Published by Viking on October 4, 2016
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.
This was such a fascinating book that I tried to take my time with, so that I could fully delve into its history of ghosts in America.
I often found myself stopping to look up several books and movies and tales mentioned by Colin Dickey (for example, I had to put this aside and read the Poe short story he mentioned at one point, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether), and I love when a book is so good and interesting and well-written that it inspires me to seek out its source material.
As someone who does not believe in ghosts but is nonetheless fascinated by them, this book was just the kind of investigation that I was looking for.