I sometimes have a guilty pleasure in reading material – historical fiction books that have ghosts or a supernatural theme. I tell myself that they are really not all that bad because they are actually dealing with history. Hum, that might be a stretch….
Most of these books take place in present day with the story line weaving between the current lives of the main characters and the past lives of the ghosts that haunt the place they are living/visiting. There is usually something about the main characters that allows them to hear and connect with the ghosts e.g. psychic sensitivity or ancestral connections. The plots center around a murder or a secret from the past that must be resolved before the spirits can move on.
So why do I like them? Well, when I am reading about the life of my ancestor, piecing together facts from the records, understanding the history of the time and location they lived in as well as potential financial, work and church influences, I start to see them in my head like characters in a novel. When I visit their graves, I recognize that I might be the first person to visit in 50 years. I imagine them there trying to connect with me to tell me more about who they are and most of all to remember them. In The Waiting Room, one of main characters discusses what he believes is happening when we see ghosts and says, “I believe we go back somehow to their time. That is how we see them. The events they were part of have a pull or orbit into which we are dragged as unwilling witnesses. It is as though the intensity of emotion or experience they endured in life cannot be eradicated by the calendar. We are the visitors.” Sounds like genealogy doesn’t it?
Anyway, here are some that I have been reading lately if you feel like taking a break from research:
- The Waiting Room by F. G. Cottam –WWI, England
- Murder Bay by David R Horwitz – Civil War, Washington DC
- Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst – Late 1800’s, Wisconsin
- By Blood Possessed by Pat Montella – Civil War, Virginia
- Madeleine’s Ghost by Robert Girardi – early/mid 1800’s Louisiana and New York
Have you read any other good historical/genealogical ghost stories you would recommend?
I just read the Physick Diary of Deliverance Dane and I think it fits this category. I really enjoyed it! I also have to mention the book I’m reading right now, which has no ghosts in it, as far as I know, but is great historical reading. It is called Book of Ages – The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. It is about the life of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, which was about as common as his was uncommon, except that she had this amazing brother. It does a great job of telling about the lives of the people in the mid 1700s in Boston.