Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson by Judith Richardson

By Judith Richardson

The cultural panorama of the Hudson River Valley is crowded with ghosts--the ghosts of local americans and Dutch colonists, of innovative warfare squaddies and spies, of presidents, slaves, clergymen, and employees. Possessions asks why this quarter simply outdoor big apple urban turned the locus for therefore many ghostly stories, and indicates how those hauntings got here to function as a unusual form of social reminiscence wherein issues misplaced, forgotten, or marginalized back to say ownership of imaginations and territories. studying Washington Irving's tales in addition to a various array of narratives from neighborhood folklore and local writings, Judith Richardson explores the reasons and results of Hudson Valley hauntings to bare how ghosts either evolve from particular ancient contexts and are conjured to serve the current wishes of these they hang-out. those stories of haunting, Richardson argues, are not any mere echoes of the previous yet functionality in an ongoing, contentious politics of position. via its tight geographical concentration, Possessions illuminates difficulties of belonging and owning that hang-out the country as a complete. (20040401)

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Extra resources for Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley

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We] have a whole row of things hiding in [our] thoughts that [we] know aren’t good, and the reason is not always clear. 97 Assertions of African-American influence and participation in shaping and perpetuating an atmosphere of ghostliness also find basis. For instance, an Orange County historian writing in 1908 33 p o s s e s s i o n s recollected a local slave woman who “had the gift of telling marvellously fascinating stories about fairies, witches and spirits . . 99 Folklore collections undertaken in the twentieth century provide strong evidence of the persistence of such ghostlores and storytelling practices, as well as of a tangled interweave of folkloric traditions from other parts of the world and country, following the various waves of immigration into the region.

The perennial concern with Irving’s sources has to do with underlying questions of authenticity—something that Irving himself seems to have realized. ”13 This concern with authenticity, which broadly reflects efforts to locate American roots of a literature of which Irving is seen as progenitor, is more specifically a reflection of the degree to which Irving’s stories have become enmeshed with sense of place in the Hudson Valley, as seen in the defensiveness of local and regional accountings. At stake in questions of Irving’s sources, in other words, were the very foundations of regional image and identity.

77 An entirely possible, yet fleeting and identityless presence, the peddler makes for an easy ghost story. ”78 This trend toward vagueness continues in folklore collected in the twentieth century, where peddlers frequently feature as default explanations for otherwise unexplained hauntings and unidentified remains. Perhaps the most revealing of these instances is a reference from Ulster County, in which the collector writes: Up the pond road on the way to Glenford, there is a small bridge, crossing a little mountain stream.

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