Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Battle of the Sexes

In the mid-1990s, I researched a question that was troubling me: are more ghosts in stories men or women? And who writes more tales?

I spent many happy afternoons in the Library of the New-York Historical Society reading their ghost stories, enjoying accounts of ghost busting (the best one was about the Fox sisters in upstate New York), and poring over accounts of sightings. I even collected a ghost story that I will share in another posting.

As I accumulated more notes, I began to see that, while men wrote more stories than women -- this was a very small sample, however -- the ghosts themselves represented both sexes equally. I needed to do more research to come to some kind of hypothesis.

I returned on a chilly March afternoon to find the entire staff huddled outside near the Central Park entrance. As I recall, a spark from a welding torch had set off a fire in the library, and it wouldn't be open for a few days ... a few months ... I can't even recall how long it took. I forgot about the project until recently, when I found my notes stuffed into an old folder.

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