Nancy Roberts,
Haunted Houses: Chilling
Tales from 19 American Homes

(Global Pequot, 1995)

Few people have visited as many reportedly haunted places or spoken to as many witnesses to unexplainable events as Nancy Roberts, and the personal, down-home manner of her writing style has made her one of the country's most celebrated purveyors of ghost-enchanted tales. Haunted Houses tells the stories of 19 haunted houses found across the United States. Few of these stories will make your blood run cold, and Roberts eloquently expresses her belief that many spirits return for reasons far removed from any violent circumstances of their deaths or thirsts for revenge, but there is a definite level of creepiness in some of the tales recorded in this impressive little book that will have you checking the shadows in the corners from time to time.

These stories are eminently readable; several are told in the words of actual witnesses, but all are described in a conversational manner. This is not a formal study of the paranormal; it is instead a collection of the personal stories told by all manner of normal men and women describing unexplainable events they have been witness to. All 19 of the "houses" (with the exception of the Hotel Ione, which has since burned to the ground) also exist to some degree as historical landmarks, many of which are open to visitors or operate as bed & breakfast inns that still welcome guests. Roberts provides the relevant information about each location in case her readers wish to visit these places themselves.

Among the ghosts described in these pages are a murdered French soldier, a hanged Tory spy, a hostess who continues to greet guests to her establishment, lovers who still return to honor their undying affection, a well-known pirate, a heartbroken father returning to the place where his little girl died, young ladies seeking important objects of affection and young soldiers who died too soon. Locations include old forts, governors' mansions, a seaside resort, hotels, plantation houses and fancy villas found all the way from Maine to California and many points in between. A number of the legends come from the South, including several from the home state of North Carolina shared by both myself and the author.

These are not ghost stories in the sense of campfire tales meant to frighten children or patently unreal stories that beg disbelief; these are the real stories of real people, many of them simply dripping with historical significance. Whether you believe or disbelieve the things you will read in this book, there is not a ghost of a chance that these 19 tales will fail to touch you with their simple beauty and exceedingly human qualities.

by Daniel Jolley
24 September 2005

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