Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places
By Colin Dickey
Narrated by Jon Lindstrom
Publisher: Penguin Audio
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.
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.
Enjoyed with a glass of iced green tea and a hint of spearmint.