Ghost stories aren’t just for campfire scares.
Newspapers have a lengthy history of reporting stories about ghosts to their readers.
How that news coverage provides important insight into the social and cultural issues years and decades later is part of the spirited podcast discussion between UToledo Communications Professor Dr. Paulette D. Kilmer and Teri Finneman, host of the Journalism History podcast.
Through research, Kilmer chronicled ghost stories within American newspapers in the “Ghosts and Crime Stories Printed by the New York Times from 1851 to 1901” chapter of the book After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865-1900.
During the show, Kilmer shares two of the themes she discovered in her research of newspapers across the country: the ghost who cannot rest and the ghost as a phony.
“I found ghost stories in hard news, poetry, short stories, advertisements. But in the hard news, they often would appear dealing with some crime,” she said.
“The repeated narrative becomes a form of social control in some ways because it tells people what they should be and how they should act,” Kilmer added. “We see the consequences for people who care far too much about material things and not enough about the human relationships or the other people around them.”
Listen to the Journalism History podcast online.
Kilmer also goes into detail about her upcoming book, “The Repulsive Charm of Ghosts,” in which she examines how social problems and issues from the 19th century connect with ghost stories in newspapers.
Hosted by three professional media historians and listened to in 96 countries, Journalism History is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Transcripts are also available at the Journalism History website.