Ghosts: A Haunted History

Ghosts: A Haunted History

by Lisa Morton


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From that cheerful puff of smoke known as Casper to the hunkiest potter living or dead, Sam Wheat, there is probably no more iconic entity in supernatural history than the ghost. And these are just recent examples. From the earliest writings such as the Epic of Gilgamesh to today’s ghost-hunting reality TV shows, ghosts have chilled the air of nearly every era and every culture in human history. In this book, Lisa Morton uses her scholarly prowess—more powerful than any proton pack—to wrangle together history’s most enduring ghosts into an entertaining and comprehensive look at what otherwise seems to always evade our eyes.  

Tracing the ghost’s constantly shifting contours, Morton asks the most direct question—What exactly is a ghost?—and examines related entities such as poltergeists, wraiths, and revenants. She asks how a ghost is related to a soul, and she outlines all the different kinds of ghosts there are. To do so, she visits the spirits of the classical world, including the five-part Egyptian soul and the first haunted-house, conceived in the Roman playwright Plautus’s comedy, Mostellaria. She confronts us with the frightening phantoms of the Middle Ages—who could incinerate priests and devour children—and reminds us of the nineteenth-century rise of Spiritualism, a religion essentially devoted to ghosts. She visits with the Indian bhuta and goes to the Hungry Ghost Festival in China, and of course she spends time in Mexico, where ghosts have a particularly strong grip on belief and culture. Along the way she gathers the ectoplasmic residues seeping from books and film reels, from the Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto to the 2007 blockbuster Paranormal Activity, from the stories of Ann Radcliffe to those of Stephen King.

Wide-ranging, informative, and slicked with over fifty unearthly images, Ghosts is an entertaining read of a cultural phenomenon that will delight anyone, whether they believe in ghosts or not. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780238432
Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date: 11/15/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Lisa Morton is an award-winning author and one of the world’s leading authorities on Halloween. Her work includes The Halloween Encyclopedia and A Hallowe’en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writings Over the Centuries.

Table of Contents

1. What Are (and Are Not) Ghosts?
2. Lands of the Dead: Early Sightings
3. Rattling Chains and White Sheets: Ghosts in the Western World
4. Hungry Ghosts: The Eastern World
5. La Llorona and Dreamtime: Ghosts in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere
6. The Quest for Evidence: The Ghost and Science
7. From King Richard to Paranormal Activity: The Ghost in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture
Conclusion: The Ubiquitous Ghost
Select Bibliography
Acknowledgements and Photo Acknowledgements

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Maberry

Ghosts is brilliant, insightful, and scary as hell. Morton proves that truth is definitely stranger than fiction.”

Leslie S. Klinger

“In Ghosts, Morton brings her encyclopedic knowledge of folklore and the supernatural to bear on this vast, vital subject. For students of ‘things that go bump in the night’ the book is simply indispensable.”

Customer Reviews