The Children’s Ghost Story in America


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SKU: 9781476664941 Categories: , , , Tag:

About the Book

Ghost stories have played a prominent role in childhood. Circulated around playgrounds and whispered in slumber parties, their history in American literature is little known and seldom discussed by scholars. This book explores the fascinating origins and development of these tales, focusing on the social and historical factors that shaped them and gave birth to the genre. Ghost stories have existed for centuries but have been published specifically for children for only about 200 years. Early on, supernatural ghost stories were rare—authors and publishers, fearing they might adversely affect young minds, presented stories in which the ghost was always revealed as a fraud. These tales dominated children’s publishing in the 19th century but the 20th century saw a change in perspective and the supernatural ghost story flourished.

About the Author(s)

Sean Ferrier-Watson is a professor of English at Collin College in Plano, Texas. Visit his page at

Bibliographic Details

Sean Ferrier-Watson

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6494-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2908-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 8
1. “Airy nothings”: The Mock Ghost Story 33
2. Spectrality and ­Nineteenth-Century American Girlhood 63
3. Resurrecting the Supernatural for Children 81
4. The Missing Phantom in Early African American Children’s Literature 106
5. New Media, New Apparitions 123
6. The Transnarrative Ghost 153
Epilogue 174
Bibliography of Mock Ghost Stories 177
Chapter Notes 181
Works Cited 183
Index 193

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Delightfully written…very well could be the impetus for ghost hunting scholars to explore children’s literature through broader cultural lenses and from deeper philosophical and spiritual perspectives.”—The Lion and the Unicorn
  • “Traces the emergence of the published ghost story specifically market toward children starting in the 19th century…connects real life concerns of children and their representation in supernatural fiction”—ProtoView.