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The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley

Judith Richardson

ISBN 9780674018525

Publication date: 10/31/2005

The cultural landscape of the Hudson River Valley is crowded with ghosts--the ghosts of Native Americans and Dutch colonists, of Revolutionary War soldiers and spies, of presidents, slaves, priests, and laborers. Possessions asks why this region just outside New York City became the locus for so many ghostly tales, and shows how these hauntings came to operate as a peculiar type of social memory whereby things lost, forgotten, or marginalized returned to claim possession of imaginations and territories. Reading Washington Irving's stories along with a diverse array of narratives from local folklore and regional writings, Judith Richardson explores the causes and consequences of Hudson Valley hauntings to reveal how ghosts both evolve from specific historical contexts and are conjured to serve the present needs of those they haunt. These tales of haunting, Richardson argues, are no mere echoes of the past but function in an ongoing, contentious politics of place. Through its tight geographical focus, Possessions illuminates problems of belonging and possessing that haunt the nation as a whole.


  • This book offers a cohesive interdisciplinary project that enhances our appreciation of regionalism, folklore, local history, and the transforming uses of cultural memory in response to demographic as well as industrial change… The texture of this book varies nicely because between the author’s in-depth studies of Irving and Anderson there is a considerable amount of social history and analysis of less familiar writers and publications… Her research in primary and secondary sources could not be more thorough, and the writing is always clear, even memorable on occasion.

    —Michael Kammen, American Historical Review


  • Judith Richardson is Assistant Professor in the English Department at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 5-3/16 x 7-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press