This Saturday, I drove nine hours total (in some very foggy conditions) to hear some of my favorite paranormal scholars speak about ghosts and other supernatural beings. Since this was my very first conference in the area of the paranormal, I did not know what to expect. I have been to many academic conferences, which can sometimes be very intimidating and stuffy. What I found at the Haunted America Conference was a friendly and welcoming group of people, with interesting stories and insights. I left with my commonplace book full of new avenues of research, along with ideas for growing my own “ghost business.”
The conference was two days with a variety of speakers during the day and activities in the evening. I, needing to work on my dissertation, only attended Saturday’s day sessions (woke up at 3 a.m….I love ghosts!). The evening activities looked so interesting–ghost hunts, a dumb supper, technical workshops, walking tours–and I look forward to signing up next year. When not in sessions, I walked around the Vendors Room and conversed with folks promoting their podcasts, publications, ghost tourism businesses, and products (candles, pendulums, jewelry). There was also an extensive raffle that read like my Christmas List. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the Ouija cheese board and Walking Dead wine.
Below are some of my conference highlights.
- I finally met Colin Dickey and Sarah Chavez! Colin, author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places, presented on American grave robbers. I especially enjoyed how the history of medical colleges were woven into the narrative. Sarah Chavez, my favorite death feminist, spoke about the relationship between food and death. Check out more of her work at Nourishing Death and Death and The Maiden. Side note: Sarah had very cool nails.
- I met one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Jones of The Dead History. Once a paranormal investigator, Jennifer now runs a blog full of very extensive historical research on haunted locations and tombstones. I really appreciate the humanist approach she brings to her research.
- I read so many Rosemary Ellen Guiley books when I was growing up. In her presentation “Strange Encounters and Strange Things,” Rosemary shared stories about werewolves, aliens, cursed objects, and other strange creatures.
- I also grew up reading the website Prairie Ghosts, so I knew I had to attend a conference hosted by Troy Taylor and his Haunted America team. Troy has written 120 books on ghosts, hauntings, history, crime and the unexplained in America. So, he knows his stuff. He presented on the relationship between music, death, and the devil. He’s a very entertaining speaker; he reminded me of a very cool radio DJ.
- I met the very kind folks of the See You On The Other Side podcast. Their website describes their work as “a rock band’s journey into the afterlife, UFOs, entertainment, and weird science.” Their podcast, as I understand, discusses a supernatural topic each episode and includes a song inspired by the subject matter. A creative idea, right? They entertained us during breaks the entire conference. I look forward to giving their podcast a listen!
Overall, it was definitely worth the nine-hour drive. I look forward to attending next year. Maybe I’ll see you there?