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  • Haints, Hollers, and Hoodoo
  • Kinitra D. Brooks (bio)

"A dark spirit lives on your porch," the medium told me. Excuse me? Prickles of dread and fear blossomed in my chest. What the hell am I supposed to do about that? I was only beginning my journey in ancestor veneration—working through my fears of the dead in general and dark spirits in particular with the help of a powerful medium whom I trust implicitly. I am the world's scariest horror scholar—I watch scary movies with my fingers in my ears, for gosh sakes! And now something fearsome was just outside my front door.

"Oh, don't worry," the medium laughed. "Every time it tries to come in, your grandmother comes out the hallway and stares it down, daring it to come into my grandmother's baby's domain."

I smiled, fear and dread now replaced with pride and confidence in her protection of my home. Sixteen years after her death, my grandmother was still my defender.

the south is haunted I often refer to my hometown of New Orleans as the "Land of the Dead," for so much blood has been spilled in and over my city that death seems to permeate the air. It can be both suffocating and invigorating. Mistakenly thought of as a place time forgot, New Orleans is a town that accepts the presence of the dead and their influence on quotidian life. Echoing this feeling, author Phyllis Alesia Perry speaks of her love for "a certain place in Alabama . . . where stories seem to bubble up from the ground."1 [End Page 2]

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Companion, 2020. Acrylic, charcoal, relief printing, decorative papers, hand-stitching, 75 x 51.5 in. All artwork by Delita Martin.

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This issue is dedicated to unpacking the storied Gothic South. Its key concepts center haunting: the presence of ghosts that bring discomfort to the living; the waves of terror and trauma manifesting as deep melancholia, seen, for example, in the classic works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor; the emphasis on the old, the decrepit, and the remnants of a past that often never was—such as the still-living lie that enslavers and the enslaved lived in harmony. This melancholia emerged after a devastating loss in a war against fellow Americans that left both the land and the (white) southern sense of self in ruins.

The subject of southern ghosts offers many more ways to consider the haunted nature of the South, however. Two of the most prominent approaches within this issue deal with haunting and the overlapping sense of time. We see explicit haunting in K. Ibura's "A Girl, a Man, a Storm, a City," as we revel with ghosts in the aftermath of Katrina. We also encounter implicit haunting in the photography of Jared Ragland (introduced by Catherine Wilkins) and Kristine Potter (alongside a story by Rebecca Bengal), and in the poem by Golden. As Jesmyn Ward observes in her interview with Regina N. Bradley, "there is more to the world than what we see on the surface." The authors and artists featured in this issue wrestle with how we live with our ghosts, be they directly in front of us or a steady, pulsing presence in the background.

A guiding question seems to be "How do you stop a haint?" My response is, are you sure you want to? Two perspectives must be examined. First, we cannot and should not exorcise all of our ghosts. I benefit, for example, from the influence of my grandmother's ancestral protection as I move through my life. She guards against entities of which I am barely aware. The horror genre has long grappled with the violence of Catholic exorcism, including its catalog of demons, tools of assessment, and criteria for banishment. Meanwhile, Protestantism somehow ignores the presence of ghosts—of course, the Holy Spirit doesn't count, nor does Jesus, a big exception—while simultaneously advocating for the wholehearted expulsion of every supernatural entity outside of the Holy Trinity. In "The Appalachian Murder Ballad," Julyan Davis speaks of "nescient fatalism" expressed as a "stoic acceptance existing without specific...