Haunted, or Just History?

Here’s a timely post by ace AiP Intern Susie Trexler

Autumn leaves, by Susie Trexler

Autumn color in Walla Walla, Washington Photo by Susie Trexler

We have finally stepped into October: autumn foliage is in full bloom across the hillsides, pumpkins decorate doorsteps and fill produce aisles, apples are sold in heavy bags, and Halloween is just around the corner. Leaves crunch underfoot and the old mansion at the end of the street has a larger presence in the crisp, fall air… Perhaps because it is no longer hiding behind trees thick with green summer leaves, or perhaps because Halloween is a time for imaginations to run wild.

When I first began investigating haunted mansions and ghost tours, I had drawn a distinct line between paranormal stories and actual history as though ghost stories were an elaborate (and eerie) side-story. As I wove my way through websites, imagining lantern-lit tours of the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, and  dark strolls down the boardwalks in the Victorian Virginia City, Nevada, I realized supernatural stories are not the sole – or even the main – source of intrigue about these places. By letting our imaginations run wild – at Halloween and any time – we are connecting with the past.

Photo by Susie Trexler

Eerie opening, or a trick of light? Photo by Susie Trexler

NBC’s Syfy channel has named – by popular vote – the top three “most haunted” cities in America: Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Virginia City, Nevada. Sure, we may relish the thrill of a ghost story (and ghost stories are aplenty), but these cities have something else in common: they are all witness to vivid and important scenes in American history. They are witness to previous eras and societies.

There is something about people that extends across time and place: people like people-stories and gossip. People like things they can connect to, touch, and imagine. By some ironic twist, ghost stories bring history to light.

Are we preserving the ghosts, or are the ghosts preserving the history, themselves?


Use Halloween as an excuse to step into the past! Explore your local cemetery, or indulge in an eerie event at a historic house near you.

Here are a few we found:

Add to the list, if you dare!


About Adventures in Preservation

Huge fans of the world's architectural heritage, making it a point to seek out historic buildings wherever we travel. Bloggers include co-founder of Adventures in Preservation, a non-profit organizing historic preservation-based volunteer vacations, and AiP interns.
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