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Ghost Tales For Scholars

With Halloween on the horizon, October brings to mind ghost stories, preferably told on a cool night sitting around a campfire in the deep, dark woods. Ghosts have long been associated with Halloween, which has its origins in a pagan holiday honoring  the dead and evolved into the Christian observances of the vigil of All Hallow’s Eve, Oct. 31, All Hallow’s or All Saints Day, Nov. 1 and All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2., which also honor the departed.

Tales of ghosts and of haunted places hold a continuing fascination for many readers and for scholars interested in folklore and paranormal phenomena. DiverseBooks offer several interesting titles on the subject, including three on haunted locales in the South by Alan Brown, a folklorist based in Alabama, all published by the University of Mississippi Press.

In Haunted Places of the American South, Brown gathers tales about apparitions associated with homes, prisons, cemeteries, inns and other sites. Many of the stories have never been published before. Brown is professor of English at the University of West Alabama.

Brown wrote another book, Stories from the Haunted South, following up on leads from readers of his earlier book. He details the personal stories behind the ghost tales and gives directions to 53 sites across the Deep South.

Shadows and Cypress: Southern Ghost Stories, also written by Brown, taps into all the cultures that intermingled in the South,  Native American, African-American, Scotts Irish, French and others to compile ghost stories from across the region. The haunted locales are as varied as the people — from the swamps of the bayou to the hills and hollows of Appalachia.

Brown is also the author of Literary Levees of New Orleans, Dim Roads and Dark Nights, and The Face in the Window and Other Alabama Ghostlore.




Following are details on those and other offerings that deal with ghosts, spirits and apparitions.

Haunted Places in the American South, by Alan Brown, $45, hardback, (List Price: $50) $18, paperback, (List Price: $20), University of Mississippi Press, (October 2002), ISBN: 9781578064779, pp. 296.

This book collects ghost stories from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia that are believed to be haunted. His research drew on newspaper and magazine articles, as well as interviews with museum directors, archaeologists, innkeepers and others. The book provides directions to the sites, descriptive notes and a bibliography that folklore scholars and others should find useful.

Stories from the Haunted South, by Alan Brown, $19.80 (List Price: $22), University of Mississippi, (August 2004), ISBN: 9781578066612, pp. 176.

After Alan Brown published Haunted Places in the American South, readers were eager to share stories of the sites that they knew about – battlefields, sanitariums, inns, libraries and other places. His informants shared stories like that of a Southern belle who is said to roam the halls of her earthly home and a boy who died in a tragic accident who wanders around a Mississippi mansion. Brown includes more than 50 tales in this volume.



Shadows and Cypress: Southern Ghost Stories, by Alan Brown, $45, hardback, (List Price: $50). $18, paperback, (List Price: $20), University of Mississippi Press, (October 2000), ISBN: 9781578062713, pp. 232.

In this book, the folklorist and professor compiles ghost stories from a variety of ghoulish locales all across the Deep South. He presents the accounts just as he recorded them in his field research or as he found them in the archives of the Works Progress Administration oral histories recorded during the Depression, retaining the flavor and nuances of the original storyteller.


Other ghostly books:

Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses, by Elizabeth Tucker, $45, (List Price: $50), University of Mississippi Press, (September 2007), ISBN: 9781578069941, pp. 241.

One would think that college campuses, where scholars and skeptics would predominate, would be unlikely places for ghost stories to take root and flourish. Yet college campuses abound in such tales. In this interpretive study of college ghost lore, the author introduces the reader to a variety of characters:  Mansfield University’s Sara, who threw herself down a flight of stairs after her boyfriend rejected her; Huntingdon College’s Red Lady, who slit her wrists while dressed in a red robe; Gettysburg College’s ghosts of soldiers from the famous Civil War battle and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Faceless Nun.

The author is an associate professor of English at Binghamton University and author of Campus Legends: A Handbook. She has published widely in folklore journals.

In this book, she focuses on contemporary storytelling, particularly ghost tales that students swapped by email or instant messages, and she examines the social, psychological and cultural context of the accounts.


Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live, by Bill Ellis, $36, (List Price: $40), University of Mississippi Press, (June 2001), ISBN: 9781578063253, pp. 312.

Bill Ellis explores how legends take on a life of their own and become a part of our lives. He examines old legends and contemporary ones such as those about deadly gang initiations, alien abductions and computer virus warnings. The author seeks answers to why we tell these stories, often believe them and take actions or precautions because of them.

Ellis has been an associate professor of English and American studies at Penn State University, Hazleton campus. His previous books include Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media. He has been published in Psychology Today, Skeptical Inquirer, Journal of American Folklore, and Journal of Popular Literature.



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