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review 2018-04-21 15:39
Nothing too terrifying I'm sad to report
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I picked up Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey with the hope that it would be like the 13 Alabama Ghosts books I remember so fondly as a child (they still have the first in the series at the public library in my hometown). I don't fully believe in ghosts but I do fully enjoy reading ghost stories. Tales of haunted places in particular are fascinating because they're usually told with a kernel of truth at the center. However, Dickey seems to contradict himself at every turn in this book by retelling these ghost stories and then almost immediately debunking them. Further compacting the confusion, each chapter ends with a somewhat mystifying takeaway about why there seems to be so many 'ghosts' and 'haunted places' in the United States. (And this is despite the U.S. as we know it being a relatively young country.) He covers the gamut of places that could possibly be haunted. There's the typical cemeteries and old houses but there's also factories and even the rarer entire city haunting (Detroit for example).  Overall, I didn't feel satisfied because I think I was hoping for less analysis and more storytelling. I suppose this might be of interest in terms of a tour guide for places to check out yourself but it wasn't my cup of tea. 4/10


Of possible interest: Dickey is a member of the Order of the Good Death started by Caitlin Doughty which I'm sure you'll all remember from earlier blog posts. I have to say that I didn't find his writing nearly as compelling as hers. :-/


What's Up Next: Fly on the Wall by Emily Jenkins


What I'm Currently Reading: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-12 19:55
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I can't decide if I was mis-sold on this book or not. It was about what I expected to read, I suppose, but not in the way I expected to read it. I dunno. I feel a little cheated but can't quite put my finger on why.


Ghostland is an exploration of American history through some of the countries most haunted locations. Houses, hotels, graveyards, and even whole cities are discussed because really, if you look hard enough, everyone has a ghost story to tell. Locations discussed include The Winchester Mystery Manor, Danvers Mental Hospital, Gettysburg, and the entire city of Detroit. It's definitely a different way to look at American history, especially if you're interested in the paranormal.


I think the biggest reason I feel cheated by this book is it did end up being more of a review and critique of American history than a book about haunted locations, which was what I expected and haunted. Some chapters, mainly in the beginning, were what I expected. For example, I found the chapter on the Winchester Mystery Manor fascinating due to it going quite in depth into ghost stories and the spiritualist movement while also discussing their historical significance. That to me was exactly what I wanted to read. An annoyingly large part of the book though was more like, "slavery is bad" and "ghost hunters are ridiculous." I'll talk more about that in a moment but it was not at all what I wanted to read. 


This book was really interesting. It explored a lot of aspects of American history I was unaware of and when it did connect to ghost stories it was incredible. For example, in one chapter we learn how ghost stories in part inspired the formation of the KKK in that early members pretended to be specters of fallen soldiers to scare the newly emancipated slaves. That's something I never learned in history class. 


There were some chapters that even if they weren't connected to ghost stories per say the history was presented in a new way that was fascinating. I particularly liked the chapter on haunted asylums since, even though the ghost stories were few and far between, Dickey a) didn't demonize psychology the way many people I know do when criticizing past practices and b) explored a completely fresh angle of the haunted asylums: why they were built they way they were. As a psych graduate I find the thought processes behind their architecture fascinating and I'm glad Dickey focused so much on that element, rather than just going "lobotomies are bad" and leaving it at that. 


Also worth noting is the fact that Dickey explores ghost/creepy stories that don't always make it into the mainstream. I was particularly pleased to see that he included the stories of Elisa Lam and the history of the Cecil Hotel as well as the Lalaurie Manor in his explorations. 


The biggest critique I have of this novel is that Dickey comes across as being incredibly full of himself throughout the entire thing. His writing style came across very much so like those "I, an Intellectual" memes and it was obnoxious. I think what got me the most is he came across as VERY disparaging of ghost hunters and tourists. His condescension towards those groups was unbearable. Judging only by the way he writes, he reminds me of the bullies from my English classes who never hesitated to inform you of how enlightened they were and how beneath them you were for not being as enlightened. That was definitely not what I signed up for and it made getting into the book very difficult. 


Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. The book has a lot of interesting information, but the author gets in his own way with his ego. Would recommend for those interested in haunted history but check it out, don't buy it. 


Final thought: You can disagree with something without being a dick about it, Colin. 

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text 2017-09-30 06:00
Reading progress update: I've read 67 out of 336 pages.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I'm debating not finishing this one. It's not bad, but with Halloween Bingo I'm not sure if it's where I want to put my reading energy, especially since it's not as interesting as expected. I have time so I guess I'll just wait and see.

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review 2017-09-06 14:18
What a Haunted Nation We Live In
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

I read this for the "Haunted Houses" square. "Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places" by Colin Dickey. 


I don't know what to say. This was a really well researched and thought out book by Colin Dickey. He provides enough information that made me want to do my own digging and research into some of the homes and other locations he mentions in this book. What I really do enjoy that there is something of an anthropologist/historian in Dickey's work that I really enjoyed. Besides looking at the supposed hauntings, he goes into backstories that would have led to a person or persons to believe a haunting was occurring. 


This book goes into what I would call typical hauntings of homes, to hauntings of cemeteries, hotels, brothels (Mustang Ranch), cities, battlefields, and even a bridge. And the book wraps things up about how our next form of being haunted can be via social media. I personally remember being surprised one day when Facebook popped up with a memory of me with a friend who had passed away. I remember flinching and just feeling sad and hurt all over again about her passing away. It didn't even occur to me that one day, I too could be a ghost of sorts, haunting my friends and family via social media. 


He also mixes in popular culture (American Horror Story) along with horror books that reference some of the hauntings that he provides more details on for readers. 


I already said that I loved Dickey's look into the Salem Witch Trials by looking further at the "House of Seven Gables". I also loved his foray into Richmond, VA and it's ugly history of selling slaves. Heck, I loved Dickey for calling out the fact that it's weird in locations with a huge minority population or slaves, most of the ghosts were white. And or most of the hauntings surrounding women who were slaves, made them the aggressors (stealing a white man who was married) from the poor unsuspecting wife. 

Dickey writes a book that is unflinching about what was, what is, and what could be our future as a country when it comes to how we all will be portrayed after our deaths.  


He also turns a cynical eye towards so called ghost hunters who have morphed from an eclectic group of people who were interested in the history of a place, to people who are trying to gain some fame through reality television. And I loved that Dickey also debunked some of the hauntings in the book. 


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text 2017-09-06 02:52
Reading progress update: I've read 69%.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

Book completed at 69 percent. Remaining is notes. What was nice is that the notes in the body of the book are hyperlinked (bright blue) so you can toggle back and forth to the footnotes while reading and not lose your place. 


I really enjoyed this. Dickey does a great job of showing the history of a location and diving into it's supposed haunted beginnings. He ends on us all becoming ghosts one day due to us still living on in our social media presences which give me a quick shiver. 


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