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Reviewed by:
  • Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses
  • Barbara Walker Lloyd
Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses. By Elizabeth Tucker. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Pp. ix + 241, acknowledgments, notes, references cited, index of tale types and motifs, general index.)

Although not marketed specifically for the classroom, Haunted Halls will be welcomed by anyone teaching an introductory undergraduate folklore course. Tucker examines an extensive selection of supernatural legends gathered from several locales across the United States. Because the book focuses on narratives reported and collected primarily by college students, it is likely to hold the interest of first-year and second-year students. It is an easy-to-read volume with a conversational tone and abundant examples. The length (just over two hundred pages) and paperback price should make students happy.

Tucker does a reputable job of introducing a variety of topics that extend beyond conversations about creepy hallways and haunted basements, beyond first-year student angst and school traditions. She explicates campus legends in terms of function and symbolic meaning, discussing at length what the narratives convey and represent to students in transition to adulthood. She also explores how some legends serve the institution and become incorporated into larger bodies of college lore.

Tucker is a thorough researcher and uses a wide array of resources, ranging from instant messaging and Facebook pages to data from face-to-face interactions and archives. She documents narratives and provides many examples, including some drawn from feature films and YouTube. References to the work of folklorists, anthropologists, and other scholars caravan across the pages in a steady stream. Here we find Browne, Dégh, Dorson, Dundes, Ellis, Freud, Jung, Lawless, McNeil, Montell, Propp, Turner, van Gennep, and many others. Tucker draws on writers from Longfellow to Stephen King and works of fiction from Beowulf to the Harry Potter series; she cites Brontë and Bronner, Tolkien and Toelken. It can get to be a bit dizzying, but the use of sources and references is impressive and helpful in its suggestion of directions for more extended outside reading.

Tucker conscientiously includes Aarne Thompson Uther tale types and Thompson motifs parenthetically throughout the volume and indexes them at the back; unfortunately, she does not explain these categorization systems themselves for the student or non-folklorist reader. She broaches several important topics, such as liminality, otherness, ethnicity, gender, race, repatriation, and insider/outsider identities. Liminality is the one most extensively treated, which perhaps is not surprising for a volume that gives such emphasis to the experiences of adults-in-the-making away from home for the first time for an extended period.

Despite its many good features, the book has some problems that could have been avoided with more careful editing. Tucker acknowledges that previously published essays are reprinted [End Page 355] in this volume. In some cases, the melding of published work with new material creates errors of continuity and consistency—for example, when a reference from earlier in the book is cited more fully later or is presented as if it were a "new" reference. This occurs in the four references (pp. 38, 105, 133, 142) to Jeannie B. Thomas's Folklore Forum article, "Pain, Pleasure, and the Spectral: The Barfing Ghost of Burford Hall" (24[2]:27-38, 1991). In another example, chapter 5 reports that plans are underway to build a memorial Nocatula Garden on the Tennessee Wesleyan campus (p. 131), but chapter 7 states that the garden has been built and awaits a second statue (pp. 156-66).

Despite these problems, the authorial tone is commendably consistent throughout. Given the possibility that the work could appeal to general readers or be used as a textbook, Haunted Halls would have benefitted from a more thorough adaptation for these new audiences. Tucker might have provided a more fully articulated introductory chapter, for example, or a clearer explanation of scholarly tools, such as the tale type.

The study would have been more aptly subtitled Ghostlore and Other Legends of American College Campuses. Some legends in the book are not strictly about encounters with ghosts, but rather stories of someone being "creeped out" or feeling afraid (for example, "Totally Creeped Out" or "Charged...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-1882
Print ISSN
0021-8715
Pages
pp. 355-356
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-26
Open Access
No
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