Ghosts, Fakelore, and the Memory of the American Civil War

Amy Laurel Fluker (Youngstown State University)

At the margins of history and folklore lie hundreds of Civil War ghost stories that appeared in late-nineteenth century newspapers. These stories promise new insights into the collective memory of the Civil War, but they pose a methodological challenge. Few historians are willing to take the supernatural seriously and folklorists are skeptical of the authenticity of the popular press. And yet, popular ghost stories have much to teach us about how Americans interpreted their Civil War experiences. This paper presents a representative ghost story and proposes an interdisciplinary approach for analyzing this untapped well of cultural history.

Part of 05-14 Death, Legend, and Belief, Friday, October 14, 10:30 am–12:30 pm