Un-Living History: Programming, Interpretation, and Management at Haunted Historic Sites
Type of Degreethesis
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Using employee interviews and a variety of other primary and secondary sources, this thesis examines ten historic sites throughout the southeast that are considered haunted in order to explore the advantages and disadvantages of using ghost stories, ghost programming, and paranormal investigators at historic sites. The paper explores how history and popular culture, visitor questions, and employee beliefs in the supernatural affect historic sites. The ten sites serve as examples that demonstrate how historic site managers must consider the risks involved in telling ghost stories, holding events, or allowing paranormal investigators. For some sites, the risks may outweigh the benefits. Since every historic site is different, managers should evaluate the risks and benefits and make decisions based on the institution’s mission, values, and history. Regardless of these decisions, managers and interpreters should be sensitive to the diversity of visitor and employee beliefs about the supernatural at haunted sites. Managers should also provide interpreters with written guidance for handling visitor questions about ghost stories. This paper argues that, while not suitable for all sites, utilizing ghost stories associated with a historic site can achieve the goals and further the mission of an institution as appropriately and effectively as other types of programming.