Magazine article The New Yorker

Scare Tactics

Magazine article The New Yorker

Scare Tactics

Article excerpt

"Why is the Hudson Valley haunted?" Judith Richardson asks in Possessions (Harvard), a study of "the history and uses of haunting" upstate. Richardson reviews the area's bloody rebellions and wandering ghost sailors, drawing on county archives, travelogues, letters, and the usual literary sources. She finds that the valley's ghostly legacy derives, in part, from a fraught history of land ownership, the influence of Dutch and German folklore, and a naturally ominous landscape--as well as from entrepreneurs in the tourism industry. Richardson herself seems a little susceptible to the atmosphere that spooked Ichabod Crane. The "mountains loom and brood," she writes, and she seeks to explain "how hauntings intersect with cultural history, public memory, economics, and land issues."

The teen-age ghosts in Stewart O'Nan's new novel, The Night Country (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), also profit from native superstition. …

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