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Lautner, Nina, ed. Ghosts of America – North Carolina: True Accounts of Ghosts from North Carolina. Ghosts of America, Local Book 39. Stratus-Pikpuk, 2017.
So, there’s this website called “Ghosts of America” and it’s a sort of curated bboard run by internet publishing company Stratus-Pikpuk, Inc. (they have a bunch of other sites on various topics). It invites people to post their experiences with ghosts and any local legends, and lists them by state, then town (alphabetically). It’s not the only such site, but it is one of the bigger ones. According to its entries at Archive.org, Ghosts of America has been around since April 2005.
The publisher’s blurb on it says they originally started it as a way to test generating AI content, but changed up their plan when people started sending in actual stories. This would explain why the earliest stories on the site sounded creepy but unbelievable, with random elements grouped together in a single anecdote, and had no sources. The publisher says they only accept about half of the stories sent in and only the ones they think are real (i.e., sincere).
What the author (actually, editor) did was take these stories off the site, edit them lightly, and collect them all into single volumes by state. In this case, we’re talking about stories from North Carolina. Even a glance at the site (where you’ll find 1345 stories from North Carolina) demonstrates that the book is very much not-comprehensive at 37 stories for the state.
Some of these are quite creepy, such as a tale from Statesville about an in-law visit disrupted by the singing of a ghost girl in the attic. There’s another disturbing tale from Camp Lejeune about a house on base haunted by a malevolent gnome-like ghost/poltergeist. A former employee of Highland Inn in Highlands talks about
levitating knives at work and horrible dreams of amputations, and how she’d never go back. Another business, this time in Winston-Salem, is haunted by a “phantom family” that startles people as they round a corner.
Other stories include the usual range of UFOs (Tar Heel), battlefield ghosts (Salisbury and Bahama), several haunted houses (Louisburg, Ellenboro, Lumberton and Emerald Isle, among others), even a roadside revenant and a phantom hiker (not hitchhiker) from Tryon. An actual phantom hitchhiker gets off at her last stop (the graveyard) in Bladenboro. And one account from Elm City sounds a lot more like the narrator’s psychotic episode than a ghost story.
The folkloric value of a site like Ghosts of America seems fairly obvious. You are basically inviting random people to share stories around the internet campfire. This concept was more popular in the late 90s and 2000s, when the internet had fewer whistles and bells, but such sites can stay up for decades. They create an archive of raw data that influences and inspires new folklore, even as it preserves stories that might otherwise have been forgotten.
Sites where hired professional writers create content for the site are also useful, particularly those specific to a state. But they’re not as cutting edge as something like Ghosts of America or The Shadowlands. The latter don’t just record or revive or even embellish folklore – they create it outright.
But is there value in a Kindle “greatest hits” collection series of volumes by state on Amazon? I’ll confess that when I got this one, I was pretty skeptical, myself. I mean, the value to the site owners seems clear – they’re making money off repackaging these stories for a new audience on Amazon (after getting the original authors’ permission, one hopes) that helps to keep the site going.
What, though, is the value for the reader? Well, there’s the plus that one has a bunch of ghost stories from the site in one handy-dandy volume (there is also a print version). Further, by having a publication date on the volume, you can now use it as a permanent record of entries from the site. That can be mighty useful for tracking these tales. Then, too, not everyone wants to rush to the internet (even on their phones) to read ghost stories when they could do so by picking up a book or a Kindle. It would, however, be nice if there were a Kindle Unlimited version.
So, whether you check out the book or continue straight on to the site, strap yourself in for some scary shenanigans in North Carolina with this one.
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