What haunted houses tell us about ourselves and our past

NEW YORK (AP) — Haunted homes inform us a whole lot of tales. However these tales are usually not nearly ghosts.

Colin Dickey , the writer of “Ghostland: An American Historical past in Haunted Locations,” went across the nation visiting haunted homes to see in the event that they “might inform us one thing about who we’re as a rustic, or as a individuals, or how we perceive the previous.”

In an interview for the AP Journey podcast “Get Outta Right here,” Dickey stated ghost tales assist us “speak about issues up to now we’d not in any other case have confronted.” It could be a spot with a violent or brutal historical past like a jail or asylum, or a simply an previous constructing with creaky stairs and darkish hallways the place somebody’s life took a tragic flip because of the demise of a kid or an unrequited love.


Examples of locations with a disturbing previous that invoice themselves as haunted points of interest embrace the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans, the place slaves have been handled with extraordinary brutality, or Philadelphia’s Japanese State Penitentiary , an deserted jail. Dickey describes Japanese State as “a damaged-down fort with stone crenellated towers” the place “it’s straightforward to think about” a historical past of “atrocities and violence.”

“Ghost tales in some ways are a means for us to strategy our personal historical past,” Dickey stated, “and our personal historical past is difficult.”


Dickey additionally observed that haunted tales typically revolve round ladies who by no means married or who have been widowed younger. Typically these ladies have been seen as having been frozen in time, dwelling out their lives in a decaying home. However he says the information typically inform a special story, suggesting that these people might have been seen as odd and even spooky as a result of their lives as single ladies didn’t match cultural norms for marriage and childrearing.

The Winchester Thriller Home , a 161-room mansion in San Jose, California, which Dickey visited typically rising up, is an effective instance. Sarah Winchester’s father-in-regulation developed the Winchester rifle, so she and her husband have been rich heirs. Their solely youngster died in infancy, and Sarah’s husband died quickly after. Dickey says tales typically paint her as having lived out her life in perpetual grief, haunted by the ghosts of everybody who’d ever been killed by a Winchester rifle, and “constructing this labyrinth to maintain them at bay,” Dickey stated.

However Dickey says the reality differs from the legend. “She obtained on with…

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