Cover image for Possessions : the history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley
Possessions : the history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley
Richardson, Judith.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 296 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF1472.U6 R54 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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 labourers. This book 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 retuned to claim possession of imaginations and territories. of 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, the work illuminates problems of belonging and possession that haunt the nation as a whole.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Richardson (English, Stanford) argues that the "production of hauntings" and ghost stories set in the Hudson River Valley reflects the history of the area, which has been so "colored by territorial conflicts, social diversity and dissensus, and multiple colonizations" that "no clear lines" can be "drawn between insiders and outsiders." The author traces changing versions of several ghostly tales that mutated over time to reflect local conditions and controversies as well as national political issues like abolitionism. Richardson shows that, thanks to the Hudson Valley's long history of settlement, the "legendizing impetus" created by Washington Irving, and the area's established position as a tourist destination, it inspired at least three sometimes overlapping traditions of hauntings: the "aboriginal" Dutch and Indian hauntings, Revolutionary War hauntings, and industrial hauntings, which are traced in Maxwell Anderson's High Tor (1937) and T. Coraghessan Boyle's World's End (1987). A readable contribution to the study of popular culture. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. J. J. Benardete New School University

Table of Contents

1 ""How Comes theHudson to this Unique Heritage?""
2 Irving's Web
3 The Colorful Career of a Ghost from Leeds
4 Local Characters
5 Possessing High Tor Mountain
Epilogue: Hauntings without End