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Haunting Experiences

Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore

Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas

Publication Year: 2007

Ghosts and other supernatural phenomena are widely represented throughout modern culture. They can be found in any number of entertainment, commercial, and other contexts, but popular media or commodified representations of ghosts can be quite different from the beliefs people hold about them, based on tradition or direct experience. Personal belief and cultural tradition on the one hand, and popular and commercial representation on the other, nevertheless continually feed each other. They frequently share space in how people think about the supernatural.

In Haunting Experiences, three well-known folklorists seek to broaden the discussion of ghost lore by examining it from a variety of angles in various modern contexts. Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas take ghosts seriously, as they draw on contemporary scholarship that emphasizes both the basis of belief in experience (rather than mere fantasy) and the usefulness of ghost stories. They look closely at the narrative role of such lore in matters such as socialization and gender. And they unravel the complex mix of mass media, commodification, and popular culture that today puts old spirits into new contexts.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii


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pp. x

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pp. viii

Without the help of a great many friends, we three authors would of putting this book together. Spread across the continent from Newfoundland to Utah to Texas, e-mail served us well, but our friends made the book happen. We would like to thank the following people: Joan Alessi for her haunted house

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Introduction: Old Spirits in New Bottles

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pp. 1-22

Bright wind chimes composed of enticing, candy-colored, pastel bits of glass are for sale at the Winchester Mystery House gift shop (figure 1). Some of the glass is formed into colorful bottles reminiscent of those in the southern supernatural tradition of bottle trees, a custom depicted ...

Part I: Taking Ghosts Seriously

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One: The Usefulness of Ghost Stories

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pp. 25-59

When I discuss supernatural narratives with my students, they inevitably ask me, “Do you believe in ghosts?” They’re looking for some kind of vindication or refutation of the numinous. Nothing I can say will do either definitively. Sometimes I give them a poetic answer; I say that the DNA each of us ...

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Two: Scientific Rationalism and Supernatural Experience Narratives

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pp. 71-89

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting around with friends sharing a few stories, when the topic turns to the supernatural. Someone tells a ghost story they heard while camping many years earlier. A second person tells a story about a neighbourhood house that is reputed to be haunted. Eventually and almost inevitably, someone tells a story about a ghost ...

Part II: Narrating Socialization and Gender

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Three: Gender and Ghosts

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pp. 81-110

In the mid-nineteenth century, Coventry Patmore published the well-known poem “The Angel in the House,” which defines the Victorian model of the ideal, submissive woman and wife: “Man must be pleased; but him to please / Is woman’s pleasure.” Well into the twentieth century, the Angel in the House was still haunting women ...

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Four: Children’s Ghost Stories

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pp. 111-140

Children’s ghost stories are among the most popular and most durable traditional narratives in the United States. The formulaic and often silly ghost stories that children tell one another—not necessarily those that they learn from storybooks or adult storytellers— are essentially different from the more threatening and ...

Part III: Old Spirits in New Contexts

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Five: Haunted Houses

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pp. 143-170

The quintessential “haunting experience” is entering a haunted house, either literally while legend tripping or figuratively while telling or listening to a ghost story (see chapter 1 for a full discussion of legend tripping). Ghosts and their haunted domains are ...

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Six: The Commodification of Belief

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pp. 171-205

In May of 2001 an advertisement of a home for sale in the Scottish Borders was posted on escapeartist.com’s international real estate listings and simultaneously advertised in real estate listings in Scotland. The ad, which was reposted in December ...

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Conclusion: The “Spectral Turn”

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pp. 206-227

It is indeed a remarkable cultural phenomenon that the paradigms associated with scientific rationalism still pervade contemporary academic understandings of ghost lore in ways that: 1) assert a dying tradition despite intense saturation into virtually all areas of vernacular and popular culture and 2) stress decline as ...


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pp. 228-233


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pp. 234-249


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pp. 250-252


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pp. 253-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780874216813
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216363

Publication Year: 2007