Friday, 28 October 2016

Ghosts & Historians

A fascinating scholarly item has been lobbed my way by author Steve Duffy. In 'Why Historians Needs Ghosts' Dr Francis Young points out that Hallowe'en prompts a wave of interest in local history via widely credited tales of the supernatural. 
Ten years ago, ‘ghost tours’ were considered cheap and vulgar, and largely confined to privately run attractions. Nowadays, highly respected heritage organisations like English Heritage and the National Trust are in on the act, and the Hallowe’en ghost tour has become an accepted part of the calendar at many stately homes and castles.
Dr Young rightly points out that local ghost stories are the one kind of local history you can find in every bookshop. But it is, he observes, part of a very long tradition, something fans of the fictional ghost story already know. And by this stage in the essay I think we all know who's going to pop up as the true progenitor of modern spooky local history.
The spirit of (...) ‘supernatural antiquarianism’ was distilled in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by Montague Rhodes James, a writer who would never have anticipated his contemporary popularity; at the same time, I suspect he would be appalled that his considerable and ground-breaking historical work in church history is now overlooked by even the most die-hard fans of his ghost stories.
Well, that may be true of some - I've visited an awful lot of old churches and learned a lot about their history thanks to MRJ. But these are short extracts from a longer read, and I urge you to follow the link and take a look.

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