Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places Book Review

For every Amityville hoax there is a credible paranormal encounter that defies logic or explanation. I would not dismiss paranormal research as pseudoscience. According to one poll cited early in the book, “45 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts, and almost 30 percent say they’ve witnessed them firsthand.”

Author Colin Dickey gives us in-depth stories of America’s hauntings. He makes good use of his PhD in comparative literature, citing everyone from Goethe, Dickens, Wilke Collins, and H.P. Lovecraft to the romantic poets.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Los Angeles, where I currently live, entitled “Passing Through”. Los Angeles has a rich history of ghost stories ranging from the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, Biltmore. Queen Mary, etc. all of these places and locations do have legitimate tales of ghosts that supersede tourism. One chapter alone, would not be sufficient to cover Los Angeles, you would need a whole book dedicated to the subject. I also liked the chapter “After Hours” which revealed new haunts including a Toys “R” Us in Sunnyvale California that I was unaware of.

If I have any slight criticism of Colin Dickey’s “Ghostland,” it would be the lack of photographs which readers tend to like to see and visualize in this type of book. I also did not think that the Merchant House was the best opening chapter for Ghostland due to further research I did on Google. Again, this is only a slight criticism, but overall this book is a great addition to the skeptical subject of haunting and ghostly phenomena.


My personal experience. Twice in my lifetime, I have experienced paranormal activity or ghostly phenomenon that I cannot explain and was not the product of an overactive imagination. My house that I grew up in had strange poltergeist and paranormal activity which cannot be explained to this day. I grew up in Detroit, Michigan which I was glad to see the author covered this location in chapter 15 (Among the Ruins). Masonic Temple is a well known haunt in the Motor City. I also learned something new about the Nain Rouge celebration, this wasn’t a thing when I was living in Detroit.

My wife and I rented an apartment on the third floor in West Los Angeles that absolutely had paranormal activity that I cannot explain to this day. Right out of the gate, when we first moved in our German Shepherd mix, who was notoriously a tough dog, was terrified of something in the bedroom. The first time we took him in the bedroom of the apartment, he jumped up on the bed to lay down. All of a sudden he looked up near the ceiling on the other end of the room, pinned back his ears and ran and hid in the open closet where we had been putting away clothes. He would not come out. His behavior made the hair on the back of our neck stand up. Shortly thereafter we noticed every morning around 6 a.m. the blinds in our living room doorwall would sway back and forth as if there was a strong breeze, but the doorwall was shut and there was no draft coming from anywhere. We even tried a magnet to check for some strange magnetic pull from somewhere. Nothing. During the time we lived there we experienced a box being thrust off the shelf in the bedroom, strange scents that would pass by our nose in the middle of the night and wake us up, strange violent banging in the walls, items that were missing that we regularly used that were found wedged under heavy furniture. Lots of bizarre happenings. My wife also started humming some strange, lullaby-type melody in the middle of the night while she was sleeping (she has never done this the whole time we have been together and I have known her a long time). I was having strange nightmares in this apartment as well. Obviously, we moved from that place and asked the building manager if anyone had ever died there. She denied it, but then said an elderly woman used to live there for 20 over years before she was taken to a nursing home where she died.

For me, I would not refute a person’s experience with this phenomenon. I can’t explain what I experienced, but experienced it I have. Is there a scientific explanation that lies in Quantum Mechanics? You can explore the theories of life after death or near-death by Dr. Henry Stapp and Dr. Stuart Hameroff. Einstein spoke a great deal on energy and has been linked in several studies. Are we to believe, as Einstein proved, that all the energy of the universe is constant and that it can neither be created nor destroyed? Is the energy transferred? Does it live on?

I think “Ghostland” is an excellent edition to a genre that is often recycled and spurious in content. The book is edifying and does contribute new information rendered in engaging stories written with passion and intelligence.

I would recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Dickey’s work in the future.

Happy hauntings from the 90210.

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