somehow, I have never heard of Sloss Furnace. You would think with all of the reading and documentaries that I would have! Happy Halloween indeed my friend 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, yes… scepticism is a beast.. If i underdstand correctly then this book would have neede less of ‘my belief’ and more of ‘make up your own mind as to what you believe or not’… Nonetheless, the historic part sounds great!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s too bad that it wasn’t what you expected, in the end… I would surely be disappointed too if I was hoping for some terrifying ghost stories and haunted mansions and found out it was only a product of someone’s imagination and superstition, easily explained. But at least it seems like it was an entertaining enough read and one that taught you some interesting facts, nonetheless.
    Amazing review, of course 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds interesting, even if it wasn’t exactly what you were expecting. I gotta say that cover really does prime you for some scary stories, so it’s somewhat disappointing to hear that’s not what this is. But on the other hand the subject matter does seem genuinely interesting. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great book to review for Halloween. I am a skeptic regarding ghosts but still love ghost stories. It’s a conflict I have! I love taking ghost tours. I just went on one in Staunton, VA and it’s interesting to hear all these stories. The tour guide even had a great one for his own house. These are fun to read and hear. I think I’d like this book. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s nice to see you exploring these spooky books in a timely fashion with Halloween right around the corner! 😛 I definitely hear you on your disappointment of how the author approached the subject and delivered it all, but it’s still nice that the content was still pretty cool and still offers things to think about. Maybe you’ll have time before the 31st to dive into something that really brings the spooky to a whole new level!! Great honest review, Danielle! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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