Manifesting the Ghosts of Place through Archaeology and Empathy

Author(s): April Beisaw

Year: 2018


Hauntings rely on an ability to envision someone from the past retaining agency in the present, a ghost. Often barely perceptible, the ghost’s actions tend to be routine (walking, sitting, etc.) but their message is profound (I was like you, until something happened). Archaeology relies on an ability to envision the past, present, and future as intruding into each other at a defined place, a site. Often missed by those without proper training, archaeologists recover mundane objects (plates, cups, etc.) and use them to speak about grand social issues (past peoples have left lessons for us). These parallels are not uncanny, they are noteworthy. By investigating how and why a space takes on the aura of a haunted place, archaeology can tap into the enthusiasm for the past that ghost hunters/tourists espouse. After seven years of incorporating ghost stories and hunts into my teaching and research, I’ve found a formula for manifesting the ghosts of place - summarized as "we remember what we fear and we believe what we can envision." Any space becomes haunted once good storytelling taps into empathy. The objects made, used, and left behind by those we have lost aid the conjuring.

Cite this Record

Manifesting the Ghosts of Place through Archaeology and Empathy. April Beisaw. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444660)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 18877